This past Saturday I had the privilege of attending the March meeting of Twin Cities Area Presbytery. Kate O’Brien-Soltau attended the meeting with me. Kate has participated at Chain of Lakes for over a year. She is in the final stages of being ordained. She will be an outstanding chaplain.
We arrived early to set up a table for Chain of Lakes Church, a ministry of the Presbytery. As always I enjoyed speaking to people and sharing what is happening at Chain of Lakes.
The meeting started with reports from the officers. Moderator David Colby shared that with all of the changes happening in the Presbytery this is an opportunity for the Presbytery to set priorities and then to do ministry based on those priorities. In her report, Presbytery Leadership Team chair Barbara Lutter shared a first draft of possible areas to which future monies from departing congregations could go. She acknowledged that it is awkward to talk about this when these congregations haven’t left yet. However having a clear plan is essential. The first draft of this plan can be found at one of the links at: http://www.presbyterytwincities.org/PresbyteryPacket
The big item of the day was the report of the Hope Church Administrative Commission (AC). They have been working with the church for the past 18 months. The four members of the AC spoke. General terms for Hope’s departure were shared. The terms can be found at the link that I shared above.
The bottom line is a significant number of people at Hope Church in Richfield want to leave the PC(USA) and join the Evangelical Covenant Order (ECO).
Leaders from Hope spoke. David Lenz, lead pastor from the church, said that when leaders from the church started the process they didn’t imagine they would have to pay the amount that is being proposed—1.2 million, plus AC expenses plus the Oliver Building. He said that the Session had met for nine hours, praying and discerning over these terms. At the end they unanimously voted to accept them.
The conversation on the floor of the Presbytery was refreshingly pastoral and healthy. No debate, no vitriol, mostly compassion and sadness. Important questions about the general terms were asked. But it became very apparent that the AC had done an outstanding job. They had covered all the bases they could imagine regarding Hope’s departure.
I hate to see Hope leave the PC(USA). I believe that the churches who are thinking about leaving have an important voice within our denomination. They have many lessons to teach about growing churches. I have friends who go to Hope. I have many memories of attending Presbytery meetings and other events at Hope.
But in Hope’s case the differences apparently are too big to overcome. The divorce language of irreconcilable differences seems to describe the relationship between the Presbytery and Hope. Though it’s hard to accept the divorce, it seems the best thing to do is finalize the terms while continuing to pray for both Hope and the Presbytery as they and we go our separate ways. As the AC shared the objective is gracious separation for both Hope and the Presbytery.
The Presbytery almost unanimously approved the general terms. The almost unanimous vote was a reflection of the outstanding work done by the AC. The next step will be a final vote on final terms of the agreement by the Presbytery in May.
The meeting felt a bit anti-climactic after that. I attended a Presbytery conversation on electronic giving. The meal is always one of my favorite times of Presbytery and that was the case again. I was very impressed by the hospitality shared by the folks at Valley Community Presbyterian. One person told me that 68 people from the church helped in some sort of way on Saturday.
The Presbytery has six churches who have requested an Administrative Commission to explore departing the PC(USA). This takes a lot of energy and time away from other priorities of the Presbytery. Perhaps this past Saturday’s meeting is a first step in moving ahead in a healthy way.