Toby Brown has blogged about "Two Types of Presbyteries" and within 5 minutes of reading his blog I received the following letter from Rev. Brian Boisen, of Hope Presbyterian Church in Rouge River. Brian was in Sacramento with Rick and me, he is wonderful brother in the faith and a man of God. He's attempted to lead his congregation faithfully into and through difficult waters and…we'll I'll let you read what has occurred…
Letter dated November 7, 2007
"My dear brothers and sisters in Christ and colleagues in His ministry, I wanted to get this note to you before you all gather for presbytery this weekend. I’m writing to let you know about what has been happening with our congregation, Hope Presbyterian Church in Rogue River, and I am doing it to honor our relationship and shared work over the past number of years, and because I am sure it will be discussed at presbytery.
In a nutshell Hope has disaffiliated itself from the PC(USA) and placed itself within the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. In July our congregation voted to realign itself with the EPC with a 95% majority. Despite a number of reservations on the part of our session, we agreed to enter into the dismissal process approved by presbytery. We had a congenial meeting with the Conversation Team, and then waited till the September meeting of Presbytery Council to have a Resolution Team formed.
In the meantime we told presbytery that we were planning on filing for a summary judgment as to the legal ownership of our property. Back in 2006 one of our elders, a retired attorney, began to research the legal parameters of trusts, and he came back with the opinion that the PC(USA) does not have a legally valid claim on our assets. He hired an Oregon attorney to look over his research, and the attorney agreed with him. So, before entering into negotiations with presbytery about a “buy-out”, we decided to file for a summary judgment.
In October we got word that a Resolution Team was formed, and we scheduled a meeting. But then, an hour before our meeting, I received a phone call from the staff member assigned to the team, letting me know that they were canceling the meeting and that they were going to recommend the creation of an administrative commission – all because we had taken legal action against the presbytery. I asked why this was being identified as an obstacle now, since we have been up-front about it all along, but he didn’t answer my question. So that night our session gathered and discussed the matter, expressing our frustration that presbytery went against its own approved procedures. In fact, if you look in your presbytery packet at B-1-2 & 3, you’ll see that in September Council recognized both our legal action and the need for a Resolution Team, indicating that the one did not exclude the other.
And so, feeling that presbytery both broke faith with us and took a threatening posture through the intention of forming an administrative commission, we decided that we would cease our participation in the dismissal process and “renounce jurisdiction” over myself, our session, and our congregation. I spoke with representatives from the EPC, and their commission voted to receive us into full membership under those terms.
So now we consider ourselves full members of the EPC and its New Wineskin Presbytery. In fact, we participated in its first official meeting last week in Sacramento.
However we still need to resolve the matter of property. We had a date on the 19th for the presentation of oral arguments, but as of yesterday we learned that presbytery’s attorney asked for a six-week extension. Also we received letters from John Huenink recognizing the officers of Hope’s renouncing jurisdiction, but letting us know that he did not consider this an action of the whole congregation, indicating that now there is a PC(USA) leadership vacuum. We take this to indicate presbytery’s intention to fill that vacuum with an administrative commission authorized to assume original jurisdiction. None of this is happy, and yet we don’t agree with John’s views and we do not recognize PC(USA)’s authority, so ultimately we intend on keeping the course our congregation has chosen.
All this to say, we would appreciate your prayers – as well as any support you can give us as things are being discussed and decided on the floor of presbytery. I have no idea what is being planned for the meeting, but I have no doubt that some aggressive action will be proposed. If enough voices are raised calling for the demonstration of God’s grace and truth through Christ-like action, maybe it will change the results.
Thank you for your patience in reading this note, and thank you for your prayers and support – as well as your continued, faithful service to our Lord Jesus Christ and His gracious mission in our world. I dearly value our continued connection in the life and work we share in the Body of Christ!
Hope Presbyterian Church, Rogue River