PCUSA Apes Mafia
From the Layman Online comes the news that the Presbyterian Church (USA) continues it march to become one of America’s biggest protection rackets:
The General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC) has ruled that a presbytery must “fulfill its fiduciary duty under the trust clause,” when it considers dismissing a congregation from the Presbyterian Church (USA) into another Reformed body.
And that fiduciary duty “requires that the presbytery exercise due diligence regarding the value of the property of the congregation seeking dismissal. Due diligence, of necessity, includes not only an evaluation of the spiritual needs of the congregation and its circumstances but also financial analysis of the value of the property at stake. Payments for per capita or mission obligations are not satisfactory substitutes for the separate evaluation of the value of the property held in trust.”
On Oct. 26, the GAPJC heard the case of Wilber Tom, David Hawbecker and Thomas Conrad vs. the Presbytery of San Francisco. The commission’s decision was released on Oct. 30.
The case arose when several members of San Francisco Presbytery filed a remedial complaint with the Synod of the Pacific PJC which protested the presbytery’s decision to dismiss Community Presbyterian Church of Danville, Calif., to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. The dismissal agreement included the congregation paying the presbytery a one-time lump-sum payment of $108,640; and an annual commitment of $42,500 for targeted PCUSA missionaries, ministries and ministers, paid quarterly for the five years following the congregation’s dismissal.
The dismissal agreement fully satisfied the policy of the presbytery which was unanimously adopted by the Presbytery in September 2009.
That decision was appealed to the GAPJC, and on May 18, 2012, the congregation and presbytery both fulfilled their obligations described in the dismissal agreement. The congregation paid the per-capita and mission funds to the presbytery and the presbytery executed the quitclaim deeds to Danville which assumed sole responsibility for substantial debt on the properties in question.
In its decision the GAPJC acknowledged that the presbytery’s action could not be undone, but stated that the commission would exercise its declaratory authority to provide guidance to lower councils, seeking to prevent future “violations.”
Translation: even in situations where a presbytery wishes to exercise its constitutional power to dismiss a congregation to another Reformed denomination, the powers-that-be are going to look over its shoulder and demand that it extract every pound of flesh possible. It will do this under the power of the all-mighty “trust clause,” which, however, is of no legal consequence in states that have adopted so-called “neutral principles” rather than deferring to hierarchies in determining property ownership (South Carolina, Louisiana, and Missouri, for instance), so who knows whether presbyteries in those states will bend to the GAPJC’s will.
Heaven forbid the PCUSA, dying on the vine and looking at the loss of millions of dollars from thousands of contributors, not suck every cent out of departing congregations that it can. Great Christian witness ya got there, Louisville.
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