Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No Gays in Presbyworld

The big 5,000 member First Presbyterian Church of Orlando decided to split the sheets with the rest of us sinners and move to a fantasy church where only heteros are allowed to ride the merry-go-round.

It is not official until the congregation votes to leave and take the presbytery's property for themselves.

The FPCO website says, "In preparation for the congregation's vote regarding The Session's recommendation that FPCO be dismissed from the PC(USA) in order to be received into the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, scheduled for Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 10:00am, we ask that you please take a moment to check the status of your membership at FPCO."






FPC Orlando says, "So long, PCUSA, and thanks for all the fish."

16 comments:

Time Loves a Hero said...

They say "please take a moment to check the status of your membership at FPCO."

Does that mean if you're LGBTQ or love someone who is LGBTQ you should check your membership at the door?

susan s. said...

Is the building held in trust for the "parent corporation," as it is supposed to be for the Episcopal Church? Just wondering if that's what you meant.

John Shuck said...

Yes, Susan the property is in trust for the presbytery or the parent corporation.

Mary E said...

I am not sure I understand. Are you upset that they want to leave or that they want to take their property? The tenor of your post you sound rather disgusted with Orlando for wanting to leave?
If the majority chooses to leave then why can't they take the property? Why should the presbytery take ownership? The presbytery benefited from their membership, and probably did not financially contribute to anything that Orlando owned. Except for the Trust Clause, what entitles them to take it?
I often have to laugh, because the Book of Order has been lackadaisically enforced on many other issues that the only issue that many presbyteries follow to the letter of the law is the Trust Clause. Upon further reflection, it is not that funny after all.

John Shuck said...

I am not sure I understand. Are you upset that they want to leave or that they want to take their property?

I am not upset at all. If a group of people want to take something that doesn't belong to them because they don't like the decisions that the rest of us have made via a democratic process, then all one can do is point it out.

The tenor of your post you sound rather disgusted with Orlando for wanting to leave?

The tenor of the post is bemusement regarding that faction of the church that is too holy for the rest of us and thinks it has a right to take the property that was entrusted to them on behalf of the denomination as their own possession. They do this because a vote doesn't go their way. Members of that church including the session and the pastors can leave anytime they want. Taking what doesn't belong to them on their way out is another matter.

If the majority chooses to leave then why can't they take the property?

Because it does not belong to them.

Why should the presbytery take ownership?

One more time. The presbytery doesn't "take" ownership. It has ownership.

The presbytery benefited from their membership, and probably did not financially contribute to anything that Orlando owned.

"Orlando" doesn't own anything. The session holds the property in trust. No there is no such thing as "Orlando". There are a group of people who happen to be members. They own nothing.

I am sure the larger church has benefited from the ministry of this congregation. So what? Individuals who are currently members of this congregation and individuals who are currently pastors of this congregation and members of presbytery also have benefited by participating in the denomination's infrastructure.

What is the ethic here, Mary? Once you get big and don't need the presbytery anymore you have a right to dismiss the covenant you have made with the rest of the body?

Except for the Trust Clause, what entitles them to take it?

I don't know, Mary. Except for a commandment that says "Do not steal", what entitles a group of people to steal? The "trust clause" as you call it is the law. Would it have been clearer if it had been written in bold print or written twice or explained, "This means you, members of FPC Orlando?"

I often have to laugh, because the Book of Order has been lackadaisically enforced on many other issues that the only issue that many presbyteries follow to the letter of the law is the Trust Clause.

Can you give me an example in which the Book of Order has been lackadaisically enforced? If you know of an example, why don't you enforce it? What a bizarre notion of justice you have. Not unlike saying, "I don't have to pay my taxes because my neighbor ran the stop sign and didn't get a ticket."

Upon further reflection, it is not that funny after all.

Hypocrisy, self-righteousness and greed are not that funny. Sometimes you just have to laugh at it, though.

Alan said...

It's hard to understand how a minority (and let's be clear ... only the Session has voted at this point)) of members think they have the right to simply steal the church property from the majority, not because those who want to stay have actually done something wrong, but because of the passing of a denominational policy that this church itself hasn't even implemented.

And the argument about "lackadaisical enforcement" has been smashed to illogical bits so many times, it is hard to believe there's anyone left who doesn't see that it cuts both ways. That is, if one believes that enforcement has been selective (and it hasn't, but let's just say for the sake of argument...) then it seems the height of hypocrisy for this group to claim that they actually want selective enforcement of some provisions of the book of order (ie. the old Amendment B) but want a pass on the Trust Clause. That argument is, I'd point out, a "local option" arrangement that they haven't in 30 years been willing to grant to anyone else in the denomination. For these people who worship the Book of Order to now claim that they were ignorant of the trust clause seems more than a bit disingenuous as well.

As John points out, anyone can leave the PCUSA at any time for any reason. If this is about principles and not pensions, then I'd expect this minority of members to do the "right" thing and leave. It difficult to take seriously the argument that this is the morally superior group when their decisions are about mammon and not morality.

Or, they can leave and work out a just solution. And if the members who want to pick up their toys and leave think the property is theirs, then they should behave like adults. There isn't an organization on the planet in which one group can just steal all the assets without adequately compensating everyone involved.

Not that it much matters, really, either way. If history is any guide, in 15-20 years the EPC and the PCUSA will reunite once the EPC decides on a local option ordination for LGBT folks (and it will) and then we'll find something else to fight about.

Not to mention, of course, the futility of this exercise. Anyone who thinks they're purifying their church of queers by leaving is naive at best.

Reverend Sax said...

Presbyteries need to check their history with a particular congregation. The presbytery established the congregation. Did the presbytery give the land? Often that was the case. Did the presbytery contribute to construction of the first building? Often they did. Did the presbytery bail out the church in hard times? Sometimes this has happened. Has the church contributed to the mission of the presbytery, e.g., planting new congregations? Often these more conservative churches withheld per capita (for the support of the administration of the presbytery, synod, and GA) and chose not to support general mission work or special offerings. Sometimes there is hanky panky being covered up. One large church in Chicago in the '80's reported to members that they gave $100,000 for One Great Hour of Sharing but presbytery only received $10,000. Where did it go? I have no sympathy for people who don't understand the difference between giving and owning, and belonging and dictating. If you give something you surrender the right to determine where it goes from there. If you belong you participate in the democratic process, you don't tell others what they can or can't do.

John Shuck said...

Well said, @Alan and @Rev Sax

Rob said...

@john,
You seem very sure about church property law, and seem to be basing your points off of what is known as hierarchical pretense.
What about a church like mine who began as a Cumberland church, bought its own land, built its own building, even when it burned down without the help of the Presbytery, became Northern Presbyterian, which did not include a property clause in their book, until we reunited in 1983. The Session minutes show that the Presbytery Rep spoke at the meeting in 1983 and shared that the 8 year window for the trust clause allowed the particular congregation to retain ownership of its property, along with encumber debt, buy and sell property without approval. Those minutes were approved by the presbytery. So, who owns the Property? And if they leave (which they are not doing) is it stealing?

John Shuck said...

"hierarchical pretense"? Hardly. Book of Order:

G-4.0203 Church Property Held in Trust
All property held by or for a congregation, a presbytery, a synod, the General Assembly,
or the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), whether legal title is lodged in a corporation,
a trustee or trustees, or an unincorporated association, and whether the property is
used in programs of a congregation or of a higher council or retained for the production
of income, is held in trust nevertheless for the use and benefit of the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.).


and...

G-4.0204 Property Used Contrary to the Constitution
Whenever property of, or held for, a congregation of the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.) ceases to be used by that congregation as a congregation of the Presbyterian
Church (U.S.A.) in accordance with this Constitution, such property shall be held, used,
applied, transferred, or sold as provided by the presbytery.


and...

G-4.0205 Property of a Dissolved or Extinct Congregation
Whenever a congregation is formally dissolved by the presbytery, or has become extinct
by reason of the dispersal of its members, the abandonment of its work, or other
cause, such property as it may have shall be held, used, and applied for such uses, purposes,
and trusts as the presbytery may direct, limit, and appoint, or such property may be
sold or disposed of as the presbytery may direct, in conformity with the Constitution of
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).


and...

G-4.0207 Property of Congregation in Schism
The relationship to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) of a congregation can be severed
only by constitutional action on the part of the presbytery (G-3.0303b). If there is a
schism within the membership of a congregation and the presbytery is unable to effect a
reconciliation or a division into separate congregations within the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.), the presbytery shall determine if one of the factions is entitled to the property
because it is identified by the presbytery as the true church within the Presbyterian
Church (U.S.A.). This determination does not depend upon which faction received the
majority vote within the congregation at the time of the schism.


I am sure you know your congregation's situation. Is it not an exception as accounted for in G-4.0208?

The provisions of this chapter shall apply to all congregations of the Presbyterian
Church (U.S.A.) except that any congregation which was not subject to a similar provision
of the constitution of the church of which it was a part, prior to the reunion of the
Presbyterian Church in the United States and The United Presbyterian Church in the
United States of America to form the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has been excused
from that provision of this chapter if the congregation, within a period of eight years following
the establishment of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), voted to be exempt from
such provision in a regularly called meeting and thereafter notified the presbytery of
which it was a constituent congregation of such vote. The congregation voting to be so
exempt shall hold title to its property and exercise its privileges of incorporation and
property ownership under the provisions of the Constitution to which it was subject immediately
prior to the establishment of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This paragraph
may not be amended (G-6.05).


I am no lawyer, but it is pretty clear to me that neither the current pastor nor the current session owns the property.

One of the great benefits of the property clause is to prevent wild-eyed fundamentalist preachers from coming in, stirring up trouble because votes don't go their way, and getting a new congregation to steal property away from the denomination.

The congregation is bigger than its current membership.

irreverance said...

A question that always comes to mind when I run across cases like this is "does everybody in the congregation want to leave the PC(USA)?" I wonder whether the members have been told that they don't have to leave. If there is a contingent of members who want to stay with the PC(USA) they can. It seems to be the responsibility of the congregational leadership to make sure this is known (even though it is potentially counter-productive). And, if they want to stay, then they become the PC(USA) congregation who gets the property. (Am I correct in my assessment?)

John Shuck said...

@irreverence

In a schism the presbytery determines which faction is the true PCUSA church and who gets the property and it is not necessarily the majority in a congregational vote. Much of the time these things can be worked out.

Rob said...

@John, by quoting the constitution, you have just shared hierarchical pretense. That as churches and members of the Presbyterian Church (USA), we submit to the hierarchy of the constitution. I agree with you in this. Can you believe it?

Rob said...

@ John,
The Exception clause is exactly why I asked the question I did. You are claiming fervently that FPC Orlando is stealing from the Presbytery. Do you know that their history does not allow for them to leave with property, or are we just speculating?

John Shuck said...

So Rob, is it a quiz? You playing "gotcha?" Have something to say? Then say it.

Rob said...

@John,
I just wondered if you knew something about the property dispute that is coming in Orlando. I don't and was interested. I was a pre-law major prior to Seminary and enjoy studying this stuff, and you seemes to know information I did not. Just wondered. sorry if it came across any differently. It was not intended.