This came in my e-mail within the last two hours. I am ashamed of my presbytery leadership. Since when does the group who does not vote count for an additional problem to those considering whose shall be the property in a dispute. For instance when Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church voted to leave, they had a membership of 2,286 members and 1,218 voted. Roseville had 1, 143 and 760 members voted. Those non-voting members did not count. (I have added a video at the bottom.)
Administrative Commission for Fremont Presbyterian Church
Purpose: Pursuant to the request from the Committee on Ministry, I, Anna Niemann Perrine, in my capacity as moderator of the Presbytery of Sacramento, call a special meeting of the Presbytery of Sacramento for Monday, January 9, at 7:00 pm at Celtic Cross Presbyterian Church, 5839 Dewey Drive, Citrus Heights, CA, for the purpose of acting on the following motion regarding Fremont Presbyterian Church.
Motion: That, pursuant to Book of Order G-3.0109, the Presbytery of Sacramento appoint an Administrative Commission to visit Fremont Presbyterian Church and inquire into an apparent schism within the membership of that congregation. The Commission shall consist of six or more members, equally divided between teaching elders and ruling elders, appointed by the Moderator in consultation with the chairpersons of the Committee on Ministry, the Stated Clerk, the recently retired Interim Stated Clerk, and the Transitional Presbyter. No two members of the Commission shall belong to the same congregation.
Specifically, the Commission shall inquire into, report on and make recommendations with respect to the following questions within the meaning of Book of Order G-4.0207 (Property of Congregation in Schism) so that the Presbytery can make the determination required by G-4.0207:
1. Whether there is a schism within the membership of that congregation, and if so;
2. Whether a reconciliation of the factions or a division of the factions into separate congregations within
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) can be effected, and if not;
3. 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.).
The Commission shall, before making its final report and recommendations on these questions, afford to all
persons affected by its decision fair notice and an opportunity to be heard on matters at issue.
The Commission shall have access to such records and documents (whether in written or electronic form), as it, in its judgment needs to review in order to make its recommendations.
The Commission shall make a report, whether interim or final, to the Presbytery at its next regularly scheduled meeting.
Rationale: COM has concluded there are threshold questions which must be resolved by the Presbytery of Sacramento before there are any negotiations with representatives of the leaders and members of Fremont Presbyterian Church who wish to affiliate with another denomination. In the past, our Presbytery has dealt with schisms between an entire (or virtually entire) congregation and the PC(USA).
By contrast, in the case of Fremont, there appears to be a schism within that congregation between two identifiable and large groups of Presbyterians, one of which has voted to leave the PC(USA) and become a congregation within the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) and one of which voted against leaving the PC(USA). In addition, there is a third group -- which is reportedly nearly as large as the first two groups
combined, if not larger -- which has not voted one way the other.
The Book of Order specifies in G-4.0202 that its provisions "prescribing the manner in which decisions are made, reviewed, and corrected . . . are applicable to all matters pertaining to property." G-4.0207, Property of Congregation in Schism, provides.
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 shall1 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.
The Guidelines for Churches Considering Seeking Dismissal from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in the COM Handbook do not address as situation such as we face here. Instead, they appear to presuppose a reconciliation or a decision by an entire congregation or the functional equivalent thereof to seek such dismissal. The Guidelines make no reference to making the determinations required by G-4.0207 when there is a divided congregation such as appears to be the case with Fremont. Indeed, the phrase "the true church within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)" appears nowhere in these Guidelines.
COM concluded that (1) negotiations regarding property and other issues with the representatives of the members, elders and pastors at Fremont who wish to leave the PC(USA) and affiliate with the EPC should not occur before the determinations required by Book of Order G-4.0207 are made by Presbytery and that (2) a "team" appointed by COM pursuant to the Guidelines is not the appropriate body to assist and advise Presbytery with respect to these determinations. The results of such "team" negotiations would probably be
subject to a proceeding2 before the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Pacific, and perhaps the PJC of the General Assembly. Years might pass before a resolution of the threshold questions, during which hundreds of Presbyterians would remain in limbo.
G-4.0207 is silent as to how a particular presbytery is to determine whether a particular faction should be identified as the true church within the PCUSA, but it mandates that such a determination be made. COM believes that a broadly-based administrative commission including representatives from at least six different congregations is the most appropriate tool to assist Presbytery in making the required determinations.
1 The Preface to the Book of Order provides: "In this Book of Order (1) SHALL and IS TO BE/ARE TO BE signify practice that is mandated, . . . ."
2 Including, without limitation, a request for stay, appeal, remedial action or other recourse.
I have added a video of Pastor Don Baird baptizing young people at Fremont.
Baptisms from Fremont Presbyterian Church on Vimeo.