Edit and clarification at the end is in italics. (Also see update below)
Earlier I wrote that Fremont had filed a complaint with the Synod of the Pacific on the grounds that they did correctly comply with Sacramento’s dismissal policy. They asked that a stay be given on the administrative commission placed on them. They received the stay.
I also wrote that a motion had been made at the Presbytery’s council meeting to dissolve the negotiating team because without meeting with Fremont’s session or Fremont’s negotiating team they had opened an escrow account for those who wanted to stay in the PCUSA, gave them a place to worship, and allowed them to use Presbytery’s stationery to invite others to join them. The motion passed. (For a clearer understanding of this go to my last update-An update on Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento .)
(More information follows the letter I have placed here.)
In reference to the complaint that was filed the Executive Presbyter sent out this letter:
Yesterday afternoon our Stated Clerk, Nancy Clegg, received notice that a “complaint” has been filed by the Session of Fremont Presbyterian Church against the Presbytery regarding the action taken at the January 9, 2012, meeting of the Presbytery. Along with that complaint was a request for “a stay of enforcement” of the action to institute an administrative commission. The Stated Clerk of the Synod has said that the papers received yesterday afternoon are in order. Attached to this email should be two documents on the complaint and the stay.
Our Stated Clerk informed the Presbytery’s Council and the members of the administrative commission of these actions, and the work of the administrative commission is stopped.
What happens next? The Presbytery is guided in this process by our By-Laws, our Standing Rules, and the Book of Order:
The By-Laws state: “7.000 RULES OF DISCIPLINE. In accordance with the Rules of Discipline D-6.0302a and D-10.0201b, the following persons are empowered to appoint a committee of counsel and an investigating committee when needed: the chairperson of the Committee on Ministry, the moderator, the stated clerk, and the associate synod executive.”
The Standing Rules state: “K. COMMITTEE OF COUNSEL 1. In accordance with the Presbytery Bylaws (7.000), a Committee of Counsel shall be formed when the Stated Clerk becomes aware of the need for one as defined in the constitution (D-6.0302a and D-10.0201b). The creation of the committee shall be reported at the next regular meeting of the presbytery.”
The 2011-2013 Book of Order gives this guidance at D-6.0103g: “Objection to Stay of Enforcement g. The respondent may, within forty-five days of the filing of a stay of enforcement, file with the permanent judicial commission having jurisdiction over the case an objection to the stay of enforcement, whereupon no fewer than three members of such permanent judicial commission shall conduct a hearing on all of the issues relating to the stay of enforcement. The parties may be present or represented at such hearing. At such hearing, the stay of enforcement may be modified, terminated, or continued until the decision on the merits of the case by the permanent judicial commission.”
And, at D-6.0302: “Committee of Counsel: When a council, the General Assembly Mission Council, or an entity of the General Assembly becomes either a complainant or a respondent, it shall designate no more than three persons to be a committee of counsel. This committee shall represent that complainant or respondent in the case until final decision is reached in the highest council to which the case is appealed. Provide by Rule a. A council, the General Assembly Mission Council, or an entity of the General Assembly may provide by rule for the appointment of a committee of counsel. Shall Not Serve b. The clerk of session, the stated clerk, or executive of presbytery or synod shall not serve on a committee of counsel of the council served.”
As I have shared in officer training events across our Presbytery, the Rules of Discipline is a part of the Book of Order with which I am not too familiar. My interpretation of what happens next is that Nancy Clegg, our Stated Clerk, will work with the chairperson of the C.O.M. (the Rev. Tom Tripp), with the Moderator (the Rev. Bob Yule), and myself to identify three persons to serve as the Presbytery’s Committee of Counsel. Those persons will prepare a response in the next 45 days to the issues raised in the attached documents, and then work with the Synod’s Permanent Judicial Commission until a resolution is reached. The action (“relief”) requested is “to rescind the appointment of the administrative commission, and other such relief as justice requires.”
As we enter the season of Lent in two weeks, I covet your prayers for the Fremont Church and this Presbytery.
Yours in Christ,
Presbytery of Sacramento"
What I now know I received from a friend, and I have now obtained a better update.
It was reported [during Presbytery meeting] that Fremont had received from the Synod PJC a stay of the administrative commission. The commission had been appointed by presbytery at its previous meeting to investigate whether there was "schism" at Fremont within the meaning of the Book of Order. Presbytery was further told that a Committee of Counsel was to be appointed to defend the commission.
It was also reported at presbytery that there had been some informal discussions between presbytery leadership and Fremont leadership. There was, however, no report to presbytery of council's vote to dismiss the negotiation team, which vote came before presbytery's meeting and had already been announced to the congregation at Fremont.
Executive Presbyter Jay Wilkins advised COM before presbytery most recently met that council's vote was out of order. I believe the reasoning to be that council lacked power to dismiss the negotiation team because presbytery's dismissal policy gives COM the ability to appoint negotiation teams.
We have subsequently learned that presbytery's Committee of Counsel has now been appointed. One of the three members is on the negotiation team. Another of the members is on the administrative commission. The third member hasn't, to my knowledge, participated in either the negotiation team for Fremont or the administrative commission.
UPdate: Nancy Clegg Stated Clerk of Sacramento Presbytery answered my question about members picked for the Committee of Counsel. "(one who served on both the Negotiating Team and AC, and two who served on the Negotiating Team). An attorney was hired to file the response with the Synod PJC."
Please keep praying that the Presbytery will finally allow Fremont to go with their property. One other Church, Redding, has already gone. They followed the same procedure that Fremont did. But their property was smaller and not next to Sacramento State University.
For the whole PCUSA denomination may Jesus our Lord be with his people that some will not heap the sin of greed and ill-used power upon themselves and that the others will learn to love all without measure in the midst of their trials.