frgavin on May 27th, 2012

Two PCUSA presbyteries took big hits in the past week, according to the Layman Online. First, there was Tropical Florida:

One of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s largest Florida presbyteries will be losing almost a third of its membership after the 57-church Presbytery of Tropical Florida approved the dismissal requests of nine churches Tuesday.
The departure represents about 3,800 members of the 13,525 Presbyterians within Tropical Florida – a 28-percent loss.

This week, it’s Mississippi:

With five motions and five unanimous votes, a Presbyterian Church (USA) presbytery lost five congregations from its rolls—losing almost a third of its membership. But, according to its leaders, those that stay and those that leave will keep a common bond.
The Presbytery of Mississippi voted without dissent to approve the request of the congregations – representing about 1,400 members—to leave the PCUSA and join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), leaving 37 churches with a total of about 2,900 members.
The presbytery agreed to dismiss the First Presbyterian churches of Vicksburg, Pascagoula, Ocean Springs, Port Gibson and Yokena Presbyterian Church of Vicksburg.

Thanks be to God, in both instances the dismissals were gracious: the Florida churches will pay a combined total of $500,000 of support the presbytery would have received over the next three years; the Mississippi churches go without payment of any kind. In fact, in the latter case it was a matter of like-minded brethren simply deciding to live in different houses without breaking their relational ties:

“Everyone was trying to maintain a positive outlook. Parting is not easy, but the determination was expressed by many people that we want to stay in relationship with one another,” Mississippi Stated Clerk Michael Herrin said. Herrin is also the pastor of FPC-Port Gibson and stated supply of Yokena.
The presbytery made no claim on the churches’ property nor did it seek payment of per-capita funds or other offerings.
“We’ve already decided, we’re not going to fight over that,” Herrin said.
Indeed, Mississippi had little to fight over with its departing churches in terms of theology, either. The presbytery voted down Amendment 10A and nFOG overwhelmingly.
“It really was just a peaceful process,” [Pastor Scott] Castleman said. His church, Ocean Springs, even hosted the presbytery meeting.
“One of the consistent prayers we prayed [at FPC-Ocean Springs] was that the Lord would keep us of one mind…we’re blessed that there was such a unity of peace,” he said, adding that he felt “heartfelt appreciation” toward the presbytery.

Praise God for such gracious folks. May their tribe increase across the mainline churches.


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