We Are Not Amused with Arrogated Power
The Form of Government does not give the denomination the authority to “approve” a transfer of property. G-8.0301 states:
Whenever property of, or held for, a particular church of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ceases to be used by that church as a particular church 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 [emphasis added].
Whenever a particular church 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.) [emphasis added].
Further, G-11.0103y (a section on the responsibilities and powers of presbyteries) states that the PRESBYTERY has the responsibility and power “to consider and act upon requests from congregations for permission to take the actions regarding real property as described in G-8.000.”
Could it be clearer? The PRESBYTERY is given the responsibility to make this call. What the presbytery decides is what matters.
The denomination has no authority to involve itself in this matter, other than general administrative oversight over a lower governing body. However, even that general oversight responsibility belongs to the synod first and would require some kind of complaint process that would trigger an administrative review of the synod by the General Assembly. What some hyperactive bureaucrat (or agent thereof) thinks or wants is irrelevant.
We Presbyterians do not have a bullying monarchical form of church government, in which denominational lawyers threaten the proper constitutional governance of the presbyteries and congregations. King Henry VIII had spies and enforcers ready to deal severely with anyone who dared question his absolute authority. For example, to disagree with his discarding of Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn was to be guilty of treason, and the punishment was to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.
After watching from afar the “king’s” expensive, disgraceful, ministry-crippling, and God-dishonoring grasping after the assets of the Kirk of the Hills, after hoping that the mutually agreed upon settlement would finally end the hostilities, and then after reading that some denominational king apparently will not be satisfied without first hanging, drawing, and quartering the Kirk, I am disgusted that kinder, gentler, more Christian leaders have not stepped forward within the denominational structure to put an end to this avaricious disgrace.
This is especially disgraceful after General Assembly declared that “Scripture and the Holy Spirit require a gracious witness from us rather than a harsh legalism.” General Assembly made it clear that “trying to exercise this responsibility and power [to divide, dismiss, or dissolve churches] through litigation is deadly to the cause of Christ.”
But there is more. The new Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Gradye Parsons, is also disposed against further resort to courts. “The last thing we need to do in dealing with these situations is to go to court,” he said in a press conference following his election. “We need to find ways to address them with each other and try to stay out of court….”
So, we now see evidence of three rather grave errors:
First, the denominational hierarchy is arrogating powers to itself that belong to the presbytery.
Second, the denominational hierarchy is acting in a manner contrary to the authority and will of the General Assembly—to say nothing of the will of God!
And third, apparently the intention of even the Stated Clerk counts for nothing for the denomination’s legal arm, supposedly a department under his authority.
Somebody please tell me that this is just a rogue, self-appointed attack attorney who is operating outside the scope of legitimate denominational authority. That is, after all, a possibility—the most benign explanation I can come up with at the moment.