(Photo: Menlo Park Presbyterian Church)
A California congregation once affiliated with Presbyterian Church (USA) has voted to leave the mainline Protestant denomination for missional and administrative differences.
Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, a congregation with an estimated 3,400 members, voted overwhelmingly last Sunday to leave PCUSA.
Passing with a vote of 2,024 members in favor and 158 against, Menlo Park Presbyterian plans to join the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO).
Menlo Park Presbyterian Communications Director Nicole Laubscher told The Christian Post why they had opted to disaffiliate.
"We believe that changing denominations from PCUSA to ECO will help us achieve our mission in many ways, which fall into four key areas : identity, mission, governance and property," said Laubscher.
"The congregation voted on March 3, 2014, at its four campus locations in Menlo Park, Menlo Park Cafe, Mountain View, San Mateo."
John Ortberg, senior pastor at Menlo Park, wrote in a letter to the congregation that he approved of the move to leave the liberal mainline PCUSA for the smaller more conservative ECO.
"This is a major milestone, and not an ending but a beginning," wrote Ortberg who thanked several people involved in the lengthy process of discernment.
"Thank you for being part of this spiritual journey of trusting God and letting him lead us as individuals and as a church family on his great adventure."
Begun as a single small building off of Santa Cruz Avenue back in the nineteenth century, Menlo Park Presbyterian became affiliated with PCUSA back in 1987. A multisite congregation with thousands of regular attendees, the church has campuses in Menlo Park, Mountain View and San Mateo.
Menlo Park Presbyterian's vote must still be approved by the PC (USA) regional body it fall sunder, which is the Presbytery of San Francisco.
"The Presbytery of San Francisco will vote on whether to accept this request for dismissal at its March 11, 2014 meeting. We must also complete our application to join ECO," said Laubscher to CP.
Given that PCUSA owns the titles to the church property, if their dismissal is approved Menlo Park Presbyterian will have to pay approximately $8.89 million to the mainline denomination.
Menlo Park Presbyterian is not the first congregation in the San Francisco Presbytery to recently disaffiliate from PCUSA.
Last September Centerville Presbyterian Church of Fremont successfully sought dismissal from PCUSA and joined the conservative denomination the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
Citing the alleged lack of "Christ-centered preaching" and issues with denominational positions, the 375-member Centerville Presbyterian paid out approximately $500,000 for its property.
The PCUSA Presbytery of San Francisco did not return comment to The Christian Post by press time.