Congregation Still Negotiating with Presbyterian Church (USA) on Appraised Half-Million Dollar Property

Correction Appended

The article published Monday, June 2, 2014 stated that First Presbyterian Church of Oostburg will pay the $500,000 fee demanded by the Presbytery of Milwaukee. A spokesman of First Presbyterian told The Christian Post on Tuesday that the congregation does not plan to pay the fee.

A Wisconsin congregation ending its affiliation with Presbyterian Church (USA) does not plan to pay the mainline denomination a half-million dollars asked for its church property as previously reported in this article (see Correction Appended above).

First Presbyterian Church of Oostburg, a congregation with about 260 members whose request to be dismissed from PC (USA) was approved last week by the denomination, will paynot  the sum to gain control of its property.

Brian Jacobson, pastor at First Presbyterian, told The Christian Post that his congregation opted to leave PC (USA) a few years ago due to a sense that the denomination was drifting biblically.

"We began a discernment process regarding denominational affiliation in July of 2011. The process culminated in April 2012 with a vote by our Session to seek dismissal," said Jacobson.

Jacobson noted that a nearby congregation, the First Presbyterian Church of Cedar Grove, sought and received dismissal from PC (USA) years earlier.

"They were dismissed to the [Evangelical Presbyterian Church] in 2007 for $150,000," said Jacobson. "Twenty percent of property value, which was assessed at $450,000, plus the repayment of an outstanding loan to the Presbytery, which was valued, with interest, at $60,000."

Across the United States, several Presbyterian congregations have voted to end their affiliation with PC (USA) over the mainline protestant denomination's increasingly liberal theology. According to statistics recently released by the PC (USA) Office of the General Assembly, the number of congregations being dismissed has increased three years running.

Three years ago, 21 churches were dismissed. In 2012, the number increased to 110, and last year, 148 congregations sought and were given dismissal.

PC (USA) has no uniform policy for dismissing a congregation. Instead each regional body, or presbytery, determines their own policy.

Many presbyteries have in place a system in which a church may be granted dismissal if among other things a super majority of the congregation votes in favor and they pay a fee to retain control of the church property.

Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard, executive director of Strategic Partnerships at the Presbytery of Milwaukee, told CP about the payment process.

"Congregations in the Presbyterian Church (USA) do not own their property. Instead, congregations like FPCO hold the property in trust for the denomination. Property includes building and contents," said Howard.

Howard also told CP that regarding First Presbyterian "the presbytery had an appraisal done on the property."

"The appraisal returned a value of $750,000 for the two houses and church structure that are on the land," said Howard. "In conversations with the leadership of FPCO, the presbytery reduced the purchase price to $500,000. The presbytery will continue to work with FPCO regarding how FPCO will pay for the property."

Jacobson of First Presbyterian told CP that the system of payment "has yet to be determined" and that his congregation was critical of the $500,000 price.

"It bears pointing out that in a straw poll from a year ago, our congregation voted with 100% unanimity against the Presbytery's demand for $500,000," said Jacobson.