PCUSA Breakaway Megachurch in Calif. Entangled in Property Dispute

A congregation that broke away from Presbyterian Church (USA) a couple years ago is being brought before an ecclesiastical court over claims that it should have monetarily compensated its regional body for the property it kept.

Community Presbyterian Church of Danville, Calif., a congregation with an estimated 2,000 regular attendance, was taken to trial before the Synod of the Pacific Permanent Judicial Commission on Thursday.

Rhea Serpan, Clerk of Session for Community Presbyterian, told The Christian Post that the case brought before the PJC came from a couple members of the Presbytery of San Francisco, the regional body Community Presbyterian left in 2010.

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"Three members of the Presbytery of San Francisco filed a Remedial Complaint with the Synod of the Pacific Permanent Judicial Commission against the Presbytery of San Francisco," said Serpan.

"[They allege] that the presbytery had erred in agreeing to dismiss CPC without monetary compensation for it's property."

In the opening statements, delivered at a San Francisco hotel banquet room, lawyer and church elder
Joan Blackstone argued for those opposed to the property transfer.

"We are here today because we believe the Presbytery of San Francisco has made an unauthorized gift of property," said Blackstone.

Serpan disagrees, telling CP that the "presbytery's position is that it has the authority to make the decision about the property and that it did not error in its decision. We agree."

In February 2010, due to growing theological differences, Community Presbyterian Church voted unanimously to begin the process of dismissal. By November, the San Francisco Presbytery affirmed their decision and allowed them a "gracious dismissal", which meant they were not required to pay the Presbytery to keep their church property.

"The decision by Community Presbyterian Church to seek dismissal from the PCUSA was a result of the denomination drifting away from our core theological beliefs over many years," said Serpan.

"The process was characterized by mutual respect, care and graciousness. The presbytery voted to dismiss CPC based on the negotiated terms on November 9, 2010."

Community Presbyterian is one of many Presbyterian churches that have left PC (USA) over the past couple years due to the denomination's growing acceptance of homosexuality.

In 2010, the 219th General Assembly of PC (USA) voted to allow presbyteries to approve non-celibate homosexual clergy and lay leaders. Earlier this month PC (USA)'s Board of Pensions decided to expand domestic benefits to same-sex couples.

Many of these breakaway congregations have joined smaller, more conservative Presbyterian groups like the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which Community Presbyterian decided to join.

The Synod of the Pacific Permanent Judicial Commission is expected to make its decision in the case sometime next week. The Synod declined comment for this article.

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