Presbyterian church pays $7.8m to leave denomination that backs abortion, gay ‘marriage’
A conservative Presbyterian church has opted to pay nearly $8 million rather than remain a part of its theologically liberal denomination, which supports abortion-on-demand and redefining marriage.
Highland Park Presbyterian Church (HPPC) in Dallas has agreed to pay $7.8 million to a regional parent group for the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA).
Last year, HPPC left the denomination, citing four major concerns, among them concerns that PPUSA wanted too much control over HPPC's decision-making. As importantly, PCUSA allows multiple interpretations of who Jesus Christ is in terms of His relationship with God and the path to Heaven, as well as other Scriptural doctrines.
On the same day of the PCUSA vote, HPPC voted to join ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, a more traditional Presbyterian group that was founded in 2012.
In addition to a core tenet of Christ being the path to Heaven, ECO opposes abortion and same-sex "marriage." Earlier this year, PCUSA voted to allow same-sex "marriages" to be valid, and refused to condemn the killing of babies who are born alive after surviving a botched abortion.
The PCUSA's regional parent group in this part of Texas, Grace Presbyterian, immediately claimed it had ownership of HPPC's property and assets. A legal battle ensued. A court date was set for later this fall, but the settlement by HPPC ended the battle.
The decision by HPPC is just the latest in a series of battles between PCUSA – the nation's largest Presbyterian denomination – and theologically conservative Presbyterians. The PCUSA has lost more than 100,000 members and 190 congregations, including dozens due to dissolution, since 2011, according to its website. Many of the departures were due to the PCUSA's support for redefining marriage, which has long been a dividing factor between the PCUSA and the larger Presbyterian church.
In a public statement, HPPC's leadership team -- known as the Session -- explained the vote to approve the settlement, which was valued at 11 percent of the church's total assets that were being disputed. The 11 percent is also representative of the percent of HPPC that voted to stay with PCUSA.
In an online FAQ, HPPC's leadership explained that while it was confident it would win the court battle, several considerations were taken into account.
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"There are other costs besides financial ones that must be considered as well," says the FAQ. "What are the costs in terms of the focus and creative capital of our leadership, both staff and elders, and the distraction it creates for our church, as we seek to build a unified commitment to mission and ministry? The ability to pursue our mission without hurdles or distractions is invaluable. Further, if the court case was lost the costs to HPPC of losing its property and relocating would be considerably greater than the cost of the settlement."
Even if HPPC gained victory, the battle could last years. With the settlement, HPPC must pay Grace Presbyterian by November 3. It anticipates doing so via donations raised, loans, and reserves.