LEGAL UPDATE
February 24, 2017
 

Many of you have asked what’s next in our legal proceedings. Let me put it this
way: the wheels of justice turn slowly, which is fine because the ministry wheels
are moving – and in exciting ways. But here’s a brief summary of what has
happened and what’s next on the legal front. As always, feel free to reach out if
you have any specific questions.

Back in June, our church was nearing the end of the Lehigh presbytery
discernment process heading for a vote about our denominational affiliation. As
you know, the presbytery unilaterally decided to declare an end to their process
and tell you that you just had to stay PCUSA, without the promised vote. This put
your elected officers in a very difficult position. In order to protect your right to
vote, and to stop the presbytery from trying to remove your pastors and officers
and seizing the assets of the church, your trustees filed what is called a
“declaratory judgment suit” against the presbytery, asking the court to affirm that
we own our property for use in our ministries, and don’t lose it by going to ECO.
The Lehigh Presbytery and PFU both filed counter‐suits against us. The judge
protected our right to vote and put an order in place permitting the PCUSA to
hold a worship service in addition to our continuing to use our building for our
ministries.

By an overwhelming majority (76.5%), you voted to become an ECO church. It is
very Presbyterian to vote on matters of conscience and Session understood that
denying the congregation which had been promised a vote would lead to mass
departures which would cripple the wonderful ministries we maintain. You
exercised your legal rights to choose a denomination and control your own
property that members for generations have sacrificially built and maintained.

After the vote, we were received by the ECO denomination. We are now a
member church of the Heritage Presbytery of our growing denomination.
Nothing in the lawsuit can result in you being forced back into the PCUSA. The
lawsuit is only about property rights. When you think about it, it is wonderful
that we have a legal system where we can peacefully bring legal questions before
a court to have answered in an orderly fashion.

While the suit is pending, we have made multiple attempts to settle with the
presbytery, agreeing to a mediator and on another occasion, offering a generous
settlement. Lehigh Presbytery was not ready to participate in a mediation and
they did not respond to our settlement offer. We are hopeful that we can all sit
down and work it out soon. (Remember – last summer’s vote said we wanted to
provide for everyone’s ministries, including those who want to stay in the PCUSA.
All it will take for a settlement is for the presbytery to agree).

Meanwhile the legal wheels kept turning. Depositions were taken last August
through October, lengthy legal briefs and responses were filed. And oral
arguments were given last week. The judge clearly had difficult questions for
both sides. He made clear that a settlement is the best way to move forward.
We have reached out again this week to move to a settlement and hope that will
be the case. Until we settle, we will continue to be gracious.

Please keep praying that we will reach a settlement with the presbytery. We
stand ready to take care of the needs of those who wish to stay in the PCUSA and
ready to bless each other into new futures. To God Be the Glory!


Dr. Marnie Crumpler

Senior Paster