Let's Talk …

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As members of the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, we face an important decision – whether to remain a part of the Presbyterian Church (USA) or to leave our denomination to join the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO). The decision we make together has powerful implications for our Church Community, now and for years to come.
In the process of studying objective and verifiable information regarding both the PC (USA) and ECO, a growing group of FPCB members called Presbyterians for Unity has concluded that there are theological, ethical, and practical reasons why our church can continue to “Know God, Love People, and Serve the World” within the Fellowship Community (formerly Fellowship of Presbyterians) and in unity with the Presbyterian Church (USA).
The immediate goal of Presbyterians for Unity is to work cooperatively and transparently with the Presbyterian Engagement Team (PET), recently formed by the Lehigh Presbytery under the leadership of Rev. Dave Duqette, Moderator. The role of the PET is to oversee a Period of Discernment for our congregation prior to the important vote to stay within or leave the PC (USA).
Please note that the Period of Discernment is just the beginning of a process that may – or may not – culminate in FPCB leaving the PC (USA). It is a time for our members to become informed about the issues prior to a congregational vote.
Presbyterians for Unity supports the Lehigh Presbytery’s goals of “reconciliation and continued engagement in relationship with all congregations within the Presbytery without the threat of isolation, estrangement or blame” (Policy and Procedure for Dismissal of Churches, lehighpresbytery.org), and pray that our efforts can bring us into the light and love of Christ, despite any differences of opinion, no matter how deep and sincere.
We urge you to become informed during this Period of Discernment, attend upcoming meetings with the Lehigh Presbytery’s PET (Presbytery Engagement Team), and share your thoughts and feelings.
If you have questions or comments or would like to join us, please feel free to leave a comment here, or, if you prefer, send an email to: presbyteriansforunity@gmail.com
With reverence, humility, and hope,
Joanne Kelhart, Chair


  1. Reply
    Vince Stravino says

    I hope we can work out our differences as Christians since neither group will flourish without the financial support of all present members. I have two flashbacks. One is from my strict Roman Catholic childhood when I was told of the sins of eating meat on Fridays or seeing movies deemed unacceptable by the Legion of Decency. In time these religious commands from the conservative leaders in the Vatican disappeared with social enlightenment. My second thought is the scene on the Titanic as it was sinking. Then chaos and fear prevented cooperation and planning leading to a much worse outcome for all. I see no “winners” here- only three fragmented groups of former FPCB members: one joining ECO, one remaining with the Mother Church PC(USA) and the third group disgruntled wandering in the Lehigh Valley seeking their God.
    Unity seems preferable to me than disunity. We have always worshiped in harmony in the past despite our diverse views.

    • Reply
      Theresa says

      I totally agree. I even experienced the fish on Friday and the Legion of Decency as well as the imprimatur.
      But in my coffee time with a session member this is the message that I got:
      Session understands the church will lose members no matter how the vote goes.
      If vote is NO, 1000 would leave
      If vote is YES, 300 would leave and money owed Presbytery.
      Session is relying heavily on the survey.
      The 300 that leave would be older members who attend the 10:30 traditional service.
      He also said that many of the other older members won’t leave because this is their church and this is where they have always gone to church.
      He also said that many people who go to church never get deeply into theological truths. They are there because the sermons are good, there is a great program for their kids, they like the music, their friends are there, their kid’s friends are there and the people there are good people. They won’t leave.
      If this is truly how all of session feels then we need to convince them otherwise.

    • Reply
      Dave says

      I agree. This issue has not only divided the church, but it has distracted the church leadership and fellowship away from the important things that were once the life blood of our church…know God, love people and serve the world. Is ECO going to bring us closer to God? Will we experience a greater love for people or better serve the world under the umbrella of ECO? I don’t think so. I’m a member at FPCB and also a member at a Presbyterian church in New Jersey. My New Jersey church is also a member of PCUSA. I often ask myself why my New Jersey church does not spend a single minute talking about PCUSA. I talked to our pastor about this issue and his response was simple. “We don’t waste time on politics in this church.” I pray for FPCB to stop the madness and get back to our core mission…Know God, love people, serve the world.

  2. Reply
    Leslie Pohl says

    I want to thank all the PFU people on the panel this weekend. You provided a thoughtful introduction, responses to questions, and challenged some claims by Session that were misrepresentations. I hope that the presentations changed some minds, or at least gave people something about which to think.

  3. Reply
    Dave says

    Many thanks to the leadership of “Presbyterians for Unity” for pulling together such a great meeting tonight. And also thanks to the attendees for such a wonderful turnout and a meaningful and respectful discussion regarding the issues that we, as members of Christ’s First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem are facing. Let’s always remember that we all worship one lord and savior and we “all are one in Jesus Christ. And if you belong to Jesus Christ, then you are all Abraham’s descendants…”
    God Bless

    • Reply
      Vincent Stravino says

      I’m encouraged too with the slow steady increase in PFU followers but also by the increasing dialog between the two camps at FPC-B. Respectful listening and personal contact leading to a mutually acceptable outcome is in everyone’s best interest. I hope now for greater involvement of all the troops in carrying the message, standing with the banners, speaking to church leaders to seek common ground;and posting comments, photos, and videos here and on our Facebook page. Get those younger members online-they are the church’s future!

  4. Reply
    Jack .walker says

    In our recent discussion meeting between Session and Presbyterians for Unity in Fellowship Hall (interesting name – Fellowship) one session member made this comment and I paraphrase: I have been sitting here listening to everything and we’re really not to far apart (speaking of course about those wanting to stay with PC(USA) and those wanting to go over to ECO). I completely agree! Why are we spending all this time, talent and treasure (even energy) discussing and even arguing over this issue? Why are we allowing this issue to destroy the church we all know and love? Why are we allowing a survey dictate to us how to resolve the issue when less than half of our members took it and approximately 700 people are “the majority” to tell us to leave PC(USA)? And finally, if Session gets it way why are we going to spend a lot of money (no one knows how much but believe me it will be A LOT for this prime land and buildings) just to go over to another denomination that is of little difference than the one we have?
    I remember on many occasions our pastor/head of staff Alf standing in the pulpit saying WE MUST BE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT!! Jim Singleton from The Fellowship Community said the same thing. Both were and are absolutely right on this issue. We are a growing, thriving, prosperous church with a lot of dedicated, loving, inclusive members (or at least it and we were). Let’s get back to that “doing something right” church. Let’s get back to doing what we are here to do – know God, love people and serve the world.

    • Reply
      Vince Stravino says


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