December 12, 2017
FROM: Session of First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem PCUSA
TO: Our members and friends
RE: Ruling by Northampton County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Stephen Baratta on Property Ownership
Earlier today, Judge Baratta ruled on the question of exactly who controls the church property at 2344 Center Street. The Judge upheld the ‘Trust Clause’ as outlined in the Book of Order, our church’s constitution, saying that “title to both real and personal property held and/or owned by First Presbyterian of Bethlehem is held in trust for the Lehigh Presbytery of PCUSA.” This means that a Pennsylvania court of law determined that the Lehigh Presbytery, acting for your church, First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem PCUSA, is the recognized trustee of the church property and all its assets under the present circumstances. We are grateful for the partnership with Lehigh Presbytery and their steadfast support and encouragement during the stressful legal proceedings.
First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem PCUSA leaders will work on the logistics of how the two congregations currently occupying the physical property shall proceed. It is our ardent hope that we find a way to bridge our differences. Our church intends to go forward in the spirit of Christian fellowship. Our guiding principle will be the words of our Lord, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31). This is the time for graciousness and kindness.
In that spirit, we will not be making any changes to the worship schedule during the Advent and Christmas seasons. As soon as possible after the new year, we will be implementing a fair and reasonable schedule of worship services as well as an equitable sharing of the common areas and classrooms. We ask for your patience while the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem PCUSA leaders work to facilitate a smooth transition.
Please watch for updates on our website at http://www.firstpresbyterianchurchbethlehem-pcusa.org/. Please direct your questions and concerns to Pastor J.C. Austin at JC.Austin@fpcb-pcusa.org.
December 12, 2017