Home > Main, PC(USA) > Why I was sad to be a member of Pittsburgh Presbytery…

Why I was sad to be a member of Pittsburgh Presbytery…

This Thursday we had a Presbytery meeting. At this meeting we voted on whether or not to accept a settlement agreement with Memorial Park Presbyterian Church. The basically agreement is that for a between 500 and 600 thousand dollars within the calendar year, Memorial Park can leave the PC(USA) with their property in tact.

This has been long and ugly battle. I’m not going to get into the details because I don’t know them all but in January Memorial Park sued the Presbytery asking Allegheny County to declare that they own their property exclusively. Prior to that they had been negotiating with the Presbytery so that they might leave with their property.

As a preface: I strongly disagree with Memorial Park’s decision in almost every facet. I disagree with their decision to leave the denomination. I disagree with the literature that they distributed to their congregation, and more than anything I was disgusted by their decision to sue the Presbytery and run to the Post-Gazette to make sure it made the papers. The decision to sue directly contradicts Paul’s painstakingly clear instructions in 1 Corinthians 6 and is frankly inexcusable in my opinion. For a church who bemoaned the loss of biblical authority in the PC(USA) to then sue the denomination is bewildering.

All that being said, what happened on Thursday caused me even more pain. With a settlement agreement presented I hoped that it would be approved by voice vote and everyone would be done. Memorial Park could go on their way and continue their ministry, and the Presbytery could do the same. In the end, that’s what happened – but by a vote of 132 to 82. The disturbing part was that few if anyone was complaining about the actual terms of the settlement – they seemed to be upset that there was a settlement at all. People were advocating going to court, no matter what the cost. Despite the fact that we might face years of court battles and spend thousands and thousands of dollars (on both sides). Years of front page stories about Christians suing each other and fighting it out in court. All of this at the risk of not winning and Memorial Park walking away – aside from the damage done to our Christian witness. The Presbytery had already spent $55,000 on this case. Even more troubling: there was little or no discussion of 1 Corinthians 6 prohibiting lawsuits among believers, but lots of angers, hostility, and a general desire to get even. In the end the settlement was approved, but I have to wonder why people were so eager for a fight?

Categories: Main, PC(USA)
  1. April 20, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    I do not remember people advocating going to court, but rather staying in court – where Memorial Park sued us and wanted the decision to be made.

    Whatever was said in debate, one should remember that there is a logical fallacy in assuming that people who voted for or against a proposal agreed with all of the statements made for the pro or con side respectively. Some of the people who voted for the settlement might have voted for it because they thought it sounded like a reasonable idea. And some who voted against it could have had their own unstated reasons for disapproving a proposal with flaws that could not be remedied by amendment.

    On the whole I think it was a fair discernment process.

  2. April 21, 2008 at 7:08 am

    Going vs. staying in court really doesn’t matter – people were voting on whether or not to continue the court action and advocating continuing the court battle. It was the equivalent to the Jr. High boys “he started it!” Too little turning the other cheek and far too much commitment to wasting money.

  3. April 25, 2008 at 6:15 am

    to preface: I was a member of the Memorial Park for years, my father was a pastor there but I completely disagree with their decision to leave. That being said…

    Just to clarify, the Presbytery was not sued. It was a court injunction from what I understand. Also, the reason the court was brought into it at all was because it had been four months since Memorial Park had heard ANYTHING from the Pittsburgh Presbytery and could get no response from the Presbytery.

    I also disagree with the PG being brought into it though and I agree it’s sad it came to this. I do think it’s important to remember that there are at least two sides to every story. Which I’m pretty sure you already know 🙂

  4. Chuck Peters
    April 27, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    Amen Brian. Memorial Park is not a church of God. Their membership is declining and the leadership is consumed by nothing more than New Wineskins Association (they operate out of MPC) and their own egos. Anyone who did not agree was driven from the church. I’m not sad it was in the press. When other churches are infected by the New Wineskins disease they need to have some information on the propaganda they produce and the completely one sided view they present. People have been hurt and MPC cares nothing about this. Any church like this has only a human future based in things like money, egos, personal power trips, New Wineskins Association and is not serving God.

  5. May 5, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    I think Brian’s post was a lot more even-handed than the vitriol being poured by Chuck Peters. “Memorial Park is not a church of God.” “When other churches are infected by the New Wineskins disease.” These are nasty, hate-filled words. I pastor a NWAC church (it became NWAC before I was called here but I affirmed their decision) and cannot recognize ourselves in what has been said here.

  6. Chuck Peters
    July 7, 2008 at 4:21 am

    As an update on this, Memorial Park Church held a “Jubilee” celebration on the first sunday in June 2008 to commemorate the June 2007 vote to leave the denomination. The true purpose of Jubilee Sunday was to collect money to pay off the settlement and legal bills. Every “family” took turns going to the front of the church to drop cash in a box while everyone watched. I found this in very bad taste. They had people walk up front to see who had donated and who had not as intimidation to get money. They collected over $600,000 to pay off legal fees and settlement money in 1 sunday. With this “Jubilee” collection of money – actual cost to the church was $0. This is why Pittsburgh Presbytery wanted 1.7 million dollars; they knew the church could afford it. They celebrated the following Sunday with clapping and shouting, not in praise of God but about money. I suspect this was all planned in advance to find a way to use a wealthy church culture to get people to come to Jubilee and then give money once they were there, pew by pew. No one would want to be seen sitting in the pew while others went up with green. I chose not to go up to the front. Rev. Erthein perhaps you should try ministering to those people who have been kicked out by NWAC. They have a “our way is the only way. If you don’t agree, there’s the door” mentality. If you don’t leave, they make things very uncomfortable for families, forcing them to leave, not giving pastoral care, not visiting them while in the hospital, not caring at all. It’s disgusting and more satanic then anything to do with God.

  7. October 4, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    Chuck Peters obviously doesn’t like MPC very much … so why was he there that Sunday? It looks like he was there simply to write angry words about it afterwards. That is not honoring God in worship.

  1. September 2, 2008 at 6:57 am

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