Some employees at a California megachurch were apparently so supportive of the decision to spend nearly $9 million to leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) over central theological disagreements that they offered to vacate their homes or forgo their salaries, according to the church’s pastor.
Senior Pastor John Ortberg of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, Calif., told his congregation during a sermon last month that these staffers were prepared to make monumental personal sacrifices, all in the name of upholding their Christian worldview.
“This week I met with [church leaders] Scott Scruggs and Grace Griffin … and we were talking about where the church is, and Scott said to me, ‘I’ll move out of my house if that’ll help,’” Ortberg said. “Grace is in a home her family owns, but she said, ‘I’ll work without a salary if that would help.’”
Campus Pastor Charley Scandlyn also sent Ortberg a text message saying that he also would be willing to vacate his home.
Ortberg told his staff that these actions would not be necessary and later told the congregation that he was inspired by the level of devotion they showed to Menlo Park Presbyterian Church.
“That’s a wonderful gift God has given to us,” Ortberg said of their allegiance. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen something like that.”
As TheBlaze previously reported, 93 percent of voting members at the church recently opted in favor of Menlo Park moving on to join ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, a denomination that has attracted 115 Presbyterian churches since its 2012 inception.
Despite overwhelming support for the split, church leaders are carefully considering the feelings of those opposed to the move.
“MPPC and the Presbytery of San Francisco are committed to supporting congregants who voted against the motion, and to caring for any congregants who want to remain part of the [Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)],” spokeswoman Nicole Laubscher told TheBlaze in an email. “Senior Pastor John Ortberg noted after the vote, ‘To everyone who voted a different way or was disappointed with the outcome, the church is grateful for your participation and involvement.’”
As for the nearly $9 million it will cost to officially part ways with Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Laubscher provided a breakdown of how the money will be raised and allocated.
Menlo Park currently has $2.5 million on hand that can be used for the buyout, while still allowing the church to hold funds in a reserve.
Ortberg and his wife, Nancy, have also decided to vacate their home, which is owned by the Church of the Pioneers Foundation, a Christian organization; the assets of the home will be put toward the $8.89 million needed.
Additionally, the foundation agreed to provide funding to help the church meet the financial cost without instituting layoffs or incurring debt.
Between the church’s reserves and money from the home, Ortberg told parishioners last month that Menlo Park will likely be halfway to the $8.89 million mark. Then, with the foundation’s support, the full sum will be attainable.
“The plan is that we’ll use the housing allowance we get from our church to rent or find a place to live, and the foundation will use the assets of the house we move out of to help pay this price,” he told parishioners. “I just have to tell you, it has been a really good thing for us to think about what we might be holding on to a little too tightly. It has actually been the source of great joy for both of us, and we’ve talked to our kids about this, about just letting it go for something greater.”
Considering the lump sum of money that the church will pay to leave Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), some critics have said that the funds would be better spent feeding the poor or being used for another related purposes.
But Menlo Park leaders have said that key theological issues led to the drastic decision.
Leaders described their reasons for seeking a split with Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in a document published last year, noting that the church’s “evangelical identity around who Jesus is and our understanding of the authority of scripture are increasingly out of alignment” with the denomination.
Specifically, the church expressed concern that many Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leaders do not believe in the deity of Jesus, nor do they embrace salvation through Christ. These are central tenets of most mainstream Christian churches, leading to a difficult ideological splintering.
That said, Menlo Park is hoping for Christian unity even in the wake of its decision to leave the denomination.
“We want to be part of something bigger that God is doing in the Bay Area. I think God will be asking us to make some sacrifices for that. That’s okay, because God is God of the immeasurably more,” Ortberg told the congregation last month. “We don’t want to be known as the rich church or the poor church or the liberal church or the conservative church or the smart church or the gifted church or the strict church or the lenient church or the successful church.”
He added, “We want to be the church that believes our God can do immeasurably more, and we want to ask God for the power to do not what’s possible for us, but what’s impossible for us.”
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