A church that voted last year to officially leave Presbyterian Church (USA) over the denomination's stance on homosexuality, among other doctrinal disagreements, is battling in court over its multi-million dollar property.
Like other houses of worship that have faced similar separation scenarios, Bonhomme Presbyterian Church in Chesterfield, Missouri, cited theological differences with Presbyterian Church (USA) in its quest to split, voting 722 to 71 last October to exit the denomination following a two-year period of consideration.
This is only the latest issue for Presbyterian Church (USA), which has lifted a ban on gay clergy and is exploring its stance on same-sex marriage, while also supporting abortion rights, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
"The denominational drift away from our biblical, confessional and reformed understanding of Christ's person and work, coupled with the PCUSA's eroding commitment to the inspired authority of Scripture, were the primary reasons for our decision," senior pastor Tom Pfizenmaier told the Christian Post. "We see these issues manifested in the moral confusion and compromise the church is making in its teaching on such issues as marriage and the sanctity of life."
But that's not the only point of contention. Salvation in Jesus is yet another area in which the church finds itself in disagreement with the denomination, according to the pastor.
"For us salvation is found in Christ, and in the progressive side, it’s kinda, well, no, you can find salvation in a lot of different places, a lot of different ways," Pfizenmaier told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It’s fine to have that opinion, but it isn’t the historical Christian position."
Bonhomme Presbyterian Church is now in a legal battle with the Presbytery of Giddings Lovejoy, the local church body that oversaw it before the split, after the presbytery filed suit over the property, which is worth about $6.05 million.
"[The suit was filed] on Nov. 6, three weeks after the congregational meeting," the pastor told the Christian Post, noting that Presbyterian Church (USA) believes it owns the church property. "We are currently in litigation."
Presbyterian Church (USA) rules as presented in its "Book of Order" stipulate that property is intended for the use and benefit of the denomination, meaning that the local presbytery would essentially hold rights to the church. The Presbytery of Giddings Lovejoy charges that Bonhomme Presbyterian Church changed its rules in March 2014, though, to transfer benefits to the church instead of the congregation.
It is these points that the two sides will battle over, with Pfizenmaier telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he believes the denomination is "becoming more and more hostile toward churches that are trying to leave."
Bonhomme Presbyterian Church has joined ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, a theologically conservative denomination that has been growing since its inception in 2012.
As TheBlaze reported last year, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California, was involved in a similar situation and decided to pay the denomination $9 million to purchase its property. Church leaders there also said that key theological issues led to the drastic decision.
Menlo Park, which also joined ECO, described its reasons for seeking a split with Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in a document published in 2013, 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.
Consider that 244 churches left Presbyterian Church (USA) in 2013 alone.
(H/T: Christian Post)