Washington Presbytery has put forth a plan to try to resolve property issues with a Peters church that voted Sunday to break ties with the Presbyterian Church (USA), but its leaders say they will litigate ownership in civil court if forced to.
At Tuesday night’s special meeting in Eighty-Four, tremendous sympathy was expressed for the minority at Peters Creek Presbyterian Church who had opposed the break and who are now seeking to be declared “the true church” in the dispute. The meeting ended with the 80 ministers and elders gathered around a half dozen representatives of the minority, laying hands on them in prayer and singing Amazing Grace.
The Rev. David Bleivik, the general presbyter, said that if a court battle became necessary there was a possibility of financial assistance from both national headquarters and the regional synod.
“On every level we have sought to avoid legal action in accordance with [the biblical book of] Corinthians . . . . But if we are forced to defend the just side of this, we will prevail. I have no doubt,” he said.
“I have a deep place in my heart for the loyal minority because of what they have been through and how they have been treated.” Others at the meeting harshly criticized the conduct of Peters Creek leadership toward the minority.
Ray Peterson, an elder who is spokesman for the majority at Peters Creek, said later that whatever the presbytery said or proposed was irrelevant, since his congregation was no longer part of that denomination. He has previously expressed confidence that the majority from the church will receive a fairer, faster hearing in civil court than from the presbytery. The congregation took two votes, one 273-86 and on Sunday 207-26 to leave the PCUSA and affiliate with the more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
“The reason we disaffiliated from the PCUSA is so we did not have to contend with specious motions and initiatives from the Washington Presbytery,” Mr. Peterson said.
More details in tomorrow’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.