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Rationale for Forming an Administrative Commission

Rationale for Administrative Commission

According to the Book of Order, the Presbytery may form Administrative Commission for councils, congregations, or agencies over which they have immediate jurisdiction reported to be affected with disorder, and inquiring into and settling difficulties therein. (G-3.0109b5). The Presbytery believes that this is necessary with the Newton Presbyterian Church and formed an Administrative Commission for the following reasons:

  1. A Pastoral Nominating Committee has been in place since early 2015 and still has not been able to find a pastor after reviewing 180 candidates. This suggests an inability within the congregation and session to move forward to the next phase of ministry.

  2. The congregation has seen a significant decline in attendance over the last seven years and since Pastor Rob Perkins left. From an average attendance of about 325 in 2009, to 170 in 2012, down to about 100 in attendance today.

  3. According to our Standing Rule, an Administrative Commission is the next necessary step for a congregation that wishes to be dismissed. (Standing Rule E.14)

  4. There appears to be a remnant that wishes to stay within the denomination, and we do not know how large that group is or if their voice has been heard. We have the pastoral responsibility to nurture this community (G-3.0301c) and an Administrative Commission would help us discern how to do this.

  5. The session has decided that it wishes to be dismissed to the Evangelical Covenant Church and has not requested that the Presbytery join with them in a way forward. The session has also decided to seek dismissal to a non-reformed body, which Presbytery of the PC(USA) cannot dismiss to. The Response Team offered a compromise option (Joint Congregational Witness), but this has been ignored by the session. It is true that other Presbyteries have dismissed to the Evangelical Covenant in years past, but the actual rule has not changed. [See Authoritative Inerpretation, Item 07-01, from the minutes of the 220th General Assembly of the PC(USA)]

  6. The session has invited Evangelical Covenant representatives to meet with the congregation prior to engaging the Presbytery regarding their plan to be dismissed to the ECC.

  7. There seems to be a breakdown in communication between the session and those outside the session. There are two significant examples of this. First, the congregation was surveyed in December of 2015 as to whether it wanted to leave the denomination and the results were close to 50/50. Shortly after, the session voted to seek dismissal with a 7-4 vote. This vote seems to fail to take into consideration the results of the congregational survey. Second, in making this vote, they failed to follow the process of working with the response team in forming this conclusion. Third, the session has been told numerous times by the Stated Clerk that a Presbytery of the PC(USA) cannot dismiss to the ECC. Yet they have continued to assume that this is the way forward.

  8. The Evangelical Covenant Church seems unable to understand that a Presbytery of the PC(USA) cannot dismiss to a non-reformed body. The Stated Clerk has reminded them of this important fact several times and even offered to work with them on a Joint Congregational Witness, which would have been a compromise. Yet, they continue to move forward with the session’s plan by introducing the congregation to representatives from the ECC and planning joint meetings and worship services. At best this is unprofessional behavior. At worse, it is an attempt to procure a valuable piece of property. With a Trust Clause similar to ours, they would receive significant benefit if the dismissal happens. An AC would help protect the interests of this Presbytery. 

 

Charge to the Administrative Commission

Charge for Administrative Commission

The Presbytery formed an Administrative Commission (Book of Order G-3.0109b) with the following responsibilities on November 14, 2016:

  1. The Administrative Commission has the power to enter a time of discernment with the session and congregation and recommend next steps to the Presbytery.

  2. The Administrative Commission has the power to determine if there is a remnant and recommend how the two groups, the remnant and the schismatic group might move forward.

  3. The Administrative Commission has the authority to assume original jurisdiction over Newton Presbyterian Church. (Book of Order G-3.0303e)

  4. The Administrative Commission has the power to declare schism as well as declare which of the two groups is the true Newton Presbyterian Church. (See Book of Order G-4.0207, See also, Advisory Opinion on Schism from 2013)

  5. The Administrative Commission may recommend that the Presbytery dissolve the congregation, but does not have the power to actually dissolve it. That power is reserved for the Presbytery (Book of Order G-3.0109b)

  6. It has the power to participate in session meetings, including when the session goes into executive session.

  7. It has the power to meet with representatives of the Evangelical Covenant Church on behalf of the Presbytery.

  8. It has the power to interview any person involved in Newton Presbyterian Church from the past and from the present time.

  9. It has the power to work with legal representation if necessary retained by the Presbytery Council.