Sunday, May 5th, 2013
Wyndham Peachtree Conference Center
It’s official - we’re official! Celebrate the birth of our “new church” on Sunday May 5th from 11AM-2PM. Come hungry - brunch will be provided. We hope you’ll join us in the celebration!
For those of us who have been deeply involved in the decisions and the process of Gracious Separation, the pathway to leaving our building and becoming a “New Church” has been difficult, but reflects our best attempt to listen to God’s voice and obey. We know that for many, the pathway to where we are has been much less clear. Leaving the structure of our former church, the friends who chose to stay within the PCUSA, and the building is uncomfortable and heartbreaking for many. It is our hope that a review of why and how we got to this place will help each of us as we grieve what we have left behind and embrace the future mission God has for our church.
WHY LEAVE THE PCUSA?
After years of a strained relationship with the denomination, the former session of First Presbyterian Church, PTC, began a season of discernment in July 2010. Over a two year period, the Session conducted several congregational meetings, held many focus groups, conducted a web-based survey, and studied the theological controversies within our denomination and the potential alternatives among reformed denominations.
While concerns and differences with the PCUSA were varied, leadership concluded the following:
These are essentials about which we could no longer actively concur with or passively submit to the will of the majority within the PCUSA. The culmination of this season of discernment was a decision to pursue Gracious Separation by following a policy that was formally adopted by the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta (PGA) in December of 2011. When we announced this to the congregation in August 2012 and in all subsequent communications, we carefully acknowledged that there were those among us who disagreed with our position.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
The Gracious Separation Policy (available upon request) is a formal process that has many steps, including:
When deliberating whether to enter into the Process, we considered that, in an early draft of this Process published by the PGA, dismissal required 80% of the congregation to vote to approve. However, the Process as approved in December 2011 was revised to require only 67% (a super majority) to vote to approve. While we were uncertain about the exact numbers, we were confident that over 2/3 of the congregation supported our decision to separate.
Representatives of the PGA began their work in late October, starting with a period of discernment through listening sessions in November 2012 and a survey, administered during the advent season. The results of the survey confirmed that approximately 80% of the congregation concurred with the plan to seek dismissal while about 20% preferred to
remain within the PCUSA. The survey also confirmed that 2/3 of the Church believed it was God’s will for us to leave the PCUSA, even if we left without our building.
Under the Policy, the Session was expected to keep the PET team apprised of all communications with the members. The Policy includes the following text: “It is important that, throughout the dismissal process, both the SCC and PET communicate carefully so that divisiveness is minimized between those in the congregation who wish to withdraw and those members who want to remain in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). After formal voting by the congregation and Presbytery has been completed, all members will be contacted regarding their membership status …” (emphasis added).
As the Concerned Fellowship of Presbyterians organized and began communicating with the congregation, the Session took seriously its obligation to abide by the spirit and the letter of the Process. To the best of our ability, we sought to minimize divisiveness and did not respond to the many letters mailed by this group. Many of you were frustrated by our silence, but we were attempting, in so much as it depended upon us, to minimize divisiveness and pursue the Process with integrity.
When the PET officially recognized the smaller Concerned Fellowship as the church (and not the Session and the larger majority), the steps in the Process became unclear. The Session and the SCC believed this recognition was inconsistent with the text of the Policy because the church could no longer vote on dismissal. In the eyes of the PET and the PGA, the Policy was never intended for churches such as ours that were divided. Instead, it was intended only for churches in which no viable PCUSA congregation would remain, although this was never stated in any policy or communication.
They also contended that they had no previous knowledge of any significant opposition to Gracious Separation at First Pres. In their view, the intent of the policy provided a rationale for the PET to grant the Concerned Fellowship the charter of the church, even though our reading of the Policy suggested that this was out of sequence. In our view, the required vote for dismissal (2/3) written into the Policy (what we expected to happen) was inconsistent with their interpretation of its intent. Nevertheless, the dynamic of the negotiations changed once the PET focused on protecting the interests of the smaller, but viable, congregation remaining within the PCUSA .
The negotiations have been described to you through the joint statement issued by the PET and the SCC. The SCC made an offer to the PET to acquire the property on your behalf that we believed was consistent with the considerations outlined in the Policy. The PET team, in consideration of its duty to protect the interests of those remaining with the PCUSA, rejected our offer and made a counter offer that would have ensured that First Presbyterian, PTC, PCUSA had a building, if not the Willowbend facility. Acquiring the property at a cost even close to the level of their counter offer would have indebted the ECO congregation in a manner inconsistent with our view of responsible stewardship of resources for the Kingdom.
As you know, after a period of significant negotiations, the PET agreed to a gift for those departing the PCUSA of $150,000 from the resources of First Presbyterian Church in recognition of the faithful stewardship over many years. In addition, we were permitted to take all of the sound and music equipment associated with the Contemporary Worship Service and one of the church vans. Finally, many items donated or made by specific individuals as bequests were identified and allowed to be removed from the buildings, including but not limited to the many quilts that have been used to bless the Advent season and celebrate missions. The resources of the church library and small group materials remain the property of First Presbyterian Church, PTC, but are available indefinitely for us to borrow as needed.
Your transitional leadership team and staff are seeking to LISTEN to God’s calling for our future. We are working hard to create the formal organizational structures needed in our church, create a path to membership, and meet our needs for space to continue ministry. We are called to follow the Great Commission to spread the gospel to Peachtree City area, our nation and the world. We will be reaching out to each of you over the next few weeks to hear your thoughts and dreams for the New Church. We invite you to prayerfully join us in a season of discerning the mission and vision (and name!) of the New Church.
Your Transitional Leadership Team
Jim Marden, Clerk
Dr. David Miller, Pastor
Laura Thornburg, Business Manager
Jonathan Goolsbee, Director of Youth & Discipleship
Ike Thurston, Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministry
Pam Carson, Director of Children’s Ministry
John Odom, Traditional Worship Pastor
Jay Akins, Contemporary Worship Pastor
Jill Smith, Administrative Assistant
Sue Eutermoser, Accompanist
(Reprinted from Saints Alive, the Newsletter of All Saints Anglican Church)
On Easter Sunday a new congregation of Presbyterians numbering well over 400 held their first service in the United Methodist Church’s youth facility on Windgate Road. The service was characterized by joy and an overwhelming sense of the grace of God.
Less than an hour later the same worship space was occupied by more than 200 members of All Saints Anglican Church, gathering to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection as well.
Meanwhile, Word of God Lutheran Church (that moved into the storefront previously occupied by All Saints) have gone to two services because they too have outgrown their worship space.
What these congregations have in common is that just a few years ago, all three of them were part of what were once called Mainline denominations - the Presbyterian Church USA, the Episcopal Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
But every generation has to choose for themselves whom they will serve. It seems we humans easily become complacent in our faith and practices. We associate being a Christian with going to meetings in certain buildings and singing certain songs rather than with a relationship with the living Lord who asks us to choose to follow Him rather than the things of this world.
Many of us have spent our Christian lives attending services in buildings built by other people and participating in denominations whose governance we never paid much attention to.
There is a reformation going on. People are once again paying attention to what is taught and believed in the churches they attend. They would rather walk away from multi-million dollar buildings and worship in a strip mall than deny their Lord in comfort.
The “wilderness” has its challenges, but one of its greatest rewards is daily depending on the Lord for guidance and provision. Where there are needs and prayer and faith and action, the church is strong.
The church is growing strong in Peachtree City. Denominational differences are taking a noticeable backseat to fellowship among Christians who put The Lord first and consider fidelity to the historical understanding of the Bible non-negotiable. Lutherans worship in a space remodeled by the Anglicans; Methodists provide room for Biblical Anglicans and Presbyterians to worship. God is good.
Rev. Michael Fry
All Saints Anglican Church has graciously extended an invitation to all associated with the new ECO church to join their members for their Annual Resurrection Egg Hunt and Family Picnic, this Saturday March 30th from 11AM-1PM in the Lower Parking Lot, 225 South Peachtree Parkway.
Families are invited to come together, share a meal with one another, and participate in the egg hunt for children ages birth-5th grade. Special crafts, activities, and a basket blessing will enrich your family with the history and symbols of Easter!
Don’t forget your picnic blanket! Drinks and treats will be served.
It looks to be a glorious day outside on Saturday and an amazing opportunity to bask in the Good News of Easter. Our heartfelt thanks go out again to everyone at the Anglican Church, and we hope to see you there.
This is a picture taken at our first official gathering as ECO Presbyterian, Peachtree City. Photo credit: Eric Stogner
We had a remarkable response to the congregational meeting that took place on March 17. Thanks, again, for your continued prayer, support and encouragement as we embark on this journey together.
Here are a few things we discussed at the March 17 gathering:
PRESBYTERY | PROPERTY
NEW CHURCH, PEACHTREE CITY
More to come…
Thank you all. What a great and gracious God we serve!
We look forward to seeing you on Sunday, March 17 at 1:30 PM at the Methodist Annex at 225 Peachtree Parkway for a special time of prayer, worship and planning.
As we prepare for the next steps in our exciting, new adventure together, we wanted to bring your attention to a few very important resources for the ECO church. Please take a look at the following links and feel free to respond on Sunday afternoon with any questions, comments or concerns you may have.
Thank you. God bless you.
The Evangelical Covenant Order invites followers of Jesus who share a Reformed, Presbyterian heritage to reclaim a sense of covenanted biblical community…
You are invited to join us for an organizational meeting of the brand new ECO Presbyterian Church in Peachtree City on Sunday, March 17. The meeting will occur at 1:30 PM at the Methodist Annex at 225 S. Peachtree Parkway. This will be a special time of prayer, worship and planning as we prepare to embark on our exciting new adventure as an ECO church.
We will be discussing the ECO statements of beliefs, essential tenets and organizational structure as well as future plans for our own new congregation. We hope you will join us for this very important meeting.
Please check back soon and often for details and updates.
Thank you. God bless you.
ECO PRESBYTERIAN ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING
When: Sunday, March 17 @ 1:30 PM
Where: Methodist Annex
225 S. Peachtree Parkway
Peachtree City, GA 30269