Zion Presbyterian Church, a Korean church located in Sacramento, CA, has recently decided to leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), even if leaving the denomination means losing the church property.
The church held a congregational vote to be dismissed from the PCUSA on August 30, which resulted in 100 out of 103 active congregants (97 percent) voting in favor of being dismissed, even if they are unable to keep the church property in doing so. The main sanctuary, the English ministry's sanctuary, and five buildings are at stake, amounting to at least $3 million in property.
The property of every PCUSA church is "held in trust" by the PCUSA "for the use and benefit of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)," according to the PCUSA's bylaws, and the Sacramento Presbytery states that "property is held in trust because it is a tool for the accomplishment of the mission of the PC(U.S.A.)." As a result, churches that seek to leave the denomination must follow their respective presbyteries' Gracious Dismissal Policies (GDP), which outlines the process the church must go through to be dismissed, and the presbytery's requirements for the church to maintain its property after dismissal.
In the case of Zion Presbyterian Church, which is under the authority of the Sacramento Presbytery, the congregation has the option to either lease, purchase, or lease first and later purchase the church property from the presbytery, should the GDP process continue unto completion.
However, a portion of the Sacramento Presbytery's GDP mentions the "schism" scenario, which was only defined as "a split within the Congregation or its session between a group that wishes to be dismissed from the PC(U.S.A.) and a loyalist minority of whatever size."
If the presbytery determines that there is a schism in the church, the GDP process will be suspended, meaning the church is no longer guaranteed the ability to maintain the property through any of the options listed under the GDP. Instead, the presbytery will determine whether the loyalist group that desires to stay in the PCUSA has enough members and dedication in order to remain as a self-sufficient PCUSA church.
If the loyalist group could prove that it is, it can retain the church property (which would still be held in trust to the PCUSA). Otherwise, not even the loyalist group is guaranteed any options to be able to maintain the church property.
"We couldn't continue in sharing our faith with a denomination that has departed from the Word of God, changed the definition of marriage, and presents sin as though it isn't sin," said Reverend Daniel Lee, the senior pastor of Zion Presbyterian Church.
"I'm proud of the members of our church, who have said they'll continue to hold on to the Word and that they won't compromise, even if it means losing the sanctuary and church property that they've built with their tears and sweat," Lee continued. "We're still uncertain where we'll take all of our 300 congregants including young adults and children, but we will be a church that strides on top of the water as we come out from the boat."
Lee added that the results from the recent congregational vote will be reported to the Sacramento Presbytery. Thus far, the session has discussed joining the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO) upon being dismissed from the PCUSA.