Members of a regional affiliate of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted Monday to dismiss an Edmond church from the denomination, but not without discussion about the monetary terms of the severance.
Representatives of the 53 churches in the Indian Nations Presbytery voted 63-4 to release First Presbyterian Church of Edmond to the Evangelical Covenant Order, another Presbyterian denomination.
The vote was taken during a special presbytery meeting Monday afternoon in a chapel at First Presbyterian Church of Oklahoma City, 1001 NW 25.
The Indian Nations Presbytery office is located on the First Presbyterian complex.
First Presbyterian Church of Edmond members voted Sunday to request dismissal from the denomination, with leaders citing differences over theology as reasons for their appeal to depart.
The congregation agreed to pay the presbytery $510,000, due in about three weeks.
Before Monday's vote, one presbytery member said he was concerned that the presbytery had not shared how they arrived at the dollar amount required of the Edmond church.
Jim Davis said he felt uncomfortable putting a “rubber stamp” on something that he was unsure about. He also said he thought it unfair that the church did not have equal negotiating power with the presbytery, and he was against the presbytery requiring the church to pay anything.
Some church leaders noted in previous interviews that the local congregation had paid for the church property originally.
“It troubles me that a church wishes to leave and we are put in a position that we have to say to them ‘you have to buy your way out,'” Davis said.
Tom Laubert, chairman of a group of people charged with overseeing the negotiations with First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, said his group reached out to other presbyteries across the nation who had dealt with similar situations.
He said other presbyteries viewed the payment required of churches leaving the denomination as a type of tithe.
A tithe is generally considered to be one-tenth of a person or group's income made to a religious body.
Laubert said the negotiating team agreed that the church's market value would be about $5 million. Consequently, the amount required of the congregation was about one-tenth of this amount.
Another member of the negotiating team said negotiations started at $1.2 million and the lesser amount required of the church came through a consensus that included church members on the team.
When asked, Andy Fugitt, one of those church members on the negotiating team, said the church probably would have given about $328,000 to the presbytery on its own, based on the church's annual contributions to the denomination.
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