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First Presbyterian Church of Edmond set to take historic vote

First Presbyterian Church of Edmond will vote Sunday on a move to be dismissed from its denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA)
BY CARLA HINTON Modified: January 24, 2013 at 9:54 pm •  Published: January 25, 2013

/articleid/3748830/1/pictures/1936135">Photo - The Rev. Mateen Elass is shown Thursday at the First Presbyterian Church of Edmond.  Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
The Rev. Mateen Elass is shown Thursday at the First Presbyterian Church of Edmond. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Carland serves as general presbyter for the Indian Nations Presbytery, which includes 53 congregations in central and southwest Oklahoma.

Elass said the idea of separating from the Presbyterian Church (USA) has been discussed at the Edmond church since 2005.

He said the church created a task force at that time that eventually said there was no compelling reason to leave the denomination.

He said the congregation continued to be a part of evangelistic and renewal efforts within the denomination in the intervening years. However, the congregation eventually decided to request dismissal.

Elass said an administration commission set up by the presbytery has said the church needs 685 votes for dismissal. He said the presbytery must then accept the dismissal request. Elass said the congregation will have about three weeks to pay the presbytery the agreed-upon amount.

He said the church plans to take out a loan to pay the presbytery, something that does not please some congregation members, though they realize it is necessary.

“That's half a million dollars that we don't have on hand to give away, so we anticipate taking out a loan and then our people will dig deep to pay that,” Elass said.

Elass said he had hoped the presbytery would release the church “with no strings attached” and allow the church to give the presbytery a monetary gift of its own choosing.

“It would have been a Christian transaction of grace and grace,” he said. “Then it's not like buying your way out of the denomination or the denomination demanding some sort of ransom.”

He said the church is bound by the denomination's property trust clause, which states that church property remains in the possession of the presbytery if a congregation chooses to leave the denomination.

“Without the property trust clause, not only would we have left more rapidly, but a lot of churches would be knocking on the presbytery's door saying ‘we're on our way out,'” Elass said.

Meanwhile, Elass said he does not expect Sunday's vote to be unanimous.

“I'm going to be curious as to how many ‘no' votes there are,” he said, adding that he thinks about 60 people may cast “no” votes.

Elass said the church never conducted any kind of straw poll.

“I think a lot will depend on how many people we get here,” he said. “This will be the largest meeting that this church has ever had, so it's a big step for our congregation.”

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