Why We're Changing Denominations
Hendersonville Presbyterian Church Chooses Re-Affiliation
June 6, 2013
On Wednesday evening, June 5, members of Hendersonville Presbyterian Church, Hendersonville, voted to change their denominational affiliation from the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). Eighty-one percent of the members present voted in favor of the re-affiliation. Only a 75% vote was required.
“We see a bright future ahead,” said Pastor Bill Campbell. “Even before the vote, our attendance and giving was up, and people have been joining and still others are waiting to join the church. We may lose some members over this, which saddens us, but I believe our gains will be huge. People will see that we are not changing as a congregation. We will continue to welcome everyone, to love everyone, and to remain biblically faithful.”
Elder Glenn Richardson added, “We’re moving into a denomination that has been in existence longer than the PCUSA, and it has been grounded in the essentials of the faith from day one. They keep the main thing as the main thing, and it has resulted in tremendous growth, both of the denomination and of individual churches. The PCUSA, on the other hand, has been shrinking for decades and drifting in a direction we can no longer follow.”
According to the moderator of the PCUSA General Assembly, five churches a week are leaving the denomination to re-affiliate with the EPC and other denominations.
“This is a new day,” said church member Jane Waddell. “Rather than battle against headquarters, we can focus our efforts on ministry to the community and beyond.”
The next step for the church will be to negotiate a financial settlement with the regional governing body, the Presbytery of Western North Carolina, to receive clear title to the church property. The national average for such settlements with congregations the size of First Presbyterian has been less than $100,000 paid over five years. Once the terms are established, they will be presented to the congregation and then the WNC presbytery for a final vote, likely in July or October of this year.
The congregation will also be required to change its name. “We’ve bounced around the name ‘Hendersonville Presbyterian Church’, which was the name of our congregation for its first 100 years,” said Associate Pastor Carolyn Poteet. “It only became First Presbyterian when it celebrated its centennial. Whatever the congregation chooses, we look forward our new name and our new future that God has in store for us!”
Some of the members who voted not to re-affiliate are talking with the WNC presbytery about establishing a continuing PCUSA congregation with the name “Hendersonville Presbyterian Church” in a new location. “If they do so, they will go with the elders’ support and blessing,” said Pastor Campbell. “Our strong preference, however, is that they remain with us. We love all of them, and I believe we can do ministry better together.”