An administrative commission is pulled together when a church in the Presbytery has become so unhealthy they need some intervention and assistance from outside of the congregation or has decided by a vote of the congregation to leave the PCUSA denomination.
I am part of an administrative commission for the Presbyterian Church in Ozark, Arkansas. The church has shrunk to only a few members over the last few years and believes that they could have a better chance at growth again if they leave the PCUSA and become a non-denominational church. This is not because of a problem they have with PCUSA policies or theology, but because they feel their community would be more open to a non-denominational church, and they would not be required to hire an ordained pastor (teaching elder) or certified lay pastor (ruling elder). This would open up their options for finding leadership for their particular congregation.
I will be going up to Ozark this Thursday evening as a member of the Committee for Congregational Care and Development (Every pastor in the Presbytery of Arkansas is required to serve on a committee of the Presbytery). Members of the commission will meet with members of the congregation to honor the many years of ministry that have occurred at the church over the years and to decide how the property of the church will be handled. As you may know, Presbyterian churches are trustees and stewards of church property, but the property is owned by the Presbytery. Ultimately, whatever agreement is reached will need to be approved by the Presbytery at a stated meeting.
I am never quite as sad about a church closing as many of my colleagues are. I believe that churches, like people, have a life cycle. When a 90-year-old loved one dies, we are sad, but rejoice in a wonderfully long and well-lived life. But when a 90-year-old church closes, people feel like it’s a tragedy. I am more inclined to celebrate the ministry that has occurred at the Presbyterian Church of Ozark, Arkansas and send the faithful remnant of believers out to a new way of being the church with our blessing.
But however you view the situation, transition is always difficult. Please keep our brothers and sisters in Ozark in your prayers during this time of change.
–Rev. Anne Russ