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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
As reported in the Plains Baptist Challenger, April 2014
The 4,000-member Menlo Park Presbyterian Church has decided to sever ties with Presbyterian Church (USA) over differences in doctrine and evangelistic philosophy.
It will cost the San Francisco Bay area church almost 9 million dollars to keep their building since the property is owned by the Presbyterian Church USA and not by the local congregation. This is one way the denomination seeks to keep the local churches in line. The congregation voted to withdraw with a 93 percent of members voting for it. One of the members of that church is former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
Menlo Park's pastor and elders provided a rationale for leaving the denomination. In a statement, church leadership contended Menlo Park's evangelical identity — its understanding of who Jesus is, the authority of Scripture, and its evangelistic methods — were "increasingly out of alignment with the PC (USA)."
"For years we have referred to ourselves as a 'Jesus church.' We believe that God has expressed himself uniquely in his son Jesus, who lived, taught, died and rose again for our sakes. We believe that ... God has revealed the truth about himself in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, which are our unique and authoritative guides in faith and action," according to the rationale provided by the church's leaders.
The rationale also said the PC (USA) "increasingly represents a wide range of beliefs on who Jesus is and on his relationship to our salvation." Those beliefs include denials of the deity of Christ and his role in salvation. In a 2011 denominational survey, only 41 percent of the denomination's pastors "agreed" or "strongly agreed" with the statement, "Only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved." Forty-five percent said they "disagreed" or "strongly disagreed."
The PC (USA) lost 61,000 members in 2010, 64,000 in 2011 and 103,000 in 2012. Today, only 1.8 million members remain in the denomination, according to the denomination's own reports.
Menlo Park has voted to join the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO), which was founded in 2012 and which includes 115 churches previously separated from the PC (USA). It did not join the more conservative Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), founded in 1973 over the increasing theological liberalism of the PC (USA). The PCA also has resisted female leadership in its churches, which may have prevented Menlo Park and other churches from joining its ranks.
In a final note, the church cited its desire to avoid political distractions in the course of its ministry. The church's statement of rationale pointed to a resolution adopted by the Presbytery of San Francisco urging churches to pull investments out of companies, such as Hewlett Packard and Motorola, which do business with the nation of Israel. That effort followed critical statements made against Israel at the denomination's General Assembly.