Last week we considered the procedures for a congregation to withdraw from the OPC. This week we are considering the same concerning the ARP. Whenever I talk to people who are thinking of leaving the PCA, those two denominations along with Vanguard Presbytery are usually cited as viable options. One minister who attended the very first meeting we held in LaGrange, GA has since transferred into the ARP denomination. Other ministers and churches have gone into the OPC. As I wrote last week concerning friends in the OPC, I also have friends in the ARP. There have been churches in the ARP who have tried to get me to become their pastor. There are many things I like about the ARP—a great many things. Yet, we have to be fair and open-minded about what the ARP BCO states concerning the withdrawal of congregations. The procedure for withdrawing from the ARP is rather draconian, in my opinion. I know of ministers and churches who have been told that the ARP permits churches to leave with their property easily, but that is not what their BCO states. I have an email in my folder from a leader in the ARP who told me that very thing. I then challenged about the exact language of their BCO. His response was, “Well, we don’t really follow that procedure in practice.” If not, the ARP should change their procedure and make their practice always conform to their adopted polity. So, here is the section in the ARP’s Form of Government which specifies the procedure for congregations leaving that denomination (with highlights where I think it is important):
3.13 The withdrawal of congregations and church property is as follows:
A. If two-thirds or more of the membership of any local congregation, as certified by its Session, votes to withdraw, the Presbytery shall be so advised in writing at its next stated meeting.
B. At such meeting, the Presbytery shall appoint a commission to counsel, advise, and mediate with the local congregation in order to effect reconciliation or in the alternative an orderly withdrawal.
C. If the commission decides that it is in the best interest to proceed with the withdrawal, they shall conduct a second election and shall certify the results thereof to the stated meeting of the Presbytery, one year after the meeting upon which the application for withdrawal was received. FORM OF GOVERNMENT
D. If the election results show that two-thirds or more of the membership of the local congregation as certified by its Session votes in favor of withdrawal, the Presbytery shall at such stated meeting approve the withdrawal of the congregation.
E. Upon withdrawal, the Presbytery shall require some equitable financial settlement from the withdrawing congregation in regard to property under its jurisdiction, taking into consideration such factors as:
(1) outstanding debts and liabilities
(2) previous contributions or support by the Presbytery or the General Synod
(3) the percentage of the membership of the local congregation voting in favor of withdrawal.
F. In particular, both the withdrawing body and the Presbytery will recognize their responsibility, both financial and spiritual, to the minority that remains in the denomination. The Presbytery shall have the authority to require that assets be divided when the minority is sizeable enough to continue ministry.
G. If a local congregation does not comply with the withdrawal procedures set forth above, then that congregation shall forfeit all its right, title, and interest in and to its property to the Presbytery within which it is located.
Do I really need to say anything else about the procedure for withdrawing from the ARP? Maybe they do not follow these rules at the present time, but you can be sure that if liberalism ever predominates in that denomination, they will enforce every jot and tittle of the above section. That is just how liberals are. As for me and my congregation, we like local ownership of church property very well. That is how Vanguard is and intends to always be. On the issue of local congregation ownership of church property, Vanguard has a hands down advantage over either the OPC or the ARP.
Dewey Roberts, Moderator of Vanguard Presbytery and Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Destin, FL.