Ligonier church sued over withdrawal
The Hempfield-based Presbytery of Redstone, which oversees more than 15,000 practicing Presbyterians in Western Pennsylvania, is suing a Ligonier church for allegedly ignoring internal procedures for withdrawing from the presbytery.
In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday in Westmoreland County, officials said the Covenant Presbyterian Church has refused to comply with the steps required to leave the Presbyterian Church USA, which is the national organization that monitors 79 affiliated churches in Westmoreland, Fayette, Cambria and Somerset counties.
The Ligonier church has announced it intends to affiliate with the more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which opposes the ordination of gay ministers.
Steve Benz, interim presbyter of Redstone, said the Ligonier church issued a list of reasons for its wanting to withdraw from the organization, including opposition to the national policy that allows gays in the pulpit and in church leadership positions.
"They had a list of reasons for leaving," Benz said.
Covenant Presbyterian Church has about 425 members, Benz said.
In court documents, the national organization contends that the Ligonier church failed to comply with requirements that would allow Redstone to question members to see if any wanted to keep the current affiliation. The Ligonier church also ignored a requirement to turn over its financial records, the lawsuit alleges.
Last month, Redstone voted to seize the keys of the church to thwart the move to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, saying it first needed to assess church members' desires and the church's finances before allowing the move.
The organization wants a county judge to issue an injunction to compel the Ligonier church to turn over the keys and financial and membership records. It also wants the judge to enjoin the church from transferring its assets to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
The Rev. Robert D. Cummings, pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church, did not return a call seeking comment.
Andrea Geraghty, the lawyer representing Covenant Presbyterian Church, said her clients have the right to change their affiliation and would defend themselves against the lawsuit.
"Covenant Presbyterian Church followed appropriate procedures to disaffiliate from the PC USA and affiliate with a denomination with beliefs more in line with those of its members," Geraghty said.
The Ligonier church wants to become the third in the area to transfer to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in the last five years, Benz said.
The congregation of St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church near Somerset split off in 2008 and, more recently, members of Fort Palmer Church in Fairfield left the presbytery.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Motorcyclist killed after striking pole in Penn Township
- Hempfield train crash search called off; no evidence found
- Westmoreland used car dealers indicted in fraud
- Online donors help Hempfield teen whose wallet was stolen
- ‘Dope sick’ man in custody in Mt. Pleasant stick-up
- Defense for Irwin man charged in fatal wreck seeks expert to aid in his defense
- Sewickley Township agrees to lease for land for playground
- Lawyers for convicted killer Smyrnes want info about death row
- Newcomer tops Westmoreland commissioners’ balloting
- Westmoreland County Blind Association building brimming with activity
- Cerilli’s primary success in Westmoreland attributed to busy campaign