Paper S-2 Erin AC Report to Presbytery 140826

Paper S-2
The Administrative Commission
Erin Presbyterian Church, Roseville, Michigan
Presented to the Presbytery of Detroit
August 26, 2014
Elected by the Presbytery of Detroit, April 27, 2013
Commission Members:
Rev. Dr. Jim Monnett, Chair, First Presbyterian Church, Ann Arbor
Ruling Elder Diane Agnew, Grosse Pointe Memorial Church, Grosse Pointe Farms
Rev. Dr. Roxie Davis, Honorably Retired, Port Huron
Ruling Elder Dr. Lawrence Gage, First Presbyterian Church, Farmington
Ruling Elder Kari Gorman, Northbrook Presbyterian Church, Beverly Hills
*The complete report of the Erin Presbyterian Church Administrative Commission with documentation of its twelve
month activities has been lodged with the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Detroit
Summary Report
The Erin Presbyterian Church Administrative Commission
August 26, 2014
The Committee on Ministry having inquired into the work of Erin Presbyterian Church upon being invited
into the church by the Session, found problems regarding finances, specific ministries, significant loss of
membership, inability to function fully within the parameters of the Book of Order, and disaffection with
the Pastor. It therefore recommended to the Presbytery the formation of an Administrative Commission.
On April 27, 2013, pursuant with G-3.0108 and G-3.0109 of the Book of Order, the Presbytery approved
its formation for the purpose of conducting an administrative review of the Erin Presbyterian Church’s:
 Ministry and mission;
 Its financial affairs; and
 Addressing difficulties and discord within the congregation, the session, and with its pastor.
In this regard the Administrative Commission was accorded the following authority:
 To call congregational meetings for appropriate purposes as it finds necessary;
 To assume any or all powers and authorities of session under G-3.02 it deems necessary.
Proceedings of the
Erin Presbyterian Church Administrative Commission
The commission assumed its responsibilities on May 23, 2013 with an orientation to its task conducted by
Elder Dixie Elam, Committee on Ministry (COM) Chairperson and Rev. Edward Koster, Stated Clerk of
the Presbytery. It soon determined that the difficulties described in a 2009 Healthy Congregations Work
Group evaluation regarding the congregation-pastoral relations, finances, membership reduction, and
impediments to lay leadership had deteriorated significantly. Although recommended in the report, the
AC found no evidence that COM provided follow-up or assistance to the congregation to address these
1. Congregation-Pastoral Relations.
The perception that leadership in the church was Pastor-centered had persisted along with an absence of
pastoral availability to the congregation both physically and emotionally. This seemed further strained by
the pastor’s reduction to part-time status in 2010 due to church financial deficits.
A central concern was also the initiation of a program called “Erin’s Feeding the Need” (FTN) that was
invited to the church by the Pastor in January 2012. It operated for six months without Session approval.
The program created significantly increased utility costs, produced modification of facilities, paid no
rental fees, and had no insurance to protect the church from liability. In addition, the Pastor had opened a
bank account for FTN using the church’s tax identification number without the knowledge or permission
of the Session. Tension also existed because members of the congregation expressed concern about the
unsupervised/unregulated use of the property by some of the clients as well as some suspected levels of
substance abuse by them. Many on the Session and in the congregation were conflicted over FTN because
they felt called to serve the hungry. However, the ill-will created by the actions of the FTN leadership
and the Pastor proved insurmountable to enable the program to continue.
-2Commission Actions: Congregation-Pastoral Relations
On May 28, 2013 the commission initiated steps to facilitate the request of the Pastor to resign and
dissolve the pastoral relationship with Erin Presbyterian Church.
A congregational meeting moderated by the commission June 10, 2013 resulted in unanimous
approval by written ballot of the pastoral dissolution and severance agreement
The commission facilitated arrangements for the Session to consider candidates and on August 15 the
Rev. Don Wright was selected to be the Temporary Supply Pastor effective September 2013.
Following investigation of the FTN program and consultation with the Session and the Rev. Don
Wright, the AC assumed original jurisdiction of the building, voting to remove FTN from the church
by September 22, 2014.
A congregational meeting was held after worship on August 25 to inform the congregation of recent
commission activities concerning:
o Termination of the FTN program
o Importance of the pastoral leadership of Rev. Don Wright
o Plans to assist the Session with 2013 programs and activities
o Provide resources for detailed analysis of church finances
o Plan listening sessions with the congregation
2. Church Financial Situation
An assessment of the financial status of Erin Presbyterian Church began May 30, 2013 and it was
immediately apparent that there were problems with record-keeping and accountability. Rental
arrangements existed with outside groups with sketchy evidence of formal contracts and payments. The
prior year’s session minutes indicated a consistent pattern of monthly deficits and reduction of the
church’s diminishing reserves to offset reduced income. The annual report for 2012- 2013 indicated a
deficit of $29,275. The fall 2013 stewardship effort produced 32 pledges totaling $47,096 with a
proposed budget for 2014 of $94,376. By December 2014 the church’s total remaining reserves are
projected to be $3,317.81.
Commission Actions: Church Finances
Dissolution of FTN and its resultant drain on church resources was completed.
Consultation with a Certified Public Accountant occurred to assess inadequacies in the church’s
financial documentation.
An ongoing dialogue with the Personnel and Finance Committee was initiated to address
improvements in the financial reporting process.
Sample rental contracts were provided to the Session to facilitate proper rental use guidelines,
fees, and insurance guidelines.
Recommendations were made to include regular reporting of the financial crisis in the worship
bulletin and other church publications to raise awareness of the congregation.
The consideration of adjustments in personnel costs were proposed to reduce monthly expenses.
The imperative of a stewardship campaign was emphasized that stressed the immediacy of the
church’s financial crisis.
A presence by commission members was initiated at Session meetings, fundraising efforts, and
worship to demonstrate commitment to assist and support the church.
Discussion of alternatives were suggested to the Session should projected deficits finally exhaust
the church’s ability to continue operating.
Information meetings were held with the congregation to dispel rumors that the Presbytery
intended to close Erin Presbyterian Church and sell its property or that the Presbytery would
provide financial resources to alleviate the financial crisis.
3. Ministry and Mission of the Church
The appointment of Rev. Don Wright in September 2013 as the part-time Temporary Supply Pastor
produced an immediate revitalization of the spiritual life at Erin Presbyterian Church. Attendance at
worship began to increase and his leadership as Moderator of the Session in the ensuing months resulted
in increasing the Session from five to its full complement of nine Elders and the Board of Deacons from
two members to eight.
The lay leadership, previously limited by the absence of pastoral support, began to demonstrate active
involvement in the life of the church as membership has declined. A forty percent membership loss in the
prior five years had resulted in a membership of 104 active members in December 2013 which included
the addition of eight new members.
Commission Actions: Ministry and Mission of the Church
Members of the commission made an effort to attend as many Session meetings and events in the
life of the church as possible.
Frequent dialogue was maintained with the Pastor, the chairs of committees, and at every
opportunity with members of the congregation.
The commission requested and received copies of all written communication distributed by the
church Administrative Secretary and all Session documents.
A listening session with the congregation was held following worship October 21, 2013
o A written survey was distributed to collect demographic information and responses to
why each participated in the life of the church, what the strengths of the congregation
were, what concerns they had about the church, and three wishes for its future
o Breakout sessions were then conducted to discuss the last three survey items
-4A summary of the result was shared with the Session and Temporary Supply Pastor
The commission emphasized to the Session that the congregation still seems to struggle with the
reality of what the future holds, that it has a diminishing and aging membership, that the area
demographic is not conducive to church growth, and that the financial burden appears
In the past year the Administrative Commission has had the privilege of sharing the concerns and hopes
of the Erin Presbyterian Church family. It is clear that from the dedication of its current pastoral and
resurgent lay leadership and the spirituality of the congregation that it is indeed the Body of Christ. It is
also however a community of faith that struggles to accept the reality of the dire circumstances that now
confront it after its more than one hundred and fifty years of dedication to doing God’s work.
1. The Session should immediately consider having a retreat, preferably off-site, to identify various
options should maintaining the church property no longer be possible. The Committee on Ministry
should be requested to provide a facilitator to assist in these deliberations.
2. Consultation by the Session with a representative of the Presbytery Trustees and/or the Stated Clerk of
the Presbytery should occur to understand the legalities involved in the disposition of church assets
should it become necessary.
3. The Session should begin discussions with the congregation to share the available options if there
continues to be depletion of the church’s financial resources if they wish to continue as a vibrant
4. It is imperative that the congregation be assisted to understand that all church property in the
Presbytery of Detroit is held in trust by the Presbytery and its disposition requires Presbytery permission.
In addition, the Presbytery has no resources available to alleviate the church’s financial challenges.
5. In preparation for the conclusion of the contract of the Temporary Supply Pastor at the end of
December 2014, the Session needs to determine what resources might exist to support present or future
Temporary Supply Pastors, Commissioned Ruling Elders, or other forms of pastoral leadership.
6. The congregation must be assisted to understand that its spiritual life as the Body of Christ is not
dependent upon its building and property and to explore the options to continue to be a church family in
another setting.
7. The Committee on Ministry and the Presbytery Trustees should provide continuing oversight and
mentoring of the Erin church during the next twelve months (August 2014 to August 2015).
8. The Session needs to continue to give hope to the congregation to be a vibrant faith community,
whether it be in its present location or in some other location or ministry form.
9. That the administrative commission for Erin Church be discharged.
For the Presbytery Meeting on August 26, 2014
On June 2, 2014, the Erin Presbyterian Church Administrative Commission (AC) recommended
to the Committee on Ministry that Rev. G. Patrick Thompson not be allowed the privilege of
serving in any positions of ordered ministry. This included positions of pulpit supply, eligibility
for assignment to temporary pastoral appointments, or any other positions as a teaching elder.
The Administrative Commission made this recommendation because we saw and heard credible
evidence that gave us reasonable cause to believe that during his tenure Rev. Thompson engaged
in conduct that was severely damaging to individuals and the congregational life of Erin
Presbyterian Church.
This recommendation and its reasons were also sent to Rev. Patrick Thompson. The Committee
On Ministry (COM) told Rev. Thompson that they concurred with the recommendation of the
Erin AC. Rev. Thompson would not be allowed the privilege of serving in any position of
ordered ministry in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. The Stated Clerk and representatives of the
COM met with Rev. Thompson and told him of his rights and his options.
The Erin Administrative Commission also sent a full set of allegations to the office of the Stated
Clerk; whereby the Stated Clerk proceeded to appoint an investigating committee.
On August 7, 2014 the Stated Clerk received a letter from Rev. Thompson renouncing the
jurisdiction of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. On that day Rev. Thompson was removed
from the rolls of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. effective immediately.