http://paloaltoonline.com/square/print/2014/02/26/dear-members-of-menlo-park-presbyterian-church


Town Square

Dear members of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church

Original post made by Monica Dhandapani Mallon, Menlo Park, on Feb 26, 2014

Dear members of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church,

As you all know there will be denominational vote on this Sunday (March 2nd). According to the church's leadership, one of the main reasons for seeking dismissal is their desire to own all of MPPC's property which currently belongs to PCUSA. While this may be true, it is important to note that in 2011 the majority of presbyteries in PCUSA voted to allow the ordination of gay clergy. Just months after in January of 2012 ECO was formed. While ECO's stance on gay clergy is hard to dissect it seems the timing of its formation seems like more than a coincidence. The information posted on its website is rather vague but it suggests that those who are not married opposite-sex couples are expected to remain celibate. When I contacted Nicole Laubscher, the communications director, she said that the reason for joining ECO was" We to help people become followers of Jesus Christ. Changing to another denomination gives MPPC the best opportunity to fulfill its calling as a church".

When I brought op the topic of sexuality she said, "human sexuality is a vitally important facet of life, and conversations about it will and should continue long after the vote, but it is not related to the issue of MPPC's denominational affiliation". While this may be the case it is important to note that while gay clergy may not be the reason for the split amendment 10-A which permits gay clergy is not included in ECO's documents. She continues, "We are a church with congregants who hold a wide range of views on many issues, and we value that. We can only stay on mission by focusing on what holds us together, which our faith in God. And we can only make the right decision for our church's affiliation by staying focused on our core reason for change, which is to best fulfill our mission". I don't know if this is just me but it seems like Ms. Laubscher is saying that we should only focus on our faith in God and not the issues at hand. When God, loves all people and would not stand for such distasteful discrimination. She continues to say that, "we [the church] believe in human rights for everyone of all sexual orientations, ethnicities, ages, genders, backgrounds, and everyone is welcome to be part of our church to learn about Jesus". What is seems like she is saying is that all are welcome but, property ownership is more important that human rights and human dignity. Its worth discriminating against people, and sending a terrible message to our children in order to gain property ownership. While I don't think that gay clergy is MPPC's main reasons for dismissal, it is important to remember that it is part of the package.

Furthermore, throughout the entire process almost no specific information was available to members. I attended multiple town hall meetings and learned virtually nothing about ECO. I then decided to look on their website where I was faced with the same vague message. I would have little problem with ECO passing if members were informed about all of the specifics regarding ECO's beliefs and polices. But they wean't and that's why I writing this article. I think members deserve to know what they are voting for. So if you have any questions regarding ECO please email MPPC leaders and ask your questions so that this Sunday you will be an informed voter. I understand that I have said some controversial things but I just wanted to make sure that I got some necessary information across. So when you arrive at the vote on Sunday, come informed and stand up for what you believe in.

Sincerely,

Monica Dhandapani Mallon
Sophomore at Woodside Priory School

Comments

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Posted by Rich
a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Ms. Laubscher is lying to you.

From ECO's Polity and Discipline:

"2.0101 Qualifications of officers
Elders and deacons are ordained and installed by the session. Pastors are ordained and installed by the presbyteries. Ordaining bodies must ensure that **all officers adhere to the Essential Tenets of the ECO. Failure of officers to continue to adhere to these standards is grounds for a session or presbytery to remove an officer from service** according to the Rules of Discipline in this Constitution."

So what do the Essential Tenets say?

"We therefore hold one another accountable to: ... maintain chastity in thought and deed, being faithful within the covenant of marriage between a
man and a woman as established by God at the creation or embracing a celibate life as established by Jesus in the new covenant."

So "we [the church] believe in human rights for everyone of all sexual orientations, ethnicities, ages, genders, backgrounds, and everyone is welcome to be part of our church to learn about Jesus" BUT they are forbidden from ANY position of leadership once MPPC joins the ECO.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 27, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Rick,

I agree with you. There have been a fair number of articles attacking ECO's stance on gay ordination and she was probably trying to calm everyone down before the vote. If they actually believed in "in human rights for everyone" then they would not be going forward with this vote. I have been going to MPPC for years and I find it sad that they are choosing property over human dignity. I hope that the members of this church will vote against this measure on Sunday. I am especially annoyed that they provided almost no information about the denomination during meetings. Members deserve to be informed before voting so that they can make the decision that they feel is best for themselves and their community.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 27, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Thank you Monica for speaking out in such a public way. You are way more brave than most of the adults who attend MPPC. I think you nailed the issue when you said: "I think it sad that they are choosing property over human dignity."


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 27, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Anonymous,

Thank you very much!. I'm not usually the type of person who likes to spark controversy, but I care deeply about human rights and I just wanted to let everyone know the truth.


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Posted by Rich
a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Were you informed that your vote was advisory only? Did every member have opportunity to review the dismissal materials? A 50% quorum is required and at least 75% of them will need to affirm the $9 million price tag (according to the San Francisco Presbytery's Gracious Dismissal Policy) AND then it needs to be voted on and approved by the presbytery. San Francisco Presbytery has already been disciplined by the General Assembly for going too easy on letting churches go with their property for pennies on the dollar and leaving those loyal to the denomination in the cold. What inevitably happens is one strong church becomes two weak ones.

Web Link


Web Link

"While the quorum for congregational meetings is normally set by the rules of a particular congregation, the importance of the dismissal decision on the life of the congregation **requires that all members of the congregation shall have opportunity to review the materials and that at least 50% of the members cast a ballot**. In unusual cases where it is impractical to assemble 50% of the members of the congregation in one place and/or at one time, the PET may approve alternate arrangements that allow for flexibility in timing and location, making sure that all participants have access to the entire discussion and the opportunity to cast a ballot.

Steps will be taken to ensure that only members of the congregation are permitted to vote, and voting will be by written ballot. The importance of validating the congregation's request for dismissal requires that no less
than 75% of the at least 50% of the members who are voting, affirm the dismissal. **If 75% or more** of those voting approve the request for dismissal and accept the terms of the negotiated agreement, the dismissal request will be deemed as validated by the congregation. The congregational vote, **however, is advisory only; the final decision to dismiss rests with the Presbytery.**"

Last Sunday 1st Presbyterian of Houston turned down a transfer to the ECO by failing a 2/3 super majority.

Web Link

Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas went straight from their "discernment period" to filing a civil lawsuit for the building. It's the building, stupid.

Web Link
Web Link

You may ask how I know all those. My congregation went through this a year ago and we voted it down. A year later things are MUCH better for our church.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 27, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Rich,

We got very little information at the meetings. They basically just gave us a Q&A sheet, bit of information about ECO, and some vague reasons for wanting to leave PCUSA. There was some additional information at Web Link but it was of the same vague nature as the meeting sheets. I really wish that they had been more transparent about ECO to the members. This is a very big decision for the church and the voters should be informed.

I'm glad to that everything worked out at your church and I hope my church doesn't pass ECO as well. I wish there was more time to educate voters. Thanks for all of the good information!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 27, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Rich,

I also didn't know that the vote was just advisory. Thanks for the information.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Portola Valley
on Feb 27, 2014 at 10:04 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by Eric
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2014 at 5:34 am

Your column is amazing. Thank you for doing the research and writing it for all of us. You are one of the many reasons I have great hope for the future of the PC(USA).

The session of my congregation has also requested dismissal from the PC(USA) to join ECO, and like your situation, we have been given very little information about ECO. The Reverend Dr. Daniel M. Saperstein, Co-Leader for Mission and Partnership for the Synod of the Sun, PC(USA) has written an eye-opening analysis of ECO polity. He wrote it for First Presbyterian Church in Houston to study during their recent discernment process. Interestingly, that congregation has been recognized for their openness during the discernment process and they voted last weekend to stay PC(USA).

You can find this analysis of ECO polity written by Dan Saperstein on my blog Web Link

I'm proud of you Monica, #staypcusa!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2014 at 7:00 am

Eric,

Thank you so much for sharing your congregation's story. It seems like a fair number of members whose congregations are trying to make the switch aren't getting the information they deserve. It's brave people like you who help bridge the information gap. I checked out your blog and it has a lot of good information. Thank you for your bravery and service to your community.

#staypcusa



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2014 at 8:13 am

[Post removed due to unverifiable republication of private email exchange.]


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Posted by Rich
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2014 at 9:33 am

Dan Saperstein was Executive Presbyter at Presbytery of Plains and Peaks when First Presbyterian Fort Collins CO turned down leaving. We miss him dearly. I see much of what we learned in the successful vote at First Presbyterian Church Houston. Dan nails it when he says ECO is a Baptist polity. It's not surprising that John Ortberg came from a Baptist background. Presbyterian polity hems in these "entrepreneurs" with too much democracy. A key feature of Presbyterian polity is the issue of original jurisdiction. If the presbytery senses a schism where two groups claim to be the "real" MPPC they have the power to dissolve the session and fire the pastors and establish a commission to run the church. After a time a new session gets elected and new pastors are called. If you look at the SFP policy I posted earlier there is a schism provision in it. Another thing missing from ECO polity is the doctrine of "parity of elders". In the Presbyterian system ruling elders and teaching elders are peers and they both have equal number of votes on church councils. Again that hems in the CEO pastor model with too much "bureaucracy".

Having been in both presbyterian and congregationalist churches it is my opinion that the presbyterian form of church government is the most practical and Biblical. It protected my church from an out-of-control session and I pray that it will do the same next Sunday for yours.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2014 at 9:44 am

Rich,

John Ortberg helped to form ECO in 2011 and introduced it at the Covenanting Conference for The Fellowship of Presbyterians, in January of 2012. I wish he would just [portion removed] be transparent with everyone about why ECO was founded and what it stands for. I really looked up to him when I was younger and I think that his sermons are quite good and it disappoints me that he isn't even willing to speak deeply about an organization that he helped to create.


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Posted by Rich
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2014 at 10:26 am

At the same time that John Ortberg headed up the ECO, Jim Singleton became President of the FOP. Jim successfully got First Presbyterian Colorado Spring to leave the PCUSA for the ECO in 2012. Then ECO/FOP ran into problems, particularly with the Tom v. San Francisco Presbytery GAPJC decision that stated that presbyteries have to take into consideration the fair market value of the churches during gracious dismissal. This made it much more difficult to leave WITH THE PROPERTY. Once we discovered in Fort Collins there was likely to be a seven figure settlement the march to dismissal came to a halt.

The Houston Chronicle said this last week:

Last November, a pair of Presbyterian pastors, Jim Singleton and Mike Cole, provided the essential contrast between the two positions within the same hour.

"Mainline Christianity in this country is dying," said Singleton, one of seven pastors who helped create ECO. "We keep losing numbers. In the last 10 years, we have lost about 25 percent of our membership... Young adults are the missing components. The hole is created because we are not doing evangelism as we once did evangelism."

***The time had come, he said, to "peaceably withdraw and be something different.***"

First of all, Jim is no longer a PCUSA pastor but is a Gordon Conwell Seminary professor. Second of all, he is/was President of the FOP. The FOP said this on their web site:

Web Link
Why Remain within the PC(USA)?

"***We are committed to ministry within the PC(USA) because God calls us here.*** When asked why he would associate with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus answered, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sicků I have not come to call the righteous but sinners." (Matthew 9:12, Luke 5:31) In interpersonal relationships, in declining neighborhoods, and in misdirected denominations, human instinct is to walk away—to not become involved. We who are part of TFP believe the gospel compels us to move toward the difficulty, not away. In the past 40 years, the PCA, the EPC, and ECO have followed Christ to faithful mission and witness beyond the PC(USA). We affirm that call. ***We are commissioned by the same Lord to remain within the PC(USA)***—not as those who agree with the current trajectory of our denomination, but as missionaries called to teach and model the Good News of Jesus Christ within a structure that is in deepening trouble."

So, FOP tells 1st Presbyterian Fort Collins (after we decided to stay) that they are committed to reform within the PCUSA while their president is lobbying for 1st Presbyterian Houston to leave (with the building of course). If you end up voting to stay I predict that joining/staying in the FOP will be raised as a kind of "consolation prize". Don't do it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2014 at 11:16 am

Rich,
Thanks for the advise and information. At MPPC they are willing to pay almost 9 million dollars to leave with property. [Portion removed due to unverifiable direct quotation of a third party.]

To me it just seems ridiculous that they would go through all of this effort to join a denomination that is clearly not right for the community. I hope that everyone who is voting on Sunday has done their research, otherwise they might have to contribute some of their own assets.


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Posted by Midtown man
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 28, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Having attended MPPC and becoming a member for over 25 years (1983-2010), I have this observation. The church went from having a humble, common-man salt-of-the-earth leader (Walt Gerber) to an ambitious, spotlight-centered empire builder who seemed to be emulating national evangelicals with mega-churches to their credit (John Ortberg). I left because the mission seemed more of the man than the spirit. Helping form ECO then leading the congregation to join it seems improper with mixed messages of ambition and grandiosity, certainly not humility.


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Posted by Rich
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2014 at 1:59 pm

"To me it just seems ridiculous that they would go through all of this effort to join a denomination that is clearly not right for the community. I hope that everyone who is voting on Sunday has done their research, otherwise they might have to contribute some of their own assets."

That's if you go with them. If on the other hand you choose to stay in the denomination note this from the Presbytery policy.

"All property-related payments made pursuant to this policy shall be reserved for use in new church development and/or furthering the mission and ministry of the PC(USA) and the Presbytery within its bounds."

Your vote to approve the deal does NOT obligate you to go to the new denomination. Every member has the right to choose which church/denomination they will associate with at the time of the dismissal. San Francisco Presbytery will provide guidance/pastoral care/grief counseling to all involved. You can choose to go to an existing PCUSA church or be part of a new mission church amongst the former MPPC members or even another church body altogether. Your presbytery is there to serve you and care for your physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. What follows is SFP official policy:

"As soon as possible following the Presbytery vote to dismiss the congregation to another Reformed body, the Presbytery will implement the communications plan specified in Section 3 III(C)(3)(c) above. This will include the PET preparing a letter from the Presbytery to members of the congregation informing them of their option to be dismissed with the congregation, to remain in the PC(USA) by transferring their membership to another PC(USA) congregation or to be transferred to a congregation of another denomination. The congregation will be responsible to deliver the letter promptly to all members on its rolls and will bear all costs associated with delivery. All responses are to be returned to the Presbytery, and the Presbytery will promptly forward copies of all responses to the congregation. Allowing sufficient time for receiving responses from members, but prior to the end of 90 days following the vote of Presbytery to dismiss the congregation, the Session shall meet to vote to transfer membership of those who wish to affiliate with another PC(USA) congregation or a congregation of another denomination. All members who have not replied that they wish to transfer their membership to another PC(
USA)congregation or a congregation of another denomination will be dismissed to the Reformed Body specified in the terms of agreement on the effective date of dismissal.

The Presbytery will then ensure that contact is made with those members who wish to remain in the PC(USA) and/or to transfer to another congregation
so that they are assisted in joining a new congregation of their choice.
This may include the PET and the COM liaison assisting the member in seeking a waiver of the usual requirements for church membership.

Although some members of the congregation may not experience dismissal as a major event, for others it will mark a significant sundering of bonds with an extended church family. Especially, for those members who did not favor dismissal, the post-dismissal period may be a difficult one regardless of whether they choose to transfer membership or to be dismissed with the departing congregation. Such members will need to process a range of experiences and emotions, including loss, isolation, and abandonment. Whether such members choose to be dismissed with the departing congregation, or choose to move to another congregation, there will be a need for intentional pastoral care. That pastoral care will probably involve both work with individuals, and work with small groups. Presbytery, acting through the PET, will need to identify and reach out to those members who need support, beginning with those the PET may have identified earlier as favoring remaining within the PC(USA).

Moreover, Presbytery will need to allocate resources to provide individual counseling; small-group prayer, reflection and worship; and group counseling to help members choosing to remain in the PC(USA) move through the experience of dismissal into the future, with a sense of health and wholeness.

At the very least, Presbytery should commission at least two of its teaching elders (retired or active) and/or ruling elders with experience in grief counseling, to act as a team of chaplains to minister to members choosing to remain in the PC(USA) for an extended period of time following a congregation's dismissal."


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Rich,

Thank you for the information. I had no idea that the Presbytery of San Francisco offered that service. I will have to look into that if MPPC decides to go with ECO. By the way I can't vote because I am less than 18 but if I could I would vote against joining ECO.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Should this in house topic be discussed on a public website?

I am sure that this private matter for the congregation should be that, private.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Resident,

According to paloaltoonline.com Town Square is "a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion". We are thoughtfully sharing our opinions about an important event in our community and if you do not want to participate then you do not have to.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Monica

[Portion removed.]

I feel that the senior members of your congregation may not agree with their business being discussed in public. Important it may be, but not to the public at large. I refrained from initially paying attention as I was sure that members of the public could not be making useful contributions to a private matter. I eventually looked to see what the fuss was about and why the comments were so prolific. [Portion removed.]

Young people in general are using the internet without realizing that there are certain boundaries. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Town Square Moderator
online staff of Palo Alto Online
on Feb 28, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

Readers of this topic may be interested in the cover story from The Almanac, the Palo Alto Weekly's sister paper, which was published this week.
Web Link


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Posted by Eric
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2014 at 6:28 pm

Resident,

As a member of another congregation going through the same process as MPPC I too regret the public nature of our discussions, but in many cases alternate voices are being shut out of the private discussions. We would prefer to have these discussions in house but we are not given the opportunity so we turn to the internet. What we have to say, and what we have to share, is too important not to be heard. Not everyone will agree with what we say, but everyone deserves a chance to hear it. I'm proud of the work this young lady has done, the questions she has asked and the bravery she showed in speaking up.

I'd like to see more of our "senior members" bravely speaking up for the minority voices and using the power they have to open the conversations. You would see much less of it here on the internet if they would.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Midtown man,

Thank you for sharing your story. I agree with you. Ortberg seems to be building an empire of mega churches. It seems like Walt Gerber was a good pastor who was dedicated to MPPC. I wish we could have a more salt-of-the-earth leader who was less focused on building an empire.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Town Square Moderator,

I have read the article. I really like how the writers were able to incorporate a wide range of opinions.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Resident and Eric,

I would have preferred that this conversation of sorts occurred in person. However, I feel like it is important for people to discuss their opinion and share information in any way possible. I think that it is important for different voices to be heard. In my opinion it is better to have a conversation on the internet than no conversation at all. I would like to encourage all others to speak up even if they do not agree with me.


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Posted by Fashion
a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2014 at 9:09 am

I understand the general feeling of distaste which comes from publicly airing what is typically a private concern. That said, this decision is too critical to be brushed aside, or to proceed without interested parties having the opportunity to air their concerns, or state their position. Had MPPC provided a forum in which members and attendees could air their thoughts openly with one another as a general body, this discussion would likely not be taking place. It is enormously regrettable that the church did not provide an internet home for commentary, avoiding any public conversation.

I am not in favor of the church leaving PCUSA, nor frankly, am I in favor of the church focusing time, money and effort in a "five year/five campus" expansion program. I am not in favor, in any sense of the word, of spending a staggering $9M to facilitate this congressional divorce. The human heart should hurt at the thought of how much good could come from money of this sort being spent for those in need.

The membership level of MPPC under the leadership of Walt Gerber appears to have been approximately the same level, if not higher, than what we see today, many years, many divisions, many "satellite campus" programs later. There are a number of things which have changed, some positive, some negative, It is my opinion that principal among them is the feeling of unity, the sense of purpose, the common drive for humility and compassion which were hallmarks of the MPPC congregation of ten years ago. What has changed is the stability of the leadership team, the cherished traditions of the service, the unshakable bond of joy which went hand in hand with walking through the doors of one of the most life giving, life sustaining churches in the Bay Area, and arguably in the country.

I respect the talents of John Ortberg, and there is no denying his capability in many important areas. He is an intelligent, creative guy, an excellent speaker, and a prolific author. He is also a man who clearly sees himself as the leader of a movement far beyond the scope of the treasured church he now pastors, and a man whose ambition, both personal and professional, is beyond dispute. I do not begrudge him his goals in any sense of the word. I do, however, firmly resist his desire to remake MPPC into a church which suits his agenda, and one which I do not believe reflects the basic tenets which have governed us so successfully, and so lovingly, for decades.

There are obviously several driving forces behind the desire to leave PCUSA, and it is clear that PCUSA is in glaring need of reformation, revamping, and quite likely an overhaul of leadership. I understand the concerns which have been raised by Ortberg and his leadership team as justification for the departure, but I flatly disagree that departure is the solution. MPPC is one of the brightest stars in the PCUSA firmament, and at a time when Presbyterian churches are fleeing the organization, this church could fill a critical gap in capability. John Ortberg could direct his multiple talents to fixing what is broken, repairing what no longer works, bringing a new face to an organization badly in need of assistance.

It is apparent to the most casual observer that mainstream denominations in America are on a dramatic, and perhaps irreversible decline. We have seen leading denominations, including the Methodists, the Episcopalians, the Catholic church, and the Presbyterian church all racked by strife, torn apart by fundamental disagreement on any number of subjects. The "go to" solution for most of these organizations has not been to work with passion for reconciliation and progress, but rather, to essentially take their toys and go away. There are no winners in this type of divisive, tragic behavior. People for whom the church is, as it should be, a lifeline, are left broken hearted at the relationships severed, the bonds torn apart. Denominations lose the collective, prodigious power of unity, while small, disparate, splinter groups pop up here and there, all touting their particular version of the "right path". People who are outside of the church either shake their heads in disgust, or feel, often justifiably, that their perception of organized religion as both damaged and damaging is perfectly correct.

It is time, in my opinion, to stop this hemorrhaging tide of damage. It is time to remember that that which unites us is greater than that which divides us. It is time to stop focusing our efforts on aggrandizement, and remember instead that those who lead by example are, as they should be, the true beacons of light in the world.

MPPC is not called to be on the front page of the papers for suspected discrimination against any group of people. It is not called to be a point of concern for neighboring churches due to expansion efforts. It is not called to be a platform for this pastor, or for any pastor, to overlay personal goals on a church whose charter was written by larger hands.

Rather, we are called to justice. We are called to, and for, social outreach and compassion. We are called to take the astonishing blessings of our location, our wealth, and our talents as what they are; gifts to be used to and for the benefit of the communities we serve. We are called to protect those most vulnerable, to shelter those in need, to care for the sick, to provide for the homeless. We are called to bring the word of Christ in living, breathing, vibrant display to those not familiar with His message. We are called to welcome, to embrace, and to celebrate every person equally, leaving the duties of judgment to the God we serve. We are called to stand as a unified body, joyful in our faith, faithful in our joy.

We are losing our way. This needs to be the last time in which our church plays out unaccustomed discord in such a painful, bleeding fashion. I don't know what tomorrow's vote will bring, and we can only hope that every single person voting does so with thoughtful analysis, great courage, humility, and a sincere desire to return MPPC to the loving, united body it was for so many years. If the vote goes to join ECO, then I hope we will bind up our wounds, and move forward to make the organization a source of joy and comfort in a world so desperately in need. If ECO proves contrary to our fundamental beliefs, then I hope we stand with courage in opposing any charter, any instruction, any direction which erodes our foundation. If the vote goes to remain in PCUSA, then I hope that Reverend Ortberg either accepts the challenge to embrace the decision wholeheartedly, or makes the decision to find a platform more in keeping with his personal goals and philosophy.

The one thing I do know is that the power of God permeates this church, and has from the first day of existence. Menlo Park Presbyterian has changed lives for generations, provided a spiritual home for thousands of people, and become a cornerstone of outreach and leadership in the Peninsula Bay Area. It is a wonderful church, made up of decent, good, caring people. It has been a living, vibrant symbol of all that is good, all that is responsible, all that is caring, all that is beneficial in a denominational gathering. It will remain as such, simply because so many people believe now, as they have believed for years, that the God we serve is, and must always be, the defining force of all that brings us together.

The working definition of being a Christian is to be a follower of Christ. Nothing more, nothing less. To follow this man is to understand that we are called to serve, called to stand, called to love, called to shelter.

Nothing can shake that foundation. This church belongs to God, and He, thank goodness, remains as He was, as He is, as He will always be; perfect in His love, steadfast in his fidelity.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 1, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Fashion,

I completely agree. I think that it is very important for members to make this decision carefully because it will be difficult to take back. You nailed it when you said: "The working definition of being a Christian is to be a follower of Christ. Nothing more, nothing less. To follow this man is to understand that we are called to serve, called to stand, called to love, called to shelter". I don't think it should matter what your race, gender, sexual orientation, or political party is. What should matter is your faith. I think that we need to get past our differences and make MPPC a community that welcomes and supports all who chose to follow Christ.


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Posted by local mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Dear Monica,
I applaud you for your faith and involvement in the future of your church. MPPC is too big for me, so I am in a small church that has other challenges. I know how hard it can be to come to consensus on such important matters, even with a small group.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 1, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Monica ,
Both the church and our communities are privileged to have you as a member.

Thank you,

Peter


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Posted by Confused
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 1, 2014 at 10:13 pm

Monica,
Please translate: what is a "denominational vote," and what is PCUSA and ECO? And please state your hypothesis in a concise way. I'm really confused by your letter.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 1, 2014 at 10:51 pm

Confused,

You do seem confused. So let me explain. Both PCUSA and ECO are presbyterian denominations. PCUSA is the largest presbyterian denomination in the U.S. and it was founded in 1983. ECO was founded in 2012 and is an evangelical presbyterian denomination. There is some uncertainty to why ECO was formed and what it's beliefs are. That is what we have been discussing on this post.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 1, 2014 at 10:57 pm

Confused,

I forgot to add that a denominational vote, in this case, is when members of the congregation (Menlo Park Presbyterian Church) vote on whether or not to leave PCUSA. To leave PCUSA they need 50% of members to be present and 75% to vote in favor of leaving PCUSA. I hope this answers your question.


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Posted by local mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2014 at 11:33 pm

Monica,
I don't understand why MPPC is facing this decision now?


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Posted by los altos man
a resident of Los Altos
on Mar 2, 2014 at 12:28 am

monica,

I admire the passion of youth to speak out; sunshine is always the best disinfectant.

why wasn't pcusa given an opportunity to speak before mppc membership on the merits of staying. we have only heard 1 side of the story.

we need more information to make an informed decision.

the point raised that john ortberg founded eco presents potential conflicts of interest and should have been clearly divulged.


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Posted by los altos man
a resident of Los Altos
on Mar 2, 2014 at 12:55 am

additional discussions:

Web Link


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2014 at 8:26 am

Local Mom,

MPPC is facing this decision now because the elders voted to leave PCUSA. Following that they are going to have a denominational vote, today for members to decide. Although the elders voted, the members have the opportunity to vote against them.

John Ortberg (MPPC pastor) helped found ECO and introduced it at the Covenanting Conference for The Fellowship of Presbyterians, in January of 2012. That is why many believe that he is strongly pushing us to join ECO.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2014 at 8:44 am

Los Altos Man,

I agree, PCUSA should have been given a chance to speak on the merits of staying. If you noticed, all of the literature that was given to us was about ECO. While a PCUSA official did attend one (or more) of the denominational meetings, he had to sit with the members and wasn't given many opportunities to speak. I think that they should have have a discussion with a member of PCUSA and a member of ECO on stage, an allowed people to ask their questions to. That would have been more fair. It saddens me that MPPC leaders were unable to give us all of the information and forums for us to discuss it. I personally think that the reason we were not given much information was because John Ortberg helped in the founding of ECO. It would go against his personal interest to give us information that would show the opposing side in a positive light.

What bothers me is that he is a pastor, he is supposed to have morals and show people what is right. He is supposed to set an example for everyone and he didn't. And in this case I think he set a horrible example by not providing the people of his congregation with the information they deserve.

I really wish that the vote could be postponed until everyone could be given the proper information to make an informed decision. This is a big decision for our church and it will be hard, if not impossible to take back.


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Posted by Confused
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 2, 2014 at 10:04 am

Monica,
So the vote is over whether MPCC should remain a mainstream Presbyterian group vs. becoming an evangelical one?


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2014 at 10:15 am

Confused,

The voting started at 9:30 today. If 75% or more of MPPC members vote to join ECO, then the church will most likely leave PCUSA and join ECO. If 25% or more of MPPC members vote to stay with PCUSA, then the church will most likely stay with PCUSA. I think that there is some chance that the elders will be able to over ride the vote but I really have no idea. Like I said above we weren't really given very much information. I hope this helps!


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Posted by Menlo Bill
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Update: The members of the congregation voted to approve the motion to petition the SF Presbytery for dismissal to ECO. In plain english, it passed with about 93% approval. Next, the SF Presbytery will vote to dismiss in a couple weeks.
Monica, I appreciate your passion around this and applaud your engagement. I am not sure if you are a member of MPPC. I am and feel that I got ample information on all of the topics that seems to be concealed through countless e-mails, web pages, meetings, calls, etc. If you were a member, I am surprised that you didn't get them too. Ultimately I am reminded of the wisdom from Peter Drucker: Most of life's arguments result from an inability of the parties involved to agree on what they are arguing about. The arguments for or against the role of gay people in the church never resonated because the people in the church never agreed with your contention that this was the main issue. The main issue was the lack of effectiveness or frankly future of the PCUSA.


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Posted by Fashion
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Bill:

Peter Drucker is a very smart guy, and that is a very wise saying. I was in Menlo today, and it was really obvious that the vote would pass overwhelmingly. I was taken aback by the spirit of joy and celebration present, and the clear affirmation of the congregation for this move. So much so, in fact, that it will send me back to the drawing board to carefully examine my own thinking, an always important element if you find yourself somewhat out of step with people for whom you hold respect and affection.

One thing about democracy; it is messy, but it is precious. Now that this time is behind us, I hope, and I believe that each and every person will feel their voice was heard, and we can move forward to sustain and build this church; to keep that which is perfect, and to improve that which is imperfect.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Menlo Bill,

I am not a member (I think you need to be 18) but my mom is a member and I have attended MPPC for more than five years. I think that there was information about ECO. However, I felt like it was rather vague and did not address the other side. I think that it would have been a lot more fair if both ECO and PCUSA has opportunities to make their cases to the members. From what I gathered by going to meetings, reading documents on the MPPC website, and attending services, there was little information given regarding the differences between ECO an PCUSA. I do not believe that people were well informed, and while I know that it would be impossible to have a completely fair vote I think that MPPC leaders could have done a much better job. As I said above I think that the reason we were not given much information is because John Ortberg helped in the founding of ECO and giving opposing information would go against his personal interest. I hope that members will continue to voice their opinions and fight for what they believe in.


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Posted by Menlo Bill
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Hi Monica. Sorry but I disagree. There were 2 recent meetings that included members from the PET/SF Presbytery in which they had ample chances to talk and we had ample chances to ask questions. Did you go to either? A PET member has been sitting in a booth in the breezeway for several weeks. Did you stop and ask him questions? Elders have had countless meetings individually with people. Did you call one up and ask to have coffee? You could have become a member and had the right to vote; there was a class on Feb 12 and you don't need to be 18. Did you go?
If people were not informed, they were not paying attention or making an effort to change that.
As for John Ortberg's "personal interest" in ECO, what specifically do you mean? He has obviously been supportive of it but that's after years of trying to work with PCUSA. Have you called him and asked him about this conflict that you seem to see? He's a pretty approachable guy.
As I said, I admire your engagement but I am having difficultly relating your experience to mine. I will grant that many in the congregation were poorly informed but would contend that that was by their own choice, not from a lack of opportunity to understand the issues.


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Posted by Long time MPPC member
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2014 at 2:23 pm

I am a long time MPPC member and have served the church in a variety of volunteer roles over the past 30 years. I too was present for the vote today. I was in the main sanctuary. We had 7 sites on the main campus plus 3 satellite sites (downtown Menlo Park, San Mateo, and Mountain View) all linked together via the internet.

I attended all of the town hall meetings the church held on the issue of leaving PCUSA and joining ECO. I felt fully informed. Members of the PCUSA PET (Presbyterian Engagement Team) were present at all of these meetings and did present their side of the issue. Members of MPPC's team and our pastors and elders presented the reasons to move to ECO. There were many handouts and information on the MPPC website on the difference between the two denominational choices. It was clear that John Ortberg was involved in ECO. Nothing was hidden.

I was originally undecided before attending the town hall meetings and reading all of the material. But - after considering all of the information, and seeing just how much money PCUSA would take from MPPC, I thought 'It's really all about the money' on the SF Presbytery's part, and that helped push my decision to a 'yes' vote. (Plus many other issues - I object to the Presbytery's control over MPPC. We should have self-determination, which today's vote gave us.) Many of the people sitting around me (and my spouse and friends) in the sanctuary this morning felt the same way. How dare the Presbytery think they are owed money from the Church of the Pioneers Foundation, a non-profit which is a completely separate legal entity from MPPC. Fully 1/2 of the almost 9 million dollars will come from the COPF because that is what it takes to buy our way out of the Presbytery. Read Pastor Mary Naegli's blog on this issue of 'It's all about the money.' The prior agreement was canceled by the Presbytery precisely because they decided they wanted money from the COPF in addition to money from MPPC.

Today, the congregation was really joyful in worship in a way I've never seen. It took so long to count the votes that we had an amazing time of worship through music and song. The vote was just about 95% in favor (a little over 100 'no' votes and 2024 'yes' votes.) That big a vote margin didn't happen by accident, and didn't happen because people were 'uninformed' as this blog article and several comments imply. If you Google churches leaving the PCUSA, you'll see that the prior highest 'yes' voting percent was 93%. I believe that MPPC is now the highest 'yes' percent. I'm looking forward to a future of MPPC without this cloud of trying to leave the PCUSA hanging over our heads, as it has for years.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Menlo Bill,

I didn't go to the last two meeting and I seems like there were opportunities to ask questions. I'm glad that your experience was more positive than mine. You are right, I could have reached out to leaders more and gotten answers to my questions. I still wish that they had provided more information specifically pertaining to the differences between PCUSA and ECO. However, I'm glad that you were able to get the information you felt you needed to make an informed decision.


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Posted by Long Time Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2014 at 2:28 pm

I joined MPPC when I was 14 years old and that was in 1982. I have children who are your age. I commend you for speaking up publicly about such an important issue. I'm glad you are welcoming of both sides of this issue.

Property ownership is important because the church bought these properties with money given in donation by its members. It would have been irresponsible for the leadership of MPPC not to take into consideration the amount of money donated by members. PCUSA only held this property in trust for MPPC's benefit, it did not buy the properties and then have to sell it to MPPC for pennies on the dollar. The property has never belonged to PCUSA, but have always belonged to the congregation of MPPC. Some of the property PCUSA is claiming to own was actually not even held in trust, but belonged to a separate legal organization called Church of the Pioneers. The nearly $9Million price tag that you speak of is an agreed upon settlement offer to remove MPPC's assets from the trust. PCUSA is making nearly $9Million in this settlement, not losing money in this as it never owned those properties.

While the property ownership is a very important issue, I attended one town hall meeting where people were given plenty of opportunity to discuss the issues. I felt the most important issue was about local control. PCUSA is not a group of people who live in the community and attend the church. PCUSA is not a group of people who send their children to learn about Jesus in MPPC Sunday school classes. PCUSA is an organization that does not know the members of MPPC personally.

I am in agreement that Jesus loves everyone regardless of sexual orientation. I know there are laws that apply to public governmental organizations, but those laws down apply to a private organization such as a church. Anyone can join as a member, but leadership is selected based on the goals and primary focus of the church, not dictated from a large organization that does not know or understand our community.


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Posted by Rich
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2014 at 2:52 pm

What you described was the information process up until the presbytery got involved in our church's decision. Education sessions were created that allowed for both people who wanted to stay and wanted to leave were able to present. Professional mediators from the local university were hired to make things fair and to moderate the education sessions. Up to this it was all about joining the ECO and our session was near unanimous on leaving. After the education sessions the congregation was 60% against it. I was contacted by your PET to help them identify people who would want to stay. Members of our presbytery's administrative commission also advised your PET on our process, but it sounds like they didn't take our advise.

I have been familiar with the Presbyterian Lay Committtee (who is the organization behind the throne for the ECO) since the mid 80s. During the 60s and 70s the sure sign of denominational decline was the civil rights movement and letting the communist Martin Luther King Junior speak to the Presbyterians. According to a1963 Concerned Presbyterians newsletter the answer to this problem was publishing essential tenets in the local newspaper. In the 80s the head of the PLC was clerk of our session. Then the issue to split over denominational decline was because of women elders and pastors. Now it is gay people.

During the 90s I also served as a ruling elder and prebytery prosecutor in the conservative PCA denomination and my presbytery wanted to nominate me to the denomination's Standing Judicial Commission. My expert opinion concurs with Dan Saperstein. The ECO is not a Presbyterian denomination. It is designed to consolidate power for big-steeple pastors over and against the elected lay leadership.


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Posted by Long Time MPPC Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Message from John Ortberg:

"the motion to dismiss MPPC from PC(USA) to ECO was approved by 93% of our members who voted today. There were 2,024 ballots in favor of the motion, and 158 ballots opposing the motion. "


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Posted by Jennifer
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 2, 2014 at 5:13 pm

I go to Menlo Park Presbyterian but am not a member. I also applaud Monica for starting and continuing this discussion. We need more young people engaged in public conversations.

Even though I don't belong to the church, I am very happy that the members voted so decisively. Unity means a great deal for any organization, religious or otherwise. I fervently hope that most if not all of the members felt they were casting an informed vote and that whatever questions they had prior to the vote were answered to their satisfaction. If not, those people may find themselves at odds with the direction the organization is headed.

From what I heard in attending many MPPC services, one of several reasons for moving to another Presbyterian group is so that the church can expand without too much "red tape" from the Presbytery. One of the visions for MPPC is to establish churches in more communities in the coming years. If that mission is, or would be, hampered by the parent organization, then it makes sense to question whether membership in that parent organization is still worth it. To get more of a sense of the PCUSA/MPPC working relationship, one might ask how much difficulty there was in establishing MPPC's campuses in San Mateo and Mountain View while under the auspices of PCUSA.

A word about making and defending arguments in the course of public discussion. The best outcomes of discourse, in my opinion, are for facts to be revealed to substantiate arguments and for both sides to come to an understanding of the other. That doesn't mean they agree; it means that they avoid the extremes that arise when people deny the other side's concerns or the validity of their having another viewpoint.

The best outcome of discourse is NOT "to win the argument." (A fact our politicians have an impossible time grasping.) Why? As human beings who are tasked with living and working together in our communities and cities, we must find a way to share concerns, develop options and choose solutions without tearing the fabric of our society apart. We will always hold a diversity of viewpoints on all manner of subjects. The question is how can we deal with our differences in a civil and respectful way?

An argument was made that the pastor, John Ortberg, has a "personal interest" in MPPC joining ECO. Someone countered, sensibly, that without having spoken with the man himself, it is difficult to ascertain whether he has motives that he's not stated publicly.

I would like to note that a personal interest is not necessarily a bad thing, at least not on the face of it. If you mean "personal gain at the expense of others," then that is not good. But if you say, "He has a personal interest" in the sense that he believes in certain principles that helped form ECO, and those principles are leading him to favor MPPC joining ECO, then I think that shows a consistency of belief rather than anything untoward.

Peace and grace to all.


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Posted by Confused
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 2, 2014 at 7:40 pm

What effect (if any) would MPPC's joining ECO have on gay members of its congregation?


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Posted by Mike R
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2014 at 8:17 pm

As another longtime member of MPPC, let add to some of the other comments made here.

Pastor John did speak at the opening meeting of ECO, but he wasn't on the steering committee or the leadership council of ECO. I believe he did this because the elders at MPPC had not decided to recommend dismissal and which body to be dismissed to. Now that the congregation has voted, I hope he will take a leadership role. We all want ECO to be successful.

As for being in the dark about ECO, at every gathering to discuss dismissal, in addition to materials comparing ECO to the PCUSA, plenty of pointers were given to the ECO website, which anyone could go to and see the details of how the denomination is ruled, and what it holds as the essentials of the faith. So anyone who wanted to know what it stands for could look all that up in detail, and share what they found with others as well. Nothing was hidden.

I was at a few of the gatherings where people were being educated on the issues, and I never heard anyone say anything that was different that what was represented on the ECO website. As far as I could tell, everyone was being transparent about the choices.

And as near as I can tell, ECO's core theology is almost exactly that of the PCUSA when you compare the various statements in their constitutions. And that theology is very similar to that of other Presbyterian denominations on almost all issues. The difference is that the PCUSA doesn't seem to require it's leaders to actually conform to those stated beliefs, and ECO does.

It has been said that in the PCUSA, the denomination is extremely rigid on governance and process, and extremely flexible on theology, while ECO seems to be the opposite. I think that is part of the reason that 93% of the members who attended today voted today to leave the PCUSA and move to ECO. We are unified by Jesus, not by bureaucracy.

One only has to look at the hoops that we had to jump through today to get everyone in church to vote at the same time, linked through a conference call, to see why the PCUSA's processes don't work for a large church like MPPC. I think the reps from the Presbytery sort of acknowledged that, but they also do not have the ability to change it either. I do pray for them and for the PCUSA as we all should.

All in all, the worship today was really glorious, and that was possible because of the unity of the church that exists, unity that stems from a common vision and common set of values and theology that comes from following Jesus as best as we can discern. I'm excited about the future.

Monica, I will be praying that the Lord bless you and draw you closer to Him and understand his the depth of His love and the wisdom of His commandments better, just like all of us are endeavoring to do. I think after today, MPPC will be in a better place to help shepherd all of us through that process!


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2014 at 9:25 pm

Confused,

In 2011, PCUSA passed amendment 10-A which allowed gay people to be ordained as ministers, deacons, elders, and trustees. ECO does not have anything similar to amendment 10-A.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2014 at 9:31 pm

Everyone,

As most of you probably know by now ECO passed by 93%. While I don't believe that the vote was fair but what's done is done. I personally believe that people should have received more information and MPPC leaders should have been more transparent.

However, over last few days we have had some really important discussions in the comments of this post and I appreciate all of you for speaking up. This was the first time that I publicly stood up for what I believe in and I would like to thank everyone who has supported me and everyone who voiced their opinions. This was my first time posting on Town Square and I don't think it will be my last. The last time I checked we had more comments on this than the Almanac feature article which is a pretty big accomplishment. I think that discussions like this are really important and I'm glad that I could be a part of this. I would like to encourage everyone who is upset by anything regarding this vote to speak up.

Again, I want to thank everyone who participated in conversations on this post, the almanac article, and anywhere else for openly discussing issues that are deeply important to this community.

-Monica Dhandapani Mallon


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Posted by businessdecision
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 6:43 am

Monica, you're young. You don't yet know that what you believe in changes over your lifetime. Many of the older people who today believe so ardently in what you believe in believed very different things at different stages of their lives. Many of them wrongly think that they've "evolved."

Take a minute to think where "what you believe in" comes from.




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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 8:00 am

businessdecision,

Your wording is a bit confusing but I think that you are trying to say that I don't know what I believe in yet. While I don't know what I will believe in the future my post and comments reflect my personal beliefs, on this issue, as of now. I know that my opinions will probably change over time but I don't see that as a good reason to be silent.


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Posted by businessdecision
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 8:07 am

You do know what you believe in. Think about why you believe in it.




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Posted by businessdecision
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 8:40 am

I'm being mean.
Here's why.
I was young in the fifties and sixties. I was, I thought, so lucky to live in a time when people had finally discovered something. What they had discovered was that it's best to have just small income differences (I am sure you know that those years were characterized by small income differences, some say the smallest in all of American history).
Well, look what happened. By the 1980s, people didn't feel like that any longer.
And today?




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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 3, 2014 at 8:46 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Monica - You have done a great job of presenting both the facts and your opinions. Thank you.


And yes, he is being mean so just disregard his comments,


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Posted by businessdecision
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 8:50 am

I quit.
Once Peter Carpenter is in, I'm out.


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Posted by Long Time Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2014 at 10:25 am

Monica,

You've done a great job in expressing your beliefs and opinions. I appreciate that you spoke up and then you listened to other opinions. A lot of people don't want to hear anything that they don't agree with. Keep an open mind. If you do, you will learn a lot.

You said you believed the vote was unfair. In my house we have a saying. "Fair means everyone gets what they need." This was an up or down vote based on the facts that were presented by both sides. Everyone was given the opportunity to hear and read information about ECO. I feel that everyone was given what they needed in order to make an informed decision. Therefore, it is my opinion that this vote was fair.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 10:55 am

Peter Carpenter,

Thank you.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 10:59 am

Long Time Member,

While I do disagree, I appreciate you for sharing your opinions and explaining your point of view in the comments above. You did a great job and provoked many interesting discussions on this post.


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Posted by Long Time MPPC Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2014 at 11:15 am

People often feel that a vote was unfair if they disagree with the outcome. This occurs in local, state, and national politics all of the time.

The requirements for this vote for dismissal (at least 50% of the total membership and then at least 75% of those in attendance must vote 'yes') far exceed the requirements for even parcel taxes (a 2/3 majority.)

The voting requirement for dismissal ensured that a clear supermajority of MPPC members would be required to vote 'yes' before MPPC could move on to the next step - a vote of the presbytery (which only needs to be 50% 'yes'.)

As a long time voting member of society, with 35+ years of voting in every primary, general, and special election for every candidate and ballot measure on the ballot (I don't skip over voting), and someone who always 'does my homework' before voting, I find it a bit offensive when people say that the 'yes' vote yesterday was 'uniformed' or 'unfair'. We as a congregation have been mulling this over for several years now. I'm just glad we finally had a chance to vote.

I feel badly for those who voted the other way. May they find peace, and if they decide to make another choice, I hope they find a church home situation which feels right for them. Everyone is welcome to remain at MPPC, of course.


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Posted by I'm with Confused
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 3, 2014 at 12:27 pm

To Longtime Member and others in-the-know,

How will the MPPC move to ECO affect MPPC's gay members? What will be different?

I think this has been a big concern for me in all of this (business issues notwithstanding).

I've appreciated the dialogue on this forum more than you can know (thank you all). And I would like to lean on those in the know - who've been detailed and generous in their sharing - to share what they know regarding the treatment of gay memebers, gay leaders, etc. Please.


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Posted by Jacob
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 12:30 pm

The Bible has a total of 5 references to homosexuality. I find it irresponsible that many (especially right winged) Christians make their stance on homosexuality a cornerstone issue.

But for THAT SAME REASON I find it frustrating and unfair that this article and others like it focus on ECO/PCUSA's views on homosexuality. If you want to talk about MPPC's views on homosexuality, great, but don't try to impose a link between that and the vote, because there is none outside of articles like these.


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Posted by I'm with Confused
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 3, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Jacob, I'm just asking a very basic question about how or whether things will be different for gay members as a result of joining ECO. Perhaps there will be none? I genuinely do not know - but you're right, it has been raised here and in a number of other places.

It's important to me - because of my faith that Jesus loves us all. I am hoping to hear that there will be no difference, no isolation, no stipulating.

I would appreciate it if someone COULD clarify that once and for all. I'm sorry to frustrate you with the question and hope you will understand where my concern is coming from and forgive my ignorance.


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Posted by Long Time Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2014 at 1:34 pm

There will be no difference for any member. This is not about members being gay. The only reason homosexuality has even come up is because PCUSA took a vote in 2011 that its members cannot discriminate in the hiring of clergy. Clergy are leaders. This means that a church whose philosophy is that homosexuality is wrong must still allow a homosexual pastor. How can a church hire a pastor who is homosexual when it preaches that homosexuality is wrong? It can't.

And I'm not responding to this article saying whether or not it's wrong. I'm saying the church's philosophy and teaching is that it is wrong.

One of the things I like about MPPC is that it does not preach fire and brimstone from the pulpit. It does not isolate people who do not agree with their philosophy. People are free to come and go if they please.


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Posted by I'm with Confused
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 3, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Thank you, Long Time Member, for answering my question.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 1:43 pm

I'm with Confused,

This is an excerpt from the Almanac article that explains it quite well:

Theological differences also factor in to the move, including a conflict over PCUSA's approval of gay clergy in 2011 and current debate over whether to recognize same-sex marriages, according to some members of the congregation.

According to PCUSA's statistics, it experienced its largest loss of membership in five decades during the year immediately after its constituents voted to overturn a ban on gay clergy.

ECO's stance on gay clergy is difficult to detect, as the organization didn't respond to requests for comment, and the same goes for same-sex marriage. Its website states that members not in a heterosexual marriage are expected to remain celibate.

You can read the full article here: Web Link


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Posted by Long Time Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Right Monica. According to the ECO website "members not in a homosexual marriage are expected to remain celibate." And I'm sure if the topic was honesty it would say members are expected to be honest. I'm assuming members are expected to never lie, cheat, steal, have a jealous thought or take the name of The Lord their God in vein, but the long time motto of MPPC is that "we are a hospital for sinners, not a museum of saints." Members are expected to walk with Jesus but all stray. The point is that the members should not be forced to hire a pastor/church leader who disagrees with the teachings of the church.


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Posted by Long Time Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Correction: "Members not in a heterosexual marriage are expected to remain celibate." My mistake. I did not know how to edit.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Monica,
Thank you for continuing to engage the community on this issue. I hope you never learn the lessons some of the old timers on this forum wish you to learn. Never stop believing that human dignity is the most important issue, even when a group of 2000 people say it isn't so. And never step being unafraid to speak out when others are too afraid or polite to state what others will not say. And NEVER EVER listen to anyone who tells you that when you get older you will understand things a little more clearly. On the one hand, he is right. You will understand things more clearly, but not in the way he intends.

The church will go to its grave stating the vote wasn't about human sexuality, and in many ways they are correct. They have decided that evangelism at the expense of the dignity of others is more important. For them it is a non issue, because for them respecting the rights of others isn't on their radar. Gaining corporate freedom is more important than failing to harm or insult others. In the 1800's, much of the religious debate around slavery centered on the Bible's endorsement of slavery in the scriptures. Today, we find it laughable that anyone would believe that the Bible endorses slavery in any way, shape or form.


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Posted by Jacob
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Hi Anonymous -

A few things I wanted to point out:

1) The church won't "go to its grave stating the vote wasn't about sexuality". The church really hasn't said anything about sexuality in the process - all that's happened is outsiders have made the charge that the vote was about homosexuality and many members have defended the church by saying it wasn't.

2) The church isn't doing this for "corporate freedom" - the fact that MPPC couldn't own their property was not a motivating factor in wanting to leave the denomination (originally). However, PCUSA used the fact that they technically owned the property in order to attach such a high price tag to dismissal (note PCUSA did not pay for the property originally, or anything of that nature). To avoid that issue in the future, I do believe MPPC now considers owning its own property vital.

3) It's very misleading to say the church is pursuing evangelism at the expense of human dignity in this issue. The notion that PCUSA allows gay clergy because of their concern for human rights is absurd. I do hope MPPC begins embracing the voice of the LGBT community more and more as time goes on, but I don't think they would have been able to do that any more diligently under PCUSA than ECO (in fact I think the opposite is true).

I agree with what you are saying about slavery - and I definitely recognize the possibility that in the future homosexuality and the bible could be viewed similarly to slavery in the bible.

Again, homosexuality is an important issue for the Church to be confronted with, but it makes no sense to attach it the vote. It'd be like saying America declared its independence because it didn't like the taste of tea.


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Posted by Long Time MPPC Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Please note that under the PCUSA dismissal rules, MPPC could not be dismissed to become an independent church all on its own. Had that been an option, I think that's the option that MPPC would have taken - to become completely independent. But it isn't an option, so MPPC had to choose another Presbyterian denomination prior to having the right to have a vote about dismissal. Our pastors and elders spent a lot of time examining other Presbyterian denominations prior to selecting ECO. Information about ECO was provided to MPPC's members, and had the congregation felt that another Presbyterian denomination was a better fit, the congregation could have let our elders and staff know. Owning our own property so we'd never again be in the situation we were in with PCUSA's trust clause is a priority. Being allowed to plant satellite churches was another priority. In town hall meetings, our elders and staff told us the reasons for making this move. PCUSA members from the SF Presbytery were on hand to present their views and help answer questions at all of the town hall meetings.


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Posted by Long Time Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2014 at 4:00 pm

People need to understand that a church preaches the philosophy of the church itself, not what the outside world wants it to preach. I am a big believer in the separation of church and state. As a Christian I am against prayers in our public schools. If we want to have separation of church and state then we need to allow separation of church and state.

If people do not like the direction MPPC is heading then they will leave and we will know if the change was a good or bad thing.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Anonymous,

I think you were absolutely correct when you said, "The church will go to its grave stating the vote wasn't about human sexuality, and in many ways they are correct. They have decided that evangelism at the expense of the dignity of others is more important. For them it is a non issue, because for them respecting the rights of others isn't on their radar."

When I interviewed Ms. Laubscher she said, "we [the church] believe in human rights for everyone of all sexual orientations, ethnicities, ages, genders, backgrounds, and everyone is welcome to be part of our church to learn about Jesus". By saying that you believe "in human rights for everyone" you are saying that you are going to try you best to ensure equality for everyone. I believe that if she and the other leaders really meant that then they would not have gone through the dismissal process.


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Posted by Jacob
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Monica -

You keep making this false assumption that staying with PCUSA would have caused a significant change in MPPC's attitude toward open LGBT's in leadership. The ONLY thing it could have done is allowed PCUSA to threaten to take control of the church if they felt MPPC did not hire a candidate solely based on sexual orientation.

Look at the churches that remain in the PCUSA. Are they on the forefront of the human rights campaign for integrating devoted LGBT Christ followers into the Church? Far from it! So why do you think staying with PCUSA would somehow help this cause?

It's not just that the homosexuality clause wasn't a factor in the decision, it's that it wouldn't have had an effect on the church's (diverse) attitude on the subject. In fact, the church mentions its desire to bring in young leadership as a primary motivation for the change. I don't think I need to cite any studies to show that these young leaders they seek are much more likely to take a more accepting stance towards open LGBT in ministry.


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Posted by Andrew C
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Confused - I was not aware that MPPC members had their sexual orientation stamped on their foreheads? Is there a "Gay" section in the membership directory?


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Posted by Andrew C
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Monica - I love debate and discussion but your comment that this vote was "unfair" and that people were "uninformed" just simply shows your youth, ignorance, na├»vet├ę, etc. You made a choice not to attend meetings and you also did not look into or ask about membership so that you could have been part of the vote. The 158 people who voted no is a tiny minority. I feel bad for them but I am already over it. If they are passionate about PCUSA then they can easily find another congregation that is of that persuasion. MPPC's membership spoke loud and clear for the direction of the church and we now move forward.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Andrew C.,

1. Uninformed. I did go to multiple meetings, regular services, and I even interviewed the director of communications. While I do think that I could have asked more questions and attended the last meeting that had presbytery representatives, I believe that more information should have been made more easily assessable. I think that some people were informed but they went through a lot of effort and were probably quite close to John Ortberg and other leaders. Specifically, I think that they could have presented more information on their website for those who were not able to attend meetings. While there was some information, I found some parts of it to be vague. I also think that they could have provided some sort of chart of table that showed the differences between denominations in a clear and concise manor. I also think that they should have created some sort of forum for people to ask leaders questions regarding the different denomination.

2. Youth and Ignorance. I am young but that does not mean that I don't know anything. I have been researching this issue since I found out about it in 2012. I have spent hours scouring various websites and researching the different denominations and view points. While there are obviously people who know more about this topic than I do, I think that I know a fair amount for someone who was unable to vote.

3. Membership. To be a voting member you must be an adult (18+). I am sixteen and therefore I cannot be a voting member.


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Posted by Long Term Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2014 at 9:00 pm

I joined MPPC when I was 14. I don't think you have to be 18 to join. They even offered a membership class for high school students this year.






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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Long Term Member,

High school students are allowed to become members but I'm pretty sure that they are not allowed to vote unless they are 18 or older.


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Posted by Long Term Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Who told you that you have to be 18 to vote? That's not fair in my opinion.


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Posted by Long Term Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2014 at 10:00 pm

On the MPPC website it says: "We need ALL of our members to learn, pray, and participate. Our vote is not valid unless we have at least 50%, or more than 1,700 members, present and voting. Please come early to register--registration opens at 8:30 am--and be seated by 9:30. ".

It doesn't say you have to be 18. You might have assumed that possibly?


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Posted by Long Time MPPC Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2014 at 11:28 pm

The quorum for the vote was based on total membership.
There was never any mention of membership 18 and over as a lesser total upon which the quorum was based.
I think the total membership included high school students who've taken the membership class.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2014 at 6:57 am

Long Time MPPC Member,

Really? Another long time member told me that high school students weren't allowed to vote. I guess I should have looked into it more closely.


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Posted by Bystander
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 5, 2014 at 12:20 am

This article and much of the following comments seem to be an internal-to-MPPC conversation, so not quite sure how or why this piece got public airtime. The writer of the original piece ignores very basic communication necessities - i.e. all of the acronyms - when discussing in a public forum. What is the "ECO" and the "PCUSA?" I know from other communications that MPPC is Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, but no where in this communication is that acronym actually defined either.

I would have a stronger reaction to the communication if I understood what the heck all of the acronyms stood for.


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Posted by MPPC Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2014 at 12:23 am

I am a long-time member of MPPC. I have never commented on a message board before, but I felt compelled to do so here because I share some of the frustrations that have been expressed in this forum regarding the nature of the information that was presented prior to the vote. I reviewed all of the information on the MPPC web site regarding the vote, and most of it was about ECO. I think it would have been helpful to have materials reflecting both the "why we should join ECO" and the "why we should stay in PC-USA" viewpoints available on the MPPC web site (as apparently other churches have done). I reviewed the comparison chart and other materials on the MPPC web site and also visited the linked web sites but still had questions. The informational sessions that I attended at the church consisted largely of repetition of general information already on the web site, and the Q&A portions of the sessions were somewhat limited. I think making a message board available on the MPPC web site for member questions and comments also would have been helpful.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2014 at 8:28 am

MPPC Member,

I agree with you. They should have had the pros and cons of both denominations available on their website so that everyone could make an informed decision.


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Posted by Jacob
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Monica -

No. People who were heavily involved with the church (and thus the ones that should be choosing denominations) got plenty of information about both denominations simply by being involved.

The only people that needed the website to provide information were those that were not interested in the church itself, but only the decision. The people who needed to be informed were informed, hence the 93% vote. Those that weren't weren't, hence this article.


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Posted by Amazed
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 6, 2014 at 9:31 am

Monica,
You are an amazing 16 year-old. Keep being you. Your community should be very proud to have such a bright, active, caring and engaged person in their community.

Keep it up!


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Jacob,

I agree with you that the people who were heavily involved in the church were, for the most part, well informed. However, I found your comment that only those who were heavily involved in should have been the ones voting quite rude. Everyone should have the opportunity to vote and be well educated about what they are voting on.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Amazed,

Thank you! I had an great time writing the initial post and responding to comments so I don't think this will be my last Town Square post.


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Posted by Jacob
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Monica -

I'm sorry for the harshness of my last post.

From what you've been saying, it sounds like you are more interested in the outcome of the vote (and the policy implications) than the church itself.

NOT everybody should have an opportunity to vote. This is not a community vote. This is a vote for people who are a part of our church. Just as the US does not allow Canadians to vote for our president, MPPC does not allow non-members to vote on its dismissal.

My point is this:

Those that have been active in the church overwhelming felt that we needed to split from PCUSA. Those that only lifted their heads at the mention of a vote are the ones that were against the dismissal.

That is because those who aren't active in the church ONLY formed their views based on the policies of PCUSA vs. the policies of ECO. And maybe the policies of PCUSA are better on paper than ECO's.

The "policies" of a denomination actually have little effect on individual churches. If MPPC wanted, they could have stayed with PCUSA and still had the freedom to preach against homosexuality every Sunday (for clarity's sake, that's not something they ever preach against). The reasons for leaving PCUSA are hard to formalize convincingly without having been active with the church for the last few years, but the 93% landslide is evidence that the behavior of the PCUSA has not left much up for debate amongst those who have witnessed it (small situational example - MPPC asks to leave the PCUSA, they ask for $2 million dollars, even though they did not help purchase the property or pour money into it, MPPC says ok, they say it was too easy and ask for $9 million). And I guarantee that if you asked how many disagree with just the policies of the PCUSA, you wouldn't get anywhere close to 93%.


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Posted by Midtown man
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Someone must have a cogent answer to why MPPC is paying twice, $9,000,000 for the property it (and not PSUSA) acquired over the decades through members' tithes and offerings over the many past decades. From a stewardship issue, this is so troubling, and an insult to the many faithful living and dead who trusted their stewards. And just so they can aggressively market the Ortberg brand?
MPPC gained satellite churches in Mountain View and San Mateo, as God provided, whilst still in the PCUSA. MPPC was a bright light in the denomination.

I cannot fathom the logic, and the numbers that approved this are so skewed that I wonder what' they have digested. I am bewildered at the skewed result.


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Posted by Long Time Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2014 at 3:56 pm

If you read this article in The Blaze, it sums up exactly where the discussion was at the church town hall meeting that I attended. It was NOT about homosexuality, although one person did bring it up and there was a response given as to the philosophy of the church itself. That was the end of that discussion. The rest of the time was spent in discussing other issues, but the Blaze article sums up exactly why I voted yes. There are other issues that have not even been brought up in this article or in the MP Almanac issue. Both the PA Online and the Almanac have turned all conversation about this into a dismissal based on greed and hatred. It's not like that for me.

Also note that PCUSA is supporting churches who are supporting a boycott of any company that does business in Israel. I did not make my vote based on that either, but that would have been yet another reason to leave PCUSA. Who could possibly call themselves a Christian and not support the God given right to freedom for the people of Israel?

Please read this article in the Blaze.
Web Link


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Posted by Jacob
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Blaze -

MPPC deliberated over leaving the denomination for many years, and when it was finally able to get the approval to have a vote over the issue from PCUSA, PCUSA decided they would not let them go unless they paid them $9 million dollars. I don't know of any way the "Ortberg brand" can be marketed more or less successfully outside of PCUSA. Ortberg announced he is selling his house (owned by the church as terms of his employment) and renting for the remainder of his time to help pay a significant portion of that $9 million, and minimize the amount that has to come from MPPC funds.

So MPPC is not gaining anything with this $9 million dollars they didn't already have, it's simply that they have no option but to pay what PCUSA asks since they have the name on their deed. It is decidedly unethical of PCUSA to ask for that much money, and an indication of why MPPC wants so badly to split from PCUSA and their practices.


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Posted by Jacob
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Sorry, that was in response to Midtown Man, not Blaze


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Midtown Man,

I don't know why the cost of leaving PCUSA was so high but I was also shocked that ECO passed by 93%. I thought that it would pass but not buy that much. Even if they sell the Ortberg's home and use $2.5 million of there reserves they will still need to come up with almost $5.5 million. Which, I believe will place a substantial burden on the MPPC community.


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Posted by Amazed
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 6, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Jacob,
I think you need to give some credit to Ms. Mallon. A lot of 16 year-olds have no interest in church - let alone issues such as this that related to their church and community. I don't think your comments will squash her energy in this regard but I believe we need to support and encourage young people who take time out of their busy lives to be involved. Many have posted positive comments to Ms. Mallon so you are in the minority there.

I am also not sure why you consider her an outsider, comparing her to a Canadian trying to vote in a US election. She's not Canadian; she's been attending this church for a number of years. You keep referring to "those that are active in the church" implying she is not. But, for a HS sophomore, attendance, listening carefully to sermons and following key issues should be considered quite active.

Bottom line. If she were your daughter, I'm sure you'd be more supportive and even proud. So, give her props where deserved and don't be so quick to put her down.

I do hear your viewpoint that there are many other policy issues other than views on sexual preference that weighed into this vote. But, that doesn't mean the sexual preference issue is unimportant. There is precedent in our society to be against decisions based on a single issue. This comes up in every presidential election when politicians are asked about their views on abortion, for example. Their personal views probably have very little to do with their ability to run the country, but many use it as a litmus test of sorts; they simply cannot bring themselves to vote for someone with those views.

Another example is that some golf courses didn't allow female members. And, some didn't allow black members. Enlightened white males reject admission to these golf clubs on principle. Same applies here.

Hope this makes more sense to you now.


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Posted by Long Time Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Amazed,

To add to your analogy, there are issues with all organizations. PCUSA also has not allowed women to be ordained ministers. PCUSA also supports churches who support boycotting of companies who do business with Israel.

There are many issues here. I think people really wanted out of PCUSA for a number of reasons. The issue of Gay Clergy did not come up very often, although the issue of homosexuality seems to be the primary focus for people who are scrutinizing. I understand it's a hot topic in the world/country but


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Posted by Long Time MPPC Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2014 at 8:19 pm

Monica - It was stated repeatedly by MPPC in writing and at the second set of town hall meetings that there would be no ongoing financial burden to MPPC because the money was going to come from 3 sources: funds already raised by the congregation, the Ortbergs would move out of their house (owned by the Church of the Pioneers Foundation) so that the house could be sold and the proceeds put toward the almost $9 million payment, and about 1/2 of the funds would come from the Church of the Pioneers Foundation.

I'm glad to see you're active in your community, but this is frustrating to me that you would accuse the congregation of not being fully informed before voting, and then write something which shows that you are not fully informed about where the money is coming from and why there will not be an ongoing financial burden to the church after we are dismissed (assuming the vote on March 11th is in favor of dismissal at the Presbytery level.) This information about where the money is coming from has been readily available. I have seen it several times in writing and heard about it in church town hall meetings and seen the information in the news. In addition to reserves and the Ortberg's home, the Church of the Pioneers Foundation is paying for about 1/2 of the dismissal fee so all of the fee can be paid for without debt or reducing staff or programs at MPPC.

One big reason that I voted 'yes' is that the Church of the Pioneers Foundation is a completely separate non-profit not legally connected to MPPC, yet the Presbytery decided to up the dismissal payment from $2 million to almost $9 million because they thought they should have access to Church of the Pioneers Foundation monies. Our vote was first scheduled for a few months ago, but was canceled by the Presbytery because they decided to go after the COPF funds. The COPF decided to help MPPC - the COPF was under no legal obligation to do so - they had no legal obligation to open their books or give one dime to the Presbytery. There's no way a court of law would have found that the Presbytery could have any legal right to COPF funds. But, our staff and elders and the COPF leaders felt that litigation was the wrong way to go and was not a good witness for Jesus, hence they decided to find a payment which would work so that we could proceed with a vote.


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Posted by Long Time Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2014 at 11:25 pm

I agree with the above comment. I think members who voted to leave PCUSA feel insulted to hear that this passed because people were uninformed. It is condescending. It would be like saying a particular president won because a lot of people don't understand politics.

I also don't appreciate the comments from others who have declared a particular issue as why people voted the way they did. I'm sure people voted for different reasons.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 7, 2014 at 8:03 am

Long Time Member and Long Time MPPC Member,

I do believe that many people especially long time members were well informed. I simply meant that I wished that there was more information available for less dedicated members and members who did not have time to attend meetings,

About the money, I was incorrect and I should have checked my sources.


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Posted by Jacob
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 7, 2014 at 10:03 am

Amazed -

My viewpoint was not that there were other policy issues that weighed into the vote besides the gay clergy issue. My point is that policy in general was highly irrelevant to the vote.

Policies are made for publicity. How people think and behave and act is what is really important, and the PCUSA frequently demonstrated that they did not think, behave, and act in a way that honors God or his Church.


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Posted by MPPC Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2014 at 5:42 pm

For folks who think they understand us at MPPC purely by what they think of what the vote meant, I think you should really all really watch/listen to John's sermon this weekend. He even mentions one of the critics in one of the Town Square threads about the vote in it.

You can see it here: Web Link

I was really moved by the message, and recommend it to folks to get a better sense of what our church is about.


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Posted by Long Time Attender
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:13 pm

Monica,
I am impressed by your courage, and by your dedication to attending meetings and reading up on the issues behind the vote. You are the future member most churches would kill for in our present era of non-membership! I have attended MPPC for several years now, and the listening meetings of the past 3-6 months have left me feeling both alarmed for MPPC's future and jaded by the spin and condescending perspectives I've heard spoken about the PCUSA denomination, and smaller PCUSA congegations. Over the past few months, I've attended several Bay Area PCUSA churches to get a better feel for other churches in the denomination MPPC is leaving, and I have been graciously welcomed and touched by their commitment to creating space for spiritual growth through a more structured service of liturgy and scripture. Side note - none of these churches appeared to be "dying", as I expected them to be after hearing them characterized as "shrinking and irrelevant" during the listening meetings.

My father was an elder in a conservative PCUSA church, and I am not new to the PCUSA divide, or to church politics in general, but I cannot help but feel that it is Menlo that has rebelled against its mainline foundation and history, not the PCUSA that has "left MPPC," as I've heard the situation characterized.

I attended several of the MPPC listening meetings, and the issue that has most deeply alarmed me is the issue of the Church of the Pioneers Foundation. While many PCUSA churches have private foundations, often, these Foundations are set up and supported by members who want to bypass the "tax" the Presbytery requires churches to pay out of their general funds. To me, the negative reaction certain members have had to the Presbytery requiring these funds to be grouped in with MPPC's general fund under the tax assessed in the gracious dismissal policy has struck me as incredibly selfish. I feel this is the equivalent of setting up an account in the Cayman Islands and feeling entitled to every dime when the government learns of your tax evasion and fines you.

The 8.9 million dollar price tag also concerns me - what is the church doing with so much money (~$85 million was mentioned in one of the listening meetings), in a world that is so hungry, and so sick? In MPPC's defense, the church has many active community service programs and standing partnerships with large organizations like World Vision and International Justice Mission, but I have heard that only 10% of church tithes go beyond the church walls and overhead. Westgate Church in Silicon Valley sends 50% of its tithes to outside organizations and missions.

This vote is deeply sad to me, because it is a tangible example of how broken the body of Christ is. I trust that MPPC's church leadership has been prayerful, as has the PCUSA leadership and sister congregations. Monica, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Your passion for this issue has inspired my jaded, polity-pained heart.


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Posted by Long Time Attender
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:20 pm

I should clarify that no one knows how much COPF actually has in total assets, but MPPC was expected to pay 10% of its total assets under the Gracious Dismissal policy, which would suggest that the church's total assets are around $89 million. This includes all church property and investments.


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Posted by MPPC member
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2014 at 12:03 am

Long time attender, the PET rep from presbytery said at both recent discussion forums that they were not using the 10% number as the basis for the 8.9M figure. An elder I believe said that 89m was note the value of MPPC and conf property as well. I believe COPF is also used by many members as a vehicle for mission funding and a bunch of othe items too, not just Helping MPPC with property.

I believe the earlier number that folks had a term sheet signed with the Presbytery was based on the 10% number but was much lower.


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Posted by Another Long Time Member
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2014 at 10:13 pm

I have been reading these comments for days and feel compelled to lend my perspective. I have attended MPPC for decades and know both Walt Gerber and John Ortberg. While they have different styles of teaching, they are both men of deep faith and men of God who want what is best for MPPC. There is no Walt brand or John brand. I have deep respect for what each has brought to MPPC. This denomination dismissal has been supported for decades by past and present pastors and bolstered by years of prayer and fasting.

I could never belong to a church that is not tolerant and embrace diversity. I love that MPPC is now an increasingly diverse congregation and welcomes everyone including gays. My daughter is gay and volunteers when she comes to visit. This is one of the few churches she enjoys visiting and it warms my part that she can hear about Jesus in my church.

MPPC congregants hold a variety of positions politically and socially. Some are very conservative and some are very progressive. We embrace the whole spectrum of strongly-held beliefs of our church family.

The fact that there were 20+ meetings, several town hall meetings and many one-on-one meetings answering all kinds of questions most likely contributed to unity and positive outcome that is unprecedented for MPPC.

Our prayers continue for all involved, including PCUSA. We are all part of the body of Christ.


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Posted by MPPC Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2014 at 11:16 pm

To Long Time Attender: I also was disappointed by the tone and content of the informational meetings. Sadly, some of the commentary on this board has been rather condescending also. I am glad that others felt that they were fully informed just from the information provided, but it was only after I conducted extensive independent research that I felt fully informed.


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 12, 2014 at 5:06 pm

MPPC Member,

I agree. I had to do extensive research, which I shouldn't have been necessary, to feel fully informed.


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Posted by Another member
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Presbytery voted almost unanimously to dismiss MPPC to ECO last night. Only one person apparently spoke up against it.

So it should be final in 91 days!


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 13, 2014 at 7:51 pm

Monica Dhandapani Mallon is a registered user.

Person that spoke against MPPC being dismissed to ECO,

I know that you will probably never see this but you are one brave person and I applaud you for standing up for what you believe in.


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Posted by Anita Coleman
a resident of another community
on Aug 4, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Monica, I am so proud of you. You indeed give me hope. Well done.

I am trying to stand up at my church too. The charges against the PC (USA) are so sad. More sad is that these are Christians brothers and sisters fighting each other and wasting precious resources when we need to show unity and grace to a watching broken world.

Anita Coleman
Eyes on Christ, Web Link


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 8, 2014 at 10:33 am

Anita Coleman,

I am glad that I was able to give you hope and I wish you the best of luck in standing up to your church. I agree with you, there needs to be a lot more unity among Christians. We are wasting precious resources and becoming more divided which could result in a decline in membership in all denominations.


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Posted by sparkeyericschmidt@outlook.com
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 8, 2014 at 2:04 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 8, 2014 at 3:36 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]