Presbyterian Governing Body Orders Pastors to Vacate Seattle’s First Presbyterian Church

Seattle Presbytery (PCUSA) orders pastors of First Presbyterian Church to vacate building alleging a “pattern of duplicity” as they sought to unilaterally separate from the denomination.

The Seattle Presbytery is trying to take back a historic church after a report found pastors and other leaders engaged in financial impropriety and a “pattern of duplicity.” A lawsuit will now determine the fate of Seattle First Presbyterian — and its $20 million property.

 

The regional governing body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is ordering two pastors to vacate a historic downtown church that sits on a $20 million property. The directive comes as a commission appointed by the Seattle Presbytery released a report finding that Seattle First Presbyterian’s pastors and other leaders engaged in a “pattern of duplicity” as they sought to unilaterally separate from the denomination.

The Feb. 16 report also alleges financial improprieties, including unauthorized payments to co-pastors Jeff and Ellen Schulz, the use of church money for the married pastors’ home and tampering with the books.

The Schulzes, in an email to The Seattle Times, called the allegations “false, inflammatory and disturbing” and characterized the presbytery’s actions as an attempted “hostile takeover.”

In a separate email to the congregation, they and other church leaders said this maneuver was aimed at taking “control of our property for their own gain.” But they asserted that the presbytery has no authority over them given a November vote by members of the congregation to break away from the denomination.

That leaves the matter for the courts to resolve. The presbytery filed suit this week asking for an injunction that would force the Schulzes to leave and turn over church affairs to new leadership appointed by the presbytery, including a transitional pastor.

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Further reading:  PCUSA’s Shenandoah Presbytery will not dismiss churches to EPC