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Lamenting the closure of the Mercersburg Presbyterian Church | Opinion

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By James B. Taylor

Mercersburg Presbyterian Church, founded in 1741, is expected to be permanently closed by June 5. Not because church members want it closed, but because Carlisle Rectory, the body that oversees the denomination’s churches in our area, orders it.

The church has gradually lost members over the years, and the presbytery says it cannot survive with its current members. But while the bodies are lacking, the church has the resources to go on for years. And that’s the problem. The Presbytery wants that money!

Unlike most denominations, the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) claims to own all of its churches. He does not build, finance or manage these churches in any way. Churches are founded, built and financed over the years by their members. In the case of the Presbyterian Church of Mercersburg, generations of members have maintained their church in service to the community. This church was founded 120 years before there was has been a United States Presbyterian Church and before that there was a Carlisle Rectory.

Nevertheless, by ordering the closure of the local church, the Presbytery will realize a windfall of probably $1 million in cash and goods. And what will he do with this wealth? We can speculate. The PCUSA has long engaged in radical positions in politics and culture. He consistently supports Hamas and Hezbollah in the Middle East, two organizations that the US State Department designates as terrorist organizations. Its General Assembly urges Israel (which it calls an “apartheid state”) to follow the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but makes no such demands of Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, Cuba or Venezuela.

Mercersburg Church members have only themselves to blame for their loss. Desperate to increase membership, the church session made the fatal mistake of asking the parsonage for help and the parsonage rushed in, their mouths no doubt salivating at the thought of the loot they might get.

The Presbytery appointed a “moderator” to assist the Session in its mission to improve the situation of the Church. She also helped herself by demanding $6,000 for the “consultation,” even though she is a paid presbytery employee. She also demanded fees significantly higher than the established fees for presiding over meetings and for preaching. All of which the Session obediently accepted.

She then subjected the Session to a series of meetings, seminars, exercises and questionnaires throughout the year, ostensibly to help them “discern” (in her words) their goals and direction. Of course, after all that time, effort, and money, the church had not gained a single new member.

Discouraged and exhausted, the members dissolved the session and handed over the management of the church to a presbytery-appointed committee. This appears to be the process used by the PCUSA to close down churches. The moderator is someone who has closed other churches and has done his job very well in this case.

Why was it so easy for the Presbytery to achieve this takeover? It resides in the character of the respective parties. The PCUSA is a fundamentally political organization; his minions are politically astute. Church members are generally apolitical and assume the good faith of others with whom they deal. In a sense, they are usually oblivious to the machinations behind a process. The Mercersburg Presbyterians thought they were in a process that would end with the survival of their church, but that was never the presbytery’s intention.

But another fundamental reason for the loss of the church is in the nature of the Presbyterians of today; they are shy and passive. Presbyterians of old would never understand how this happened in our community. The Presbyterians who founded this church 281 years ago were tough, fierce and devout. They built a log church in the desert and attended it on Sundays carrying their guns. In 1794 the second generation built a fine stone church, one of the two oldest churches in Franklin County and one of the finest.

The Church of Upper West Conococheague (that’s the correct name) was not just a place of worship, but an organization that performed many charitable works for the local community. He provided school supplies to children in the Tuscarora School District. He distributed gifts of toys and clothes to needy children at Christmas and household supplies to needy families throughout the year.

The poet William Butler Yeats wrote: “Things reveal themselves in death. I hope Mercersburg realizes what it is losing; maybe it will.

James B. Taylor is a member of the Church of the Upper West Conococheague