To the saints called by God to be Lehigh Presbytery:
It is with deep regret that I write to inform you that on Monday evening, June 15, 2015, the Session of the First Presbyterian Church, Bethlehem, PA (FPC-B) voted to enter the gracious dismissal process.
I commend the Session for not having taken this step rashly. You may recall that a year ago, FPC-B hosted an event featuring speakers from both the PCUSA and from ECO. In addition, there have been town halls and round tables with a gracious invitation always offered for Lehigh Presbytery to be present. These events culminated in a survey of the congregation conducted by TAG Consulting.
Much study has been done, but questions remain; and Lehigh Presbytery is committed to being a partner with FPC-B in seeking answers to these further questions.
Our Gracious Dismissal Policy states the following Value of Lehigh Presbytery (2. B. d): The goal of Lehigh Presbytery will always be reconciliation and continued engagement in relationship with all congregations within the Presbytery without the threat of isolation, estrangement or blame. Lehigh Presbytery is called to be a servant to the churches God has entrusted to it, encouraging and supporting them toward becoming healthy, growing, congregations. In doing so, Lehigh Presbytery hopes to creatively engage the concerns of the congregation, and enable them to make decisions based on facts and not assumptions, so that both the congregation and Lehigh Presbytery can concur that they have discerned God’s will regarding continued denominational affiliation.
In the Providence of God, the lectionary points us this week to Mark 4:35-41 with Jesus asleep in the boat while the disciples confront the raging storm. Mark 4:39 (NRSV) [Jesus said] “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.
Let us pray for the peace of Christ to surround and sustain our brothers and sisters in Bethlehem. May the work we do together in the time to come bring glory to our Lord Jesus Christ and peace to those for whom life in the PCUSA is akin to a storm tossed sea.