New Metro Presbytery Erected
Colorado Springs, CO (June 12, 1997)--The 25th General Assembly, with only a handful of negative votes, approved the erection of a new New York Metro Presbytery, which will be formed from Northeast and New Jersey Presbyteries. The new court will include portions of three states: Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey.
Reflecting the affinity of northern New Jersey with New York City, portions of the state had been, at the time of Joining and Receiving in 1982 with the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, within the bounds of a new Northeast Presbytery. The configuration just adopted, however, incorporates different bounds. For example, Monmouth County, which had been in Northeast until all of the Garden State was put in the same presbytery in the mid-1980s, will continue with New Jersey. On the other hand, the Princeton area will join forces with New York Metro.
The action, though not extensively discussed on the floor, did not come without controversy. According to a complaint that was filed by Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Mt. Laurel, NJ, the way the matter was handled within New Jersey Presbytery had caused serious concerns among some of the brethren who felt left out of the initial discussions, and among some who were included in the new presbytery without their consent. Another key concern raised by the Mt. Laurel congregation was the fact that the continuing New Jersey Presbytery will be much weaker, in terms of churches and finances.
As a result of the controversy, the MNA Committee of Commissioners recommended that the Assembly have the General Assembly's MNA Committee work together with the Stated Clerk's office to define a process for dividing or creating new presbyteries which would consult with the presbyteries whose boundaries would be affected. A successful amendment from TE Gary Engelstad, pastor of the Mt. Laurel church, added that the churches affected should also be consulted.
According to the "Proposed Statement of Purpose" which was adopted in meetings by those pushing for the new presbytery, there are several "theological convictions [which] strongly inform us as we unite to form a presbytery." Among the statements which follow is this: "The Reformed understanding of the gospel prevents us from falling into either legalism or license, into either a traditional conservatism or a naive liberalism. Reformed theology's understanding of sovereign grace enables us to understand God as far more holy than the legalist sees Him, and as far more loving than the liberal humanist sees Him. The gospel is the basic resource for theological, congregational, and personal renewal. We believe that it has power to bring renewal to a whole city."
The Assembly acknowledged the acquiescence of Tennessee Valley Presbytery in ceding its territory in eastern and central Kentucky to Great Lakes Presbytery. It also approved the transfer of four counties in southwest Arkansas from Covenant to Louisiana Presbytery, pending approval of the latter.