To the Ministers and Churches of West Tennessee Presbytery,
Greetings! We have heard some of you expressing concerns about the state of our work on the plan for division of West Tennessee Presbytery, so we wanted to give you a brief update.
First, we have received responses from the overwhelming majority of the churches in the presbytery expressing their preferences and have determined that each of the two proposed presbyteries (we’re calling them Cornerstone Presbytery and Presbytery of the Midsouth for now) will have enough churches to be viable. Every church that responded with a preference for one of these two presbyteries has been put on the list for the presbytery they preferred. It is a constitutional requirement that every church be included in a presbytery, so if your church did not respond, the committee will eventually have to assign your church to one of the two presbyteries—so encourage your session to respond as soon as possible.
We heard concerns that we might start the process over with three presbytery options. That won’t be happening. First, we are aware that any delays are likely to increase the anxiety of many churches and ministers, and offering a third presbytery option at this point would certainly delay the division of the presbytery, probably by several months. Second, we are not convinced that a third presbytery would have sufficient churches to be financially stable and effective in ministry. We will be moving ahead with the goal to recommend that Synod of Great Rivers make two presbyteries out of West Tennessee Presbytery.
While the committee will not be pursuing a third presbytery option as part of our recommendations for this division, we do want to clarify that if a number of churches want a 3rd presbytery option, they can petition synod to form a third presbytery after this division is complete. Petitioning synod is always a right of churches and ministers.
On the subject of the time line for the work of the committee, in May, we proposed completing our tasks by September. We are on track to be finished with our work by then. There are still a number of important tasks to complete: we are working with a lawyer to ensure that both presbyteries will be incorporated from the beginning; we have begun the process of determining how assets of WTP should be divided; we have started working on a plan for the operation and use of Camp Clark Williamson; and, finally, we will be sending communications to the ministers of West Tennessee Presbytery who are not currently serving churches to solicit their presbytery preferences. These are all important tasks that must be done well for the future success of both presbyteries, but we are on track to be finished by the beginning of September.
We know that a lot of our work is done behind the scenes, and that has led to anxiety over our status and whether it would be done in a timely manner. We hope this update will set fears to rest. We also ask that you continue to pray for this committee and its work, and for the churches of West Tennessee Presbytery, especially those that are struggling with this division.
Yours in Christ,
The Committee for the Division of West Tennessee Presbytery