Eight months after leaving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a historic Sumner congregation is doing well, growing and reaching out to help children, its pastor says.
Sumner Presbyterian Church became Faith Covenant Church on April 29, the 135th anniversary of the congregation’s founding by Presbyterian Pastor George Whitworth.
It gained a new name and a new denomination, The Evangelical Covenant Church.
Presbyterian leaders voted in April to dismiss the Sumner congregation and three other South Sound churches that decided to leave the denomination after it started allowing noncelibate gay and lesbian ministers.
The Sumner congregation shares a focus on mission outreach with its new denomination, said the Rev. Mary Hendrickson, interim lead pastor.
In December, Faith Covenant put on a play with music to help children locally and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Hendrickson said.
“You can sponsor children across the world,” she said. “But how do we help children here?”
People pledged $40 a month to sponsor a child in Congo through a joint program of the Covenant Church and World Vision. Hendrickson said 38 children were sponsored.
In addition, a fund was created to help children locally. Hendrickson said the church is working with the Sumner School District to reach out to children in need, such as by buying art supplies for first-graders at one school.
She said the reason for separating from its former denomination came down to this: “There were theological differences with the PCUSA and a strong sense of mission in this congregation that was more compatible with the Covenant denomination.”
Attendance runs about 350 on Sunday mornings, rebounding to where it was before the church’s senior pastor for 19 years, the Rev. Steve Starr, retired in January 2012, Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson, 56, had been the congregation’s head of staff, or executive pastor, for five years before she succeeded Starr.
She said the church has not begun the process of calling a permanent senior pastor. She said she didn’t know whether she would be a candidate.
Hendrickson said Faith Covenant has “a very high energy and excitement and a strong commitment to this community that is growing.”
While the congregation welcomes anyone, it did not agree with the decision of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to permit the ordination of noncelibate gay and lesbian ministers, Hendrickson said.
“That policy reflects less of a focus on the authority of Scripture, and this congregation stands firmly on the authority of Scripture,” she said.
Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647
4 churches have gone
Four local congregations already have left the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). They represented 27 percent of the membership in the Presbytery of Olympia that covers Southwest Washington. As a result, membership dropped to 6,926 in the presbytery’s remaining 45 congregations.
Here’s who departed:
• Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church in Gig Harbor, 1,634 members — the largest in the presbytery.
• First Presbyterian of Tacoma, 459 members.
• Sumner Presbyterian, 379 members.
• Evergreen Presbyterian Church in Graham, 80 members.
And 4 more might go
As many as four churches in the South Sound could leave in the coming months.
The two that have voted to leave and now await dismissal by the presbytery are:
• Parkway Presbyterian in the Parkland area, 91 members.
• Montesano Presbyterian, 109 members.
Two other churches might leave:
• Marine View Presbyterian in the Dash Point area, 511 members. It took a vote in December, but 25.66 percent of those who cast ballots voted against leaving. Presbytery rules set the limit at 25 percent. A presbytery commission must decide the final outcome.
• Harrison Square Presbyterian in Centralia, 198 members. It has nearly completed the process to leave but hasn’t taken a vote email@example.com