Foundational Group at church demands removal of Pastor Richard Mortimer
An ecclesiastical situation playing out between members of the First Presbyterian Church of Tecumseh and the Maumee Valley Presbytery, of which the church is a member, is soon to be heard by the Synod of the Covenant Permanent Judicial Commission. While information about the issues involved are sketchy at this time, an article in the May issue of The Layman Online summarizes actions taken by the church in an attempt to break away from the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) because of theological differences. An article entitled, “Good for goose but not for gander,” notes that the 440-member First Presbyterian Church filed charges against Maumee Valley Presbytery for “failing to follow its own rules.” The presbytery has its own “Process for Separation,” which members of the church are said to have followed, including a discernment process regarding relationship to the PCUSA and a “growing sense of estrangement” with the denomination. At one point in the process, however, church members said the presbytery took actions against the stated policies. It named pastoral team members to a newly created administrative commission with greatly expanded and coercive powers, according to the article, and rather than support the congregation’s request for dismissal, the administrative commission initiated a campaign to oppose dismissal. A smaller group, according to the article, is now claiming to be “the foundational group” of First Presbyterian Church of Tecumseh and demands that the pastor, Rev. Richard Mortimer, be removed from all pastoral duties, that the 440-member congregation turn over its sanctuary on Sunday mornings for a worship service led by a Maumee Valley approved minister, and that the majority congregation seeking alignment with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church vacate the church buildings now claimed by the foundational group.Also a point of concern is who has control over the church’s governance, bank accounts and other assets.The Layman article noted that “Tecumseh’s judicial complaint against Maumee Valley Presbytery requests that the Synod Permanent Judicial Commission order the presbytery to cease and desist in its destructive and unwarranted interventions into the life of the congregation, and that it honor its own dismissal policy which has never been rescinded by presbytery action.” A meeting took place on Tuesday, May 15, in Defiance, Ohio, with the Presbytery, however the results of that meeting could not be confirmed. Mortimer said he is not able to comment on the situation at this time. “All I can say is that I am still the called and ordained pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Tecumseh,” he said on Thursday morning, May 17. “None of that has changed.”A trial date with the Permanent Judicial Commission has not yet been set.The Layman article pointed out that a similar pattern of activities to what Tecumseh has experienced has emerged in other presbyteries who have sought to depart.