Lehigh Valley

Judge rules in favor of national Presbyterian Church

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The dispute has been going on for over a year at First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem regarding an agreement about doctrine -- mainly same sex marriage and ordaining homosexual ministers.

"Human sexuality and particularly those two issues are the presenting issues, but behind that is a whole set of what it means and how to read the Bible, how to understand who we are as a church and how to relate to God in the midst of that," said Pastor J.C. Austin of PCUSA. 

The issue split the congregation into two factions within the building: the more conservative Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO) and the group remaining with the Presbyterian Church USA.

Each hold different services, but both want a decision regarding the church buildings and land on Center Street. 

ECO filed a lawsuit to take over the property. But a judge ruled against the group saying corporate documents from 1984 placed the land in an irrevocable trust for the benefit of the national branch of the denomination. 

"We're trying to figure out what that means for us. For us the church is a whole lot more than a building," said Pastor Marnie Crumpler of ECO. Group.

A verse in the Bible says a house divided against itself cannot stand.

It’s unclear if the ECO group will appeal the decision or leave the congregation.

No matter what takes place, leaders of each group pray members will find common ground and continue to serve the community.

"As people of faith we trust God is up to something in the midst of this and we're all looking to see what that is going to be," Austin said.

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