John Ortberg’s Megachurch Menlo Park Presbyterian Church Approved To Leave PCUSA over Multisite

By Boaz Wadel

MENLO PARK, CA (ANS) -- According to Sarah Pulliam Bailey of Religion News Service(, members of one of the largest congregations in the Presbyterian Church (USA) have voted to leave the denomination, despite facing an $8.89 million cost for leaving.

"Menlo Park Presbyterian is based in the San Francisco Bay area and led by well-known author and pastor John Ortberg. It is the ninth-largest PCUSA church, with about 4,000 members, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice," she wrote.

"The motion to leave the PCUSA was approved by 93 percent of the church's members who voted, with 2,024 ballots in favor of the motion and 158 ballots opposed, according to a letter posted by Ortberg. Menlo Park determined that to keep its property and leave the denomination would cost $8.89 million, based on a summary for dismissal agreement."

Ortberg wrote, "This is a major milestone, and not an ending but a beginning. There's a lot yet to come of what Dallas Willard called the unique life of spiritual adventure in living with God daily - entering fully into the good news that Jesus has brought, for ourselves, and for us as a church."

Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, writing in Christianity Today (www.christianitytoday.comis  reporting that "to help pay the nearly $9 million price tag, Ortberg will sell his home of 10 years of which his wife Nancy once expressed, 'I want to live here until I die, and when I die I want to be buried in the back yard.'"

The Layman ( offers a thorough report on the final agreement, in which it says, "Menlo Park Presbyterian Church's exodus from the Presbyterian Church (USA) is a step closer to completion following Tuesday's vote at the Presbytery of San Francisco stated meeting.

"The presbytery voted to approve Menlo Park's dismissal from the national denomination, allowing the church of more than 3,000 members to depart the PCUSA and align with ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.

"Nicole Laubscher, communications director for Menlo Park, said the voice vote taken by the presbytery gave solid approval of the congregation's request to be dismissed."

The Rev. Jeff Hutcheson, Presbytery of San Francisco's pastor for mission and vision, noted the passage of the motion by an overwhelming majority, adding that the decision would lead Menlo Park and the presbytery to new callings.

"It was also a heart-wrenching vote. Many expressed sadness and grief over Menlo's decision to leave but supported their path," Hutcheson wrote in an email to The Layman. "There was a strong expression of gratitude for all the gifts that Menlo brings to our life and faith. We pray and believe that Jesus is leading us ALL, both Menlo and the presbytery, into a new time, a new freedom and new dreams. It is my hope and belief that the body of Christ is being transfigured to more clearly manifest Christ's glory."

The Layman says that the dismissal to ECO also applies to MPPC Senior Pastor John Ortberg and Associates Scott Palmbush, Mark Swarner and Frank VanderZwan.

"This has been a spiritual journey of discernment for our church," Ortberg said in a press release from the church. "I'm grateful for the learning, praying and engagement of the whole congregation, including those who voted for a different outcome. We are committed to moving forward together in fulfilling our mission as we discern God calling us."

The story goes on to say that Menlo Park followed the presbytery's Policy for Reconciliation and Dismissal of Congregations, adopted in June 2012, then revised and approved again by the presbytery in June 2013, to gain dismissal from the PCUSA.

According to documents related to the motion and settlement terms, the dismissal becomes effective on/after June 10, 2014, for Menlo Park, which was formed 140 years ago in the Bay Area of San Francisco and now offers additional campuses in Mountain View and San Mateo.

The 91-day period from dismissal to finalization allows time for both sides to complete the necessary purchase and transfer documentation. MPPC is communicating with ECO's leadership to provide a seamless transition at the end of the three-month finalization period.

The price of separation

Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (MPPC) will pay $8.89 million to the presbytery - negotiated as a mediated settlement on Jan. 14 and agreed to when the congregation overwhelmingly voted to leave the PCUSA March 2 - in order to make the move to ECO.

Christianity Today added, "Since ECO is only two years old, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church must remain with ECO (or with other more-conservative denominations, such as the Evangelical Presbyterian Church or the Presbyterian Church in America) for five years after the dismissal, or the main campus in Santa Cruz will revert back to the PCUSA, according to the agreement.

"The dismissal, which will be effective June 10, frees Menlo Park to pursue its multisite plan to open five new campuses in five years."

According to Wikipedia, John Ortberg, Jr. (born May 5, 1957, Rockford, Illinois) has published many books including the 2008 ECPA Christian Book Award winner When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box, and the 2002 Christianity Today Book Award winner If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. Another of his publications, The Life You've Always Wanted, has sold more than 500,000 copies as of 2008. On August 13, 2012, John Ortberg's bookWho Is This Man? debuted at #3 on the New Release chart at

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John Ortberg, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, PC(USA),