REACTION TO THE VOTE
Following the vote, Senior Pastor Mateen Elass said the congregation is standing firmly for the authority of Scripture and the uniqueness and lordship of Jesus.
“I think this vote, a huge landslide vote, is a vindication of the direction that the leadership felt God was calling this congregation to move toward,” Elass said.
The singing and worship before and after the vote merged into a wonderful display of God’s kindness and grace toward the congregation, Elass said. The vote was a statement not about bigotry but about affirming God’s word and his love for the world in and through Jesus.
Elass and Laubert shook hands and both leaders said they maintained respect for each other. Laubert said he appreciated the respect from First Presbyterian, knowing the task was difficult. The Presbytery had no policy in place for “gracious dismissal.”
“I have high regard for the leadership of this congregation,” said Laubert, who has worked at the Presbytery level for 35 years.
Laubert said the PCUSA still believes that Jesus is lord and savior. The Presbytery was charged to work with, not against First Presbyterian, and he defended the release of letters stating opposing views as part of its charge to minister to the congregation, Laubert said.
“Nothing was ever distributed with the intent to malign or cause harm to this congregation,” he said.
Gordon and Judy Andersen, First Presbyterian members for 31 years, agreed that the action was the most significant in the church’s history.
“I just feel that this is what God has led us to do,” Judy said. “We stood on His promises. We worked really hard to change things. When they didn’t change, we said, ‘OK Lord. We’ll follow your word and what we’re supposed to do.”
Gordon said the reason they came to First Presbyterian was they were drawn to a congregation that held in high esteem the tenets that the PCUSA was founded on. When the PCUSA started drifting away from the inerrancy in the Bible and that Jesus is the only way to salvation the couple was disturbed by that, he said.
“I think the future is strong,” he said of the church. “I think what this congregation has shown is that they’re ready and willing and have lived the life that God would have us live, and that Jesus Christ would have us live, and that is trying very hard to be good disciples.”
Gordon said he thinks the congregation will grow as the community recognizes its willingness to take a stand and follow Jesus and biblical truths.