The Kansas City Star tries hard — really hard — to tell an inspiring story about a Presbyterian church that split.
The problem: The facts make the positive spin a little difficult to compute.
Basically, turmoil engulfed a congregation affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). When the national denomination approved ordaining gay clergy, a big chunk of an Overland Park, Kan., congregation decided to join a more conservative denomination. Members voted 350-100 for the switch, according to the Star.
But the change to the new denomination — A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO) — sparked a legal fight:
Heartland Presbytery, the regional body that represents Presbyterian Church USA, filed a lawsuit in Johnson County District Court against the 350 disaffiliated members. Heartland argued that Presbyterian Church USA owned the church, its pews, its Bibles and all other property. But the ECO faction believed the church and its contents belonged to the congregation, the entity that holds title to the building.
Based on Kansas’ adherence to denominational rules, the judge found that Heartland Presbytery, represented by the remaining 100 members, was the true owner of the church property.
The division and the lawsuit created a perfect storm between the two groups that caused about 600 people to leave the church entirely.
These kind of legal fights are, of course, not limited to Presbyterians. Just today, a major ruling in a case involving Episcopal churches was issued in South Carolina. Look for GetReligion analysis of media coverage there soon.
But back to the Star: What is the news angle?