The small Riverside Presbyterian Church in Linn Grove will get to keep its church.
An agreement was announced Friday between the Prospect Hill Presbytery and the congregation that in 2006 voted unanimously to secede from the Presbyterian Church organization, staving off a looming court battle over the church building the congregation has refused to vacate.
The split came after the congregation came to feel that the parent church's policies had become too liberal to represent them - on issues such as possible future ordaining of homosexual ministers, and recognition of other religions' gods.
Pastor Russell Westbrook at one point termed the parent church "leftist."
"We believe one true God has given us in His word the actual pattern for how we are to think, live and act... how he wants to be worshipped... despite the prevailing liberalism of the times," he told the Pilot-Tribune earlier.
The parent church had held out hope that the Linn Grove congregation might return to the fold.
As the split edged closer to a court date, Prospect Hill Presbytery had argued that the property belongs to its organization, and that the church building that dates to 1917 could possibly have been used to start another Presbyterian Church USA ministry. It asked that the congregation vacate the church and parsonage.
The congregation argued that it held the deed to the property, made out to Riverside Church, not the parent organization.
Under the new agreement, according to attorney David Patton, the Presbytery will transfer ownership of the church buildings to the congregation by quit claim deed, and expects no payment in return.
Riverside Church will turn over copies of its records to the former parent church.
The stalemate lasted for well over a year, and the Linn Grove congregation had joined an alternative parent organization, the Presbyterian Church in America.
A lawsuit was filed by the congregation in February 2007, and a counterclaim was filed by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) a month later.
In a joint statement, the congregation and its former parent church agreed that both parties want to move forward in good faith with their ministry "with a spirit of meekness, patience, kindness and love."
With the closing of the legal action, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) formally releases Riverside Church from its fold.