Date:August 13, 2021 To:Scott Palmbush, Moderator Todd Misfeldt, Stated Clerk Mike Barris, Chair, Ministry Partnership Team Frank Riley, MPT Representative Bluewater Presbytery (“BWP”) From:West Valley Presbyterian Church, Cupertino, CA (“WVPC”) RE:WVPC Request for Approval and Assistance to give Church Campus to Great Exchange Covenant Church (“GrX”)
Dear Bluewater Presbytery Colleagues in Ministry, We request your approval and support for a plan that will allow WVPC to (1) give our church campus to GrX, which is a local member of the Covenant denomination (“Covenant,” formerly known as Evangelical Covenant Church), enabling that congregation to minister to the local area, and (2) for our congregation to wind down operation.
Why is WVPC Winding Down? For the last 60 years, WVPC has been blessed with a vibrant ministry on the corner of Miller Avenue and Bollinger Road in Cupertino, California.
However, sadly, we have concluded that we can no longer function due to our declining numbers and advancing age. We lost nearly 25% of our congregation in 2015 immediately following WVPC’s vote to leave the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) and join ECO on December 7, 2014. We lost another 25% over the next four years following various changes in staff and leadership. Our official membership as of December 31, 2020, was 211 members, but current active participation is estimated at 75 members, a large percentage of those over retirement age.
Despite these challenges, our hope and goal is that our campus will continue to be a place where the Gospel of Jesus is proclaimed in its fullness and people come to know and follow Him. After much prayer and discernment, we believe that the best way to achieve our goal is to invite GrX to receive the gift of our church campus so that its congregation may continue ministry to the local area, to encourage WVPC members to join GrX, and to wind down our own church operations.
Why GrX? GrX is a 200-member congregation with many young families. Many GrX members and attendees live or work in the Cupertino area near WVPC. GrX is a multicultural congregation, with a majority of their members being of Asian American or Pacific Islander descent. That demographic closely matches the ethnic makeup of the Cupertino neighborhood surrounding WVPC. GrX does not own its own property and currently leases worship space at The King’s Academy Christian School in Sunnyvale.
Providentially, over the last six years, our congregation has engaged in a number of conversations with GrX about various opportunities to partner in ministry. Our former pastor, Rev. Kim Engelmann, and GrX pastor, Rev. Scott Loo, began those conversations. Rev. Morgan Murray, our transitional pastor, has helped us continue those discussions. Over the last six years most of these conversations were followed by extended periods of silence. However, God kept nudging us, and as a result, we have developed a connection with GrX.
The Plan and Request. Our Session thoughtfully and prayerfully voted on February 4, 2021, to recommend to the WVPC congregation, at its 2021 February Annual Meeting, that we pursue a surrender with GrX. By surrender, we mean WVPC will “die” and be reborn as another vibrant Christian community of God’s choosing. Representatives from our two congregations have been communicating regularly since February to develop a plan that will allow WVPC to wind down its operation and eventually give its campus to GrX.
One consideration in giving our campus to another congregation is the “clawback provision” (“Clawback Provision”) in the 2014 Dismissal Agreement (“Dismissal Agreement”) between WVPC and San Jose Presbytery (SJP) . The Clawback Provision states:
“(1) that the property be used for church purposes, and upon ceasing to be used for church purposes at any time before 10 years, after the Effective Date of Dismissal, shall revert to the Grantor and its heirs and assigns; or (2) that, if Grantee ceases to be a member of ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians or another reformed denomination approved by the Grantor 60 consecutive days or longer at any time on or before 10 years after the Effective Date of Dismissal, then the property shall revert to the Grantor and its heirs and assigns.”
As we understand the Clawback Provision, based on conversations with legal counsel, it requires that WVPC, absent agreement from SJP, continue being a member of ECO or “another reformed denomination approved by” SJP until May 15, 2025. If either clause is not met, then the church campus reverts to SJP/PCUSA.
To accomplish our goal of helping GrX become the standing church on the corner of Miller and Bollinger in a manner that does not trigger the Clawback Provision, we seek BWP’s approval and support to pursue, in order of preference, one of the following plans:
Plan A: Approve the WVPC gift of the church campus to GrX/Covenant, and WVPC winding down its operations prior to May 15, 2025. Plan B: Approve WVPC reducing its scale of operation with a plan to bring GrX onto campus under a shared facility-use agreement, either by way of (i) a four-year lease with a term ending after the expiration of the Dismissal Agreement, after which WVPC would give the property to GrX, or (ii) some other option that complies with the Dismissal Agreement.
We understand that both plans require BWP’s approval. We further believe that Plan A requires SJP’s approval to avoid triggering the Clawback Provision. We also understand that the selected option ultimately must be approved by the WVPC congregation. Finally, this gift plan applies only to the church campus.
It is our desire that all our plans and actions be transparent, proper, and lawful -- both under civil law and ecclesiastic law. We recognize that BWP continues to work closely with SJP and PCUSA regarding “gracious dismissal agreements” involving other congregations. We also recognize former WVPC members who continue to be members of the PCUSA may wonder whether what we propose is proper. Apart from any SJP-approved modifications or release of WVPC from its property obligations under the Dismissal Agreement, we recognize our obligations under the terms of the 2014 Agreement for Dismissal to avoid any potential civil litigation between PCUSA, San Jose Presbytery, WVPC, BW Presbytery, and ECO.
Our congregation is indebted to the leadership and support provided by Rev. Dr. Morgan Murray, who has served as our transitional pastor for nearly three years. More recently we have been the beneficiaries of strategic insight and counsel provided by Rev. Dr. Frank Riley, our BWP representative. Both have helped WVPC’s transition team and Session become aware of issues related to our plans and worked patiently with us to clarify these.
Again, our abiding goal is to ensure that the corner of Miller and Bollinger continues to be a place where the name of Jesus is lifted up through life-giving ministry and transformational community outreach. It is our request and prayer that BWP endorse our vision and initiate discussion with SJP concerning the options outlined above.
Respectfully submitted, Mike Clark, Chair WVPC Transition Team Doug Gips, Clerk of WVPC Session
6191 Bollinger Road Cupertino, CA 95014 (408) 252-1365 Office Hours: T-W-Th, 10 am - 2 pm