Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas voted by margin of 89 percent on Oct. 27 to end its affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and seek to join ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. At a congregational meeting, the vote was 1,337 to 170 in favor of disaffiliating with the PC(USA), and 1,335 to 161 to seek affiliation with ECO.
In a document outlining its reasons for making that recommendation, the Highland Park session stated that “ECO is designed to serve the local church – it is an association of local churches, not hierarchical, bureaucratic and political.” Among other reasons the session cited: “ECO is evangelical in its theology” and “ECO offers clarity and conviction about essential beliefs.”
There is also a brewing dispute over Highland Park’s property, which is estimated in court documents to be worth around $30 million.
On Sept. 10, Highland Park, a congregation with nearly 4,900 members, filed a lawsuit in state civil court against Grace Presbytery, seeking a ruling that it owns the property and a temporary injunction to prevent the presbytery from taking any action regarding Highland Park’s property. The presbytery sought to have the case heard in federal court – but an Oct. 7 ruling from U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle sent the case back to state court.
On Oct. 14, Emily Tobolowsky, a state court judge in the 298th Judicial District Court of Dallas County, issued a temporary injunction prohibiting Grace Presbytery from taking any action to disturb Highland Park’s use of the property until the trial is complete and set a trial date of March 10.