Congregation members at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Camberwell have been advised to dissociate themselves from a cult-like group to which most of them belong.
They were told in church yesterday that their 15 elders — members of the secretive group within the Presbyterian Church known as the Fellowship — had been sacked for failing to carry out their duties.
The Presbytery of Melbourne East, the group of regional church leaders responsible for member churches, also excommunicated the elders.
The presbytery will now act as the church’s elders, but it seems the former elders are unlikely to leave. The few who spoke to The Age said they would continue to worship at the church. “This is a wonderful, united church,” said one. “This is my family. Where else would I go?” The elder said there had been “tremendous reconciliation and healing”.
At the start of the service, Trinity minister Philip Mercer said the elders would appeal against the presbytery’s decision. The congregation of about 200, whose first hymn was God Moves in Mysterious Ways, was read a letter from the presbytery outlining the elders’ dismissal and warning against association with the Fellowship.
The same letter was read in all 15 churches in the presbytery, and sent to every presbytery in Australia.
Trinity is one of two Presbyterian churches dominated by the Fellowship, along with St Andrew’s in Clayton. The Fellowship was dislodged from Mount Evelyn in 2002. Church historian Peter Barnes said he knew of only a couple of previous cases where whole boards of elders were sacked, and they were in small rural parishes.
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