MERGERS AND PASTOR TURNOVER IN SMALL DENOMINATIONS
By Jim Cory, General Presbyter
In 1966, I did a seminary internship for a year in Kingston, N.Y., at Old Dutch Reformed Church. I was the seventh seminary intern that had come to this church from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. At that time in history, the Southern Presbyterian Church was in dialogue with the Reformed Church in America about a possible merger of the two denominations. Interestingly enough, the Southern Presbyterian Church approved the merger and the Reformed Church in America turned the merger down. They were afraid that their small denomination would be swallowed up by the larger Southern Presbyterian Church.
One of the interesting observations that I made while on my intern year was that pastor turnover in small denominations is very limited. The pastor at Old Dutch Church had been at this church for thirty-five years and was just in his early fifties. He needed to move, but there were no church openings that he could consider because he was in one of the largest Reformed Churches in the Hudson Valley. He had been recruited as a young pastor from a smaller church. There were other Reformed pastors in the Hudson Valley that had been called to small congregations and were ready to move on, but couldn't because the turnover factor in Reformed Churches is so limited.
This observation needs to be considered by Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) pastors who are currently thinking about joining the Evangelical Presbyterian Church or the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO) that is currently being formed. Both denominations are extremely small in the number of churches involved which results in very limited pastor turnover. Once in either EPC or ECO, a pastor needs to be ready to stay put for the rest of their pastoral ministry in the church they are serving.