In a move that could result in stiff disciplinary measures, members of a Korean congregation in California who say their church building was sold out from under them are refusing to vacate the property.

Earlier this year, the San Francisco Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PCUSA) sold the San Mateo Korean Presbyterian Church (SMKPC) property to developers. The occupants had until August 19, when title to the land was transferred to the new owner, to vacate the premises.

However, the church office is still housed on the site, and the congregation continues to meet in the building.

In response, the presbytery has appointed a "special disciplinary committee" to determine whether SMKPC pastor Steven Lee has broken ordination vows. The presbytery also has appointed a commission to explore ways to vacate the property.

According to presbytery spokesperson Scott Lorenz, the site is demographically inappropriate for a church due to its remote location. He says the church's average attendance of 50 is too low, and that the congregation previously on the site dissolved, at least in part, for that reason.

The congregation has invested great resources in the property, Lee says. "They love this site very much."

Lee also says the land was donated as a memorial for the sole purpose of its being a church site.

"I protest the present action of the Presbytery of San Francisco," says Elma Oddstad Mendola, sister of the deceased donor, Adres Oddstad. "It was not our intention to donate land to be sold to a subdivider."

Lorenz says there were no legal prohibitions against the sale. He also says the church had "ample opportunity from the time the property was placed on the market in the late 1980s" to make an acceptable offer.

SMKPC has made two offers to buy the land. But both were under market value, according to the presbytery.

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