One of the most storied congregations in the mainline Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) is locked in a bitter power struggle over finances and a contemporary worship service that has kindled renewal.

Attorneys for First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood have filed an official complaint with the Synod of Southern California and Hawaii. They are seeking to reverse actions by the Presbytery of the Pacific that placed senior pastor Alan J. Meenan and associate pastor David Manock on administrative leave and put the church under its supervision.

The presbytery took action after a stormy special meeting on May 3 precipitated by some 40 complaints from the 2,700-member church's congregation and staff. Critics point out that the church spent $840,000 more than it took in last year. Church leaders implemented a tighter 2005 budget and plan to sell a piece of property to more than cover the deficit.

An examining committee expressed concern that neither Meenan nor Manock could "provide effective leadership at this time in the life of the church." Most church members disagree.

"Most of the people in the congregation were in shock," said Jeff Traintime, the church's former director of communications. "We had no idea there were significant complaints about the pastors. There is great affection for them."

Once the largest Presbyterian congregation in America, Hollywood Presbyterian has a rich heritage as the church home of Christian education pioneer Henrietta Mears, the launching pad for Bill Bright's ministry, and the pulpit of renowned preachers Louis Evans and Lloyd Ogilvie.

The presbytery, which alone has the authority to discipline or release pastoral staff, has put one of its commissions in charge of all church matters during the investigation. ...

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