President Trump tweets support for Andrew Brunson, warns Turkey of consequences for continued imprisonment


TrumpTweet20180417.jpgAs international media continue to issue reports of Andrew Brunson’s trial in Turkey on April 16, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted his support of the EPC Teaching Elder. The President’s message on social media, which was delivered on April 17, reads:

“Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason. They call him a Spy, but I am more a Spy than he is. Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!”

On April 18, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration warned Turkey that it is considering punitive “consequences” if Brunson is not freed.

Wess Mitchell, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. State Department, said the State Department is consulting with Congress about “possible measures” if Brunson is not acquitted or released.

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Andrew Brunson

Brunson is being tried on charges that he aided terror groups and committed espionage against Turkey, where he has lived since 1993. At the time of his arrest in October 2016, he had been serving as Pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church since he planted the congregation in 2010.

 

In an 30-minute video interview available on the Christian Broadcasting Network website, Aykan Erdemir—a former member of the Turkish parliament and now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C.—said Brunson’s 18-month, pre-trial imprisonment “has become a sort of torture.”

“Right after the noon break when he came back and was defending himself, he had a mental breakdown. He sat down; it’s reported that he started crying and he told the judge how difficult it is to survive in this kind of isolation chamber,” Erdemir said.

Following more than 12 hours of testimony, the judge adjourned the hearing until May 7 and ordered Brunson returned to prison. The Wall Street Journal reported that as he was being escorted from the courtroom, Brunson turned to his wife and said, “I am going crazy here, I love you.”

Brunson was sent to the facility where he was held from December 2016 through August 2017, which is notorious for its overcrowding. As many as 22 inmates are held in cells designed for eight prisoners.

Brunson’s trial has garnered media coverage internationally, with outlets in such locations as Japan, Nigeria, and Singapore reporting on the situation.

EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah encouraged people to share media reports of the trial among their social media networks.

“I want to keep Andrew’s situation in the public eye as much as possible,” Jeremiah said. “The entire world needs to know about Andrew, and both pray to the Lord and advocate to their leaders on Andrew’s behalf.”

Andrew Brunson returned to custody following opening arguments


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Andrew Brunson

Following more than 10 hours of testimony on April 16, EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson was returned to prison as the judge delayed further hearings until May 7.

“I am very disappointed that Andrew was not released today,” said EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah. “I just can’t imagine how discouraged Andrew and Norine are right now.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Andrew defended himself for five hours against the charges in the indictment.

“I don’t accept any of the allegations or accusations,” Brunson said in fluent Turkish. “I love Turkey. I’ve been praying for Turkey for 25 years. I want truth to come out.”

Following the close of proceedings on April 16, Bloomberg reported an apparent connection between the May 7 date and the scheduled sentencing of a Turkish banker convicted in January 2018 of taking part in a billion-dollar scheme to evade American sanctions against Iran. The banker—Mehmet Hakan Attila—was deputy general manager for international banking at a Turkish state bank. On April 9, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman rescheduled Attila’s sentencing from April 11 to May 7.

“We will continue to cry to God in prayer for our brother in Christ,” Jeremiah added. “As Andrew’s trial has drawn the attention of the U.S. and global media, we need to do all we can to keep the world’s attention on Andrew and his unjust imprisonment.”

Andrew Brunson denies charges as trial begins in Turkey


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Andrew Brunson

Speaking at the beginning of his trial on April 16, EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson denied accusations that he aided terror groups or spied against Turkey. The trial convened at 9:00 a.m. local time (2:00 a.m. EDT) in Aliaga, Turkey. Aliaga is about 40 miles north of Izmir, where Brunson served as pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church at the time of his arrest in October 2016.

“I don’t accept any of the allegations or accusations,” Brunson said in fluent Turkish. “I did not engage in any illegal activity. I had no relations with anyone engaged in such activity. I am a Christian pastor. I did not join an Islamic movement. Their aims and mine are different.” He also said, “I’ve never done something against Turkey. I love Turkey. I’ve been praying for Turkey for 25 years. I want truth to come out.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Brunson’s defense statement lasted five hours, “during which he at times appeared overwhelmed by emotion and wept.”

Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Sam Brownback, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom at the U.S. Department of State, were in the courtroom. During a recess in the proceedings, Brownback, who also is a former senator and governor of Kansas, told reporters that the United States cares deeply about its relationship with Turkey, and “that relationship is going to have difficulty moving forward as long as Andrew Brunson is incarcerated.”

As of 1:00 p.m. April 16, EPC leaders have not been contacted by sources close to the situation, but have been monitoring international news media for reports from the trial. Among the many media outlets producing articles about the proceedings are Reuters, the Saudi Gazette, and the Washington Post.

“Please continue to pray today as the trial proceeds,” said EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah. “We will provide further updates as more information is available.”

EPC issues call to prayer and fasting for April 15 ahead of Andrew Brunson trial


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Andrew Brunson

On April 16, 2018, EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson will go on trial in Izmir, Turkey. If convicted of the charges in the 62-page indictment filed by the prosecutor, Andrew could be sentenced to 35 years in prison. The indictment charges Brunson with helping terrorist organizations and of trying to convert Turks to Christianity.

In an effort to stand with and pray for the entire Brunson family, the EPC is issuing a Call to Prayer and Fasting for Sunday, April 15. The trial is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. local time in Turkey, which is 2:00 a.m. EDT Monday.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said Andrew’s wife, Norine, has requested three specific prayers:

  • Pray for Andrew’s release, using Psalm 18, which speaks of deliverance from the “cords of death” (v. 4-5).
  • If he is given the opportunity to speak in his defense, please claim Jesus’ promise, “But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourself. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (Luke 21:24-15).
  • That the steadfast love of the Lord will comfort our children (Jordan, Jaqueline, and Blaise) and that He will give them peace and help them to trust.

“As we consider Norine’s steadfast faithfulness and courage, my prayer is that she not grow weary,” Jeremiah said. “I have been claiming Galatians 6:9 and Exodus 17:12 for her, and she knows that we are helping ‘hold up her arms’ for her husband.”

In addition to the April 15 Day of Prayer and Fasting, a seven-day prayer guide for the week leading up to the trial can be downloaded at www.epc.org/files/andrewbrunson7dayprayerguide.

“I encourage the Prayer Team of every EPC church to utilize this guide and lift Andrew, Norine, their family, and the trial to the throne of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Jeremiah said.

April Jeremiah Journal reports work of MVC and presbytery Ministerial Committees


In the April edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah reports on how the work of the Ministerial Vocation Committee and presbytery Ministerial Committees helps fulfill the EPC’s strategic initiative of creating and sustaining a culture of leadership development. This includes the pastoral search and candidate care processes, Mentored Apprenticeship Program, a recommendation to expand the role of Commissioned Pastor, and more.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80. Each month’s update also is posted to EPConnection and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

For a transcript of this month’s edition in printable pdf format, click here.

EPC Home Missionary John Bueno releases Spring 2018 newsletter


LatinsUnitedSpring2018John Bueno, EPC Home Missionary serving with Latins United Christian Ministries (LUCM), invites you to read his Spring 2018 newsletter. In this edition, he discusses progress on an EPC church plant in the Hispanic community of Bellevue, Neb., in partnership with Avery Presbyterian Church.

Click here to download the Spring 2018 edition in pdf format.

For more information about LUCM, contact Bueno at johnbknox@yahoo.com or 402-350-3815.

38th General Assembly registration open


GA2018BannerOnline registration for the 38th General Assembly is now open. The Assembly meets June 19–22 at Hope Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn. The theme of this year’s annual meeting is “Forward: Engage, Empower, Embrace,” based on Philippians 3:13–14.

The annual Leadership Institute on Tuesday has 14 seminars this year to help provide resources for building a leadership development culture. Topics include:

  • Being a Public, Media-Friendly Evangelical in the Trump Era
  • Building Blocks of a Missional Church
  • Discerning the Spirits
  • Discipleship in Student Ministry
  • Making Disciples Who Make Disciples
  • Planting Multi-Ethnic Churches
  • Putting Baptism to Use
  • Religious Support and Protecting Free Enterprise
  • The Beauty of Reformed Worship
  • The Gospel in Dark Places: Ministry to Exploited and Trafficked Women
  • The Lord’s Supper in the Reformed Tradition
  • The Means of Grace in the Scriptures Proclaimed
  • The Reformation of Preaching
  • The Life and Legacy of MLK in Memphis (special bus tour of MLK-related sites)

The theme reinforces our awareness on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that something bigger is happening in Memphis and beyond in our culture in 2018 than just what God is doing in and through the EPC. Our Leadership Institute plenary speakers on Wednesday—Immaculée Ilibagiza, Greg Thompson, and Jennifer Ross—will take an intentional look at deep hurts beyond our denomination to help us minister the gospel effectively in our culture.

Ilibagiza is a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and is regarded as one of world’s leading speakers on faith, hope, and forgiveness. Her book Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust has sold more than two million copies and has been translated into 17 languages.

Thompson is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and currently serves as Director of Research and Strategy at Clayborn Reborn, a historic Civil Rights site in Memphis. He is active in national conversations surrounding race and equity in America, and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia where he wrote his dissertation on Martin Luther King Jr.

Ross has served as Director of Matthew’s Ministry, the Special Needs Ministry of the Church of the Resurrection (United Methodist) in Kansas City, for 15 years. She also serves as Education Chairperson for the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City and serves on the board of Inclusion Connections—a regional non-profit organization serving the special needs community. She has degree in special education and 30 years of experience working with individuals with special needs in schools, state facilities, colleges, and churches.

The first of five business sessions convenes on Wednesday afternoon, June 20, at 4:00 p.m. Business sessions continue on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; and Friday at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. (if needed).

Worship service speakers include:

  • Rufus Smith, Senior Pastor of Hope Church (Thursday at 8:30 a.m.)
  • Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary (Thursday at 7:30 p.m.); and
  • Dean Weaver, EPC Moderator (Friday at 8:30 a.m.).

A special event this year is a Wednesday evening program featured renowned comedian Michael Jr. He has appeared on The Tonight Show, Comedy Central, Jimmy Kimmel Live, CNN, ComedyTV, as well as in the most prestigious comedy clubs in the country, including The Improv, The Laugh Factory, The Comedy Store, and others. He also is well-known for bringing his family friendly comedy to Christian and church audiences.

Numerous other gatherings are available that cover a wide variety of ministry interests, including Networking Lunches, World Outreach, Women’s Ministry, and more.

For complete information, see www.epc.org/ga2018.