General Assembly Networking Lunches offer more than mid-day meal


2017GAbannerRegOnlineNetworking Lunches at the EPC 37th General Assembly provide opportunity for connecting with others with similar ministry interests on June 21-23 from 12:00-1:30 p.m. at Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church in Sacramento. For more information, including descriptions and meeting locations, see www.epc.org/ga2017networkinglunches

Wednesday, June 21

  • Church Planting (hosted by the EPC Church Planting Team)
  • For the Church, For the Generations (hosted by Reformed Youth Ministries)
  • How to Build a Contagious Church Culture (hosted by Vanderbloemen Search Group)
  • How to Make Progress on Leadership Challenges (hosted by PastorServe)
  • Joy Together in Ministry and Mission (hosted by Serge)
  • Jump-Starting Church Revitalization (hosted by the EPC GO Center)
  • Presbyterians Pro-Life (hosted by Presbyterians Pro-Life)
  • What Is the Westminster Confession? (hosted by the Westminster Society)
  • Who Is My Neighbor? (hosted by the EPC Women’s Resource Council)
  • World Outreach Global Worker Meet-and-Greet (hosted by EPC World Outreach)
  • Young Ministers in the EPC (hosted by the EPC Young Ministers Network)

Thursday, June 22

  • Building a Culture of Generosity (hosted by the EPC Foundation)
  • Conflict Management: What Seminary Never Taught You (hosted by Pastor-In-Residence Ministries)
  • EPC Benefits “Lunch and Learn: Retirement Plan Changes” (hosted by EPC Benefit Resources, Inc.)
  • International Theological Education Network (hosted by EPC World Outreach)
  • Reaching Millennials (hosted by the EPC GO Center)
  • Reaching the Next Generation of College Students for Christ (hosted by the Coalition for Christian Outreach)
  • Understanding Gender Dysphoria and the Transgender Experience (hosted by OnebyOne)
  • Who Will Lead After You? A Guide to Effective Succession Planning (hosted by Vanderbloemen Search Group)
  • Women Teaching Elders and Candidates (hosted by the EPC Office of the General Assembly)
  • World Outreach Needs Business Professionals (hosted by EPC World Outreach)

Friday, June 23

  • Clerks of Session (hosted by the EPC Presbytery of the Pacific)
  • Coaching Church Revitalization (hosted by the EPC GO Center)
  • Come to The Well: Women’s Ministries Resources (hosted by the EPC Women’s Resource Council)
  • Engaging Muslim Communities for Christ Through Literacy (hosted by Literacy and Evangelism International)
  • EPC Benefits “Lunch and Learn: Retirement Plan Changes” (hosted by EPC Benefit Resources, Inc.)
  • Growing Your Church Through Small Groups (hosted by Hope Church, Richmond, Va.)
  • How to Lead Your Team to Fulfill Your Church’s Vision (hosted by Vanderbloemen Search Group)
  • Leaders of Small Churches (hosted by the EPC Z–4:10 Network)
  • Sending Our EPC Sons and Daughters (hosted by EPC World Outreach)

Divided We Fall: new Luder Whitlock book addresses Christian disunity


LuderWhitlock

Luder Whitlock

What can we do to foster unity and deeper community in a world where so many relationships are fractured and fractious? Luder Whitlock, minister at-large for First Presbyterian Church of Orlando and a member of the EPC National Leadership Team, addresses this question in Divided We Fall: Overcoming a History of Christian Disunity. The book was released in May by P&R Publishing and available from a variety of booksellers.

In the book, Whitlock explores God’s desire for unity in the church, overviews the history of global Christianity with an eye on its schisms and agreements, and points readers toward the necessity of God-honoring fellowship. In the closing chapters, he tackles some challenges and concerns, as well as provides practical steps for increasing trust and developing understanding—particularly within the church.

DividedWeFallAmong the many Christian leaders writing endorsements of the book are Jeff Jeremiah, Leith Anderson, Tim Keller, Mark Noll, and Carmen Fowler LaBerge.

“(Whitlock) makes a simple argument,” said Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, “that it’s time for evangelicals Christians to focus more closely on what they hold in common, especially in the face of increasing cultural opposition to the gospel.”

Divided We Fall explains how we got to where we are—with an amazing mix of tears, anger, and hope,” said Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals.

“At a time when Christian leaders are almost obsessed about the culture,” said Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, “this book rightly argues that we will shape the broader society only to the degree that we make the Christian church what it should be.”

“Biblically rooted, historically informed, and pastorally helpful, this book gracefully fulfills its purpose of strengthening unity and community in Christ’s church,” said Noll, Research Professor of History for Regent University in Vancouver, British Columbia, and plenary speaker for the third annual Leadership Institute at the 37th General Assembly in June.

LaBerge, President of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, said the book is “a must-read for all those interested in the church’s bearing a unified witness to the world.”

Others endorsing the book include David Swanson, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, and Don Sweeting, President of Colorado Christian University.

Whitlock served as president of Reformed Theological Seminary from 1978-2001, and currently is executive director of the CNL Charitable Foundation and the JMS Foundation. He also served as Executive Director of The New Geneva Study Bible and a major revision, published as The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible. He and his wife, Mary Lou, have three children and eleven grandchildren.

Turkey levels charges against Andrew Brunson


Andrew Brunson

Andrew Brunson

Turkish media is reporting May 19 that EPC teaching elder Andrew Brunson is being accused of being a “Kurdish sympathizer” and a “Gülenist.” The timing of the media reports potentially reveals Turkey’s response to President Trump and Vice President Pence’s pleas to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on May 16 to release Brunson from prison and allow him to return to the United States. Brunson has been held since October 2016.

“I cannot stress enough how significant these accusations are,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “In fact, the Turkish government views them as nothing less than treason.”

Hurriyet, the leading English-language news outlet in Turkey, reported that prosecutors are citing Brunson for “delivering sermons to the Kurds with a ‘special purpose’”—wording that implies support for an ethnic group that Turkey is waging a military campaign against. The Kurds are a minority group in Turkey (primarily located in the eastern and southeastern parts of the country, as well in Iran, Iraq, and Syria) and for many years have unsuccessfully pressed for more autonomy.

Yeni Şafak, a pro-Erdoğan news outlet, published an article yesterday under the headline “FETO Chaplain” that condemned Brunson for supporting Islamic cleric Fethulah Gülen, who has lived in the United States since 1999. Gülen leads a loose organization involved largely in education but also in other areas. Gülen and Erdoğan are former allies, but in 2015 the Turkish government labeled his movement the Fethullahist Terror Organization—or FETO—and classified it as terrorist. Erdoğan blames Gülen and FETO for leading a coup attempt against him last summer that ultimately failed. Gülen has repeatedly denied the charge.

“It is time to redouble our prayer efforts,” Jeremiah said in a statement to the EPC. “Please take time in your worship services this weekend to plead to the Lord on Andrew’s behalf.”

Trump, Pence press Andrew Brunson’s release to Turkish President Erdoğan in White House meetings


FreePastorAndrew

In meetings held on May 16, U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence appealed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for Andrew Brunson’s release. Brunson, an EPC teaching elder, has been imprisoned in Izmir, Turkey, since October 2016.

The EPC received reports from two different sources that both Trump and Pence advocated for Andrew’s freedom.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said that one of these individuals “told us that Mr. Pence asked him to reach out to the EPC directly. I know I speak for the Brunson family in expressing our most sincere appreciation to the President and Vice President for their efforts today.”

Jeremiah noted four items that occurred in the meetings:

  1. Pence met with the Turkish leader first, and pleaded that Andrew’s case be expedited and resolved as quickly as possible.
  2. At the lunch that followed, Trump raised Andrew’s case at both the beginning and end of lunch. His plea was very similar in language with the Vice President’s.
  3. After the lunch, Pence raised it a final time.
  4. Pence was personally engaged in this with Erdoğan, and Trump spoke knowledgeably about Andrew’s situation.

“We are all very grateful for the prayers of so many people in the days leading up to today’s events,” Jeremiah added. “Please keep praying in the aftermath of this meeting.”

Brunson’s situation has garnered attention from news organizations across the theological and political spectrum, including ABC News, CBS News, The Christian Post, Fox News, International Christian Concern, Jewish News Service, National Catholic Register, National Review, Presbyterian Lay Committee, Slate, Time Magazine, USA Today, World Watch Monitor, and others. Links to many of these reports are available on the EPC’s Andrew Brunson resource page at www.epc.org/forgottenamericaninturkey.

Dick Stenbakken’s renowned first-person narratives open to all during GA Chaplains Workshop


DickStenbakken

Col. Dick Stenbakken, U.S. Army (Retired)

Imagine that you have been assigned as the U.S. Army chaplain to the leaders of the German High Command on trial for war crimes following World War II. How would you minister to men who had intentionally, willfully, and systematically murdered millions of people?

Now imagine that you are on board the troop ship S.S. Dorchester, torpedoed in the North Atlantic by a German U-boat in 1943 and immortalized by the selfless actions of four Army chaplains who gave their life jackets so others might survive. As recipient of one of those life vests, how do you respond?

Retired Army Col. Dick Stenbakken will portray these two individuals in first-person narratives from 9:15-10:30 a.m. and 1:15-2:30 p.m. as part of the annual EPC Chaplain’s Workshop on in conjunction with the 37th General Assembly in Sacramento, Calif. The Workshop will be held on Tuesday, June 20, in the Wells Chapel at Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church. Stenbakken’s presentations are open to all on a space-available basis.

In “The Nuremberg Chaplain,” Stenbakken portrays Henry Gerecke, chaplain to men who the world labeled as monsters, parishioners with whom he walked to the gallows.

In “The Dorchester Story,” Stenbakken recounts the S.S. Dorchester and the chaplain who gave him the chance to live.

Stenbakken served 24 years as an Army Chaplain, including one year of combat duty in Vietnam, and four years as the director of Family Life Ministries for the Army Chief of Chaplains Office. Following his retirement from the Army, he directed Chaplaincy Ministries on a world-wide basis for his denominational headquarters. He has presented to the U.S. Senate, the Pentagon, major health care organizations, leadership conferences, college campus settings, and a variety of military and civilian congregations across North America, Africa, India, Asia, Europe, Japan, and Germany. He holds four Master’s Degrees and a Doctorate in Education. For more information about his first-person narratives, see www.biblefaces.com.

For more information about the 37th General Assembly, see www.epc.org/ga2017. For details about the Chaplain’s Workshop, click here or contact Mark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser, at epcendorser@yahoo.com.

FirstPersonNarratives

GA World Outreach Dinner features missionary widowed by al Qaeda


WeDiedBeforeWeGotHereEmily Foreman, author of We Died Before We Came Here, is the featured guest speaker at this year’s World Outreach Dinner in conjunction with the 37th General Assembly. The dinner and program will be held on Tuesday, June 20, at Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, Calif.

Foreman—which is a pseudonym due to security concerns—is a YWAM missionary in a Muslim country in North Africa where Christianity is illegal. Her husband was assassinated by Al Qaeda there, leaving her widowed with four children. She has since remarried and returned to North Africa with her family to reach Muslims for Christ, in addition to inspiring Christians across North America to see the Muslim world through a lens of faith.

Click here to listen to a 2016 interview with Foreman conducted by American Family Radio.

For more information about the 37th General Assembly, see www.epc.org/ga2017. For details about the World Outreach Dinner, contact Erin Rhoden, World Outreach Assistant, at erin.rhoden@epc.org or 407-930-4313.

Preliminary Position Paper and Pastoral Letter highlight May Jeremiah Journal


In the May edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah provides an update on the Preliminary Position Paper on Human Sexuality, which will be presented for approval as an official EPC Position Paper at the 37th General Assembly in June, and the Pastoral Letter on Ministering to the Church and the World on Issues Pertaining to Human Sexuality, the writing of which was approved by the 36th General Assembly.

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.