Jane Roes, wife of 28th Moderator Allen Roes, dies at 76

 

Jane and Allen Roes

Jane Choplin Roes, wife of 28th General Assembly Moderator Allen Roes, died on November 24. She was 76.

The Roes lived in Huntersville, N.C., where they are longtime members of Lake Forest Church.

Survivors include her husband, Allen; daughter, Gina Roes of Huntersville; son and daughter-in-law; Courtney and Krista Roes of Kandern, Germany; grandson, Alex; sister, Sara Brady; and sister-in-law, Bonnie Choplin.

A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, December 1, at 6:30 p.m., at Lake Forest Church. To watch the live stream, send condolences, or make a memorial gift, see www.roesgarden.com/JaneRoes.

Church Revitalization Workshop session 2 scheduled for November 25

 

The EPC’s 2020-2021 virtual Church Revitalization Workshop continues on Wednesday, November 25, with the topic, “Revitalization of the Pastor.” The discussion will focus on areas specific to the spiritual revitalization of the pastor and will include such topics as humility, repentance, preaching the gospel to yourself, sustaining revitalization over the long haul, and where to go when you need help.

Facilitators include Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas; Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo.; and Mike Wright, Pastor of Littleton Christian Church in Littleton, Colo.

The workshop will be held from 4:00-6:00 p.m. (Eastern). There is no cost to register, and the workshops are open to both Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders.

For more information and to register, see www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop. Those who registered prior to session 1 do not need to register for each month’s session.

EPC seeking candidates for Executive Director of World Outreach

 

Applications are now being received for Executive Director of World Outreach, the international missions arm of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Phil Linton, who has served as Director of World Outreach since 2014, is retiring at the June 2021 conclusion of his current three-year term.

Through World Outreach, the EPC and its more than 630 Christ-centered congregations seek to extend God’s Kingdom by making disciples of all nations by commissioning and sending workers, as well as partnering with like-minded mission organizations around the world. The Executive Director of World Outreach will be on the forefront of building on a strong tradition of global partnerships, as well as leading change and guiding mission impact.

Applications will be accepted until January 15, 2021. The Executive Director of World Outreach must be (or become) a member of the EPC.

For more information, including application materials and the position description, see www.epc.org/woexecutivedirectorsearch.

For more information about EPC World Outreach, see www.epcwo.org.

November Jeremiah Journal highlights EPC church planting

 

In the November 2020 edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah offers some Thanksgiving thoughts and describes this year’s EPC Thanksgiving offering for church planting.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/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.

Open Enrollment for EPC Benefits now underway

 

November is Open Enrollment month for EPC Benefit Resources, Inc., (BRI), which presents an opportunity for churches to enroll their staff or make changes to employees benefit plan coverages. The 2021 Open Enrollment website provides information on the EPC’s five medical/prescription drug plans; dental, vision, and life insurance benefits; and other health offerings. Comparison charts, individual plan details, and changes—as well as premium rates for all plans—are easily accessed. All enrollment or coverage changes made during Open Enrollment become effective January 1, 2021.

During open enrollment:

  • Churches can enroll in EPC benefit plans for the first time.
  • Currently covered individuals can make changes to their benefit elections for 2021.
  • Churches can add to, or change, their plan offerings for 2021 by completing a Benefits Election Form.
  • If enrollment and plan selections are not being changed for a current participant, then no action is needed. Under this “passive process,” all will automatically retain their current coverages for 2021 unless they actively initiate a change.

Bart Francescone, BRI Executive Director, said premium rates for the 2021 medical/prescription drug plans are increasing by an average of 3.6 percent.

“This is the lowest increase in many years, and it follows last year’s low increase of only six percent,” Francescone said. “The BRI Board of Directors and staff have worked hard in partnership with our plan administrators to maintain our high-quality plans at the lowest possible cost. This has enabled us to keep our increases significantly lower than the national weighted average medical cost trend, despite so many uncertainties related to COVID and the national healthcare landscape.”

Premium rates for the dental plans and life insurance are unchanged for 2021. In addition, premium rates for the 2021 vision plan are eight percent lower than the 2020 rate.

“We are replacing EyeMed with National Vision Administrators, which has resulted in lower premiums and added benefits,” Francescone said. “These include reducing the co-pays for many lens options and providing coverage for both contacts and eyeglass lenses. Previously, participants had to choose one or the other.”

He added that NVA has more than 94,000 participating providers nationwide, including major retail eyecare chains, discount providers like Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club vision centers, and thousands of private practitioners. Current vision plan participants will be enrolled with NVA automatically and receive a welcome packet in December.

All EPC benefit plans are available to full-time employees (30 hours or more per week) of EPC churches, as well as World Outreach global workers, chaplains, and EPC ministers serving out-of-bounds or without call.

“Anyone new to the EPC—or interested in enrolling in one of our benefit programs for the first time—should contact the individual who handles benefits at their church or organization,” Francescone said. “And as always, BRI staff members are happy to answer any questions someone may have about our programs.”

For more information about the EPC’s 2021 benefit plans, contact BRI at 407-930-4492 or benefits@epc.org, or see www.epc.org/benefits/2021openenrollment.

October 2020 EPC budget report: PMA contributions behind FY 2020, above 2021 budget projection

 

As of October 31, Per Member Asking (PMA) contributions received by the Office of the General Assembly during the first four months of fiscal year 2021 (FY21) total $780,906. The amount received is $2,242 less than the $783,148 received during the same period in fiscal year 2020. The EPC’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.

While PMA is slightly below last year’s pace, year-to-date contributions are 20.3 percent ($132,090) above the YTD $648,816 “Bare Bones Plus” budget approved by the 40th General Assembly to support the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations.

“We reduced the budget by 17 percent in light of what we expected to be difficult economic conditions for our churches,” said Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah. “Yet our congregations continue to show how much they value the connectionalism so central to who we are. I am so grateful for their generosity. And because of the continued strong support, the National Leadership Team is beginning to discuss increasing some strategic line items in the budget as the Assembly authorized them to do should giving exceed expectations.”

The 12-month rolling average for monthly PMA contributions is now $199,278—approximately 1 percent less than the rolling average as of October 31, 2020. PMA support in October 2020 was $219,640.

Of the $780,906 received, $156,181 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $1,788,430 in designated gifts were received through October 31. This total was $85,640 (4.5 percent) lower than the $1,874,070 in designated gifts received in the same period in fiscal year 2020. Jeremiah noted that if more than $276,000 donated to the Emergency Relief Fund following 2019’s Hurricane Dorian is not considered, giving to designated funds is up more than $187,000 (11.7 percent).

Designated gifts include support for World Outreach global workers and projects, and contributions to EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings.

Of the total, $1,768,514 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $19,916 was designated for EPC projects. These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to WO global workers or other projects.

Ministry paths converge in Orlando for Bahamas, Pennsylvania ordination candidates

 

FROM THERE; GOING THERE: Carrie and Barrett Hendrickson (left) greeted Jude and Keitra Vilma after a recent worship service at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. Jude grew up in Marsh Harbor and now serves as a pastoral resident at FPCO. The Hendricksons arrived in Marsh Harbor on November 4 to serve with the EPC’s Kirk of the Pines under the auspices of the Caribbean Youth Network.

What do Pittsburgh, Orlando, and Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas have in common? For two EPC ordination candidates and their families, Orlando is the middle link in a chain that stretches more than 1,000 miles across two countries.

On September 3, Jude and Keitra Vilma arrived in Orlando from Nassau, where he had served as a pastoral intern for St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk. He grew up in a Haitian Creole community in Marsh Harbor, has been a youth worker with the Bahamas Youth Network, and now is a pastoral resident at First Presbyterian Church in Orlando while pursuing a Master of Divinity degree from Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS).

Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, Barrett Hendrickson was in the process of transferring his status as Candidate Under Care from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies to the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. A May 2020 RTS graduate, he and his wife, Carrie, had joined the Caribbean Youth Network (CYN) to serve with EPC Teaching Elder Gabe Swing at the Kirk of the Pines in Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas. The church is a mission of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

The Hendricksons staged in Florida for several months while they waited for pandemic-related restrictions in the Bahamas to be lifted. On November 4, they arrived in Marsh Harbor, which was devastated by Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

“We are extremely excited to welcome the Hendrickson family to Abaco,” Swing said. “They will provide needed support for relief efforts and help us re-engage the community through outreach and worship opportunities.”

Hendrickson said that when he was young, one of the ways his youth pastor mentored him was through preforming manual labor, such as mowing the lawns of older church members.

“I wanted to be able to do that here,” he said. “Of course sharing Jesus and discipling people, but also by providing tangible, physical needs.”

Swing said conditions in Marsh Harbor continue to be “very difficult” for residents, with many still without adequate housing, electricity, and running water.

“The reconstruction moves at a snail’s pace, and many residents have to acquire drinking water from Water Mission distribution sites,” he said. “The pandemic has frustrated recovery efforts, and food security has become a major problem. Thousands of people are relying on free food distribution from the government and NGOs.”

In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, approximately $175,000 has been disbursed to Kirk of the Pines from the EPC Emergency Relief Fund.

Swing noted that “regular giving has all but vanished” since so many church members have been displaced to other islands in the Bahamas, as well as the U.S. He said the Emergency Relief Fund donations have been used to purchase a truck to distribute relief supplies; provide food and housing for several displaced families; assist with living expenses for he and his wife, Jan; and fund pastoral visits to members of the congregation.

‘Raising up the next generation of pastoral leaders’

While Orlando was a stopping point in the Hendrickson’s journey to the Bahamas, the Vilmas are adjusting to life at FPCO and RTS. He is the recipient of the Andrew Jumper Scholarship, which is named for one of the EPC’s founders and awarded by RTS to a full-time MDiv student who demonstrates “exemplary Christian character and potential for ministry.”

David Swanson, FPCO Senior Pastor, said the Vilmas are “settling into the FPCO family beautifully” as the congregation has resumed in-person worship.

“Our commitment is to take an active role in raising up the next generation of pastoral leaders with a special eye towards greater diversity,” he said. “The Vilmas are the perfect fit for a mutually beneficial partnership. Jude is already leading in worship and will be meeting with each member of the pastoral team on a regular basis as the meat of his pastoral residency program. He will be exposed to every dimension of church life, including finance and administration, with the goal of helping him be ready theologically and practically for a fruitful future pastorate.”

Vilma said that he did not expect to be awarded the Jumper Scholarship, and when he received the news he knew he and his wife would be moving to Florida.

“I knew I was coming to Orlando,” Vilma said. “First Pres was very generous to us coming here with their love and support, so it’s really great for us. I hope to continue to grow under David Swanson, Case Thorp, and the other pastors here, and eventually to serve within the EPC itself.”

FPCO has partnered with the EPC congregations in the Bahamas “in extremely meaningful ways,” said Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Kirk. “No individual congregation has contributed more to the health and progress of St. Andrew’s and Kirk of the Pines than First Pres Orlando.”

Hendrickson said Vilma is “our great success story” from CYN.

“When we came down last August before Hurricane Dorian hit to see the opportunity with Gabe and CYN, Jude walked us through Marsh Harbor and the Haitian neighborhood where he grew up,” he said. “So to connect with him and Keitra in Orlando was wonderful. To recognize how God raised him up here—and now bringing us to Abaco—it was like God was saying to us, ‘there is opportunity to raise up more.’ That’s our long-term goal: to raise Bahamian pastors.”

 

Church Revitalization Workshop recording available

 

On October 28, a panel of EPC pastors experienced in church revitalization kicked off the 2020-2021 Church Revitalization Workshop. The series of interactive videoconference workshops will continue on the fourth Wednesday of each month through May 2021 (except December). The recording of the first session is now available.

The presentation was hosted by Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo. Panelists were:

The recording also is posted on the EPC website at www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop, where registrations for future installments is available, and on the EPC YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80.

When will you come back to worship?

 

by Peter Larson
Senior Pastor, Lebanon Presbyterian Church (Lebanon, Ohio)

“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalm 122:1).

When will you come back to worship?

Some of you are back already. Some are waiting for a vaccine. Some will not come back unless masks are required. Some will not come back until COVID-19 has ended completely.

When will you come back to worship? As your pastor, I can’t make that decision for you. It depends on your age, health, and personal level of safety and caution. If you are live-streaming worship that is okay—you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

However, my real concern is that some people may not come back at all. In general, if people are out of the church for a long time, they don’t come back. After six months, the “habit” of worship begins to fade. People feel disconnected and disengaged. In the wake of COVID-19, many experts predict a long-term shift in church attendance.

I am extremely grateful that our church has been able to live-stream worship. In many ways, it has helped us to stay connected with the Lord and with each other. I hear this especially from our homebound members. For all of us, the livestreaming technology has been a lifeline and a blessing.

The danger, however, is that technology will take the place of live worship. If I can worship in the comfort of my own home, why bother going to church? If I can get the same content on my tablet or television, isn’t that more efficient and convenient?

For many people, digital church is no different than working remotely or shopping online.

However, the church is the family of God. Worship is more than just content or a convenience—it is something we do together. At the heart of worship is our love for God and for each other. There are many things we can do remotely, but love is not one of them!

Imagine if I said to my wife, “Beth, instead of going on a date with you, we will connect on Zoom!” If I said that to Beth, she would begin to doubt my love for her. Why? Because if you love someone, you want to see and be with them. A Zoom call doesn’t cut it.

Right now, we are missing each other, and that is a good thing. If we stop missing each other, it means our love for God and for each other is growing cold. If we love each other, we long to be together.

When will you come back to worship? It may be weeks or months. In the meantime, I pray that technology will not take the place of relationships.

Your servant in Christ,

Peter

Originally published in the October 2020 “Chronicle” newsletter of Lebanon Presbyterian Church. Reprinted by permission.

St. Louis church plant celebrates local church status with installation of pastor, elders

 

Members of the Church Development Committee from the Presbytery of Mid-America pray over Central West End Church’s newly installed Ruling Elders, Pete Brown (kneeling, left) and Kerry Cheung on October 11. (photos courtesy of Central West End Church)

In 2016, Central West End Church (CWE) in St. Louis, Mo., planted itself at a literal dividing line in the city: one block south of Del Mar Boulevard. The Del Mar Divide, as it is known, is a dividing line of wealth, prosperity, race, and perspective. Pastor Eric Stiller views this stark contrast as an opportunity to see the city made new spiritually, socially, and culturally by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

CWE marked its own new beginning on October 11 as it celebrated “local church” status with Stiller’s installation as Pastor and the ordination of Kerry Cheung and Pete Brown as elders. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the service was live-streamed.

The Central West End neighborhood was identified in 2008 as a potential site for a church plant and is an eclectic area with a vibrant art, food, and cultural scene. This dynamic is what drew Stiller to St. Louis from New York City in 2005, when he entered Covenant Theological Seminary.

Eric Stiller

“I came to St. Louis with the passion to do whatever ministry I was going to do in a city,” he said.

Tom Ricks, who leads the EPC’s Church Planting Team, said the committee considers the needs of an area when deciding where to plant a church. He noted that the residents of Central West End are primarily unchurched, and most would consider themselves secular progressives. Ricks estimated that more than 90 percent never attend religious events.

“Why we got excited at the national level is that there just isn’t much of a Christian community in the Central West End, period—much less a Reformed Christian one that matches up with our EPC foundation and worldview,” he said.

When Stiller heard that the area was being considered, he became excited and began to earnestly pray about it. As this seed of excitement and passion continued to grow, he began to fall more and more in love with the location.

“God didn’t really call me to church planting. He called me to a neighborhood,” Stiller said. “It’s the place I feel most passionate about.”

He added that he loves that Central West End is such a secular place.

“I have always had an interest in apologetics and reaching out to people who at best would be indifferent to faith and at worst hostile to faith.”

Stiller understands this indifference firsthand. He describes himself as “not being concerned about God” for the first 30 years of his life and wrestling with the same doubts and “allergies” that people have today. In addition, he recalled noticing the “glaring” racial segregation in the city when he first arrived. Having been a jazz musician for many years, he had always been surrounded by African-Americans and their music and culture.

“When I prepare my sermons or have conversations with people, I am always imagining the inner skeptic asking questions,” he explained.

Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, Central West End Church held their worship services in the historic Mahler Ballroom.

CWE’s worship services are currently live-stream only, but in-person services have been held at the Mahler Ballroom, a local event space originally built as a dance studio in 1907. In addition to their worship service, the church offers community groups focused on “building friendships and community, growing faith, learning how to follow Jesus in every area of life, and supporting each other through prayer,” Stiller said.

The church hosts Alpha, a course designed for those who are curious about God. Alpha conversations delve into topics of spirituality from a biblical perspective, with no pressure to believe and no obligation to join the church. Stiller hopes that they can develop more resources for people interested in the integration of faith and work while reaching out to secular neighbors who might be interested in faith and spirituality.

Ricks believes that Stiller is the right guy for that spot.

“The EPC wants to apply the gospel to every area of life, and Eric just exudes this,” Ricks said. “God doesn’t make mistakes in his personnel choices.”

Church members helped renovate a gardening classroom at Washington Montessori Elementary School in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis.

As CWE began rooting itself in the community, Stiller and his team began a partnership with a local Montessori school as a means of engaging with their neighbors. Church members helped convert an outdoor space into a classroom with raised gardening beds, began tutoring students in math and reading, and renovated a teachers’ lounge. As the coronavirus pandemic struck a financial blow in the community, CWE raised more than $18,000 to help people associated with the school with rent, food, and supplies.

More than just physical assistance, however, Stiller said CWE seeks to fulfill the social aspect of their mission by seeking intentional and ongoing relationships with the school, the students, and their families. He emphasized that their mission is “a holistic one, not a false dichotomy that embraces spiritual work and evangelizing as opposed to social action and deeds of mercy and justice. God’s mission comprises all of this.”

For their part as Ruling Elders, Cheung and Brown see themselves as “shepherds and advocates” whom God has gifted in the areas of leadership and administration. Both are just as passionate as Stiller about the mission of the church to be a part of the renewing of the city spiritually, socially, and culturally.

Above all, CWE wants to follow Jesus as He makes all things new—especially across the dividing line.

by Kelli Lambert Gilbreath
EPConnection correspondent

Small N.C. church opens new building, embraces vision for the future

 

New Covenant EPC in Burgaw, N.C., held their first worship services in their permanent facility—a renovated former dance studio—on August 3. (photos courtesy of New Covenant EPC)

For born-again believers, there is no doubt of God’s providence in every aspect and detail of His creation—and that intricately includes His Church. That truth has vividly played out over the past several years for a small, southeastern North Carolina congregation.

New Covenant Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Burgaw, N.C., began in 1998 in the public library as a church plant of Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, about 20 miles to the south.

For its first few months, about 30 people from different denominations attended. A Methodist church in Burgaw then offered its facility on Sunday evening services, which provided space for Sunday School classes and a youth group. More moves followed, with the congregation eventually settling into retail space at a main intersection in Burgaw. At the time, they called themselves Crossroads Community Church.

In 2017 the congregation moved yet again to storefront space in the center of Burgaw, across from the county courthouse. The same year, Duke Lineberry, a Ruling Elder at Myrtle Grove EPC, accepted a call as visiting evangelist.

Duke Lineberry preaches to the New Covenant congregation on October 22, 2020.

While Lineberry admits not much outreach took place the first few years of his tenure, in March 2019 the church made a decision that has placed it “directly in line with His sovereign plan,” Lineberry said.

“We became aware of a small Mexican church that had lost their lease,” he explained. “We felt led to offer them our space for their services and to use opposite our schedule. As God so often does, we began to see some fundamental changes in our church, moving from complacency to a more focused purpose.”

In November 2019, New Covenant purchased a former dance studio and began converting it for church use. On August 2, 2020, the church held its first worship service in its new facility.

Lineberry noted that for the first time in its 22-year history, “our little church has its own premises. With our new location and resources, we believe He is preparing us to be the light in Burgaw.”

Mike and Joy Thurlow, who have attended since the church’s launch in 1998, agree that after many twists and turns along its journey, New Covenant is on a renewed path.

“There is really a new zeal after the move,” said Mike, who has served as an elder since the church started. “People are more excited. While we are still a small fellowship, we are seeing more people coming now since the relocation.”

Joy and Mike Thurlow

Joy said she has seen “God working in people’s lives” over the past several months.

“Broken people are coming into our church,” she said. “People are coming for healing—physical healing, spiritual healing, emotional healing.”

The church is starting to look into ways to better reach Burgaw’s youth, such as by teaching piano, keyboard, and guitar. The “fuel” for attracting young people comes from church member Keith White. He noted that creating an environment where youth can gather and be nurtured is an outgrowth of his experience growing up in a small Baptist congregation.

“We met every Saturday night my whole teenage years,” White said. “We would get together and have some kind of activity or play a game, have a little bit of music, and then a fellow a few years older than me preached for a little bit. I learned more in those six years than any other guidance. If it wasn’t for that six years I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. That guidance sustained me through a whole lot of life.”

He added that sees “a whole lot of young people running around Burgaw. I ask the kids what they do on weekends and they say, ‘I don’t know; nothing.’ So I say, ‘Let’s build the church up with some young people.”

Moving is an adventure

Lineberry said relocating to the new building hasn’t been without its challenges.

“The building was built in 1992 as a dance studio, and virtually every little girl in Burgaw took lessons there,” he said. “Unfortunately, the building sat unused for almost a decade before we purchased it.”

He noted that the building needed a new roof; structural repairs to the walls and floors; and a variety of upgrades to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Much of the renovation work was performed by volunteers, such as constructing interior walls to separate the entrance from the seating area.

“We purchased and installed carpet, painted the walls from its former hot pink to a warm white, and put up a temporary wall to separate the entrance from the sanctuary area,” Lineberry said, adding that they also removed some trees to make room for parking.

“All of the design, planning, and permitting was done by our leadership, and the work was done by a combination of member volunteer efforts, contract labor, and one member in particular who we paid a much-discounted rate to perform the majority of the carpentry work, rehabilitating the structure, building handicap ramps, and the like.”

As a practicing trial attorney in Wilmington, Lineberry said his time serving the Burgaw congregation as its pastor is not permanent—partially because New Covenant now has a permanent facility.

“The leadership is sincerely seeking the Lord on hiring an ordained pastor,” he said. “I’ve been asked to stand again for Session at Myrtle Grove, and the leadership at New Covenant is supportive. At this stage, I can’t see leaving New Covenant any time soon, as I know the Lord placed me there for His purposes. I plan on remaining there to support and assist the pastor the Lord has for this special little family of God in Burgaw.”

Looking back to his arrival at New Covenant in 2017, Lineberry said he was concerned then about the church’s future.

“My fear was that she would simply spend up her money and eventually close the doors,” he reflected. “Thanks be to God, a remnant handful of people have been faithful to stay, pray, and serve. Now, it seems as if New Covenant is on the cusp of something new for herself and the Burgaw community.”

Instead of being tucked in a retail space between Food Lion and Subway, the church is now on the main road into Burgaw, across from the Pender Co. Department of Social Services and down the street from many local government service offices.

Lineberry sees the church as strategically poised to minister to the sizable Spanish-speaking population in the community.

“We need only look directly across the street at DSS for innumerable mission opportunities,” Lineberry said. “The Mexican church came to us and we obeyed, and as a result God made a way for New Covenant that she’s never had before. Our prayer now is for the Lord to point us in the direction He wants us to go. With the current heart of the church, I expect we will respond rightly.”

Lineberry noted that New Covenant is not a wealthy congregation, but it is a faithful one.

“Our seniors are retirees, and our younger families struggle with hourly wages and expenses. Many others are self-employed and hurting financially from COVID. But the Lord has provided, and we anticipate that He will continue to provide for us,” Lineberry said. “We will continue to be open to any outreach the Lord will show us.”

by Tim Yarbrough
EPConnection correspondent

October Jeremiah Journal provides highlights from 40th General Assembly

 

In the October 2020 edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah shares some highlights of the 40th General Assembly and offers a pastoral comment as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/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.

September 2020 EPC budget report: PMA contributions 3 percent above 2019, 20 percent above budgeted spending

 

As of September 30, Per Member Asking (PMA) contributions received by the Office of the General Assembly since the July 1 start of Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) total $561,266. The amount received is 3.5 percent—$18,977—higher than the same period in Fiscal Year 2020. The EPC’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.

Fiscal-year-to-date contributions are 19.6 percent—$91,829—above the $469,437 budgeted projection to support the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations.

The 12-month rolling average for monthly PMA contributions is $200,904—1.3 percent higher than the rolling average as of September 30, 2019. PMA support in September 2020 was $224,301.

“The EPC is in good financial shape through the first quarter of the fiscal year,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Our churches that continue to support PMA in such uncertain economic times have declared with their contribution that connection to the EPC is a priority. We are very grateful for that and we don’t take their commitment for granted.”

Of the $561,266 received, $112,253 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $491,728 in designated gifts were received through September 30. This total was 13 percent—$76,483—less than $568,212 in designated gifts received in the same period in FY20. Jeremiah noted that the reduction is largely a result of more than $160,000 in donations to the EPC Emergency Relief Fund in 2019 following Hurricane Dorian.

Designated gifts include support for World Outreach global workers and projects, and contributions to EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s holiday offerings.

Of the total, $486,193 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $5,535 was designated for EPC projects. These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to WO global workers or other projects.

“If we take away the $160,000 in Dorian relief, we received nearly $85,000 more than the same period last year. It is clear that EPC churches and individuals are exceedingly generous to our World Outreach workers, care of Chaplains, church planting, pastoral care, and more.”

Church Revitalization Workshop to feature monthly helps

 

Beginning Wednesday, October 28, a panel of EPC pastors who have led church revitalization efforts will host a monthly virtual Church Revitalization Workshop. The content for the series was originally developed for the 2020 Leadership Institute, which was cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Church revitalization is a real need in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church,” said Jerry Iamurri, Assistant Stated Clerk. “According to our annual church report, over 80 percent of our churches are struggling to grow. And many of those have not experienced an adult profession of faith in the last 12 months.”

Facilitators of the workshop include John Mabray, Associate Pastor for Covenant Presbyterian Church in Monroe, La.; Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas; Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo.; and Mike Wright, Pastor of Littleton Christian Church in Littleton, Colo.

Iamurri noted that the facilitators represent “a wide spectrum of church size, geographical context, and life experience. All are currently engaged in the work of church revitalization and have experienced some measure of success.”

Under the leadership of Mabray—who until September 2020 was Senior Pastor of Covenant—and MacPhail, each of those congregations received the EPC’s Bart Hess Award for church vitality. Resler’s pastoral ministry has been characterized by helping struggling churches of all sizes revitalize by applying a systems theory approach. Wright has led his congregation as a replant following a church split.

Resler said each month’s workshop will focus on one or more of three general categories: the revitalized pastor, the revitalized session/leadership, and the revitalized congregation. He added that depending on the number of participants, the meeting may include breakout rooms in which participants can receive coaching applicable for their personal ministry context.

The workshops will be held from 4:00-6:00 p.m. (Eastern) on October 28, November 25, January 27, February 24, March 24, April 28, and May 26. There is no cost to register, and the workshops are open to both Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders. For more information, see www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop.

40th General Assembly worship service recordings available

 

Video recordings of the 40th General Assembly worship service messages are now available. The speakers are Case Thorp, Moderator of the 39th General Assembly, and Carolyn Poteet, Lead Pastor of Mt. Lebanon Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pa.

The messages are available below, on the EPC website at www.epc.org/ga2020recordings, and on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80 in the “40th General Assembly” playlist. Audio recordings of the messages are available in podcast form on Spotify and iTunes—search for “Evangelical Presbyterian Church.”

Thorp preached from 2 Kings 25:1-10 and Revelation 21:1-7. Poteet preached from 2 Corinthians 2:12-17 and Mark 8:31-17.

#epc2020ga

40th General Assembly elects Dean Weaver as fourth Stated Clerk, approves reduced 2021 budget, ratifies amendments to Book of Government

 

Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri (left) monitors the written report of the Permanent Judicial Commission as Chair Yvonne Chapman presents the Commission’s report to the Assembly. The EPC’s 40th General Assembly was conducted via video conference from the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando. (photo credit: Jeff Guetzloe)

Commissioners to the EPC’s 40th General Assembly elected Presbytery of the Alleghenies Teaching Elder Dean Weaver as the denomination’s fourth Stated Clerk, adopted a fiscal year 2021 (FY21) budget of $2.3 million, and approved 36 other recommendations from the EPC’s permanent and interim committees, commissions, and boards. The Assembly was held September 17-18 via video conference from the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando.

Commissioners also elected Glenn Meyers as Moderator and Brad Strait as Moderator-Elect. Meyers serves as Ruling Elder and Commissioned Pastor of Ardara United Presbyterian Church in Ardara, Pa., in the Presbytery of the Alleghenies. Strait serves as Senior Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo., in the Presbytery of the West.

More than 800 individuals registered for the Assembly, including 388 Teaching Elders and 416 Ruling Elders who submitted voting credentials.

“For the first time in my 14 years as Stated Clerk—and possibly in the history of the EPC—we had more Ruling Elder commissioners than Teaching Elders this year,” said Jeff Jeremiah. “When the EPC started in 1981, the founders wanted our General Assemblies to have strong Ruling Elder representation. I am grateful that our virtual format allowed for so many Ruling Elders to participate.”

Fourth EPC Stated Clerk elected

Dean Weaver, Lead Pastor of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in Allison Park, Pa., was elected as the EPC’s fourth Stated Clerk. He will be installed at the 41st General Assembly in June 2021. Weaver currently serves as Co-chairman of the EPC’s Revelation 7:9 Task Force and was the Moderator of the 37th General Assembly.

Bill Dudley, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Southeast and Chairman of the Stated Clerk Search Committee, said Weaver has “a devotion to the church” and “has demonstrated what sacrificial leadership looks like” over the years.

“He is a man with a mission for God on his mind in every aspect in the life of the Church,” Dudley said.

Upon his election, Weaver said he was “greatly humbled that you would entrust such a stewardship to me to be the fourth elected Stated Clerk of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, following in the footsteps of Ed Davis, Mike Glodo, and Jeff Jeremiah. I walk in the footsteps of giants and am the inheritor of that legacy for which I am deeply grateful. I am profoundly dependent on you for your prayers, your support, and your love.”

He expressed belief that that the EPC’s best days are still ahead.

“Jeff has led us through unprecedented times with incredible courage and great faith and stamina,” Weaver said. “I am proud to be his friend, and quite frankly a little overwhelmed to follow him. But at the same time, I honestly believe that God is going to lead us through the wilderness wanderings of the coronavirus pandemic into a promised land. I am confident that this Kingdom that cannot be shaken, that God has called us to together, that God is going to do exceedingly abundantly more than you and I could ever ask or imagine.”

The Assembly also approved Weaver’s terms of call, which go into effect on January 1, 2021.

Budget and Special Projects approved

Commissioners approved a Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21—July 2020 through June 2021) budget for EPC operating expenses of $2,361,047. This represents a 17 percent decrease in projected spending from the FY20 budget.

Tom Werner, Chairman of the National Leadership Team (NLT) and Ruling Elder for Greentree Community Church in Kirkwood, Mo., said the reduced budget was a reflection of the difficulties faced by churches in projecting future offering receipts.

“In light of the fact that giving is uncertain this year, we have tried to budget based on our per-member askings and additional giving from churches to maintain a ‘bare bones’ budget but without cutting essentials,” Werner said.

Ruling Elder Rob Liddon, Chairman of the NLT Finance Committee and Moderator of the 30th General Assembly, noted that the primary area of reduction from the FY20 budget was in travel expenses.

“We were able to reduce travel expenses because we are doing more Zoom meetings,” Liddon said. “We believe this budget meets the current realities of what is needed with what we believe would be the reality of the incoming revenues.”

The FY21 budget includes $254,000 in direct funding of the four strategic priorities—$140,000 for Multiplication (Church Planting); $30,000 for Transformation (Church Revitalization); $41,000 for Global Movement; and $43,000 for Effective Biblical Leadership. In addition, 20 percent of Per Member Asking (PMA) contributions to the EPC support Global Movement in the form of funding the overall ministry of World Outreach. Funding for the strategic initiatives was added to the EPC operating budget in the FY18 budget. From their inception in 2014 through FY18 they had been funded through undesignated cash reserves.

In a separate action, commissioners authorized the NLT to increase funding of targeted line items in the budget should FY21 revenue exceed projected spending. These increases would be focused on strategic ministry opportunities.

“In the age of COVID, this is just a logical follow-up to the approval of a bare-bones budget,” Werner said. “If giving is robust, if the heavens open, if COVID goes away, and churches are able to give generously, then we would like as an NLT to have the authority to pursue ministry opportunities above and beyond what the bare-bones budget permits.”

The Assembly also approved a variety of Special Projects for FY21, which are supported outside of PMA but would be fully funded if each EPC church contributed an additional $6.02 per member above the PMA target of $23 per member.

In other administration-related business, commissioners approved a recommendation that ordained ministers drawing retirement income from the EPC 403(b)(9) Defined Contribution Retirement Plan be allowed to designate up to 100 percent of their retirement income for housing allowance.

Ron Horgan, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic and Chairman of the Benefit Resources, Inc., Board of Directors, said the approved recommendation “protects us in the event that there should be any attempt to have our housing allowance income declared as taxable.”

Book of Government amendments ratified

The Assembly ratified two Descending Overtures, which thereby amend the EPC’s Book of Government.

The first amendment addresses the examination of candidates for ordination. Added to Book of Government 11-2C is language that presbyteries should consider the candidate’s motivation to not only be an ordained Teaching Elder, but also be a part of the EPC.

The second adds language making explicit that “the office of co-pastor is not a constitutionally recognized calling in a local church” to Book of Government 9-5A.1. This amendment clarifies the position the EPC has held since 1985. The fifth General Assembly sustained a Permanent Judicial Commission opinion that year stating that “the office of co-pastor as being non-existent” and the only recognized offices for Teaching Elders in a local church are that of Pastor, Associate Pastor, and Assistant Pastor.

Interim committees extended

Commissioners approved extensions for the Giving Culture Study Committee (GCSC) and the Revelation 7:9 Task Force. The Giving Culture Study Committee was approved to continue through the 41st General Assembly (2021), while the Revelation 7:9 Task Force will maintain its work through the 42nd General Assembly (2022).

The Revelation 7:9 Task Force was approved by the 38th General Assembly in 2018 and appointed by 38th GA Moderator Tom Werner. The group spent its first year primarily listening within the denomination and provided an interim report of its findings to the 39th General Assembly. As stated in the NLT’s written report to the 40th General Assembly, the Task Force’s goal is “the presentation of S.M.A.R.T. (Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time-sensitive) recommendations, accompanied by resources and templates for EPC congregations to become more ethnically, age, and economically Revelation 7:9 mosaic communities.”

Commissioners also approved distributing the Revelation 7:9 Task Force written report to all EPC presbyteries, churches, and pastors.

The GCSC was approved by the 39th General Assembly and appointed by 39th GA Moderator Case Thorp. The committee’s charge is to address how to improve the long-term culture of giving to the EPC. Related to the GCSC’s work, commissioners approved four additional recommendations:

  • For the Generosity Resources Committee to develop resources to aid congregations in enriching their financial collection practices to include the latest methods of giving and financial stewardship.
  • For the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) to develop a plan to educate presbyteries and sessions as to the purpose and role of the OGA.
  • For the Ministerial Vocation Committee, in conjunction with the NLT, to develop strategies to aid those church leaders acutely suffering from after-effects of their prior denominational affiliations and practices.
  • For the Theology Committee, with assistance from the Ministerial Vocation Committee, to define the terms “connectional” and “connectionalism” as understood by the EPC.

Provisional opinions ratified

Commissioners sustained three provisional opinions from the Stated Clerk that were issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. The Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) recommended that all three opinions be upheld.

The first opinion was issued by Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah on March 11. Jeremiah stated that a presbytery with sufficient technology to ensure that every participant is able to hear and/or see, vote, and participate in a virtual meeting is permitted to hold their stated and/or called presbytery meetings virtually.

The second opinion was delivered on April 2. As with a presbytery meeting, Jeremiah wrote that a session or congregation with sufficient technology is permitted to hold a virtual meeting.

Jeremiah issued the third opinion on June 22, in which he ruled that the administration of the Lord’s Supper during a virtual worship service is temporarily permissible under the Constitution.

In additional judicial matters, commissioners approved a PJC-amended overture from the Presbytery of the Gulf South. That overture asked the Assembly to amend Book of Government G-13, “The Ordination and/or Installation of Officers.” The intent of the overture was to resolve potential confusion in the roles of Ruling Elder and Deacon. The goal was accomplished by adding phrases that clarify the office of Ruling Elder or Deacon as distinct from that of Teaching Elder; that Ruling Elders and Deacons report to their Session rather than to a presbytery; that congregants submit only to Teaching/Ruling Elders; and that congregants pledge to fulfill the terms of the call and make provision for the Teaching Elder.

Commissioners also ratified the PJC’s rulings on two separate disciplinary matters in which the respective Complaints were dismissed, and another ruling in which the appeal of an earlier ruling was dismissed.

Committee and Board Members elected

In addition to electing Meyers as Moderator and Strait as Moderator-elect, the Assembly elected the following individuals to fill vacancies on the EPC’s permanent committees and boards as others complete their terms of service (TE denotes Teaching Elder. RE denotes Ruling Elder. * denotes second term.):

Benefit Resources, Inc., Board of Directors: RE Will Barnes, Presbytery of the Midwest; TE Erik Ohman*, Presbytery of the West; Randy Shaneyfelt*, Presbytery of the Great Plains, who was elected as Chairman.

Chaplains Work and Care Committee: TE Marty Carpenter, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; TE Scott Rash, Presbytery of the Great Plains; TE Brad Yorton*, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest.

Generosity Resources Committee: RE Bobby Cobbs*, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; RE Ted Hailes*, Presbytery of the Central South.

Ministerial Vocation Committee: RE Richard Gash, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; TE Doug Resler, Presbytery of the West.

National Leadership Team: RE Earla Bethel, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; RE Frank Carter*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Victor Jones, Presbytery of the Gulf South; TE Patrick King, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; RE Rosemary Lukens*, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; TE Dave Strunk*, Presbytery of the Southeast.

Next Generation Ministries Council: TE Michael Davis, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Enid Flores*, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; TE Andrew Koesters*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Becky Shultz*, Presbytery of the West.

Nominating Committee: RE Marian Bradshaw*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Alan Conrow*, Presbytery of the Midwest; TE Wayne Hardy*, Presbytery of the Great Plains; TE Juan Rivera, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. In addition, Susan Humphreys (RE, Presbytery of Mid-America) was elected as Chairman.

Permanent Judicial Commission: RE Yvonne Chapman*, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Jeff Hollingsworth, Presbytery of the Southeast; RE Ken Roberts*, Presbytery of the West.

Presbytery Review Committee: RE Ron Bengelink, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; RE Jane Bodden, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; RE Ray Kinat, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; TE Jason Steele, Presbytery of the Midwest.

Theology Committee: RE Fred Flinn*, Presbytery of the Central South; TE Zach Hopkins*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Cameron Shafer, Presbytery of the Midwest.

World Outreach Committee: TE Whitney Alexander, Presbytery of the Gulf South; RE David Miller*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; RE Wes Peterson, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Porter Waring, Presbytery of the Central South.

In other committee-related action, commissioners approved a recommendation from the Women’s Resource Council (WRC) to disband as a permanent committee of the EPC and have presbyteries facilitate women’s ministries in local churches.

Sharon Beekman, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the West and Chairman of the WRC, noted that the WRC was approved by the 36th General Assembly with the purpose of supporting and equipping women in local EPC churches. She reported that in the last four years, the WRC has made available and promoted a variety of vetted resources posted on the EPC website, a blog for aspiring writers, and a Facebook group for women in the EPC.

“Unfortunately, EPC women have not utilized these resources,” she said. “The traffic is very low, so the NLT and the WRC concluded that women’s ministry is best conducted at the local church and the presbytery level. They have a better understanding of what the needs of women are, and of the culture of the various presbyteries.”

Beekmann said funds contributed through EPC Special Projects in previous years as “Per Woman Asking” and held in WRC-designated funds at the Office of the General Assembly would be dispersed to the presbyteries for women’s ministries in local churches. She said they currently have a balance of approximately $60,000.

EPC Endorsement Policy revised

Commissioners approved revisions to the EPC Endorsement Policy as written and recommended by the Theology Committee. The policy, originally adopted in 2002, serves as the denomination’s guidelines for entering into partnerships and official relationships with ministry organizations outside the EPC.

Zach Hopkins, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes and Chairman of the Theology Committee, said the committee’s purposes were “to bring it back into the operational conscience of the Assembly” and “updating it for the sake of effectiveness and constitutional clarity.”

Other business items approved

Commissioners approved a variety of other business items presented by the EPC’s Fraternal Relations, World Outreach, and Presbytery Review committees. Those items were:

  • Extending and updating the EPC’s 20-year fraternal relationship with the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, with a renewed focus on church planting.
  • Approving The Outreach Foundation as an approved agency. Based in Franklin, Tenn., the ministry’s stated priorities are to help the Church live out its missional calling; build the capacity of the global church, especially where the church is vulnerable or growing rapidly; and transform lives through mission involvement.
  • Approving PAK7 as an approved agency. The ministry’s mission is “to serve Pakistani Christians in their witness to Jesus Christ and the gospel through exceptional television programming.” PAK7 has a presence in Pakistan, the U.K., and the U.S., with American offices in Greenville, S.C.
  • Approving Frontier Fellowship as an approved agency. Frontier Fellowship was founded by noted missiologist Ralph Winter in 1981 as Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship and is “committed to mobilizing Presbyterian churches for frontier mission and reaching the least-reached for Christ.” The ministry is based in Richfield, Minn.
  • Approving Avant Ministries as an approved cooperative agency. The mission of the organization is to “glorify God by helping others enjoy His presence through planting and developing new churches in the unreached areas of the world.” Formerly known as Gospel Missionary Union, the Kansas City-based ministry is one of the oldest missionary sending agencies in English-speaking North America.
  • Adopting the Minutes of the 39th General Assembly.
  • Approving the 2019-20 minutes of the 14 EPC presbyteries (with some minor exceptions requiring response to the Presbytery Review Committee by December 31, 2020)
  • Approving the responses from the presbyteries to exceptions issued by the 39th General Assembly.
  • Accepting the invitation from Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn., to host the 41st General Assembly in June 2021.

The Chaplains Work and Care Committee, Generosity Resources Committee, Ministerial Vocation Committee, and Next Generation Ministries Council did not present any recommendations to the 40th General Assembly.

In closing the Assembly, Meyers thanked commissioners for participating in “the most distinctive General Assembly in this most unusual 40th year of the EPC.”

“In it, we’ve witnessed the glory of the ‘Always’ God,” Meyers said. “Always present. Always faithful. Always leading His Church—His people—triumphantly in the Great Commission ministry. Always leading us triumphantly to the new heaven and the new earth and our eternal future. We depart declaring our faith and our confidence, our hope and our joy, for what the Lord Jesus has for us in this challenging time.”

#epc2020ga