“In All Things” podcast episode 54 features former Mormon Lisa Brockman

 

Lisa Brockman, Ruling Elder for First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla., and author of Out of Zion: Meeting Jesus in the Shadow of the Mormon Temple, is the guest for episode 54 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

In part one of a two-week conversation, host Dean Weaver and Brockman discuss her path as a sixth-generation Mormon—including her childhood dream of a temple marriage—to accepting Christ as a student at the University of Utah. She recounts how her spiritual journey was influenced by Josh McDowell, Larry Crabb, and James Spencer. She also describes coming to the realization that the biblical God is the only God who will not abuse His authority.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

October 2022 EPC financial report: PMA/POI support rebounds, within 1 percent of budget

 

Contributions to Per Member Asking (PMA) and Percentage of Income (POI) received by the Office of the General Assembly in October were $251,636. The amount surpassed the October budget of $216,833 and raised the 12-month rolling average for monthly contributions to $193,154—2.1 percent less than the rolling average as of October 31, 2021.

PMA/POI contributions in fiscal year 2023 (FY23) through October 31 total $772,118. The amount is $7,397 (0.9 percent) less than the $779,515 FY23 PMA/POI support projection to fund the EPC’s overall mission, vision, and strategic priorities. The year-to-date total is $26,846 (3.6 percent) more than the amount received in the same period in FY22.

“As we celebrate Thanksgiving this month, I am especially grateful that financial support of the EPC rebounded so strongly last month,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “With all the challenges our churches are facing this fall, I do not take that for granted.”

Of the $772,118 received, $154,424 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA/POI contributions, $1,941,797 in designated gifts were received through October 31. This total was $138,056 (6.6 percent) lower than the $2,079,853 in designated gifts received in the same period in FY22. Most of the difference is attributed to more than $83,000 donated in October 2021 to the Emergency Relief Fund in response to Hurricane Ida.

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, $1,873,023 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $88,774 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.

Commissioners to the denomination’s 42nd General Assembly in June 2022 approved a transition from the Per Member Asking (PMA) funding formula to a Percentage of Income (POI) model. Under PMA, churches were asked to contribute $23 per member to the Office of the General Assembly. The POI model is a request for churches to support the national level of the EPC with 1 percent of income to the church’s general operating fund. The shift will phase in over the next three years, with full POI implementation expected at the start of FY26 in July 2025.

“In All Things” podcast episode 53 offers Thanksgiving devotional from Michael Davis

 

Michael Davis, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk, is the guest host for episode 53 of the EPC’s weekly podcast, “In All Things.” This week, Davis shares a brief Thanksgiving devotional from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 52: EPC church planter Sean Boone’s journey from gang life to pastor

 

Sean Boone, Pastor of Woke Bridge Community Church in Ferguson, Mo., is the guest for episode 52 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Boone discuss his personal journey from gang life and prison to freedom in Christ, and from an independent, historically Black church to planting a Southern Baptist church, to planting Woke Bridge in the EPC. Boone explains how Woke Bridge Community Church got its name, and his vision for how the gospel can transform Ferguson and grow a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural congregation.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Thanksgiving offering to support church planter care and counseling

 

Donations to the 2022 EPC Thanksgiving Offering will help provide ongoing church planter care by way of a fund to support counseling for planters and spouses.

“We had licensed counselors at this year’s Church Planters Retreat, and their time slots were completely booked,” said Tom Ricks, EPC National Director of Church Planting. “Planting a new church can be lonely and difficult. And while most of our planting pastors have other pastors they can talk to, the challenges specific to church planting are often outside the wheelhouse of pastors of established churches. This is where the Church Planters Care and Counseling Fund comes in. We want to provide this resource throughout the year—not just at our annual October retreat.”

Secure online donations to the Thanksgiving Offering can be made at www.epc.org/donate/thanksgivingoffering. Individuals also can utilize text-to-give by texting “epcthanksgivingoffering” to 50155 from any smart device. Donors who prefer to send a check should put “Thanksgiving Offering (041)” on the memo line and send to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
Attn: Finance Office
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

For more information about church planting in the EPC, including how churches can be a Parent, Partner, or Patron of EPC church planting, see www.epc.org/churchplanting.

“In All Things” podcast episode 51 features Marcos Ortega discussing ethnic identity, belonging, the Antioch Room

 

Marcos Ortega, Lead Pastor of Goodwill Church’s Beacon campus in Beacon, N.Y., is the guest for episode 51 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Ortega discuss his journey to the EPC from a since-rejected Dispensationalist theology, and his involvement on the ad-interim committee writing a Pastoral Letter of Racial Lament and Hope.

Ortega also describes The Antioch Room, a fellowship of EPC Teaching Elders of color designed to foster cultural and theological discussions in which ethnic minorities are the primary voice.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

World Reformed Fellowship honors Luder Whitlock

 

Rob Norris (left) presents Luder Whitlock with a momento in recognition of his instrumental role in the founding of the WRF.

The World Reformed Fellowship (WRF) honored Luder Whitlock, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean, for his contributions in founding the Fellowship in 2000. Whitlock was recognized during the business session of its sixth General Assembly on October 28 at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, Fla.

“Thank you very much for this unexpected honor, which I will treasure,” Whitlock said. “I recall that first meeting, which was significant. You are my good friends, and the Lord is using you to do great things around the world for which I am grateful.”

In presenting the resolution, WRF Board Chairman Rob Norris said Whitlock “is a man with an enormous capacity for vision. The Lord has gifted him in that way—he sees what God’s Kingdom can be like. We are the product of that vision, though we have not yet fulfilled it.”

Whitlock was instrumental in the founding of the WRF in 2000 when he hosted the organizing meeting in Orlando with leaders from the World Fellowship of Reformed Churches and the International Reformed Fellowship, which he co-founded. He was President of Reformed Theological Seminary for 23 years and has served on the EPC National Leadership Team, as well as the boards of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the World Evangelical Fellowship (North America region), Mission America, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, and Greater Europe Mission. He was the Executive Director of The New Geneva Study Bible and The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, and also served on the editorial council of Eternity Advisory board for the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible translation. He and his wife, Mary Lou, have three grown children and eleven grandchildren.

Resolution 2022-01 of The Sixth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship
In Thanksgiving to God for the Pioneering Contribution of
Dr. Luder G. Whitlock

Whereas, the Apostle Paul instructs believers to: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10);

Whereas, Dr. Luder G. Whitlock is a beloved member of the World Reformed Fellowship, whose pioneering contribution to the formation of the World Reformed Fellowship is recognized by its members and leaders;

Whereas, Dr. Luder G. Whitlock has given testimony through his life and ministry that giving honor and thanks to God surpasses the joy afforded by simple human recognition; and

Whereas, it is appropriate to recognize and celebrate the role played by Dr. Luder G. Whitlock over two decades ago, in this city of Orlando, as the host of the organizing meeting of the World Reformed Fellowship.

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the sixth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship, as follows:

  1. That Dr. Luder G. Whitlock be recognized in honor through heartfelt thanksgiving to God, the King, for his important collaboration in the life and ministry of the World Reformed Fellowship;
  2. That Dr. Luder G. Whitlock receive from this assembly a token that shall mark this, our act of thanksgiving, to God for his ministry;
  3. That the text of this motion be registered in the minutes of this First Business Session of Sixth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship.

Orlando, Florida, USA
28th of October, 2022

The WRF has grown to comprise more than 73 denominational members in 30 countries, 54 congregational members in 26 countries, 114 organizational members in 30 countries, and 374 individual members in 53 countries.

Designed to offer a gathering point where Reformed leaders can work out mutually beneficial cooperative agreements, the WRF focuses on the contemporary needs of the international Reformed community, such as the plight of persecuted Christians, religious freedom, societal changes, incorporation of theological education, missions, publications, and the expansion of evangelical fellowship into all parts of the world.

EPC pastors hold prominent roles at World Reformed Fellowship General Assembly

 

Rob Norris (right) convenes the Sixth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship on October 27 at First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla. Seated are (from left) Case Thorp, FPCO Senior Associate Pastor for Evangelism, and Davi Gomes, WRF International Director.

Church and denominational leaders from the EPC held leading positions at the Sixth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship (WRF) in October. The WRF meeting was held at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, Fla., with the theme, “The Nature and Mission of the Church.”

In noting that “the church is at the core of who we are,” Rob Norris opened the meeting on October 27. Norris is the WRF’s Chairman of the Board and serves as Teaching Pastor for the EPC’s Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md. Norris also led the second Plenary session, “The Worship of the Church.”

“Everything that we are and everything we do as the community of Christ is designed to move towards the glory of God,” he said. “At the very center of our adoration is the blessing and the work of Jesus Christ.”

Norris added that the worship of God can only be accomplished in and through Christ.

“To approach God in any other way is unacceptable,” he emphasized. “Jesus also said the Father is seeking such to worship Him. In this worship we have direct access to the Father’s presence. Quite simply, the Father is seeking exclusive worship—that we would worship Him. He is seeking those who worship in spirit and truth. We are to be devoted to God through and through. To worship the Father in truth means according to the specifics that He revealed about Himself.”

“The Church Under Pressure from the State”

On October 28, EPC Stated Clerk Dean Weaver participated in a panel discussion, “The Church Under Pressure from the State.”

EPC Stated Clerk Dean Weaver (left) participated in a panel discussion on October 28, “The Church Under Pressure from the State.”

In response to a question about EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson’s two-year imprisonment in Turkey from 2016-2018, Weaver noted the contrast between the Turkish and American governments.

“In Turkey, he experienced real persecution from the Turkish government. On the other side, the EPC—working to try to get freedom for Andrew—found a partner in the U.S. government to secure his freedom.”

Weaver noted that pressure on the church in the United States is likely different from that experienced by his fellow panelists.

“Pressure seems to be coming more from the culture than from the government,” he said, adding that societal pressures too often result in division rather than unity.

“The way the church in the U.S. is responding to pressure has been divisive, and it’s over things that aren’t even necessarily doctrinal,” Weaver said. “When the dust settles, 20 percent of the congregation is gone because you did or did not wear masks, and 20 percent of the people are new because you did or did not wear masks. People have made those decisions not on theological convictions but on political convictions.”

He also expressed concern over the church’s response to pressure, more than the pressure itself.

“Pressure is not in-and-of-itself is bad, but if we could see it as under the sovereignty of God rather than something to be avoided, then I think it should unite us. And yet in the last two years the pressure from the pandemic has divided the church.”

Weaver referenced discussions with EPC pastors over the past year to illustrate the point.

“What I have heard from a number of pastors in the EPC is that while attendance is down post-pandemic, giving is about the same. So it appears that the pressure of the pandemic maybe pruned away some who perhaps were not all that connected or invested, but those who have stayed are strong and just as —if not more—committed.”

Other panelists were John McClean, Vice Principal of Christ College in Sydney, Australia; Kin Yip Louie, Associate Professor in Theological Studies at China Graduate School of Theology in Hong Kong; and Sichan Siv, who escaped the “killing fields” of Cambodia’s Pol Pot regime in 1976, and later served U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 2001-2006. He currently serves as a deacon at First Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas.

“Made to Flourish: Faith and Work”

Case Thorp, Senior Associate Pastor of Evangelism and The Collaborative for host church FPCO and Moderator of the EPC’s 39th General Assembly, led a seminar on October 28, “Made to Flourish: Faith and Work.”

Case Thorp led a seminar, “Made to Flourish: Faith and Work” on October 28.

In describing his title, Thorp explained that The Collaborative is FPCO’s evangelism ministry.

“Note that in the name is “co-labor,” Thorp noted. “It is based on 1 Corinthians 1:9 where we are invited by God into fellowship with Christ.”

He also described how The Collaborative approaches evangelism from a relational perspective within the context of the community outside the church.

“At FPCO, we talk about living missionally in our family, neighborhood, and our vocation—and that’s the Collaborative,” Thorp said. “Our focus is discipleship of Christ-followers for their effectiveness in and through their work, and through the culture of their company. I know theology and Bible, but our people know the culture and jargon of their industries. They know where the brokenness and idols are. So we come alongside.”

“Distinguished by Christ”

David Swanson, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, concluded the Assembly with his message, “Distinguished by Christ,” on Sunday morning, October 30.

Preaching from Matthew 16:13-20, Swanson address some of the deepest questions about identity.

David Swanson, FPCO Senior Pastor, preached the conclusion of the Assembly on October 30.

“Who are we in our identity in Christ? Who are we in relationship to the Bride of Christ that God has called us to inhabit and be part of from the moment of our conversion? Who am I in relationship to all my other brothers and sisters? And then Who are we as a church in relationship to the rest of the world? How are we known? How does the world know us? And how do we know each other?”

He said all those questions are critical in the life of the church.

Referencing the Matthew 16 text, Swanson said it was time for the central issue of that day and time to be clarified: Who is Jesus? He emphasized that the question continues to be asked.

“What is staggering to me is that people today get to that place where they are trying to figure out who Jesus is, and they let ‘I’m not sure’ be their answer. They just stop searching. I mean, if there is even the most remote possibility that Jesus could actually be the incarnate Son of God and the Savior of the world don’t you think you ought to get that nailed down? Don’t you think you ought to at least explore? And as the church today, don’t you think we ought to have that question nailed down?”

Assembly Business

In Assembly business, commissioners heard a report from the Theological Commission which presented a proposed Statement on Ecclesiology. The 22-page statement encompassed 12 sections: The Trinity and the Church, The Nature of the Church, The Church and the Kingdom of God, The Church as a Covenant People, The Authority of the Church, The Liturgy of the Church, The Gifts and Ministry of the Church, The Unity of the Church, On Separation and Schism, On Church and Parachurch, The Mission of the Church, and Application of Ecclesiology.

Luder Whitlock, EPC Teaching Elder and former President of Reformed Theological Seminary, opened the WRF business session with prayer on October 28.

The Assembly also honored Luder Whitlock, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean and former member of the EPC National Leadership Team, for his role in founding the WRF in 2000. Whitlock hosted the organizing meeting of the WRF with leaders from the World Fellowship of Reformed Churches and the International Reformed Fellowship.

The WRF is comprised of more than 73 denominational members in 30 countries, 54 congregational members in 26 countries, 114 organizational members in 30 countries, and 374 individual members in 53 countries.

Designed to offer a gathering point where Reformed leaders can work out mutually beneficial cooperative agreements, the WRF focuses on the contemporary needs of the international Reformed community, such as the plight of persecuted Christians, religious freedom, societal changes, incorporation of theological education, missions, publications, and the expansion of evangelical fellowship into all parts of the world.

The EPC is a denominational member of the World Reformed Fellowship.

Church revitalization, global ministry engagement headline “In All Things” podcast episode 50 with Doug Resler

 

Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo., is the guest for episode 50 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Resler discuss the benefits a congregation receives when its pastor is involved in ministry beyond their local church, as well as Resler’s passion for church revitalization and the importance of that process starting with a revitalized pastor and Session. In addition, Resler describes how global engagement helps the church minister to the world that is coming to the United States in increasing numbers.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Open Enrollment for EPC Benefits runs November 1-30

 

November is Open Enrollment month for the EPC’s Health Benefit programs. Open Enrollment presents the opportunity for churches to enroll their staff or make changes to employee coverages. The 2023 Open Enrollment website provides information on the EPC’s five medical/prescription drug plan choices, as well as dental, vision, and life/disability insurance benefits.

Individual plan details and comparison charts are easily accessed, as well as information on Member Care programs such as chronic condition management, nurse health coaching, 24/7 virtual primary care, and the Healthcare Bluebook. All enrollment or coverage changes made during Open Enrollment will become effective January 1, 2023.

During open enrollment for 2023:

  • Churches can enroll in EPC benefit plans for the first time.
  • Churches can make changes to benefit elections for currently covered individuals.
  • Churches can add to, or change, their plan offerings for 2023 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 2023 unless they actively initiate a change.

Bart Francescone

“Our staff and Board of Directors work hard in partnership with our plan administrators to provide high-quality benefits and a variety of health management programs at the lowest possible cost,” said Bart Francescone, Executive Director of EPC Benefit Resources, Inc. (BRI). “Our benefit programs are designed to support the achievement of personal health goals and to provide assurance that medical expenses will be covered should a need arise. With these assurances, it is our hope that EPC ministers and staff will be free to focus their energies on their callings to proclaim the gospel.”

EPC benefit plans are available to full-time employees (30 hours or more per week) of EPC churches, as well as World Outreach domestic 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 2023 benefit plans, contact BRI at 407-930-4492 or benefits@epc.org, or see www.epc.org/2023openenrollment.

The EPC’s benefit programs are administered through BRI, a ministry of the EPC under the leadership of Francescone and the BRI Board of Directors. The BRI Board is a permanent committee of the General Assembly.

Kim Wells highlights inclusive leadership principles at annual Executive Pastor/Church Administrator gathering

 

At the first of two EPC Executive Pastor/Church Administrator workshops, executive educator and leadership coach Kim Wells discussed the topic “The Strategic Power of Inclusive Leadership.” The event was held October 13-14 in Denver, Colo.

Wells, who serves as the Executive Director of Executive Education at the Howard University School of Business in Washington, D.C., said inclusive leadership involves six areas: knowing how to listen, getting feedback from stakeholders and/or constituents, not only listening but also acting, being a facilitator, having strong mental health, and demonstrating commitment to their people by action.

Wells noted that listening and getting feedback should come from a wide variety of sources.

“Are we talking to the people on the front lines? Are we listening? Are we coming down from our big offices and connecting? How can we have a forum where we are learning from our people? People are watching what we do, not what we say. How do we behave? How was that decision made? We can avoid a lot of confusion and strife if we include them in the process.”

He also explained the importance of a leader going beyond listening and being open to input from others.

“Don’t try to make big decisions in a vacuum,” he said. “There will be times as a leader when you have no choice, and hopefully you’ve done your homework. But inclusive leadership shows people that their contributions are valued. As we do that, we use our resources more efficiently. Ask the question: who else should we have here? We need to come out of our own sphere.”

Inclusive leadership also involves investing in the entire team, Wells noted.

“Provide learning and development opportunities,” he said. “Invest in them—invest, invest, invest. And not just the younger people. Let your older people know that they are still valuable to you.”

Regarding action planning, Wells explained the need for leaders to be aware of their own unconscious biases and how they affect others.

“Stop being unaware of your own behaviors and interactions, and educate yourself,” he said. “Ask for feedback to keep your unconscious biases in check. Inclusive leadership is not about race or gender, it is about listening—to different ideas, different perspectives, different people. And not just listening but engaging with others.”

Now in its ninth year, the gathering is a two-day event for EPC executive pastors and directors, church administrators, and others in senior operational leadership positions.

In addition to discussing recent challenges and opportunities in their ministry settings, participants shared best practices on a variety of topics related to church administration and operations, technology systems, personnel, vision and strategy, finance, and more.

The workshop is a resource of the Office of the General Assembly. The second roundtable, which also features Wells and has the same format as the October event, takes place November 10-11 in Orlando. For more information, see www.epc.org/xpadmingathering.

Hurricane relief, small church ministry the topics of “In All Things” podcast episode 49 with Bill Crawford

 

Bill Crawford, Pastor of the First Presbyterian churches in Thibodaux and Houma, La., is the guest for episode 49 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Crawford describe his call to small church ministry and his 21 years in south Louisiana, including some of the challenges and opportunities for the small church.

Crawford also discusses his experience with disaster relief beginning with back-to-back hurricanes his first year in Thibodaux in 2001, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Hurricane Ida in 2021, and how he brought that experience to Fort Myers, Fla., following Hurricane Ian in September 2022. Weaver also shares how listeners can contribute to relief efforts by donating to the EPC’s Emergency Relief Fund at www.epc.org/emergencyrelief.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

September 2022 EPC financial report: PMA/POI support lags projected spending budget

 

Contributions to Per Member Asking (PMA) and Percentage of Income (POI) received by the Office of the General Assembly in fiscal year 2023 (FY23) through September 30 total $520,482.

The total is $42,200 (7.5 percent) less than the $562,682 FY23 PMA/POI support projection to fund the EPC’s overall mission, vision, and strategic priorities. The year-to-date total is $11,391 (2.1 percent) lower than the amount received in the same period in FY22. September PMA/POI support of $138,641 lowers the 12-month rolling average for monthly contributions to $189,968—3.9 percent less than the rolling average as of September 30, 2021.

“I don’t think there’s any question that we’re experiencing the effects of high inflation and the current economic climate,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “In the midst of this difficult season, I am grateful for the continued support from our churches.”

Of the $520,482 received, $104,096 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA/POI contributions, $417,719 in designated gifts were received through September 30. This total was $181,549 (30.3 percent) lower than the $599,268 in designated gifts received in the same period in FY22.

“While we never like to see a drop in restricted giving, much of the difference can be attributed to more than $80,000 in donations last year to our Emergency Relief Fund following hurricane Ida; $22,000 in donations to the Syrian Refugee Relief Fund; and $70,000 in gifts to the World Outreach ministry in Lebanon,” Weaver said. “If we don’t consider those three funds, giving to EPC ministries and causes is within $6,000 of last year’s total.”

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, $407,194 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $10,525 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.

Commissioners to the EPC’s 42nd General Assembly in June 2022 approved a transition from the Per Member Asking (PMA) funding formula to a Percentage of Income (POI) model. Under PMA, churches were asked to contribute $23 per member to the Office of the General Assembly. The POI model is a request for churches to support the national level of the denomination with 1 percent of undesignated receipts. The shift will phase in over three years, with full POI implementation expected at the start of FY26 in July 2025.

Smaller church and Transitional Pastor ministry the topics of “In All Things” podcast episode 48

 

Suzanne Zampella, an EPC Teaching Elder serving as the Transitional Pastor for First Presbyterian Church in Monett, Mo., is the guest for episode 48 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Zampella discuss how her sense of calling to the ministry was awakened when she was ordained as a Ruling Elder. She also talks about serving in an ECO—Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians—church, and how the role of a Transitional Pastor is as a change agent, helping a congregation know who they are and what they want to be.

Zampella also reflects on the EPC’s Small Church Summit, held October 11-13 in Orlando, and how it not only provided opportunity for pastors to build relationships with each other, but also demonstrated that the denomination values and supports pastors of smaller churches. In addition, she discusses some of the challenges and joys of serving the small church.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Fort Myers pastors provide Hurricane Ian update, donations sought for EPC Emergency Relief Fund

 

The pastors of the two EPC churches in Fort Myers, Fla., are reporting that Hurricane Ian had a devastating impact on their congregations. The storm came ashore in southwest Florida September 28 with 150 mph winds.

“Overall, it’s just a disaster zone,” said Mike Jones, Associate Pastor of New Hope Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers. “The further south and west the more profound the destruction. The further east, with the exception of the flooding it’s not as noticeable.”

Both Jones and Paul de Jong, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, reported at least 25 families in their respective congregations lost everything.

“One of our members was rescued at 5:00 a.m. by Miami EMS to get him out of the attic with his wife, son, and 80-year-old mother-in-law,” Jones said, adding that the homes of at least two New Hope staff members are “a total loss.”

The EPC Domestic Emergency Relief Fund is accepting donations to assist EPC churches in these and other disaster areas with identified needs. To contribute, see www.epc.org/emergencyrelief.

“In All Things” podcast episode 47 features discussion of pastoral stressors with Annie Rose

 

Annie Rose, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes and a member of the interim committee writing a Pastor Letter of Racial Lament and Hope, is the guest for episode 47 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Rose discuss her path to ministry as the child of a Complementarian church, as well as how serving as a presbytery stated clerk provides avenues to observe pastoral stressors. Rose provides counsel for both pastors and elders based on those observations, and also talks about her involvement on the Pastoral Letter interim committee and how the group understands that love has to be the basis for biblical lament.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 46 continues rural church pastor dialogue with Kent Mathews

 

Episode 46 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” continues a discussion with Kent Mathews, President and Academic Dean of Heartland Theological Seminary in Kansas City and Director of the EPC’s Mentored Apprenticeship Program for seminary students.

This week, host Dean Weaver and Mathews discuss strategies and resources for preparing pastors to serve in small churches and rural churches, including how Commissioned Pastors and the EPC’s CEEP (Candidates Educational Equivalency Program) serve the church by offering a pathway to ordination for prospective ministers who do not have a Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Dean Weaver, Brad Strait to host March 2023 Israel pilgrimage tour

 

In March 2023, EPC Stated Clerk Dean Weaver and NLT Chairman Brad Strait will lead a “Best of Israel” spiritual renewal tour of the Holy Land.

“More pastors than ever are discouraged, depressed, struggling in their relationships, or burning out,” Strait said. “As a denomination, we are working to create ‘refilling moments’ that can strengthen our fellow pastors and encourage their love, faith, relationships, preaching, and effectiveness in Jesus’ church. This renewal trip to Israel for pastors, their spouses, and other leaders is one part of this effort.”

“We will see the best Israel has to offer—places that will fan every person’s faith and magnify their biblical knowledge. Every day is filled with ‘wow’ moments of Jesus and biblical times and places. Each stop is a living encounter with the words of Scripture, and a sermon waiting to be preached,” Strait noted.

The tour is March 7-16, 2023, and costs $3100 per person, all-inclusive from New York City.

For complete information, see www.epc.org/israeltour2023.

Hurricane Ian blasts Fort Myers, Fla., EPC congregations

 

Members of the two EPC congregations nearest the Florida landfall of Hurricane Ian suffered significant effects from the near-category 5 storm.

“Many of our congregation have suffered severe and total loss of home, cars, and property,” Mike Jones, Associate Pastor of New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, said by email on September 29. “At this point, I am not aware of any loss of life or health, but I know some were evacuated by boat at 5:00 a.m. (Thursday).”

He also noted that there was no power, water, or internet and most of the roads in his neighborhood were “impassable.”

Paul de Jong, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, reported on September 30 that “everyone appears to be safe and accounted for. But with no power and spotty cell service I haven’t been able to contact everyone—only maybe 10 percent of our congregants.”

Flood waters rose to just below the light switches in the home of a widowed member of First Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers before receding. (Photo courtesy of Paul de Jong)

“One who I did talk to had several feet of water in their home,” de Jong said. “Another elderly lady who lives by herself had 5 feet of water in her house. Her piano ended up upside down, and her refrigerator was in her living room. So for many people, they lost all their worldly possessions and their homes will unlivable for months.”

He reported only minor damage to the church property.

“The church has a few broken windows, a few leaks here and there, and the steeple will need some TLC,” he said, noting that the storm surge stopped about 200 yards from the building. “The church sits in a flood zone, but it’s very well built by incredibly faithful Christians in the 1950s who recognized that one day a hurricane would come.”

He added that though the church building was not an official shelter, “quite a few homeless people were knocking on the door as the storm approached. We absolutely wouldn’t turn them away, so we let them in, fed them, and took care of them as best as we could. We held a brief worship service and of course I spoke on God being our shelter in the storm. One of the men said we gave him the best meal he had had in a long time, and I hope we were able to minister him spiritually as well. My biggest job was to try to keep people’s spirits up because you could just feel the anxiety.”

First Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers suffered several broken windows. (Photo courtesy of Paul de Jong)

Both de Jong and Jones said their homes received only minor damage, and the New Hope campus “was spared any real damage,” Jones said.

“In my neighborhood, every home sustained some damage—some major and some minor,” de Jong said. “Our house has damage but nothing that can’t be fixed.”

He added that both First and New Hope plan to hold worship services on Sunday.

“Though without power for the sound system I will have to project like Spurgeon back in the day,” de Jong quipped.

Damage reports from other Florida pastors

Elsewhere across Florida, EPC churches were largely spared significant effects during Ian’s slow trek northeast.

“All is well here in Tampa,” said Mark Farrell, Pastor of Tampa Covenant Church on September 29. “The church is intact, with just a few felled tree branches and accumulated water in the parking lot. Thanking God for His grace on our churches at this time. May He continue to do so as we all recover.”

David Swanson, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, said “the First Pres buildings are all good—and our staff has fared well.”

Robert Olszewski, Pastor of GracePoint Church in Plant City, reported that some of the members of his congregation suffered minor damage and power outages.

“We are reaching out to folks in our community who need help and providing a hot meal today at the church,” he said by email on September 29.

Doug Walker, Pastor of River City Church in DeBary, reported minor damage to the church property. “And it appears our parishioners are doing OK,” he said by email.

Dillon Thornton, Pastor of Faith Community Church in Seminole, said his congregation “weathered the storm well. Our church campus and our members suffered only minor damage.”

Greg Gunn, Lead Pastor at Providence Church in Spring Hill, said “all is well at Providence Church and with the flock. We are praying for our friends in Ft. Myers.”

After leaving Florida as a tropical storm late Thursday and entering the Atlantic Ocean north of Cape Canaveral, Ian regained hurricane strength with sustained winds of 75 m.p.h. A hurricane warning is in effect for coastal South Carolina. Ian’s storm surge is forecast to bring five feet of water into coastal areas in Georgia and the Carolinas. As it moves north across South Carolina and into North Carolina and Virginia, rainfall of up to eight inches could bring flooding to inland areas.

The EPC Domestic Emergency Relief Fund is accepting donations to assist EPC churches in these and other disaster areas with identified needs. To contribute, see www.epc.org/emergencyrelief.

Boats carried by Hurricane Ian’s storm surge were stranded on dry land a few blocks from First Presbyterian Church in downtown Fort Myers.

“In All Things” podcast episode 45 features theological education discussion with Kent Mathews

 

Kent Mathews, President and Academic Dean of Heartland Theological Seminary in Kansas City and Director of the EPC’s Mentored Apprenticeship Program for seminary students is the guest for episode 45 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Mathews discuss the challenges and opportunities in preparing people for vocational ministry, and how Heartland Seminary and the EPC Mentored Apprenticeship Program combine rigorous academic preparation with practical, mentor-partnered application.

Mathews also describes the need to develop a pipeline of ordination candidates for ministry in rural churches—including the benefits of serving in rural communities—and how small churches can be better equipped for fostering community.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Prayer requested as Hurricane Ian approaches Florida

 

The projected path of Hurricane Ian, with the locations of EPC churches in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

Hurricane Ian neared Category 5 status with sustained winds of 155 mph on Wednesday morning, September 28, as it bears down on Florida. At 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, the center of the storm was located about 75 miles southwest of Fort Myers, home of two EPC congregations—First Presbyterian Church (Paul de Jong, Pastor) and New Hope Presbyterian Church (Mike Jones, Pastor).

“Please pray for our churches and communities in Florida as Ian approaches,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “We do not have any negative reports so far, but of course the worst is yet to come. Pray also for the staff of the Office of the General Assembly and their families, as Orlando is directly in the projected path of the storm.”

Other churches potentially in the path of Ian’s effects include Community Presbyterian Church in Clewiston (William Slager, Pastor); Faith Presbyterian Church in Brooksville (Joe Tolin, Pastor); Faith Presbyterian Church in Seminole (Dillon Thornton, Pastor); First Presbyterian Church in Orlando (David Swanson, Pastor); GracePoint in Plant City (Robert Olszewski, Pastor); Nación Santa in Haines City (Luis Quiñones, Pastor); New Covenant EPC in Pompano Beach (Adam Greenfield, Pastor); Providence Church in Spring Hill (Greg Gunn, Pastor); River City Church in DeBary (Doug Walker, Pastor); Seaside Church in Vilano Beach (Brady Haynes, Pastor); and Tampa Covenant Church in Tampa (Mark Farrell, Pastor).

Hurricane Ian is projected to cut northeast through Florida, emerge in the Atlantic off the northeast Florida coast near Jacksonville, then make landfall again in southeast Georgia or South Carolina and move north.

The EPC Domestic Emergency Relief Fund is accepting donations to assist churches in disaster areas with identified needs. To contribute, go to www.epc.org/emergencyrelief.

A daughter comes home: 1980s Ward Church plant merges with parent to become second campus

 

Several work days at Grace Chapel in Farmington Hills, Mich., helped prepare the facility for its merger with Ward Church in Northville, which planted Grace Chapel about 8 miles north of Ward’s campus in 1983. Following the October 9 launch service, the Farmington Hills campus will host a neighborhood party with food trucks, lawn games, and live music.

As a former standup comedian, Scott McKee is quick to point out that a church merger is no laughing matter. It requires a lot of prayer, planning, and hard work.

More than 18 months of planning and work will come to fruition on October 9 as Ward Church in Northville, Mich., and Grace Chapel in Farmington Hills, Mich., hold their first services together as a merged congregation—Ward Church in two campuses. McKee, Senior Pastor of Ward Church said the historic connection between the two congregations made the merger easier.

Scott McKee

“Grace Chapel is our daughter church,” McKee said. “Ward Church started Grace Chapel 40 years ago, so it’s an adult daughter. There was a family affection to say a daughter wants to come home. I don’t think it would have worked any other way. It’s a church we know. It’s a church we love. It had been without a pastor for four years, and our staff had already been out there helping them fill the pulpit. This is not a stranger. This is not a cold business decision. It is totally out of a relationship.”

It was out of that relationship McKee said the leadership of Grace Chapel originally approached Ward Church leadership asking for a “tighter partnership.”

“When they said, ‘We would like a tighter partnership,’ it didn’t initially mean multi-site. We talked about we could keep filling the pulpit for a while, how we could provide a video feed of our sermons, help with curriculum, and do bookkeeping,” McKee recalled. “So, we could on one end help fill the pulpit, or on the other end do a full-blown church adoption as a multi-site. Surprisingly, they went there pretty quickly.”

He added that Ward Church has been exploring multi-site ministry for some time, but the time “never seemed right” until now.

For such a time as this

“We have studied the multi-site model over the years, and thought about it, prayed about it, read books about it, but have never pulled the trigger,” McKee said. “There are reasons for that, and then Grace Chapel approached us. This is admittedly passive leadership. They came to us and said they would like a stronger partnership.”

Roy Yanke, Executive Director of PIR Ministries who served Grace Chapel as a Ruling Elder and Transitional Pastor, said the merger will assist the Farmington Hills congregation as it continues to reach its mission field for Jesus Christ.

Roy Yanke

“One of the challenges that Grace Chapel experienced over the last few years is that we became a far more ‘drive-in’ church than what it had been when planted 40 years ago,” Yanke said. “The adoption back into the Ward family will mean that there will be new energy and a larger pool of believers to engage in reaching people for Jesus. The mission field for Grace has always included our annual outreach to Appalachia, and that has been folded into the overall work of the Ward family—which is exciting.”

Yanke said one of several factors leading Grace Chapel to approach Ward about merging was the struggle to find a permanent pastor.

“I know that many churches have experienced the same thing, which certainly contributes to the instability of a congregation over the long haul,” Yanke said. “I am absolutely convinced that the other factors that led to Grace needing to merge with Ward—all of the challenges the evangelical church has been dealing with for the last two and a half years—were very typical but could also be a very good thing in the long run.”

He added that much of the Farmington Hills congregation has committed to the church’s new chapter, though some have not.

From necessity to opportunity

“This is new territory for all of us, and the church cultures are very different. But those who are engaged are praying and working hard for a successful relaunch. This was initially a move out of necessity that became an opportunity for fresh ministry. We are trusting that the Lord will help us navigate the grief and loss of the particular expression of church as the Grace family, while at the same time ignite our hope for what He will do going forward.”

During a staff work day in August, (left to right) Karol Gee, Jane Black, and Alan Fisk pitch in to help prepare the Grace Chapel facility for its merger with Ward Church. Gee has served as Grace Chapel’s Administrative Assistant for 20 years. Black is Ward’s Student Ministry Administrative Assistant. Fisk is a Ruling Elder for Grace Chapel.

McKee noted that multi-campus ministry—though new to his tenure—is part of Ward’s history. When Bart Hess served as Ward’s pastor, the church had campuses in Detroit and Livonia. Hess served both churches simultaneously for 12 years, and during that time the Livonia campus grew to 5,000 members.

“Dr. Hess would give the sermon in Detroit, and then his wife, Margaret, would drive him out to the suburbs where he would give the sermon a second time. We were one church in two locations in 1956. No one had ever heard of that. We have history to draw upon.”

Yanke, who served as a pastor before leading PIR, brings a different kind of experience to the merger.

“In my own pastoral days I led a redevelopment-relaunch, and our mantra was a quote from Oswald Chambers: ‘Beware of harkening back to what you once were, when God wants you to be something you have never been before.’ A timely word for us all.”

by Tim Yarbrough
EPConnection correspondent

Staff and elders of both Ward Church and Grace Chapel spruced up Grace’s Farmington Hills campus inside and out in preparation for the October 9 launch of Ward Church Farmington Hills.

“In All Things” podcast episode 44 features reflections on a week of tragedy in Memphis

 

In episode 44 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” EPC Stated Clerk Dean Weaver and Assistant Stated Clerk Michael Davis discuss a week of tragedy and grief in Davis’s home city of Memphis, Tenn., following the murder of Eliza Fletcher and a series of shootings in the days following. The two also reflect on the commitment of EPC churches in the city to continue to proclaim the gospel in their community.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Hurricane Fiona slams Puerto Rico, EPC churches spared major damage

 

Hurricane Fiona, which made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 18, delivered flooding rains and an island-wide power outage. While two deaths on the island are attributed to the storm, the EPC churches on the island experienced no casualties. Those congregations are Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster (Westminster Presbyterian Church) in Bayamón, Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangélica en Añasco (Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Añasco), and Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangélica Mayagüez (Mayagüez Evangelical Presbyterian Church).

By September 22, power had been restored to about two-thirds of the U.S. territory.

“Our church in Bayamón is up and running,” Enid Flores, Westminster Ruling Elder said by email on September 22. “Añasco has no power as of yesterday, but they were good with no casualties. Mayagüez has been cleaning the falling trees which affected some houses, streets, and the Retreat Center, but they are in good hands and their building has power and water.”

Flores reported that power is still out in her area of Puerto Rico’s capital city of San Juan, but water service had been restored.

“The devastation is pretty serious at the south and center of the island,” she said. “But in God we trust, and I know He has a purpose.”

Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk, asked “our entire EPC family to pray for our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters as they minister to their communities in the aftermath of Fiona, even as they face their own recovery.”

The EPC Domestic Emergency Relief Fund is accepting donations to assist churches in disaster areas with identified needs. To contribute, go to www.epc.org/emergencyrelief.

August 2022 EPC financial report: PMA/POI support continues above projected budget

 

Through August 31, contributions to Per Member Asking (PMA) and Percentage of Income (POI) received by the Office of the General Assembly in fiscal year 2023 (FY23) total $381,841. The amount is $25,847 (7.3 percent) more than the $355,994 FY23 PMA/POI support projection to fund the EPC’s overall mission, vision, and strategic priorities. August PMA/POI contributions were $152,195. Fiscal year 2023 runs from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023).

FY23 PMA/POI support is $43,907 (13 percent) above the $337,934 contributed over the same period in FY21. In addition, the 12-month rolling average for contributions is $193,864 (1.5 percent) above the rolling average for August 2021.

“I am so very grateful that our churches continue to financially support the EPC at such a high level,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “I also want to publicly thank our staff at the Office of the General Assembly for their good stewardship, as our operating expenses through August are nearly $30,000 under budget.”

Of the $381,841 received, $76,368 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA/POI contributions, $999,303 in designated gifts were received through August 31. This total was $93,377 (10.3 percent) higher than the $905,926 in designated gifts received in the same period in FY22. 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, $974,198 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $225,105 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.

Commissioners to the denomination’s 42nd General Assembly in June 2022 approved a transition from the Per Member Asking (PMA) funding formula to a Percentage of Income (POI) model. Under PMA, churches were asked to contribute $23 per member to the Office of the General Assembly. The POI model is a request for churches to support the national level of the EPC with 1 percent of undesignated receipts. The shift will phase in over the next three years, with full POI implementation expected at the start of FY26 in July 2025.