Changing the funding recommendation: an explanation


JeffJeremiah

Jeff Jeremiah

by Jeff Jeremiah
EPC Stated Clerk

On April 24, the National Leadership Team (NLT) reported to you the following recommendation:

The administration and strategic initiatives of the General Assembly ought to be supported by the giving of EPC churches. The expected giving amount from each church should be either $23 per member or one percent of that church’s annual budget. Following fiscal year 2020, the expectation is that all giving should be at the 1 percent level.

On May 23, the NLT announced this change to the recommendation:

The administration and strategic initiatives of the General Assembly ought to be supported by the giving of EPC churches.

Since May 23, many people have asked members of the NLT and me, “What happened?” The short answer is that the NLT asked, listened, and responded to you.

The feedback we received focused on two elements of the April 24 recommendation. The first was reaction to the word “Expected.” There was resistance by too many who took the word “expected” to mean “requirement” or “mandatory requirement.” We also heard, “By doing this, the NLT is moving the EPC to become a ‘top-down, bureaucratic denomination no different from the PC(USA).” The NLT was stunned. Their knee-jerk reaction was to delete “expected.”

There also was resistance to “one percent.” This came from our historically high-supporting Per Member Asking churches.

Per Member Asking (PMA) is the primary way our churches fund the budget of the national level of the EPC. For some of these churches, moving from PMA to one percent meant they would have to increase their giving. Those churches know how much they give, and they are aware of churches who are every bit as capable of giving but do not. They are justifiably frustrated with this situation. They have no interest in increasing their financial support until under-supporting churches step up. The NLT had no interest in antagonizing the churches who have faithfully invested in the EPC for years.

A secondary concern was this: A number of churches expressed support for the move to one percent of their budget because it would decrease their giving to the EPC. For the NLT, this was not the motivation we were looking for as we seek to fund a mission- and vision-driven denomination!

Based on these responses we received, the NLT pulled “expected” and “one percent” from the recommendation, leaving only the strategic initiatives portion of the original recommendation in the proposal. This begs the question, “Where did ‘expected’ and ‘one percent’ come from?” The short answer is that the NLT asked, listened, and responded.

At the end of 2015, support for Per Member Asking was at 61 percent of the goal. Two groups were mostly responsible for this shortfall. The first was a number of recent arrivals to the EPC who had to pay large ransoms in order to come to us. They were not yet in a position to support the EPC. The second group was comprised of some churches who have been in the EPC for a long time. They simply choose not to give, or give very little.

In January 2016, the NLT directed me to engage in what we called a “Listening Tour.” I’d talk with EPC church leaders about how they felt about their relationship with the EPC, let them know that the EPC is becoming a mission- and vision-driven denomination, and asked about their level of financial support to EPC. In April, the NLT received my partial report, and decided they needed more feedback than what I can glean from my one-on-one meetings. They decided to hold focus group meetings at our 2016 General Assembly, which were led by a communications consultant.

As a result of those focus group meetings, we found out there was strong support for funding the strategic initiatives—church planting, church revitalization, effective biblical leadership, and global movement—in the EPC budget. And there were two surprises.

First, we were told that “voluntary” giving to PMA is problematic. The word offered to replace it was “expected”—giving to the EPC should be “expected.”

Second, “PMA” itself is problematic. It’s not a good way to measure a church’s capacity to give. In its place was proposed one percent of a church’s budget.

The NLT received these results in August and asked, “Is this accurate?” We decided to survey the lead pastors of our 600 churches, as we wanted feedback from each church. The results of the survey:

  • Put the strategic initiatives in the EPC budget
  • “Voluntary” giving to the EPC is “problematic,” and “expected” was offered in its place.
  • “PMA” is “problematic,” and “one percent” was offered in its place.

The NLT asked, listened to what you said, and was confident that the original recommendation is what you wanted. We found out differently between April 24 and May 23.

Upon reflection, I realized this mistake. We did not serve you well in that we should have reported to you the results of the focus groups and survey in late October or early November. We could have done this and we didn’t.

In keeping with our “Generation to Generation” General Assembly theme, and paraphrasing Scott Griffin’s sermon in the Moderator’s Service of Communion and Prayer on June 23: I’m a Boomer. Reaching out to Builders: I apologize for that mistake. The buck stops here. Reaching out to the GenXers: I am not the “savvy guy” in this. Reaching out to the Millenials: The National Leadership TEAM will do better in the future.

Let me finish with good news.

Earlier, I reported that 2015 PMA was 61 percent of the goal. Simply by asking what you think about a mission- and vision-driven denomination and listening to what you’ve said, look at what has happened: 2016 Per Member Asking came in at 68 percent of the goal.

We still have work to do. I believe that an acceptable minimum level of support is 80 percent. We’ll keep working on this until you tell us otherwise.

Thank you, and God bless you!

#epc2017ga

Strategic Initiatives inclusion in EPC budget, special projects approved


Commissioners to the 37th General Assembly approved funding the strategic initiatives of church planting, church revitalization, effective biblical leadership, and global movement into the fiscal year 2018 budget for the EPC Office of the General Assembly. This marks the first year in which the strategic initiatives will be funded through the EPC operating budget. Since their inception in 2014, the initiatives have been funded through undesignated cash reserves.

The total approved July 2017–June 2018 (fiscal year, or FY18) budget for EPC operating expenses is $2,310,583. This amount includes $268,000 in direct funding of the four strategic initiatives, with $135,000 allocated for Church Revitalization; $120,000 for Church Planting; $8,000 for Effective Biblical Leadership; and $5,000 for Global Movement. 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.

The FY18 budget also includes $1,412,580 for personnel, including staff salaries and benefits, travel, and expenses; and $630,003 for general administration.

The 2017-18 budget represents an increase of $246,350 over the 2016 budget, made possible by some lower costs of operating in Orlando plus projected 5% growth in PMA contributions. Due to a migration from a calendar-year budget to a fiscal-year budget in January 2017, the 2016 budget was the most recent 12-month reporting period.

In addition, the Assembly approved Special Projects requests from the various ministries of the EPC totaling $771,500. These projects are funded from designated giving and are separate from the operating budget.

#epc2017ga

Jeff Jeremiah: “Let’s celebrate how Jesus has blessed who we are”


GA2017StatedClerkReportStated Clerk oral report to the 37th General Assembly
Jeff Jeremiah

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard this from leaders and churches who have come to the EPC during my time as Stated Clerk: “Jeff, we are out of Egypt, we have come to the Promised Land!” I heard it again just a couple of weeks ago. Why do newcomers say that? I think there are at least four reasons.

  • First, we are Reformed. We are biblical, confessional, and orthodox—but not hard-nosed or litigious.
  • Second, we are Evangelical. We have a clear focus on Jesus Christ and the gospel of salvation that is found only in Him.
  • Third, we are Missional. We’re committed to being outward-looking. We see our world, our country, and our community as a mission field.
  • And then there is this: The way we “do church” in our presbyteries and at our General Assembly meeting. We’ve heard this many, many times: “In the EPC you like each other, you care for each other, you trust each other.”

In the EPC we’re a “relational bunch.” It’s an expression of who we are. It’s an expression of our connectionalism. We aren’t in connection just because it’s convenient, or a good idea, or tradition. We’re committed to connectionalism because its biblical.

When I think of the quality of our connection, I think of the 29 or so “one anothers” of the New Testament: welcome one another, accept one another, be kind to one another, instruct one another, be subject to one another, encourage one another, forgive one another, build up one another, encourage one another, hold one another accountable, and of course, love one another.

Some of those “one anothers” are not easy. My experience of “bearing the burden” with our brother Andrew Brunson has been one of the most painful of my life. I’ve never met Andrew, but across the last eight months I find myself in a connection with him like I’ve never experienced. I wish I was in a position to keep you current on the situation in Turkey, but I can’t. I know many of you—and thousands across the EPC—are bearing the same burden and constantly praying for Andrew and Norine. Keep it up! Do not grow weary in doing good!

It is one thing to be a relational bunch when the bunch is 182 churches. It’s another when we have more than 600. That’s change with a capital “C.” But what has not changed is how we “do church.” Here’s what’s remarkable about that: Experts in the field declare that if an organization experiences as little as 4 to 5 percent growth in a year, its culture changes, its DNA is altered, it becomes a different organization. If that’s the case, according to the experts, the EPC ceased to exist about eight years ago. But that did not happen. There is only one person we can attribute that to: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I have represented you at the meetings of Presbyterian churches in our country and throughout the world. No one—no one—does church the way the EPC does. That’s Jesus’ gift to us. We do well to take good care—very good care—of this precious gift.

As we launch into the business of this General Assembly, let’s freely debate—even vigorously debate if we have to. Let’s also remember and celebrate the way our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed who we are: Reformed, Evangelical, Missional, and yes, Presbyterian: the way we “do church” together!

Pacific Northwest and Pacific Southwest presbyteries formed, Presbytery of Florida renamed


GA2017PresbyteryMapNewNWSW

The new Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest is shown in brown; the Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest is shown in green.

Commissioners to the EPC 37th General Assembly approved dividing the Presbytery of the Pacific into a new Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest and Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest, effective January 1, 2018.

Annie Rose, Ruling Elder from Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Warrenville, Ill., noted that this action would result in the Presbytery of the Pacific multiplying into two, to which Moderator Dean Weaver quipped, “As multiplication is one of our strategic initiatives, this certainly seems in order.”

The Presbytery of the Pacific is the EPC’s largest presbytery by area, and includes all of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, as well as the western portion of Idaho. Not including Hawaii, the presbytery stretches more than 2,600 miles from north to south and spans three time zones from east to west.

The new Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest will include Alaska, Oregon, Washington, the portions of Idaho and Montana west of the 114th meridian, and the portion of California north of a line 10 miles south of state highway 299.

The new Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest includes the entire states of Hawaii and Nevada; the portion of Arizona west of the 114th meridian; and the portion of California south of a line 10 miles south of state highway 299.

Using the most recent reporting numbers for the Presbytery of the Pacific, the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest will have 39 churches and approximately 7,000 members, while the Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest will include 30 churches and approximately 10,800 members.

Ron Bengelink, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Pacific, wrote when submitting the recommendation to the Assembly that both proposed presbyteries contain experienced and capable leadership since the Pacific’s Candidates Care, Ministerial, World Outreach, and Church Planting committees have been functioning with separate Northwest and Southwest teams for the past three years.

In a related presbytery boundary action, the border between the current presbyteries of the Pacific and West was amended to fall on the 114th meridian, effective July 1, 2017. The adjustment provides two benefits:

  • Accommodates a request from Kingman (Ariz.) Evangelical Presbyterian Church for travel convenience of church officers when attending presbytery meetings, and to recognize that most of its members are retired from California and have a strong affinity for that state .
  • Provides a rational and easily defined border between the two presbyteries.

The Assembly also approved an Overture from the Presbytery of Florida to change its name to the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. The basis for the change was that previous Assemblies have approved expanding the boundaries of the presbytery to include the Bahamas and Puerto Rico, and there are indicators that additional Caribbean churches may wish to join the EPC.

GA2017PresbyteryMapCurrent-114W

The boundary of the presbyteries of the Pacific (brown) and West (blue) becomes the 114th meridian on July 1, 2017. The current boundary is at left, the new boundary is at right.

#epc2017ga

Transitional Pastor call approved by 37th General Assembly


Creation of a new called position of Transitional Pastor was adopted by the EPC 37th General Assembly on June 22 at Fair Oaks Church in Sacramento, Calif. The action not only created and defined the Transitional Pastor position, but also clarified the role of Stated Supply Pastor in Section 10-7 of the Book of Government regarding temporary pastoral relationships.

Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk and former member of the Ministerial Vocation Committee, noted that the committee worked to more accurately reflect the role of an interim pastor in the life of both a local church and the EPC.

“The committee recommended changing the title of Interim Pastor to Transitional Pastor because it more accurately defines the task, and further establishes the role as a ‘call’ from the Session of a church,” Iamurri said.

The provisions of the call state that a Transitional Pastor:

  • Is called by the Session to serve a congregation while it is seeking a pastor.
  • Intentionally leads the congregation toward greater health and readiness for their next pastor.
  • Will ordinarily be appointed by the presbytery to moderate the Session during his or her time of service.
  • Would retain membership in his or her home presbytery, if different from that in which the call is located.
  • Are introduced to the receiving presbytery and enrolled as a corresponding member (voice but no vote) upon approval of the Ministerial Committee.

In addition, those called from outside the EPC would be examined by the presbytery and transferred according to applicable provisions of the Book of Government.

The Ministerial Vocation Committee will oversee the training, certification, and ongoing support of Transitional Pastors.

In clarifying the Stated Supply position, the action allows churches that do not want a transitional pastor to still invite a minister to serve as Stated Supply, and for ministers from outside the EPC to serve as Stated Supply pastors without transferring their ordination to the EPC.

In related actions, the Assembly approved four amendments to the Book of Government:

  • Adjusted the wording in two sections related to the term of service for an out-of-bounds call to reflect that such term is renewable for up to three years. The amendment brings the two passages into alignment, limits the length of an out-of-bounds term to three years (with permission to continue renewable), and gives presbyteries discretion to set a shorter term.
  • A presbytery may authorize its Ministerial Committee to serve as a judicial or administrative commission, or be appointed as an ongoing administrative commission. The action allows the committee to dissolve pastoral relationships and dismiss Teaching Elders (according to the EPC Book of Order) when both the congregation and the Pastor concur; approve temporary pastoral relationships; review terms of call or invitations for all pastoral relationships (excluding out-of-bounds) to ensure that the terms meet the minimum established standards; ordain and/or install Teaching Elders in accordance with provisions in the Book of Government; and appoint advisors for Candidates Under Care and mentors for Commissioned Pastors.
  • Added the Transitional Pastor as a recognized pastoral relationship for Teaching Elders in a congregational setting.
  • Clarified that a Session may call a Teaching Elder as Assistant Pastor or Transitional Pastor, and is authorized to invite a Teaching Elder as Stated Supply Pastor or Occasional Supply Pastor—all of which must be approved by the presbytery since they involve a Teaching Elder.

#epc2017ga

EPC chaplains serve in a variety of ministries


GA2017ChaplainsIntroductionMark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser and Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the West, introduced the denomination’s chaplains to attendees of the 37th General Assembly in Sacramento, Calif.

Ingles noted that a chaplain can be defined as a spiritual representative attached to a secular institution.

“Chaplains provide calm in the midst of crisis and chaos,” he said. “They are on the front lines of ministry and at times carry the weight that falls on first responders. They make a difference emotionally, spiritually, and even physically.”

Among the 60 individuals who serve as EPC chaplains in settings around the world, 16 were in attendance at the Assembly on June 22 (pictured left to right):

  • Dana Perreard
    Campus Pastor and Associate Chaplain, University of Dubuque, Dubuque, Iowa.
  • Jason Riggs
    G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center, Salisbury, N.C.
  • John Torres
    105th Airlift Wing, Stewart Air National Guard Base, Newburgh, N.Y.
  • Daniel Situka
    Vitas Hospice Services, Houston, Texas
  • Helen Fransell
    Capitol Caring Hospice, Aldie, Va.
  • Karen Bolte
    Sutter Care at Home Hospice, Sacramento, Calif.
  • Josh Schatzle
    U.S. Navy Reserve Recruiting Command, Carbondale, Ill.
  • Tim Foster
    U.S. Navy Reserve, Cordova, Tenn., supporting U.S. Navy Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, San Diego, Calif.
  • Jennifer Prechter
    Arnold Palmer Children’s Medical Center, Orlando, Fla.
  • J. Werner
    50th Space Wing, Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colo.
  • John Richards
    301st Regional Support Group, Butler, Pa.
  • Dave Snyder
    U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command, Warren, Mich.
  • Bryan Knedgen
    406th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Ann Arbor, Mich.
  • Ted Tromble
    Aurora BayCare Medical Center, Green Bay, Wis.
  • Graham Baily
    509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
  • Jason Kim
    Being assigned to Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea.

Also attending the Assembly but not pictured are:

  • Marty Carpenter, Candidate Under Care, Sanger, Calif.
  • Linda Thompson, Candidate Under Care, Northville ,Mich.

#epc2017ga

Church Planting Team offers highlights of work


GA2017ChurchPlantersPrayer

Commissioners pray for EPC church planters at the conclusion of the Church Planting Team report to the 37th General Assembly on June 22.

Tom Ricks, chair of the EPC Church Planting Team, presented several highlights of church planting efforts over the past year to attendees of the 37th General Assembly in Sacramento, Calif.

He reported there are currently more than 37 active EPC church plants.

“Since we are not a top-down organization that tells you how to do it, we don’t always know about every newly planted church,” he said. “I knew we had 37 active plants, but found out about three more since I got here—so I think we have 40!”

Reminding those in attendance that the vision for the EPC is that every church become a Parent, Partner, or Patron of a church plant, those in attendance heard from a church that has taken up the mantle of Partner in creative, innovative, and effective ways in a city with significant Muslim and Hindu populations.

He also reported on church planting networks in Brooklyn, Detroit, the New Orleans/Gulf Coast region, Memphis, Denver, and the San Francisco Bay area. These networks provide resources and support to church planters, as well as focused training, nurturing, and equipping.

For more information about EPC church planting, see www.epcchurchplanting.org or contact Ricks at tom@greentreechurch.com.

#epc2017ga