Author Archives: EPConnection

About EPConnection

EPConnection is the news and information service of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, a denomination of Presbyterian, Reformed, Evangelical, and Missional congregations. To the glory of God, the EPC family aspires to be a global movement of congregations engaged together in God’s mission through transformation, multiplication, and effective biblical leadership, embodying Jesus’ love to our neighbors near and far.

WORLD Magazine names Andrew Brunson its 2018 “Daniel of the Year”

 

BrunsonWorldDanielAndrew Brunson has been named the WORLD Magazine “Daniel of the Year” for 2018. The publication gives the annual award to an individual who exhibits bravery in defense of God’s authority by helping the persecuted.

Brunson and his wife, Norine, were missionaries and church planters in Turkey for 23 years prior to his arrest on October 7, 2016. At the time of his detainment he was serving as pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church. His trial on charges of espionage, acquiring secret political and military information, attempting to destroy constitutional order, attempting to overthrowing the Turkish parliament, and membership in an armed terrorist organization began on April 16, 2018.

He remained imprisoned until July 25, 2018, when he was released to house arrest. On October 12, 2018, he was convicted on terrorism charges and released on time served. He and his wife, Norine, returned to the United States on October 13.

Click here for WORLD Magazine’s full-length feature on the Brunsons, their ministry in Turkey, details of his imprisonment, and their return to North Carolina.

Annual EPC Christmas offering supports Gratitude Gift Fund

 

GratitudeGiftBulletinInsertHorizontalThe Gratitude Gift, the EPC’s annual denomination-wide Christmas offering, supports the Gratitude Gift Fund. Donations to the offering provide financial assistance to retired EPC pastors and missionaries who need help to pay their out-of-pocket medical expenses. The Gratitude Gift Fund is funded solely by donations from EPC churches.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said he hears from Gratitude Gift recipients every year.

“The cards and emails from retired EPC ministers all say the same thing: they are so thankful for the Gratitude Gift,” he said. “Many times, their message is ‘I don’t know where I would be without it.’ I hope all of our churches will participate in this opportunity to bless those who have served our Lord so faithfully.”

To help facilitate the annual Christmas offering, bulletin inserts are available in printable PDF format at www.epc.org/donate/gratitudegift. Gratitude Gift offering envelopes also are available at no cost to EPC churches at www.epc.org/donate/gratitudegiftenvelopes.

Donations also can be made online at www.epc.org/donate/gratitudegift, via text-to-give from any smart device by texting “epcgratitudegift” to 50155, or by sending a check with “Gratitude Gift (042)” on the memo line to:

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

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Updated EPC online giving system provides simpler interface, text-to-give option

 

DonateTo better serve churches and individuals who donate online, the EPC has launched an updated and expanded online giving system. The upgrade provides a variety of features, including a simplified interface, text-to-give for users who donate via mobile devices, and the option for donors to increase their donation by a small percentage to cover processing fees.

Pat Coelho, Director of Finance and Administration, said the new platform is a welcome improvement.

“I think our donors will really like using this upgrade,” Coelho said. “I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked in the past few years when the EPC would add the features that we are now able to provide.”

Among the features are:

  • A simplified donation interface. Each EPC special project, World Outreach global worker, and World Outreach special project now has its own unique, fully secure webpage. Under the previous system, donors had to navigate a series of pulldown menus. With just a few clicks, donors can easily find a global worker or ministry project to support (including Per Member Asking) and set up an online donation—including recurring gifts, if desired—by credit card or ACH.
  • Text-to-give. Each special project and World Outreach global worker has a unique “keyword” that donors can use to give quickly and easily from a mobile device.
  • Donor information will automatically link to the EPC database, making reporting easier and more efficient.

Links to EPC funds—including Per Member Asking, Special Projects, Holiday Offerings, and Emergency Relief—are available at www.epc.org/donate. Links to World Outreach global workers and projects are available at www.epcwo.org/support.

Illustrated step-by-step instructions for setting up secure recurring donations are available at www.epc.org/donate/setup.

November Jeremiah Journal describes early work of Revelation 7:9 Task Force

 

In the November 2018 edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah discusses the early stages of the Revelation 7:9 Task Force’s work. This interim committee was appointed by the Moderator at the direction of the 38th General Assembly in June 2018.

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

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

 

Revelation 7:9 Task Force begins work

 

Revelation79TaskForce

Members of the EPC Revelation 7:9 Task Force met at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando, November 13-14. The group was appointed by Moderator Tom Werner (standing) in response to a recommendation approved by the 38th General Assembly “to study how the EPC can better become a denomination that faithfully embraces and serves its neighbors from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9).”

In its first face-to-face meeting, the group discussed the scope of its work, reviewed preliminary results of an online survey sent to EPC pastors in October, and explored a variety of opportunities and potential challenges that could inform their work over the next two years.

“I am excited about the work of the Task Force,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Their first year can be summed up in one word: Input. They are not working in a vacuum, but seek to learn about our churches and communities from pastors and leaders in the EPC, as well as glean from the experiences of other denominations and organizations that have navigated these same waters in recent years.”

The Task Force is co-chaired by TE Rufus Smith, Presbytery of the West; and TE Dean Weaver, Presbytery of the Alleghenies. Members are TE Tom Clymer, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Marc de Jeu, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; TE David Dwight, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Enid Flores, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; Phyllis Le Peau, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Soon Pak, Presbytery of the Midwest; Beth Paz, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; Brandon Queen, Presbytery of the Gulf South; TE Tim Russell, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Tom Werner, Presbytery of Mid-America; and Ted Winters, Presbytery of Mid-America.

Thanksgiving offering to support church planting in under-resourced areas

 

2018ThanksgivingOfferingBulletinInsertThe 2018 EPC Thanksgiving Offering has been designated for church planting efforts in under-resourced areas. The EPC has 42 active current church plants, only seven of which are currently targeting these types of neighborhoods.

“Only one in six of our active church plants are in underserved areas,” said Tom Ricks, Chair of the EPC Church Planting Team. “Our generous gifts will help that number increase as we seek to share God’s love in areas that have been neglected for far too long.”

To help facilitate contributions from churches, a bulletin insert is available in printable pdf format on the EPC website.

The annual Thanksgiving Offering supports a project approved by the General Assembly each June, alternating between World Outreach and Church Planting/Revitalization.

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 how churches can be a Parent, Partner, or Patron of EPC church planting, contact Ricks at tom@greentreechurch.com.

 

Student mission conferences offer unique worldview experiences

 

High school and college-aged students—as well as their leaders—have multiple opportunities in the coming months to be encouraged, equipped, and challenged to dig deeper into the God’s Word and His heart for the nations. For more information about any of these conferences, contact Cassie Shultz, EPC World Outreach Church Liaison, at cassie.s@epcwo.org or 407-930-4314.

EPC Summer Mission Jam
June 24-29, 2019—Fremont, Calif.
July 8-13, 2019—Hamtramck, Mich.

SummerMissionJam2019Summer Mission Jam is a mission and outreach equipping conference for high school groups. Participants will work alongside EPC partner churches to minister to Muslim peoples in these two cities. Registration is $480 and includes lodging and meals (except dinner on Monday).

A minimum of 80 registered students is required by November 15 in order to host this event; students, leaders, or youth groups interested can complete a brief online survey to learn more and indicate interest in either the California or Michigan event.

Urbana
December 27-31, 2018—St. Louis, Mo.

Urbana2018Held every third December, Urbana is a global mission conference that creates a sacred space for college students to learn more about missions and discern God’s call for their life. Among the speakers is the EPC’s own Beth Paz, Director of High School Ministry for First Presbyterian Church in Fresno, Calif.

Registration is $515 until November 15; $615 after that date; lodging is approximately $125 plus taxes. The EPC Next Generation Ministries Council provides a limited number of $150 scholarships to students interested in attending; go to www.epc.org/nextgen/urbanascholarshipapplication for details and to apply. Learn more about this potentially life-changing conference at www.urbana.org.

Cross Conference
January 2-5, 2019—Louisville, Ky.

CrossConference2019Cross Conference is a global missions conference for college students that focuses on reaching the unreached peoples of the world. Registration is $119 until November 30, and $139 until registration closes on December 18, 2018. Lodging is approximately $116 plus taxes. The EPC Next Generation Ministries Council provides a limited number of $40 scholarships to students interested in attending; go to www.epc.org/nextgen/crossconferencescholarshipapplication for details and to apply. Learn more about this exciting conference at www.crossforthenations.org.

In the short video below, David Platt, Pastor-Teacher for McLean Bible Church in McLean, Va., and former President of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, explains why Cross is not just for those who sense a personal call to serve on the mission field.

Fund established for Andrew Brunson recuperation/recovery

 

WelcomeBackAndrewFundThe EPC has established a fund to assist Andrew and Norine Brunson in their recovery from their two-year ordeal in Turkey. Andrew will serve as Missionary-in-Residence at Christ Community Church in Montreat, N.C., for one year, and gifts to the fund—dubbed the “Welcome Back, Andrew! Fund”—will be sent to the church to finance the position. Christ Community Church is the Brunsons’ home congregation.

Richard White, Pastor of Christ Community Church, said the role was designed and created specifically for Andrew and Norine.

“With the challenges of resettling back in the U.S. after 25 years in Turkey—plus the crush of requests we knew he’d receive—we wanted to provide Andrew and Norine the opportunity of a safe place to rest and recover,” he said. “Andrew’s primary responsibility as our Missionary-in-Residence will be to heal, and then to discern God’s direction for their future.”

In addition to compensation and benefits, donations to the fund will cover court costs Andrew incurred with his conviction in Turkey of terrorism charges; relocation expenses; a travel allowance to help the Brunsons reconnect with their adult children (who live in three different parts of the U.S.); and seek the medical and spiritual help they will need in the months ahead.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said the goal is to raise $160,000 and the fund will be closed when the target is reached.

“Throughout Andrew’s 25 months of unjust incarceration in Turkey, churches and individuals constantly contacted our office asking if they could provide financial help to the Brunsons,” he said. “Our response up to now has been that the time had not yet come, but we will be ready when it does. Now is that time.”

The fund was authorized by the EPC National Leadership Team. The Session of Christ Community Church approved the position on October 22, and Andrew accepted the offer on October 27.

“Let’s build on the memorable prayer, fasting, and advocacy efforts we made for Andrew and Norine by supporting the Missionary-in-Residence position at Christ Community Church,” Jeremiah added.

Click here to donate to the Welcome Back, Andrew! Fund.

November 1-30 is EPC Benefits Open Enrollment

 

BRIlogo-96dpiRGBNovember is Open Enrollment month for EPC Benefit Resources, Inc. and the time of year when the 2019 benefit offerings, plan changes, and rates are introduced. All changes made during open enrollment will be effective January 1, 2019. Open enrollment is the annual enrollment period when churches and eligible individuals can enroll in the EPC’s Benefit Plans:

  • Eligible individuals can enroll in the EPC Benefits for the first time.
  • Eligible individuals can make changes to their benefit selections for 2019.
  • Churches can enroll in EPC Benefits for the first time.
  • Churches can change their employee offerings for 2019.

Bart Francescone, BRI Executive Director, said changes have been made to certain Medical and Prescription Drug Plans so participants should review the 2019 Plans before making selections for next year.

“Open Enrollment is a ‘passive’ process, meaning you will automatically retain your 2018 benefit elections unless you actively chose a new plan or decline an existing coverage,” he said. “Make sure you have completed all that is required by the submission deadline of November 30 so your coverage will continue uninterrupted as of January 1, 2019.”

Individuals currently enrolled in the EPC Benefit plans may contact their church administrator, Clerk of Session, and/or those overseeing the implementation of terms of call for information on the benefits offered by their church.

For more information, see www.epc.org/benefits/2019openenrollment or contact the EPC Benefits Admin Office at 877-578-8707 or EPC@cdsadmin.com.

General Assembly sermons, reports, Leadership Institute plenary session videos now available

 

GA2018VideosScreenshotVideo recordings of the 38th General Assembly at Hope Church in Memphis, Tenn., are now available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/ga/ga2018recordings. Speakers include:

  • Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary.
  • Jacqueline Furnari, daughter of Andrew Brunson.
  • Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk.
  • Eli Morris, Senior Associate Pastor of Hope Church, Cordova, Tenn.
  • Ken Priddy, Executive Director of the GO Center.
  • Tom Ricks, Chair of the EPC Church Planting Team.
  • Jennifer Ross, Director of Matthew’s Ministry at Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City.
  • Rufus Smith, Senior Pastor of Hope Church, Cordova, Tenn.
  • Greg Thompson, Director of Research and Strategy for Clayborn Reborn in Memphis.
  • Dean Weaver, Moderator of the 37th General Assembly.
  • Tom Werner, Moderator of the 38th General Assembly.

The videos also are available on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80 in the playlist “38th General Assembly.”

#epc2018ga

EPC Chaplain Endorser participates in religious freedom award presentation

 
ChaplainTorchbearerAward

EPC Chaplain Endorser Mark Ingles with Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo), recipient of the 2018 Chaplain Alliance Torchbearer Award

The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Freedom presented its 2018 Torchbearer Award to Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) for her work in protecting the religious liberties of all military personnel and the chaplains that support them. Mark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser, is a founding member of the Chaplain Alliance and attended the September presentation in Washington, D.C.

“It was amazing to share the room with Rep. Hartzler,” Ingles said. “She so strongly advocates for religious freedom, and being there when she received this honor was so moving. It was an evening to remember.”

Hartzler chairs the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Armed Service Committee, and also is chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Values Action Team, a group of lawmakers dedicated to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

Col. Phil Wright, now-retired U.S. Army Chaplain and Director of the Chaplains Alliance, said Hartzler “has strongly defended the military’s vocal support for our first freedoms and decisively taken action when the religious liberty of service personnel has been threatened. No one in our armed forces should be denied the ability to exercise the very freedoms they have volunteered to defend, even with their life. Her commitment not only benefits our chaplains and our armed forces, but their families, communities, and the entire country.”

Other who attended the presentation included Sen. Roy Blunt (R- Mo.), co-chair of the Senate Values Action Team; Michael Berry, Director of Military Affairs for the First Liberty Institute; Emile Kao, Director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society; Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.); as well as numerous other denominational Chaplain Endorsers.

The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty is an organization of chaplain endorsers (the faith groups that provide chaplains for the U.S. military and other agencies needing chaplains). The endorsers in the Chaplain Alliance collectively endorse more than two-thirds of the 5,500 military chaplains serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Executive Pastor/Church Administrator Roundtable features church communications expert Mark MacDonald

 

XPGatheringAt the first of two EPC Executive Pastor/Church Administrator Roundtable workshops held this fall, veteran church communicator Mark MacDonald discussed the importance of strategic, intentional communications to a local church’s efforts in effectively reaching its community as well as its members and attendees.

MacDonald is Executive Director of the Center for Church Communication, and is author of the Amazon best-seller Be Known for Something. He serves as Strategic Communication Catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, which serves more than 3,000 Florida Southern Baptist Churches.

The roundtable, now in its sixth year, is a two-day workshop for EPC executive pastors, church administrators, and others in senior ministry operations leadership positions.

Phil VanValkenburg, EPC Chief Operating Officer, hosts the event each year.

“We believe in the biblical principle that ‘iron sharpens iron,’ and this event is an opportunity for our church leaders to hear from their peers who face many of the same issues as they do in their ministries,” VanValkenburg said. “As we continue to focus on effective biblical leadership as one of our strategic initiatives, by being ‘better together’ we glean from each other’s experience—and our churches receive the benefit.”

Twenty-four EPC church leaders participated in the workshop October 18-19 in Denver, Colo. Participants discussed their specific ministry victories and challenges, shared best practices on a variety of topics related to church administration, and networked on such issues as technology systems, personnel, culture, vision and strategy, finance, generosity, and many others.

The workshop is a resource of the Office of the General Assembly. The second roundtable takes place November 1-2 in Orlando. For last-minute registration possibilities, contact marti.brenner@epc.org.

Emergency fund launched for Hurricane Michael relief

 

HurricaneMichaelReliefThumbnailThe EPC has launched an emergency relief fund to help relieve suffering caused by Hurricane Michael in the southeastern United States—particularly the Florida panhandle. Donations to the fund will be sent to EPC churches in areas affected by the storm for identified needs.

“This storm blew up in a matter of hours to become the third-most powerful storm to ever hit the U.S.,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Many EPC churches were in the path of Michael. Members of those churches will have opportunity in the coming days and weeks to be the hands of feet of Christ to one another and to hurting people in their communities.  Our donations to this fund will help them in this redemptive work.”

As of October 14, the death toll has climbed to 19 people with dozens still missing. More than 700,000 people also remain without power across six states.

Click here to donate online (Choose “Emergency Relief” from the first pulldown menu and “Hurricane Michael Relief (511)” from the second pulldown menu,) or make check payable to Evangelical Presbyterian Church and designated “Hurricane Michael Relief,” and send to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

Contributions are tax-deductible, and donations that exceed directly related disbursements may be transferred to the general EPC Emergency Relief Fund to be used for other humanitarian emergency relief needs.

To help publicize the Hurricane Michael Emergency Relief Fund, bulletin inserts in downloadable PDF format are available in several sizes at www.epc.org/emergencyrelief.

Thank you for providing help to those in need.

Brunsons leave Turkey, to have Oval Office meeting with President

 
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Andrew and Norine Brunson board an aircraft at a private terminal at Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport in western Turkey on October 12. The Brunsons are scheduled to arrive in the United States on October 13. (Photo credit: Family Research Council)

Andrew and Norine Brunson left Turkey on a military aircraft late on October 12, local time. They are expected to arrive at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, D.C., on Saturday, October 13, after a stop at the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. The Brunsons are expected to then go to the White House for a meeting with President Trump.

“This is the day our family has been praying for,” Andrew said in a statement. “I am delighted to be on my way home to the United States. My entire family thanks the President, the administration, and Congress for their unwavering support.”

Trump was in Cincinnati, Ohio, for a campaign stop when told the military aircraft carrying the Brunsons had cleared Turkish airspace.

“We’re very honored to have him back with us,” the President said. “He suffered greatly.”

Brunson was convicted of terror-related charges and sentenced to three years, one month and 15 days in jail earlier on October 12. The judge then reduced the sentence to time served on good behavior, ordered him released, and lifted the house arrest and international travel ban.

After the ruling, the Brunsons went to their home in Izmir for several hours before being driven to the Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport in western Turkey.

Brunson is an EPC Teaching Elder from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey since 1993. He was originally detained on October 7, 2016, and held until July 25, 2018, when he was released from prison to house arrest. Brunson was indicted in March 2018 on charges of being a “member and executive” of the Gülen organization and supporting outlawed Kurdish militants. He faced up to 35 years in prison if found guilty of all the charges.

Administration, others celebrate Andrew Brunson release

 
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Andrew Brunson (left, wearing red tie and glasses) leaves the court in Aliağa, Turkey on October 12 after being convicted of terrorism charges but released on time served. (Photo: AP / Emre Tazegul)

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and others took to social media to celebrate the release of Andrew Brunson on October 12. Brunson was convicted by a Turkish court on terrorism charges and sentenced to 37 months in prison. The judge reduced his sentence to two years for good behavior, and ordered Brunson released on time served.

He was originally detained on October 7, 2016, and held until July 25, 2018, when he was released from prison to house arrest.

Brunson is scheduled to be flown to a U.S. air base in Germany by military transport on October 12 before returning to the United States.

In a statement to the court before the verdict was issued, Brunson tearfully refuted all the allegations.

“I’m an innocent man,” he said. “I love Jesus. I love this country.”

Brunson’s defense attorney, Ismail Cem Halavurt, said the verdict was “the best of a bad situation. He is going to go (to the United States) but I hope he is able to come back. He is someone who absolutely loves Turkey.”

RELEASED! Andrew Brunson convicted but released on time served; return to U.S. expected soon

 
AndrewBrunsonCourtTransport

Andrew Brunson (center) is shown being transported from his home in Izmir, Turkey, to the court in Aliağa on October 12.

A Turkish court lifted the house arrest and international travel ban against EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson on October 12, while sentencing him to 3 years, 1 month, and 15 days on charges that he assisted the Fethullah Gülen organization. The Turkish government blames Gülen for the failed July 2016 coup attempt and considers the organization a terrorist group.

By removing the travel restrictions, Brunson is free to leave Turkey.

The October 12 hearing was Brunson’s fourth appearance in court.  At the close of the proceedings, the prosecutor asked for a 10-year sentence but requested that the court release Brunson from house arrest and lift the international travel ban.

“Finally, after two long years, Andrew has been released,” said EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah. “God has shown Himself faithful—as He always does—to Andrew, Norine, and their family, as well as to the thousands and thousands of people who have been praying for the Brunsons for so long. Let’s continue to pray for their safety and quick departure from Turkey.”

Turkish and other international media reported that at several prosecution witnesses retracted earlier statements during the October 12 hearing in Aliağa, Turkey.

News media around the world began reporting on October 11 that a “secret deal” between the U.S. and Turkish governments had been reached. Under the agreement, Brunson would be released after certain charges against him were dropped, in return for a commitment by the U.S. to ease economic pressure on Turkey. It is unclear if the October 12 decision is in response to the reported pact.

Brunson is an EPC Teaching Elder from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey since 1993. He was originally detained on October 7, 2016, and held until July 25, 2018, when he was released from prison to house arrest. Brunson was indicted in March 2018 on charges of being a “member and executive” of the Gülen organization and supporting outlawed Kurdish militants. He faced up to 35 years in prison if found guilty of all the charges.