Category Archives: Andrew Brunson

2019 Leadership Institute, 39th General Assembly worship service recordings available

 

GA2019VideosVideo recordings of the 39th General Assembly are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/ga2019recordings. Included are the Leadership Institute plenary sessions, worship service speakers, and several permanent committee verbal reports.

The videos feature Andrew and Norine Brunson; Doug Webster; Brad Strait, Lead Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church (the Assembly host church); Léonce Crump Jr., Senior Pastor of Renovation Church in Atlanta, Ga.; Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk; Mark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser; Tom Ricks, Chairman of the EPC Church Planting Team; and more.

In addition, audio recordings of most of the Leadership Institute breakout sessions and select Networking Lunches are available.

New for 2019 is that these Leadership Institute sessions and Networking Lunch recordings also are available in podcast form on Spotify and iTunes—search for “Evangelical Presbyterian Church.”

“I hear from more than a few people each year that they have a hard time deciding which seminar to attend because there are so many quality, relevant topics,” Jeremiah said. “We tried to address that this year by making the sessions available in podcast form for the first time. So for those who could not get to Denver for the event, they can get this training on their smartphone or other device.”

The videos also are available on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80 in the “39th General Assembly” playlist.

#epc2019ga

GA worship speakers include Andrew Brunson, Léonce Crump, Brad Strait

 

GA2019ThemeArt-WebBannerThe EPC’s 39th General Assembly features a dynamic slate of worship service speakers. This year’s Assembly will be held June 18-21 at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in suburban Denver, Colo.

  • Chris Piehl, Cherry Creek Pastor of Students and Families, will speak prior to the opening business session at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 19.
  • Léonce Crump Jr., Senior Pastor of Renovation Church in Atlanta, Ga., will preach on Wednesday evening, June 19.
  • Brad Strait, Cherry Creek Senior Pastor, will deliver the message at the Morning Worship Service at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 20.
  • Andrew Brunson, who was imprisoned in Turkey from October 2016 until his release in October 2018, will preach in the Global Worker Commissioning Service on Thursday evening, June 20.
  • Tom Werner, Moderator of the 38th General Assembly, will lead the Moderator’s Service of Communion and Prayer at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, June 21.

“Every year, people who attend GA thank me for making sure that vibrant preaching and worship are so well integrated into our Assembly,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Pastors especially—even though they regularly and deeply study God’s Word—tell me how much they are refreshed and refueled through the GA worship services. I am excited about how God will speak to all of us through this year’s speakers.”

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Brad Strait

Brad Strait is the Senior Pastor of this year’s General Assembly host church. He has served as Chaplain for the Colorado House of Representatives, several fire and police departments, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Denver Rescue Mission. He holds several advanced degrees and teaches Leadership, Spiritual Formation, and Pastoral Counseling at Denver Seminary. He co-authored the EPC’s Leadership Training Guide: A Resource for Pastors, Elders, and Churches. He and his wife, Cathy, have been married for more than 35 years and have three adult daughters.

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Chris Piehl

Chris Piehl serves as Pastor of Students and Families for Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church.

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Léonce Crump Jr.

Léonce Crump Jr. is an author, international speaker, and the founder and Senior Pastor of Renovation Church in Atlanta, Ga. He has been in ordained ministry for nine years and holds graduate degrees from the University of Tennessee and Resurgence Theological Training Center. He is currently a Master of Divinity student at Reformed Theological Seminary and a member of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. He was an All-American wrestler and defensive end for the University of Oklahoma Sooners, and went on to play professional football for the New Orleans Saints. He and his wife, Breanna, have two daughters and one son.

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Andrew Brunson

Andrew Brunson and his wife, Norine, were appointed as missionaries to Turkey by the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP) in 1993. He transferred his ordination to the EPC’s Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic in 2010.

The Brunsons, who were applying for Turkish permanent residency, were detained on October 7, 2016, in the coastal city of Izmir (biblical Smyrna). Norine was released on October 19 but Andrew remained imprisoned. At the time of his arrest, he was serving as pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church.

On December 8, 2016, (after being detained for 63 days), Andrew was formally charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization” and sent to prison. On August 24, 2017, a Turkish court added three new charges, including gathering state secrets for espionage, attempting to overthrow the Turkish parliament and government, and trying to change the constitutional order. On March 21, 2018, the Turkish court accepted a 62-page indictment against Andrew and scheduled his first hearing for April 16, 2018.

Following each of the first three hearings in his trial (on April 16, May 7, and July 18, 2018), Andrew was returned to prison. Under consistent public and private pressure from the United States and others, the Turkish court released Andrew to house arrest on July 25, 2018, until the fourth hearing on October 12, 2018.

Following testimony in the fourth phase of his trial on October 12, 2018, the prosecution requested and received lifting of Andrew’s house arrest and travel ban. The judge issued a conviction, and imposed a sentence of 3 years, 1 month, and 15 days but released Andrew on the equivalent of time served. Andrew and Norine left Turkey later the same day.

On October 13, 2018, Andrew and Norine arrived in the United States. They and their family met with the President, Administration staff, lawmakers, and others in the Oval Office.

The Brunsons are currently serving in a recuperating capacity as Missionaries-in-Residence for their home church, Christ Community Church in Montreat, N.C.

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Tom Werner

Tom Werner is a Ruling Elder for Greentree Community Church in Kirkwood, Mo. A graduate of Depauw University, St. Louis University Law School, and Washington University Law School, he worked in law firms in St. Louis, followed by serving a St. Louis technology company as General Counsel and in various business capacities.

Werner served on the EPC Theology Committee and contributed to the EPC Leadership Training Guide. He has also served on the Ministerial Committee and as Moderator for the Presbytery of Mid-America, and has participated in mission projects to Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Honduras, and Albania. He and his wife, Susan, have been married for more than 40 years and have two adult children and three grandchildren.

Click here for more information about the 39th General Assembly, including daily schedules, links to online registration, and more.

May Jeremiah Journal offers 39th General Assembly highlights

 

In the May 2019 edition of the Jeremiah Journal, Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri provides some highlights of the upcoming 39th General Assembly, June 18-21 at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in suburban Denver, Colorado.

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.

2019 Leadership Institute features practical ministry helps, Andrew Brunson, noted prayer author Doug Webster

 

GA2019ThemeArt-WebBannerAndrew Brunson and Doug Webster are the keynote speakers for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s fifth annual Leadership Institute. The Institute is a strategic component of the EPC’s 39th General Assembly, to be held June 18-21 at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in suburban Denver, Colo.

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Andrew Brunson

The theme of this year’s annual meeting is “Unstoppable,” based on Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 7:7 to “keep on asking … keep on seeking … keep on knocking.” The theme connotes not only God’s sovereignty, but also the unstoppable, widespread prayer efforts since 2016 on behalf on Brunson, EPC Teaching Elder imprisoned in Turkey for nearly two years until his release in October 2018. Brunson will deliver the Leadership Institute plenary address on Wednesday morning, June 19.

DougWebster

Doug Webster

Webster is the Wednesday afternoon plenary speaker. He is an EPC Teaching Elder and Professor of Preaching at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala., who has written several books on prayer.

Each plenary session will include a moderated time for questions-and-answers.

On Tuesday, June 18, four full-day tracks (Children/Family Ministry Training, Youth Ministry Training, Chaplain Training, and Transitional Pastors Training), and four afternoon-only tracks (Leadership, Reformed Theology, Congregational Ministry, and Prayer), offer a variety of practical ministry enrichment seminars. Each of these sessions is facilitated by a noted leader in his or her field.

Children/Family Ministry Training:

  • The Challenge Facing Families Today
  • Transformational Family Ministry: Catch the Vision!
  • What the Church Can Do
  • Panel Q&A
  • What the Family Can Do
  • Networking Within Presbyteries/Next Steps
  • Keeping Kids Safe: A Culture of Safety
  • Premises Liability Issues

Unstoppable Youth Ministry:

  • Unstoppable Youth Worker: Self Care
  • Unstoppable Youth Ministry: Ministering in Times of Trial
  • Unstoppable Partnerships for Youth Ministry
  • Creating Intergenerational Relationships Through the Catalyst of Prayer
  • Creating a Culture of Prayer In and Around Your Student Ministry
  • Premises Liability Issues
  • Keeping Kids Safe: A Culture of Safety

Chaplains Workshop (Open to all GA Attendees):

  • Biblical Leadership and Decision Making
  • Perseverance and Pursuing God Through Suffering: Lessons from a Five-Time Brain Cancer Survivor
  • “Indivisible” Movie Showing
  • Misplaced Identity and its Impact on the Family
  • Sharing, Interaction, Discussion, Support (Chaplain Stories from the Field)

Transitional Pastors Training:

  • Transitional Pastor Training
  • Introduction to Transitional Ministry

Leadership (Afternoon-only):

  • Forming Leaders for the Life of the World
  • Leading as a Shepherd
  • Turning Sessions into Spiritual Communities
  • How to Get Sued

Reformed Theology (Afternoon-only):

  • The Church and Its Common Doctrine
  • Christ Our Head: How the Church Finds Its Origin, Identity, and Hope in Jesus Christ
  • The Church in the Old Testament
  • Common Grace: A Tool for Common Ground in the Public Square

Congregational Ministry (Afternoon-only):

  • Serving Jesus in the Ordinary (Small) Church Context
  • Understanding Individuals and Families with Disabilities
  • Every Church can Welcome Individuals and Families with Disabilities
  • Implications of the Trinity for Spiritual Formation

Prayer (Afternoon-only):

  • Prayers for Prodigals
  • Praying the Prayers of the Bible

Click here for more information on the Leadership Institute, including full seminar descriptions, times, and speaker bios.

Click here for more information about the 39th General Assembly, including links to online registration.

39th General Assembly registration open

 

GA2019ThemeArt-WebBannerOnline registration for the 39th General Assembly is now open. The Assembly meets June 18–21 at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in suburban Denver, Colo. The theme of this year’s annual meeting is “Unstoppable,” based on Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 7:7 to “keep on asking … keep on seeking … keep on knocking.”

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Andrew and Norine Brunson

The theme connotes not only God’s sovereignty, but also the unstoppable, widespread prayer efforts since 2016 on behalf on Andrew Brunson, EPC Teaching Elder imprisoned in Turkey for nearly two years following his detention in October 2016. Brunson is this year’s featured speaker for the Wednesday morning Leadership Institute plenary session and Thursday evening worship service. His wife, Norine, is the featured speaker for the Ministry Wives’ Luncheon on Thursday.

In keeping with the theme, a special interactive Prayer Walk will provide opportunity for attendees to take a 30-45 minute, self-guided experience through a variety of stations of prayer, reflection, and worship.

The annual Leadership Institute on Tuesday will have four full-day tracks (Children/Family Ministry Training, Youth Ministry Training, Chaplain Training, and Transitional Pastors Training), and four afternoon-only tracks (Leadership, Reformed Theology, Congregational Ministry, and Prayer).

Highlights of this year’s Leadership Institute tracks are legal experts offering tips on keeping children and church facilities safe in both the Children/Family Ministry and Youth Ministry tracks; sessions on biblical leadership and decision making from a five-time brain cancer survivor in the Chaplain’s Workshop, as well as a showing of the movie “Indivisible” followed by a discussion led by Darren and Heather Turner, whose story was told in the film; “Turning Sessions into Spiritual Communities,” led by EPC Teaching Elder Doug Resler in the afternoon-only Leadership Track; Scott Redd, President of Reformed Theological Seminary’s Washington, D.C. campus teaching “How the Church Finds its Origin, Unity, and Hope in Jesus Christ” in the afternoon-only Reformed Theology track; two sessions on ministering to individuals and families with disabilities in the afternoon-only Congregational Ministry track; and best-selling author James Banks leading two sessions on prayer in the afternoon-only Prayer track.

The Wednesday afternoon plenary speaker is Doug Webster, an EPC Teaching Elder who has written several books on prayer.

The first of five business sessions convenes on Wednesday afternoon, June 18, at 4:00 p.m. Business sessions continue on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; and Friday at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. (if needed).

Worship service speakers include:

  • Brad Strait, Senior Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church
  • Léonce Crump, Senior Pastor of Renovation Church in Atlanta, Ga.
  • Chris Piehl, Pastor of Students and Families at Cherry Creek
  • Tom Werner, Moderator of the 38th General Assembly

Numerous other gatherings are available that cover a wide variety of ministry interests, including Networking Lunches, World Outreach, Women’s Ministry, and more.

For complete information, see www.epc.org/ga2019.

39th General Assembly planning continues, speakers include Andrew and Norine Brunson

 
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Members of the EPC’s GA Core Team from the Office of the General Assembly met with staff and leaders of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in suburban Denver, Colo., on January 29. Cherry Creek is hosting the 39th General Assembly, June 18-21.

The 39th General Assembly will be held at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo., June 18-21, 2019. The theme of this year’s Assembly is “Unstoppable” based on Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 7:7 to “keep on asking…keep on seeking…keep on knocking.”

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said the theme has multiple applications to the EPC in 2019.

“‘Unstoppable’ reflects the unstoppable gospel and our unstoppable Lord,” he said. “In addition, through Andrew Brunson’s ordeal in Turkey we experienced ‘unstoppable’ in a tangible way for two years as we lived in a season of unstoppable prayer for Andrew’s release.”

Jeremiah noted that when discussions began for a theme for the 39th Assembly, Brunson was still being held in Turkey.

“We prayed fervently that Andrew would be out of prison before the 2019 Assembly, but if the Lord had other plans we wanted to ensure that we were reiterating an ‘unstoppable’ force of prayer for him and Norine.”

The Brunsons are among the speakers at this year’s Assembly. Andrew will be the Leadership Institute plenary speaker on Wednesday morning, June 19, and preach on Thursday evening, June 20, during the World Outreach Global Worker Commissioning worship service. Norine will speak at the Ministry Wives’ Lunch on Thursday, June 20.

Other worship service speakers include Brad Strait, Pastor of Cherry Creek; Chris Piehl, Pastor of Students and Families for Cherry Creek; and Tom Werner, Moderator of the 38th General Assembly. Additional speakers, including Leadership Institute breakout session leaders, will be announced in the coming weeks.

Registration for the 39th General Assembly opens April 1. For more information, see www.epc.org/ga2019.

Andrew and Norine Brunson to attend State of the Union address

 
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Andrew and Norine Brunson, pictured preparing to leave Turkey in October 2018.

EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson and his wife, Norine, will attend the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., on February 5. The North Carolina natives will be guests of U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). Tillis worked to help secure the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was held in Turkey for two years on charges of terrorism and espionage. Though innocent of the charges, he was convicted on October 12, 2018. He was released on the equivalent of time served and returned to the United States, where he met with President Donald Trump at the White House on October 13.

“The Brunsons demonstrated tremendous grace and unshakable faith during Andrew’s nearly two-year imprisonment and house arrest,” Tillis said in a statement released February 4. “His plight caused Americans from every corner to pray for his release and for leaders in both political parties to work together to apply pressure on the Turkish government to secure his return to American soil. It’s an incredible feeling that nearly one year after I first met Pastor Andrew Brunson in a Turkish prison, where he faced an effective life sentence, I now have the honor of welcoming him and his wife, Norine, as my special guests to the State of the Union.”

Trump will deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House of Representatives Chamber of the U.S. Capitol Building. The address is scheduled to begin at 9:00 p.m. EST.

Goal reached for Andrew Brunson recuperation fund

 
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Andrew and Norine Brunson, pictured as they are leaving Turkey on October 12, 2018.

Editor’s note: This article replaces an earlier version that contained potentially sensitive information.

As of January 2, the goal for the EPC’s “Welcome Back, Andrew!” Fund has been met. Donations to the fund will be used to assist Andrew and Norine Brunson in their recovery from their ordeal in Turkey. The Brunsons returned to the United States on October 13, 2018, following Andrew’s two-year imprisonment on charges of terrorism and espionage.

When the fund was launched in October, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah said the fund would be closed to new donations when the target was reached.

“I know I speak for Andrew and Norine—and Christ Community Church—that starting 2019 knowing that Andrew’s year of recovery is fully funded is an enormous blessing,” Jeremiah said. “I am thankful for so many churches and individuals who gave sacrificially so Andrew and Norine can have this time to recover and seek what God has for them in their next chapter of ministry.”

Andrew is serving as Missionary-in-Residence at Christ Community Church in Montreat, N.C.—his and Norine’s home church. Gifts to the fund are financing the position (which was designed and created specifically for the Brunsons) for one year. 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 medical and spiritual assistance as needed.

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.

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.

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

 
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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.

Pray for Andrew Brunson

 
BillCampbell

Bill Campbell

by William P. (Bill) Campbell

It was July 18, 2018. I sat in the cavernous Aliağa courtroom in Western Turkey, watching Andrew Brunson boldly testify to the gospel of salvation and forgive the Turkish officials for persecuting him without cause. It was a message that needed to be heard by everyone, I thought. I was glad so many were listening in: a group of officials and witnesses at the stand, the armed guards, and the entourage of reporters, Turkish pastors, and varied observers in the aluminum bleachers in back of the courtroom.

How powerful it would be if the world could catch the spirit behind Andrew’s words.

It can! Maybe not come from the flurry of news media that followed the hearing, or from the transcribed court proceedings that will serve as public record in Turkey. I am referring rather to the influence of your life and mine as we pray for Andrew’s release. Every day that Andrew is detained in Turkey and God’s people pray, it is not only the American government that is being influenced to action. The God who reigns over the nations also is being stirred to action—hopefully to free Andrew, impact Turkey, and change each of us. Our prayers are His pen through which He can transcribe truths on our hearts. Realize this:

  1. Andrew and the pastors in that courtroom set a high bar for boldness that should inspire us to be more fearless as we live for the Lord with all of our freedoms. In the courtroom, the pastor who interpreted for me had already offered himself as a witness in Andrew’s case. He knew that in so doing, he put himself under the careful scrutiny of a government that is making it very difficult to be a Christian. Each of the Turkish pastors present with me had already spent time behind bars because of their faith. At any point, one or all might face prison for the rest of their lives. And Andrew, if not released, faces a 35-year prison term. Interceding for such courageous believers can birth courage in our hearts.
  2. Andrew’s predicament can also remind us to pray for Turkey. Several days of conversations I had with Turkish believers revealed a deep-seated concern that Andrew’s case may be evidence of a growing anti-Christian sentiment in the country. According to accounts I heard, Turkish citizens who have offered even a mere suggestion on social media that they are not happy with the current situation in Turkey are often required to begin reporting every few days to a government office confirming that they are fully supportive of the government. One more slip and they may find themselves joining company with more than 150,000 others who have been detained or imprisoned on various charges since the attempted overthrow of the government in July of 2016. Surely as we pray for Andrew, we must pray for Turkey.
  3. When we pray for Turkey, we will quickly find ourselves praying for the world. Turkey is a gateway to both East and West. It was originally from Turkey that Christianity was launched around the globe. It was there also that the first seven councils of the church were held. Oddly, Turkey—the cradle of early Christianity—is now one of the least-Christian countries in the world. There are nearly as many active churches in the small town from which I write, Hendersonville, N.C., as there are in the entire nation of Turkey (about 250). Depending on how “Christian” is defined, Turkey is between 0.2 and 0.4 percent Christian. The stark contrast between what was and what is may seem depressing, but it should actually give us great hope. An old Korean proverb says, “Where water once flowed, it can flow again.” Let us pray for God to bless the beautiful land of Turkey and all of its people. Let us offer petitions to Him for that nation with this realization: what God has done before, God can do again. May Turkey continue as a democracy, may all peoples be welcome there, and may the Church flourish.
  4. Praying for Andrew may cause us to recognize how quickly we may lose our freedoms if we don’t stand strong in our faith. Sadly, the Church in America tends to be influenced by its culture more than it influences culture. We must once again heed the messages found in the letters to the seven churches as recorded in Revelation 2-3. By the way, each of these seven churches was situated in what is now Turkey. Only partially uncovered ruins remain in each location. But the truths in those letters live on. They call us to be genuine Christians—willing to follow Christ even when things are tough and when we face slander, opposition, and difficulty.

Conclusions for Today

It is natural to become discouraged in our prayers for Andrew as we experience delay after delay. It is supernatural, however, to realize that God is at work for good—even on Andrew’s behalf—and that our prayers are being heard. The sovereign God who used Joseph’s imprisonment (Genesis 39) as part of His greater purpose can and will use Andrew’s detention in ways we have not anticipated and may never fully understand. God is at work. And we must never give up.

 

Campbell serves as Pastor of Hendersonville Presbyterian Church in Hendersonville, N.C. He also is the founder and president of Scripture Awakening, a ministry that provides resources to help people read, study, and live the Scriptures. 

Prayer Guides and other resources, including an in-depth, 31-day prayer initiative for Andrew and Turkey, are available at www.epc.org/freepastorandrew.

EPC issues Call for Prayer and Fasting ahead of October 12 Andrew Brunson hearing

 

AndrewBrunsonPrayerGuide201810HorizontalThe trial of Andrew Brunson, EPC Teaching Elder imprisoned in Turkey since October 2016, resumes on Friday, October 12. In an effort to stand with and pray for the Brunson family, the EPC is issuing a Call to Prayer and Fasting for the week of October 8.

“Recent speculation in the media that Andrew could be released on October 12 should cause us to ramp up our prayer efforts,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “We all desperately want that outcome, so I hope that every one of our 600 congregations will participate in this week of prayer and fasting.”

Six specific prayers are suggested for the days leading to the October 12 hearing:

  • Pray for Andrew and Norine’s continued physical safety, as well as perseverance in prayer and protection from discouragement.
  • Pray for God to prepare all of the players in the trial: the prosecution, the defense, every witness, and Andrew himself. Pray for God’s wisdom to prevail over all aspects of the trial.
  • Pray for Andrew to be emboldened to give a clear gospel witness, and that those in attendance (including media, guards, attorneys, and others) would hear and understand the gospel message.
  • Pray for media representatives at the trial to be safe, and for journalists to write reports that will glorify God.
  • Pray that unless the Lord has a purpose in keeping Andrew in Turkey, that he will be released from his current house arrest, allowed the freedom to travel, and acquitted of the charges.
  • Pray that God will use the trial and its outcome to open doors for the gospel in Turkey.

Prosecutors in the case have asked for a 35-year prison sentence on charges that Brunson helped terrorist organizations and worked to convert Turks to Christianity.

A printable bulletin insert in pdf format with these Scripture prayers can be downloaded at www.epc.org/news/freepastorandrew.

Also available is an in-depth, 31-day prayer initiative for Andrew and the nation of Turkey, which was developed by EPC Teaching Elder William P. (Bill) Campbell. Campbell serves as Pastor of Hendersonville (N.C.) Presbyterian Church, and also is the founder of Scripture Awakening, a ministry that offers resources to help people read, study, and live the Scriptures. Campbell attended Andrew’s trial on July 18, 2018, in Aliağa, Turkey.

Senators, Administration, religious freedom council applaud Turkey court ruling as Brunson leaves prison for house arrest

 

In response to a Turkish court’s ruling July 25 to release Andrew Brunson from prison to house arrest, officials in Washington, D.C., have issued statements supporting the decision.

Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) issued a joint statement in which they called the move a “step in the right direction.”

“Today’s decision by the Turkish Court system to move Pastor Andrew Brunson from prison to house arrest is a step in the right direction and will help alleviate some of the unacceptable hardship and anguish Pastor Brunson and his family have endured over the last 20 months,” the senators said. “The Government of Turkey should now release Pastor Brunson and immediately return him to the United States, an action that would begin to restore the longstanding friendship between our two nations.”

The United States Council on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) also welcomed the court’s ruling.

“It is good that Pastor Brunson will have some relief after being held in a Turkish prison for more than 600 days,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga in the statement. “This is welcome news … but it is not enough. The Turkish government has deprived this innocent man of his due process rights and liberty for too long, and it must completely release him. If it fails to do so, the Trump Administration and the Congress should respond strongly and swiftly with targeted sanctions against the authorities responsible.”

Vice President Mike Pence tweeted on July 25 that house arrest was a positive development, but Brunson “should have been freed long ago.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said via Twitter on July 25 that the decision was “long overdue.”

Brunson left the prison at approximately 5:30 p.m. local time in Turkey (10:30 a.m. Eastern). Live television footage showed Brunson being put into a vehicle outside prison and driven away guided by a police motorcycle escort. His Turkish lawyer, Ismail Cem Halavurt , confirmed that Brunson will be required to wear an electronic ankle bracelet and is banned from leaving the country.

“These officials in Washington have been our ‘heroes on the Hill’ and have worked hard for Andrew’s release,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “But we need to remember that this is not over. Even though Andrew will be at his home in Izmir, he will be closely monitored and his movements will be restricted. We should continue to pray and advocate for his complete freedom until that time when he steps off the plane onto American soil.”

On July 23, Tillis and Shaheen announced a provision in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress assessing Turkey’s participation in the F-35 fighter jet program. The provision is based in part on legislation the three senators introduced earlier this year in response Brunson’s continued imprisonment and Turkey’s intention to purchase an S-400 missile system from Russia. Last week, they introduced a bill that would prohibit international loans to Turkey until the detention of U.S. citizens ends.

On July 24, Brunson’s daughter Jacqueline Furnari spoke to the U.S. State Department’s inaugural Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, hosted by Pompeo. Furnari’s 12-minute testimony can be watched below.

Click here to watch the full one-hour segment of the day’s proceedings. Furnari begins her talk at 20:30.