Category Archives: Church Revitalization

Commissioners to 38th General Assembly approve Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality, re-elect Stated Clerk, propose Commissioned Pastor revision

 

GA2018BannerCommissioners to the EPC’s 38th General Assembly approved 26 recommendations, declined two others, and for procedural reasons took no action on an additional five. The Assembly was held June 19-22 at Hope Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn.

TomWerner

Tom Werner, 38th GA Moderator

Recommendations that were approved include a Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality, the re-election of Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah to a new three-year term, proposed changes to the role of Commissioned Pastor, and more. Commissioners also welcomed seven new churches to the EPC since last year’s Assembly; elected Tom Werner, Ruling Elder from Greentree Community Church in St. Louis, Mo., as Moderator; and elected Case Thorp, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean, as Moderator-Elect. Thorp serves as Senior Associate Pastor for First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla.

Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality approved

The Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality is a companion document to the Position Paper on Human Sexuality that was approved by the 36th General Assembly in 2016 and ratified by the 37th Assembly in 2017. The 36th General Assembly, meeting at Ward Church in Livonia, Mich., also approved the formation of an interim committee to write the Pastoral Letter. The committee held several listening sessions at the 37th General Assembly in Sacramento. The preliminary draft was released in January 2018 to Teaching Elders and Sessions for comment.

Sandy Willson, Interim Committee Chair, reported that the draft also was sent to “select outsiders who have particular expertise, training, and personal experiences that would qualify them to provide feedback. The men and women consulted included persons with personal and professional experiences with same-sex attraction, physical and sexual abuse, terminal degrees in counseling, and experience in theological education.”

The Letter was approved by unanimous vote of the Assembly.

Commissioned Pastor expansion proposed

The recommendation to expand the role of Commissioned Pastor was presented by the EPC’s Interim Committee on Ministerial Education (ICME), with the affirmation of both the permanent Ministerial Vocation Committee (MVC) and the Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC). If ratified by the EPC’s presbyteries, the recommendation will allow a Commissioned Pastor to serve on a church staff that has an ordained Teaching Elder serving as Pastor.

A Commissioned Pastor is a Ruling Elder who has been temporarily authorized by a presbytery and given the authority of a Teaching Elder. The role was previously reserved only for a congregation without a Pastor, mission churches, church plants, or chaplaincy roles in hospitals, hospices, prisons, or other institutions.

Michael Flake, MVC Chair reported approximately 40 Commissioned Pastors currently serve in the EPC.

“Almost all of these serve in their home church,” he said. “These are churches that do not have a Pastor, and one of their Ruling Elders will agree to be examined by the presbytery and become a Commissioned Pastor.”

He said one of the benefits of a Commissioned Pastor is that a church with this type of stable leadership is more likely to not only stabilize but also become healthy and grow to the extent that they can then call a Teaching Elder.

“Unfortunately,” Flake said, “in our current way of doing things when that happens the Commissioned Pastor is out of a job because we have no provision for having a Commissioned Pastor in a church with a Teaching Elder.”

Allowing a church to have both a Teaching Elder and a Commissioned Pastor “would continue to recognize the calling that God has placed in certain Ruling Elders’ lives—acknowledging what God is already doing,” Flake said, adding that it also could help with pastoral burnout by giving a Teaching Elder an opportunity to have a Ruling Elder step in and help with certain pastoral duties. He emphasized that a Commissioned Pastor would still be subject to the approval of the presbytery.

ICME Chair Fred Lian noted that the recommendation allows the presbytery—which can mandate theological continuing education for the Commissioned Pastor—to “invest in our Ruling Elders who have been called to a more fuller role of ministry to their churches and their communities.”

Because the Assembly-approved recommendation proposes changes to the EPC’s Book of Government, it is now Descending Overture 18A. Each of the EPC’s 14 presbyteries will vote on the Overture at their winter 2018 meeting, having discussed it at their fall meeting. Presbyteries may debate its substance, but the Overture may not be amended. To be presented for adoption at the 39th General Assembly, 11 of the 14 presbyteries must approve the Overture.

Stated Clerk re-elected

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Jeff Jeremiah

Jeremiah was elected to a fifth term as Stated Clerk. He has served as the EPC’s Chief Executive Officer since 2006.

“I am so very grateful to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving me this ministry that you have just confirmed for three more years,” Jeremiah said following his unanimous re-election. “This will be my last term as the Stated Clerk. In the next three years, I will do all that I can to help prepare for the future of the EPC. I love you, and want God’s very best for you—and for us—when I lay this ministry down.”

He challenged the “Boomers” in attendance—those born between the early 1940s through the mid-1960s—to support, mentor, encourage, and champion the younger men and women in the EPC.

“We must do this if we are going to secure the future of the EPC as a mighty instrument used by God for the expansion of His Kingdom in this place and around the world,” Jeremiah said.

He said his other goal in his last term was to continue to work on behalf on Andrew Brunson. He referenced Luke 18—where Jesus addresses the issue of counting the cost—reflecting on the nearly two years since the EPC Teaching Elder was imprisoned in Turkey.

“How could we have counted the cost then, when we had no idea what was ultimately going to happen and how long this would take?” he asked. “The only answer I have is that there some tasks that our Lord calls us to, and we do them. I will admit that this task has been costly, but I bear that cost knowing that it is what God has called me to.”

Jeremiah described his relationships with numerous U.S. Government officials that he has developed over the 20 months since Brunson’s incarceration.

“I have been amazed by the doors the Lord has opened for us in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “But we know the only open door that matters is the door of the plane through which Andrew and Norine come back to the United States. Until that day comes, we will not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time will reap a harvest if we will not give up. I have spoken for all of us when I have repeatedly assured Andrew and Norine that we will never give up. Never.”

New interim committee to be appointed

Commissioners authorized Moderator Tom Werner to appoint an interim committee “to study how the EPC can better become a denomination that faithfully embraces and serves our neighbors from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9).”

The recommendation came from the National Leadership Team (NLT), which explained the rationale for the committee in its report to the Assembly:

“At its January 2018 meeting, the NLT spent considerable time discussing where God is calling the EPC in the next decade. One of the areas in which the NLT believes we can improve as a denomination is in our efforts to minister to the diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural communities that surround many of our churches and that the Lord calls us to serve.”

Scott Griffin, NLT Chair, said the goal is to “make our denomination look more like the neighborhoods where God has planted us.”

The recommendation was unanimously approved by the Standing Committee on Administration, and added to an omnibus consent motion.

Budget, special projects approved

The total approved Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19—July 2018 through June 2019) budget for EPC operating expenses is $2,669,231. This amount includes $438,199 in direct funding of the four strategic initiatives—$92,690 for Church Revitalization; $182,680 for Church Planting; $121,290 for Effective Biblical Leadership; and $41,539 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. Funding for the strategic initiatives was added to the EPC operating budget in the FY2018 budget; they previously were funded through undesignated cash reserves since their 2014 inception.

The Assembly also approved a variety of Special Projects for FY19, which are supported outside of per-member-asking (PMA) but would be fully funded if each EPC church contributed an additional $5.62 per member above the PMA target of $23 per member.

In other administration-related business, commissioners approved:

  • A recommendation that shifts approval of applications to the EPC Church Loan Fund from the EPC Foundation to the NLT Finance Committee.
  • The EPC Restated Articles of Incorporation and Corporate Bylaws. These documents stem from a liability study undertaken in 2014. That study led to a corporate restructure of the EPC in which World Outreach and Benefit Resources, Inc., were separated as legal entities from the EPC ecclesiastical body, but remained under the oversight of the General Assembly.
  • A recommendation that ordained ministers drawing retirement income from the EPC 403(b)(9) Defined Contribution Retirement Plan be allowed to designate up to 100 percent of their retirement income for housing allowance.

New committee and board members elected

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

Benefit Resources, Inc., Board of Directors: RE Robert Draughon*, Presbytery of the Central South; Michael Moore, Presbytery of the Central South; TE Bill Reisenweaver, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

Committee on Chaplains Work and Care: TE Greg Holman, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Jennifer Prechter, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; TE David Snyder*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Richard Swedberg*, Presbytery of the West; TE Brad Yorton, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest.

Committee on Church Planting and Revitalization: RE Franklin Carter*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic. (Carter was not seated due to Assembly approval of Recommendation GA38-14 to disband the Committee on Church Planting and Revitalization.)

EPC Foundation Board: RE Ben Borsay, Presbytery of the Midwest; Mark Eibel, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; RE John Graham, Presbytery of the Southeast.

Committee on Fraternal Relations: RE Carol Culbertson, Presbytery of the West; TE Don Fortson, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic.

Committee on Ministerial Vocation: RE Neal McAtee*, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Caroline Tromble*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes.

National Leadership Team: RE Phil Fanara*, Presbytery of the East; RE Michael Gibson*, Presbytery of the Great Plains; RE Rob Liddon*, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Rosemary Lukens*, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest.

Next Generation Ministries Council: Greg Aydt, Presbytery of the West; Meg DeHaven, Presbytery of the East; TE Andrew Mills, Presbytery of the Gulf South; RE Becky Shultz, Presbytery of the West; Ryan Suzuki, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest.

Nominating Committee: RE Marion Bradshaw, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Larry Carlson, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; RE Susan Humphreys, Presbytery of Mid-America; RE Joe McCoy, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE David Ricketts, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; TE Wayne Hardy, Presbytery of the Great Plains.

Permanent Judicial Commission: RE Amanda Cowan, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; RE Don Flater*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Dana Opp*, Presbytery of the Alleghenies.

Presbytery Review Committee: RE Cecil Matthews*, Presbytery of the West.

Committee on Theology: TE Ron DiNunzio, Presbytery of the East; TE Ryan Mowen, Presbytery of the Alleghenies.

Women’s Resource Council: TE Sharon Beekman*, Presbytery of the West; TE Mary Brown*, Presbytery of the Great Plains; RE Lynn Burdge, Presbytery of the Central South; Anita Campbell, Presbytery of the Alleghenies.

World Outreach Committee: TE Chris Bear, Presbytery of the East; TE Rick Dietzman, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; RE Patrick Tucker*, Presbytery of the Central South.

Other business items

Several other items of business were unanimously approved without discussion. Those items were:

  • Ratifying Descending Overtures 17-A, 17-B, 17-C, and 17-D. Overture 17-A amended the Book of Government sections 9-6A and 10-8B.2a, bringing consistency to the wording of the two sections by specifying the term of service for an out-of-bounds call as a renewable term of up to three years. Overture 17-B amended the Book of Government sections 21-2D.2e and f, expanding areas of ongoing authority that may be given to the Ministerial Committee at the discretion of the presbytery. Overture 17-C amended the Book of Government section 10-7 by creating and defining the called position of Transitional Pastor. Overture 17-D amended the Book of Government section 9-5A.1 for consistency with section 10-7 to clarify that all calls to Teaching Elders must be approved by the presbytery. Each of these overtures were approved by the 38th General Assembly, and subsequently approved by the presbyteries at their winter 2017-18 meetings.
  • Giving the permanent Fraternal Relations Committee the authority to develop a fraternal relationship with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, as well as the authority to appoint EPC representatives to engage with groups where participation of the Stated Clerk is not necessary.
  • Disbanding the permanent Church Planting and Revitalization Committee (CPRC). The CPRC stated in its report to the Assembly that the successful implementation of the Church Planting Team under the leadership of Tom Ricks and the Church Revitalization Task Force (now known as the GO Center led by Ken Priddy) since 2012 and 2013, respectively, made the CPRC “superfluous and no longer necessary.”
  • Re-assigning Benton, Washington, Crawford, and Sebastian counties in northwest Arkansas from the Presbytery of the Central South to the Presbytery of the Great Plains.
  • Approving Operation Mobilization as an approved Cooperative Mission Agency, Timothy Two as an approved Mission Agency, and Equip International as an approved Mission Agency of EPC’s World Outreach.
  • Supplementing the EPC Foundation Board with at least one volunteer representative from each presbytery. These volunteers would help expand awareness of the Foundation’s services as they speak to churches and individuals in their presbyteries.
  • Approving the minutes of the National Leadership Team, Next Generation Ministries Council, Women’s Resource Council, and permanent committees on Church Planting and Revitalization, Fraternal Relations, Ministerial Vocation, and World Outreach.
  • Approving the minutes of the 14 EPC presbyteries (with some minor exceptions requiring response to the permanent Presbytery Review Committee by December 31, 2018).
  • Accepting the invitation from Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo., to host the 39th General Assembly in June 2019.

Bart Hess Award for church growth and revitalization

The annual Bart Hess Award for church growth and revitalization was presented to Restoration Church in Munford, Tenn. for their revitalization efforts. Mike Gibson is the Pastor, and the congregation joined the EPC in 2010.

Limited by a sanctuary built in 1911 and now landlocked with no parking or expansion room, the church was experiencing only incremental, transfer growth and not reaching the unchurched in its community.

“We weren’t expanding the Kingdom, we were just rearranging the sheep,” Gibson said, noting that he and his leadership team undertook a study of its community to address the issue. “We wanted to know what kind of needs they had and what we could do to minister to them, and what were we doing or not doing to attract them or be a total disinterest to them.”

In response to what the study revealed about the church and the community, the congregation changed its name to Restoration Church, adopted a contemporary worship style, and developed a ministry to families.

“A lot of the people around us had been through a divorce but were very family-oriented,” he said. “They were very concerned about not repeating what had happened in their homes that resulted in divorce. And they were very interested in receiving help.”

Jeff Jeremiah affirmed the church’s willingness to not only ask hard questions about its health and ministry to its community, but also its effort to make changes in response to the answers they received.

“Under Mike’s leadership, lives are being redeemed, revived, and restored through the ministry of Restoration Church and I am thrilled that their hard work has been recognized by the entire EPC,” he said.

Church Planting Team highlights growth in plants, networks

In addition to business recommendations voted on by commissioners, the EPC’s interim and permanent committees and boards presented reports to the Assembly on their work over the past year.

TomRicks

Tom Ricks

Tom Ricks, Chair of the Church Planting Team (CPT), reported 43 active EPC church plants in 16 states. He also reported at least three churches “went from being a church plant to being a localized congregation, which is the ultimate goal—getting them to stand on their own two feet and then multiply themselves by planting other new churches.”

Ricks reported two church planting networks currently, with two more in development. Ricks noted that one of these networks, in St. Louis, Mo., was formed by five EPC churches in the Presbytery of Mid-America. “We have bound together and have committed our resources and energies for the sole purpose of planting churches in the city of St. Louis—not in the county or in the surrounding area but in the urban part of the community.”

He also noted seven active church plants in underserved neighborhoods around the country. Ricks emphasizing that the CPT is looking at not only underserved neighborhoods, but also unreached areas—particularly in the northeast and on the West Coast.

“These are a couple of areas in our country where there is tremendous opportunity in a post-Christian era to plant churches and share the gospel.”

Additional church planting activities described in the Church Planting and Revitalization Committee’s printed report to the Assembly included:

  • A new church plant in an area of Nashville, Tenn., with an 80-percent minority population.
  • An Hispanic church plant in Charlotte, N.C., launched by Lake Forest Church in Hendersonville, N.C., in partnership with the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico (INPM). The EPC signed a church-planting partnership with the INPM in 2016, and the Charlotte congregation will be led by a church planter from Mexico.
  • Church of the Resurrection in New Orleans, La., launched in 2017 by the Gulf Coast Church Planting Network.
  • The inaugural “church planting cohort” designed to encourage and equip EPC church planters, and led by Bart Garrett, Lead Pastor of Christ Church East Bay in Berkeley, Calif.

Ricks, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Mid-America, is Pastor of Greentree Community Church in St. Louis, Mo.

GO Center describes revitalization tools, new funding model

KenPriddy

Ken Priddy

Ken Priddy, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic and Director of the EPC GO Center, provided the report for the GO Center, the primary EPC vehicle for church revitalization. He explained that the GO Center is an equipping ministry “that engages and empowers pastors, church leaders, and congregations to move forward into greater health and vitality—to revitalize—through training, consulting, coaching, and assessing.”

He said each of the EPC’s 600-plus churches “is at the epicenter of a domestic mission field,” noting that the people in these missions fields are not simply lost; they are missing from the family of God. “They are waiting for the gospel to get to them,” he said. “The question is, ‘How and when will our churches take the gospel out?’ That is the question that the GO Center seeks to answer.”

Priddy reported that 12 of the EPC’s 14 presbyteries now has a volunteer GO Center Coordinator, who serves as a link between the GO Center and the needs and interests of the presbyteries. Priddy also said that more than 30 volunteers have been trained to serve as GO Center Vision Team Coaches. Coaches work with a local church Vision Team to encourage and assist those teams through implementation of the GO Center training in their local context. He also said new training materials have been created and implemented.

A further area of emphasis over the past year has been the development of relevant metric tools to assess the health of participating churches and their progress through the GO Center’s revitalization process.

Finally, Priddy reported a shift in the ministry’s funding structure for the future. He said the GO Center has been incorporated as its own 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and effective July 1, 2018, will receive funding from three streams. The first is continued, though reduced, support from the EPC administrative budget. The second is a fee structure  attached to the ministry services provided, Third will be donor funding solicited by the GO Center through the EPC Foundation.

World Outreach reports progress, sets goals

PhilLinton

Phil Linton

Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach (WO), noted four major accomplishments since the 2017 Assembly in Sacramento:

  • The WO global worker assessment and approval process was completely revised.
  • A thorough mid-term evaluation of Engage 2025 was completed, and Engage 2025 Team Leaders (and their families) were brought together and given new tools, resources, and training to carry out their task.
  • A manual for International Business as Mission (IBAM) was developed and approved.
  • Multi-year Ministry Plans were developed to deliver specific goods and services to our International Theological Education Network partners.

Linton said IBAM will be a major focus for the coming year.

“This past year has seen the maturation of a process in laying the groundwork, and this is the year we want to see that implemented,” he said. “Our goal is to have six hubs for business professionals across the country to incubate and take advantage of the business acumen, counsel, and energy of business people in the EPC.”

He shared a second goal for IBAM of having two entrepreneurial business professionals joining the World Outreach team in the next year.

Linton also reported that the goal he shared at the 2017 General Assembly in Sacramento—11 new global workers commissioned at this year’s Assembly—was nearly met. Seven families and one single candidate were appointed by World Outreach Committee in the last 12 months.

“We still need to provide reinforcements for our Engage 2025 pioneer church planting teams,” Linton told the 2018 Assembly. He said World Outreach will be praying and working to have six new global workers commissioned next year to join existing Engage 2025 teams serving in the Muslim world.

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Bart Hess Award presented to Restoration Church (Munford, Tenn.)

 
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Mike Gibson (right), Pastor of Restoration Church, receives the Bart Hess Award from Tom Werner, Moderator of the 38th General Assembly, on June 22 at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.

Restoration Church in Munford, Tenn., is the recipient of the 2018 Bartlett L. Hess Award for church revitalization. The award was announced on June 22 at the 38th General Assembly at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.

“Receiving this award came as a shock,” Pastor Mike Gibson told the Assembly. “When I found we would be receiving this, I asked God, ‘What I am supposed to do with this award when I am supposed to be cultivating humility?’ because I can have some trouble in that area. I believe He told me ‘This is to encourage and inspire churches who have been where you’ve been, to know that I am in this and you can go forward.’ There were so many times I was ready to give up, thinking the ministry was never going to take off and have an impact in our community. But I know something like this—or bigger—can happen in any church.”

EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah said Restoration Church received the 2018 award because its leadership was not only willing to ask hard questions about its health and ministry to its community, but also was willing to make changes in response to the answers they received.

“Launched in 1911 as Munford Presbyterian Church, they have a rich history and beautiful sanctuary,” Jeremiah said. “However, they were in decline. But under Mike’s leadership, that decline was reversed. To reach the unchurched in their community they changed their name and their image, and the Lord brought them scores of new people. Lives are being redeemed, revived, and restored through the ministry of Restoration Church, and I am thrilled that their hard work has been recognized by the entire EPC.”

Jeremiah will present the award to the congregation on Sunday, August 19.

The Hess Award is given annually to the EPC church that has demonstrated the most innovative approach to church growth or revitalization. Church growth—in both its spiritual and numerical aspects—is an essential part of the mission of the church. The award provides a vehicle by which positive, reproducible innovation is encouraged and shared with others in the EPC. It is named for Bart Hess, founding pastor of Ward Church in suburban Detroit, who was instrumental in the establishment of the EPC in 1981.

#epc2018ga

37th GA summary: Commissioners approve budget, funding Strategic Initiatives, Position Paper on Human Sexuality, new presbyteries

 

2017GAbannerRegOnlineCommissioners to the EPC’s 37th General Assembly approved a variety of business items, including funding the four strategic initiatives from the EPC operating budget, adopting the Preliminary Position Paper on Human Sexuality as the Position Paper on Human Sexuality, creating two new presbyteries, and more.

The strategic initiatives of church planting, church revitalization, effective biblical leadership, and global movement have been funded through undesignated cash reserves since their inception in 2014. The decision funds the strategic initiatives through the EPC operating budget for the first time.

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 Assembly also approved a variety of Special Projects for FY18, which are funded outside of per-member-asking (PMA) but would be fully funded if each EPC church contributed an additional $6.83 per member above the PMA target of $23 per member.

The Position Paper on Human Sexuality replaces the Position Paper on Homosexuality and Position Paper on the Sanctity of Marriage. The 35th General Assembly, meeting in Orlando in 2015, approved the formation of an interim committee to edit the homosexuality paper, which had been adopted in 1986 and revised in 1994 and 2014. While the EPC’s position on the issue had not changed, the 2015 Assembly recommended that language in the paper be updated to reflect how that position is expressed in response to changing cultural trends.

The new Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest and Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest will be formed from the existing Presbytery of the Pacific, effective January 1, 2018. The 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 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.

Commissioners also approved two additional presbytery related items: adjusting the boundary between the current presbyteries of the Pacific and West to fall on the 114th meridian, and changing the name of the Presbytery of Florida to the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

Transitional Pastor call approved

In other business, commissioners approved a new ordained call of Transitional Pastor; welcomed 16 new churches to the EPC since last year’s Assembly; and elected Dean Weaver, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies as Moderator and Tom Werner, Ruling Elder from Greentree Community Church in St. Louis, Mo., as Moderator-Elect.

The Transitional Pastor call was a recommendation from the Ministerial Vocation Committee, which believed the term “transitional” not only better defined the task, but also further established the role as a call from the Session of a church. The provisions 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; and
  • Is introduced to the receiving presbytery and enrolled as a corresponding member (voice but no vote) upon approval of the Ministerial Committee.

Commissioners also approved four additional recommendations from the Ministerial Vocation Committee to amend the Book of Government. These actions:

  1. Adjust 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;
  2. Allow a presbytery to authorize its Ministerial Committee to serve as a judicial or administrative commission, or be appointed as an ongoing administrative commission;
  3. Add the Transitional Pastor as a recognized pastoral relationship for Teaching Elders in a congregational setting; and
  4. Clarify 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.

Pastoral Letter committee reports progress

In addition to business recommendations voted on by commissioners, the EPC’s interim and permanent committees and boards presented reports to the Assembly on their work over the past year.

The Interim Committee on Pastoral Letter was appointed following the 36th General Assembly in response to that Assembly adopting the then-Preliminary Position Paper on Human Sexuality. In his report as committee chair, Sandy Willson said the committee has divided the task into ten preliminary chapters, with each having a three-part format: biblical and theological framework, cultural issues and objections, and pastoral application. The Committee hosted Network Lunches on Thursday and Friday designed to garner input and feedback from commissioners on the topic. Willson, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Central South, recently retired as Senior Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.

Every EPC church a “Parent, Partner, or Patron” of church planting

Tom Ricks, Chair of the Church Planting Team, reported more than 37 active church plants in the EPC.

He also noted that since the Church Planting Team trains, nurtures, and equips all EPC church planters, and helps congregations, networks, and presbyteries get the right church planters in the right places, the goal is to provide resources and support above and beyond a church’s regular ministries and operations. Ricks emphasized that this is best accomplished when each EPC congregation becomes a “Parent, Partner, or Patron” of at least one church plant.

Additional activities over the past year reported by the Church Planting Team in its printed report included:

  • Holding an annual church planters’ retreat, with Ricks requesting that presbyteries help defray travel costs for attendees.
  • Adding three new members to the Church Planting Team leadership team: Rufus Smith, Pastor of Hope Church in Memphis, Tenn.; Richard Rieves, Pastor of Downtown Church in Memphis, Tenn.; and John Bueno, EPC Home Missionary.
  • Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tenn., and Cherry Hills Community Church in Denver, Colo., launching church planting initiatives in their communities.
  • The Gulf Coast Church Planting Network launching their first church plant in New Orleans, La.

Ricks, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Mid-America, is Pastor of Greentree Community Church in St. Louis, Mo.

Mentored Apprenticeship Program announced

As part of the Interim Committee on Ministerial Education’s report, Kent Mathews introduced the Mentored Apprenticeship Program. The program was designed to help meet the EPC’s new educational requirements for ordination to the office of Teaching Elder, approved by the 36th General Assembly. These requirements—approved in response to changing trends in theological education nationwide—stipulate 66 credit-hours of required seminary coursework, including 42 hours of Bible, theology, and church history. The remaining 24 hours include the ministry- and skill-based disciplines of discipleship, ethics, leadership, pastoral care/counseling, ministry as mission, apologetics, preaching, and evangelism.

In partnership with Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, eight courses have been developed to address these areas and are available online at half the normal Gordon Conwell tuition cost. Five courses will be available during GCTC’s fall semester, with the remaining three scheduled to be available in 2018.

Mathews emphasized that students at any seminary accredited by the Association for Theological Schools are eligible to take the MAP courses for credit, and a student completing six of the eight courses will earn a Certificate of Completion from Gordon Conwell. He noted that a bachelor’s degree is not required for the Certificate Program, so it is ideal for a non-ordained church or parachurch staff member who want to improve their skills and knowledge.

In addition to the coursework, students complete a hands-on project, supervised by a mentor with whom the student regularly meets.

Click here for more information on the Mentored Apprenticeship Program.

Mathews is Pastor of the EPC’s Grace Community Fellowship in Ottawa, Kan., and serves as Director of the Mentored Apprenticeship Program. In his role with MAP, he is the grading instructor and professor of record at GCTS.

NLT celebrates stewardship, church planting rate

In the National Leadership Team report, chair Mike Moses emphasized that the EPC is a missional denomination that serves the ministry of its member churches and presbyteries, and not a top-down hierarchy “that everything is trying to feed.”

“In everything we do, we are attempting to resist a top-down approach,” Moses said, “but instead be a national leadership that serves and resources and champions what the Holy Spirit of God is doing in our churches and presbyteries.”

As an example, he discussed the relocation of the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) to Orlando, Fla., which was completed in 2016. Specifically, he noted that even while the EPC was growing, OGA operations have been streamlined from 20 full-time-equivalent employees in past years to a current level of 17.

“I think that speaks to the priority of our executive leadership of being good stewards of the funds that are entrusted to them through per-member-asking so that as much of it as possible goes to advance our shared mission and vision.”

As another example of using PMA to resource ministry locally, Moses shared some statistics related to church planting.

“In 2010, when Jeff Jeremiah appointed a Church Planting Team led by Tom Ricks, 2.1 percent of our churches were church plants,” he said. “That is an anemic church planting rate—half of what experts say is a healthy church planting denomination.”

As Ricks had reported earlier, Moses noted that 4.3 percent of EPC churches were church plants in 2016, and since January 2017 the rate has grown from 4.3 percent to 6.2 percent.

“We are now more than a healthy church-planting denomination, we are an exemplary church-planting denomination—and we thank the Lord for that by His grace.”

He emphasized that none of those new congregations were planted by the Office of the General Assembly.

“That came come from culture change of us together saying that this is important—this is a priority—and then our ability to just resource and fan into flame what God is birthing in our churches and presbyteries.”

Moses, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic, serves as Pastor of Lake Forest Church in Charlotte, N.C.

Stated Clerk report emphasizes connectionalism

In the Stated Clerk’s report, Jeff Jeremiah emphasizing the relational emphasis of being in the EPC.

“It’s an expression of who we are,” Jeremiah said. “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.”

He emphasized the quality of this connectionalism by referencing some of the “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.”

Jeremiah also reported that giving to the EPC budget has improved over the past two years, from 61 percent of the PMA goal in 2015 to 68 percent in 2016.

Additional information in the Stated Clerk’s printed report included an explanation of his roles in both promoting and protecting the EPC; a breakdown of how the EPC’s Office of the General Assembly budget is funded and how those funds are used; a discussion of staff transition at the national level of the EPC; and a directory of churches received, dissolved, or dismissed in the period May 28, 2016, through May 22, 2017.

Church revitalization expands through GO Center

In a video report to the Assembly, Ken Priddy described the work of the EPC’s GO Center, which develops materials and conducts training for church revitalization. Priddy, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic, is Director of the GO Center. He said the GO Center continues to recruit Vision Team coaches and Presbytery Coordinators for each of the EPC’s 13 presbyteries, noting that 13 Presbytery Coordinators are currently in training and represent 10 presbyteries.

Priddy explained that a congregation’s Vision Team leads the revitalization efforts for the church, and Vision Team Coaches work with them, while Presbytery Coordinators are the link between the presbytery and the GO Center.

He said with the three “layers” of Vision Team, Vision Team Coach, and Presbytery Coordinators, the GO Center is now able to provide “a much broader, much deeper ministry to the churches, the pastors, the leaders, the congregations that we’re endeavoring to serve.”

Priddy reported that since the 2016 General Assembly, the GO Center has presented 40 on-site training events. In addition, 19 pastors and leaders currently are active in online training through “GO Clusters,” 40 pastors and leaders have completed training through the GO Clusters, and 21 pastors have expressed interest in a new “X52” online training vehicle, which Priddy said focuses on developing Great Commission skills among pastors.

He also noted that in the past few years, more than 170 EPC churches have engaged the ministry of the GO Center.

Bart Hess Award for church growth and revitalization

The annual Bart Hess Award for church growth and revitalization was presented to Closer to God Church in Kearny, N.J., for their work in community outreach. In addition to local evangelism, members of the congregation provide professional courses, medical care, legal assistance, and counselling for immigrant families in the community; minister to the poor through a food bank; support presbytery mission projects; and help plant new churches in the Newark, N.J., area. Valdir Reis is the Pastor of the multi-ethnic, Portuguese-speaking church.

World Outreach plans student outreach event

Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach (WO), reported that in the past 12 months the World Outreach Committee focused on the areas of mobilization, the Engage 2025 initiative, the International Theological Education Network (ITEN), and personnel.

“The work of World Outreach Committee has been to position World Outreach to aid our churches so that we aren’t left on the bench and are active participants in God’s rescue mission,” he said.

One effort to aid EPC congregations with outreach training is a youth conference scheduled for June 26-29, 2018, in Detroit, Mich. The event will include an opportunity for ministry to Muslims in the area. Linton noted that space is limited to 100 high school students, and internships are available for college students. As details are finalized, information will be available at www.epcwo.org.

“It’s going to be a life-changing experience for these students,” Linton said, “and it’s part of our efforts to work at a grass-roots level with our congregations and the youth in our congregations so that we become an incubator for missions passion, and passion for the Lord Jesus and His Kingdom.”

He also reported that summer internships for college students are available through several of WO’s partner agencies.

Linton concluded his report by telling commissioners that growth of WO global workers overseas plateaued in 2016, following many years of steady growth. He said that while the three missionaries who were appointed on Thursday evening were cause for celebration, “in the past year we had as many missionaries leave World Outreach as join World Outreach.”

He asked the Assembly to commit to pray for 11 missionaries to be appointed at the 2018 General Assembly.

“We need 11 new appointees commissioned next year just to meet the recruitment needs for our current teams who have established tenuous toeholds in some of crucial areas. We have folks who have made heroic efforts, but we need those reinforcements.”

Ed McCallum honored for 20 years of service

On Friday of the Assembly, Ed McCallum was recognized for his 20 years of service as Assistant Stated Clerk. McCallum began a new role as Associate for Site and Program Development with the International Theological Education Network of EPC’s World Outreach following the Assembly.

New committee and board members elected

In addition to the election of Weaver as Moderator and Werner as Moderator-elect, the Assembly elected the following individuals to fill vacancies on the EPC’s permanent committees and boards as others complete their terms of service:

Benefit Resources, Inc., Board of Directors: RE Robert Draughon, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Kim Ray, Presbytery of the Pacific; TE Ronald Horgan, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Erik Ohman, Presbytery of the Midwest; Randy Shaneyfelt, Presbytery of the Great Plains.

Committee on Chaplains Work and Care: TE David Snyder, Presbytery of the Midwest; TE Karen Bolte*, Presbytery of the Pacific; TE Ted Tromble*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes.

Committee on Church Planting and Revitalization: TE Jeff Moore*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes.

EPC Foundation Board: RE Bobby Cobbs, Presbytery of the Pacific; RE Ted Hailes, Presbytery of the Central South.

Committee on Fraternal Relations: RE Gwynn Blair*, Presbytery of Florida; RE Peter Pugliese*, Presbytery of the Alleghenies.

Committee on Ministerial Vocation: RE Neal McAtee, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Frank Rotella, Presbytery of the East; TE Brad Strait*, Presbytery of the West; RE Phil Stump*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic.

National Leadership Team: RE Chris Danusiar, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Nancy Duff, Presbytery of the Pacific; RE Leigh Swanson*, Presbytery of Florida; RE Glen Meyers, Presbytery of the Alleghenies.

Permanent Judicial Commission: RE Yvonne Chapman, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Ken Roberts, Presbytery of the West; RE David Tyra*, Presbytery of the Pacific.

Presbytery Review Committee: TE Helen Franssell*, Presbytery of the East; RE Diane Manon*, Presbytery of the Midwest.

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

Women’s Resource Council: TE Sharon Beekman, Presbytery of the West; TE Mary Brown, Presbytery of the Great Plains; Elizabeth Parker, Presbytery of the Gulf South; Kathy Mercy, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Lana Roberts, Presbytery of the Pacific; Jessi Schatzle, Presbytery of the Central South.

World Outreach Committee: RE David Miller, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Kevin Cauley*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Brad Buescher*, Presbytery of the Great Plains.

(TE denotes Teaching Elder. RE denotes Ruling Elder. * denotes second term.)

Omnibus consent motion items

At each year’s Assembly, a number of recommendations from various Standing Committees are entered into a single Omnibus Consent Motion that commissioners vote on. These recommendations do not need discussion or debate, either because they are routine procedures or already received unanimous consent. Eight recommendations were referred to the 37th General Assembly’s Omnibus Consent motion, which commissioners unanimously approved without discussion. Those items were:

From the Standing Committee on Administration:

  • That Communication 17-02 from the presbytery of the West regarding the change of their boundary with the Presbytery of the Pacific be received as information.
  • That Recommendation #3, “that the Assembly provide the EPC Foundation with ten minutes at each General Assembly meeting where a church can provide a testimonial for the substantial financial value gained by working through the Foundation” be adopted.
  • That Recommendation #6, “That the Assembly ‘highly encourage’ each Presbytery to create time on their meeting agenda at least once (or more) per year for EPC Foundation updates, new ideas, plus Q&A. It would also be a time for the church leaders attending to schedule and or meet on specific issues with members of the EPCF board” be adopted.

From the combined Standing Committee on Christian Education and Communications and Student & College Ministries:

  • That Recommendation #42, “that the Assembly postpone the effective date of the ‘Next Generation Ministry Council’ as a Permanent Committee until July 1, 2018, allowing adequate time for consultation of the joint Student & College Ministries/Christian Education & Communications Committees with the National Leadership Team as required by the action of the 36th GA” be approved.

From the Standing Committee on Fraternal Relations:

  • That Recommendation #7, “that the Assembly approve the EPC entering into a fraternal relationship with the Evangelical and Reformed Presbyterian Church of Peru for the purpose of developing equipping materials (theological and practical) and church revitalization materials for leaders in the Peruvian Church” be adopted.

From the Standing Committee on World Outreach:

  • That Recommendation #4 from the Foundation Board, “that the Assembly explore the feasibility of the Foundation working closely with World Outreach assisting in fund raising for missions and help in general financial issues” be adopted

Other recommendations:

  • That the Assembly receive the written reports of the Standing Committee on World Outreach and the Standing Committee on Church Planting and Revitalization, neither of which had recommendations coming to the floor.
  • That the Minutes of the Permanent Committees on Ministerial Vocation, Chaplains Work and Care, Student and College Ministries / Christian Education and Communications (meeting jointly), Fraternal Relations, Administration (National Leadership), Board of Directors of the EPC Corporation, Women’s Resource Council, and World Outreach be approved with minor corrections.

#epc2017ga

With additional reporting by Michael Herrin, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Gulf South.

Changing the funding recommendation: an explanation

 
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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

National Leadership Team revises EPC funding proposal

 

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In response to feedback from across the EPC received in the denomination’s 13 spring presbytery meetings, the National Leadership Team (NLT) is revising its recommendation to the 37th General Assembly. The updated recommendation is “The administration and strategic initiatives of the General Assembly ought to be supported by the per-member giving of EPC churches.”

The recommendation followed a nearly two-year study by the NLT on a fundamental question, “What is the best way to fund what God is calling the EPC to be and to do?”

As described in the April 2017 edition of “The Jeremiah Journal,” Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah’s monthly video blog, the earlier recommendation included two components:

  1. Including the four strategic initiatives (church planting, church revitalization, global movement, and effective biblical leadership) into the EPC overall operating budget. The initiatives have been funded from undesignated reserves since their launch in 2015.
  2. Changing the funding model from Per Member Asking (PMA) to 1 percent of a local church’s operating and outreach budget, and that those contributions be “expected.”

Jeremiah noted that the “vast majority” of feedback on the first component was positive.

“We are a connectional denomination,” he said, “and we want to support all EPC congregations (large and small, new and old, resource-rich and resource-challenged) as they seek to carry out the Great Commission.”

However, Jeremiah acknowledged that the response to the second component was mixed.

“While many were enthusiastic about simplifying our contribution model, there was a significant amount of feedback about the word ‘expected,’” he said. “So the NLT met with leadership at the Office of General Assembly on May 23rd to review all the feedback.”

Following that review, the NLT removed the second component of its recommendation to the Assembly.

“We will continue to promote the EPC as a mission- and vision-driven church, and to encourage financial participation by all our churches,” Jeremiah said. “In addition, anyone is welcome to contact me at jeff.jeremiah@epc.org if they have any questions or comments.”

General Assembly Networking Lunches offer more than mid-day meal

 

2017GAbannerRegOnlineNetworking Lunches at the EPC 37th General Assembly provide opportunity for connecting with others with similar ministry interests on June 21-23 from 12:00-1:30 p.m. at Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church in Sacramento. For more information, including descriptions and meeting locations, see www.epc.org/ga2017networkinglunches

Wednesday, June 21

  • Church Planting (hosted by the EPC Church Planting Team)
  • For the Church, For the Generations (hosted by Reformed Youth Ministries)
  • How to Build a Contagious Church Culture (hosted by Vanderbloemen Search Group)
  • How to Make Progress on Leadership Challenges (hosted by PastorServe)
  • Joy Together in Ministry and Mission (hosted by Serge)
  • Jump-Starting Church Revitalization (hosted by the EPC GO Center)
  • Presbyterians Pro-Life (hosted by Presbyterians Pro-Life)
  • What Is the Westminster Confession? (hosted by the Westminster Society)
  • Who Is My Neighbor? (hosted by the EPC Women’s Resource Council)
  • World Outreach Global Worker Meet-and-Greet (hosted by EPC World Outreach)
  • Young Ministers in the EPC (hosted by the EPC Young Ministers Network)

Thursday, June 22

  • Building a Culture of Generosity (hosted by the EPC Foundation)
  • Conflict Management: What Seminary Never Taught You (hosted by Pastor-In-Residence Ministries)
  • EPC Benefits “Lunch and Learn: Retirement Plan Changes” (hosted by EPC Benefit Resources, Inc.)
  • International Theological Education Network (hosted by EPC World Outreach)
  • Reaching Millennials (hosted by the EPC GO Center)
  • Reaching the Next Generation of College Students for Christ (hosted by the Coalition for Christian Outreach)
  • Understanding Gender Dysphoria and the Transgender Experience (hosted by OnebyOne)
  • Who Will Lead After You? A Guide to Effective Succession Planning (hosted by Vanderbloemen Search Group)
  • Women Teaching Elders and Candidates (hosted by the EPC Office of the General Assembly)
  • World Outreach Needs Business Professionals (hosted by EPC World Outreach)

Friday, June 23

  • Clerks of Session (hosted by the EPC Presbytery of the Pacific)
  • Coaching Church Revitalization (hosted by the EPC GO Center)
  • Come to The Well: Women’s Ministries Resources (hosted by the EPC Women’s Resource Council)
  • Engaging Muslim Communities for Christ Through Literacy (hosted by Literacy and Evangelism International)
  • EPC Benefits “Lunch and Learn: Retirement Plan Changes” (hosted by EPC Benefit Resources, Inc.)
  • Growing Your Church Through Small Groups (hosted by Hope Church, Richmond, Va.)
  • How to Lead Your Team to Fulfill Your Church’s Vision (hosted by Vanderbloemen Search Group)
  • Leaders of Small Churches (hosted by the EPC Z–4:10 Network)
  • Sending Our EPC Sons and Daughters (hosted by EPC World Outreach)

April Jeremiah Journal introduces proposed EPC funding change

 

In the April edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah introduces a proposal from the National Leadership Team to change the funding model for the Office of the General Assembly.

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.

January Jeremiah Journal discusses 2016 EPC budget allocation

 

In the January edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah discusses how the 2016 EPC budget was allocated between the four Strategic Initiatives (Global Movement, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, and Effective Biblical Leadership) and a fifth category, “protecting the EPC.”

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 EPNews and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Transitional (Interim) pastors training scheduled

 

The EPC Office of the General Assembly is hosting a Transitional Pastor training seminar January 30 through February 2, 2017, in Orlando, Fla.

Bill Enns, EPC Associate Executive for Collaborative Ministries, said the event is designed for those who serve in interim roles throughout the EPC.

“We have called these folks ‘interim pastors’ for a long time,” Enns said, “but we have changed the term to ‘transitional pastor’ for reasons that will be made clear at the seminar.”

A variety of pertinent topics will be discussed, including:

  • Six Types of Transitional Ministries
  • A Theological Framework for Transitional Ministries
  • Helping Congregations Assess their Need for a Transitional Pastor
  • Organizations in Transition
  • Questions to Ask When Interacting with Interim Search Teams and Sessions

In addition, Ken Priddy from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic’s GO Center will present the Great Commission Matrix (GCM). The GCM is designed to help churches catch a vision of God for their local context, and is the primary tool used in the EPC’s church revitalization strategic initiative.

The cost for training event is $65 per person, and includes materials and lunch each day. A reduced rate of $149 per night is available at the Residence Inn Orlando Airport, which will provide breakfast each day and transportation to and from the airport. Evening meals will be the responsibility of the participant.

Click here to register for the training, or go to www.tinyurl.com/hl6lpol. For hotel reservations, click here or go to www.tinyurl.com/jsemte9. The deadline to register at the reduced rate is December 30.

For more information, contact Enns at bill.enns@epc.org

October Jeremiah Journal explains OGA budget

 

In the October edition of The Jeremiah Journal, Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah explains how the budget for the Office of the General Assembly is funded and describes the leadership approach to some items in the budget.

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 EPNews and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

EPC ministry committees discuss potential of Next Generation Council

 

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The EPC Student and College Ministries Committee and the Christian Education and Communications Committee are holding joint meetings October 28-29 in Orlando to begin discussions about a future Next Generation Ministry Council. The 2016 General Assembly approved a proposal from the National Leadership Team that the two permanent committees combine to form the new council to take effect July 1, 2017.

Discussion centered on developing appropriate Next Generation Ministry vision, mission, strategy, and structures aligned with the strategic initiatives of the General Assembly. The strategic initiatives are global movement, church planting, church revitalization, and effective biblical leadership.

Church revitalization coaches meet for training

 
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Bob Stauffer, Church Development Coordinator for the Presbytery for the Alleghenies, leads participants in the GO Center coaches training in a discussion of the three primary life cycles of a local church.

Transformation—church revitalization—is one of four strategic initiatives at the forefront of EPC denominational ministry efforts. Leading that charge is the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic’s GO Center, a group of church revitalization trainer/consultants from across the EPC.

Nearly 200 churches in the EPC have either completed or are working through the Great Commission Matrix, the process by which the GO Center Team leads congregations and presbyteries to evaluate their ministries in light of the Great Commission command to make disciples.

A key component of the EPC church revitalization strategy is developing a network of Church Revitalization Coaches, and 18 new coaches met at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando for training October 13-14.

Evelio Vilches, Pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Pembroke Pines, Fla., attended as a new coach. His congregation is being mentored through the GO Center revitalization process, and he said it was fruitful to go through the training both as a participant and a coach. “Hearing the content in a different form keeps it fresh for me,” he said, adding that the process of church revitalization and vitality is something that is never complete.

“Every church has to keep their finger on the pulse of their vitality,” Vilches said. “You never arrive. If you do get to the point where you think ‘I’m now vital’ and you stop, that’s when the church ends up in a state of recline and can so easily move to decline. Vitality is really important and you have to stay on it consistently.”

Bob Stauffer, Church Development Coordinator for the Presbytery of the Alleghenies, noted that requests from churches to participate in the Go Center revitalization process is far greater than can be met by the GO Center’s three-person staff.

“We want to build a cadre of coaches for each presbytery,” Stauffer said. “To really have church revitalization sink into the culture, we need 150 coaches.”

Ken Priddy, Executive Director of the GO Center, said the coaches provide a critical link between the material and the church leaders. He explained that the initial steps in the process involve he, Stauffer, or Bill Rasch (the third member of the GO Center Team) meeting with the church’s “Vision Team.” However, due to the many demands on the GO Center Team it is often difficult to maintain an ongoing relationship with each congregation’s Vision Team. He stressed that this is why each church having a revitalization coach is so important.

“We have seen over and over again that if the church experiences a hiccup along the way, the tendency is to delay, shelve, or even quit the process,” Priddy said. “But what you—the Vision Team coach—provide is the routine contact and encouragement, as well as reinforcing the material.”

Priddy emphasized the combination of the coach’s expertise and the relationship with the Vision Team will move the process along. “If you work the process, the process works,” he said.

Jeff Moore, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Aurora, Ill., serves as chair of the EPC Church Planting and Revitalization Committee. He also is a GO Center coach and is leading his congregation through the Great Commission Matrix.

“What I have learned through this as much as anything,” Moore said, “is that many times a church—mine included—gets revved up with a great idea. We go into the community and serve, and then we retreat back into our church and wait for something to happen. You know, it is so simple yet so profound: you have to go back again and again and again and again to serve so you can earn the right to share our hope in Christ. We have to have perseverance if we are going to impact our communities and churches.”

An online training opportunity launches on October 25 with GO Clusters that will work through Priddy’s training materials. GO Clusters will meet on Tuesdays at 10:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. (EST) and will meet for one year of training and consulting, alternating months between online group training sessions and one-on-one phone consultations. Sessions will be devoted to training, discussion, problem solving, planning, and implementation.

For more information about the GO Center or the new GO Clusters online training, see www.pmaofepc.org/the_go_center. For information about becoming a church vision team coach, contact Bob Stauffer at stauffer.ra@gmail.com.

September Jeremiah Journal provides strategic initiatives update

 

In the September edition of The Jeremiah Journal, Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah provides a status update on the EPC’s four strategic initiatives: Global Movement, Multiplication (church planting), Transformation (church revitalization), and Effective Biblical Leadership.

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

Jeff Jeremiah launches video series

 

With a recap of his Stated Clerk Report to the 36th General Assembly, Jeff Jeremiah launched a new video series, “The Jeremiah Journal,” in which he discusses a variety of topics relevant to the EPC.

“I wanted to do this to help our church leaders and others stay better informed about how God is working in our denomination,” Jeremiah said. “Even with as much travel as I do, with nearly 600 churches in the EPC I just can’t get to every one or see every pastor as often as I (and hopefully they) would like.”

Jeremiah hopes to record at least one video each month. The videos will be hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80 and also will be posted to EPNews and the EPC’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

2015: Finish Strong

 

JeffJeremiahby Jeff Jeremiah
EPC Stated Clerk

Since the 2014 General Assembly, our Vision Statement has been, “To the glory of God, the EPC family aspires to embody and proclaim Jesus’ love as a global movement of congregations engaged together in God’s mission through transformation, multiplication, and effective biblical leadership.”

Four strategic opportunities are embedded in that statement: 1) global movement, 2) transformation (church revitalization), 3) multiplication (church planting), and 4) effective biblical leadership. We are finishing the year strong as we pursue these four opportunities.

Global Movement

Global movement includes EPC World Outreach (WO) and partnership opportunities with other denominations of the global Church. For WO, all eight of our global workers in Lebanon are working with relief groups ministering to Syrian civil war refugees. These refugees are very open to the good news of Jesus Christ, and many are coming to saving faith. To help take advantage of this open door of opportunity, the EPC has established a Syrian Refugee Relief Fund. Donations to the fund will:

  1. Provide the Bible (in Arabic and Kurdish) on mp3 audio players to a church-planting team on the Turkish/Syrian border;
  2. Send disciple makers (who are fluent in the native languages of the refugees) to work with evangelical German refugee welcome centers; and
  3. Help World Outreach workers in Lebanon provide physical and spiritual aid to refugees.

In addition, World Outreach hosted 31 prospective candidates and inquirers for global worker status at its annual “Encounter” event in early December.

MikeMoses

EPC Moderator Mike Moses will meet with leadership of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico in February about a potential church planting partnership.

An exciting partnership possibility has come to us from the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico (NPCM). With more than 6,000 churches, the NPCM is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the Western Hemisphere. The leaders of the NPCM are aware of large Hispanic communities in the United States where there is no gospel presence, and at the same time God is raising up church planting missionaries in NPCM. Their leadership has invited us to Mexico City to discuss a potential church planting partnership.

Is it possible that the Lord is calling the EPC into partnership with the NPCM to help their missionaries plant churches in these communities in the United States? An EPC delegation led by GA Moderator Mike Moses will discuss this question in Mexico City the week of February 29.

Multiplication (church planting)

Tom Ricks, leader of the Church Planting Team, reports that we now have 30 church plants in the EPC. Two of these launched since our General Assembly in June: Grace Presbyterian in York, Pa., and Resurrection Church-Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, N.Y.

GraceYork

Grace Presbyterian Church in York, Pa., held its first worship services October 18, with Rob Norris bringing the message.

Grace—which is taking a unique planting path—held its first worship service on October 18. Rather than a single “parent church,” a “partner church team” of three rural congregations has worked for the past year to lay the foundation for the October launch. The partner churches are Bethlehem Steltz Reformed Church in Glen Rock, Pa. (John Dorr, pastor); Guinston Presbyterian Church in Airville, Pa. (Daniel Moore, pastor); and Round Hill Presbyterian Church in Cross Roads, Pa. (pastorate vacant).

Further, a lay leadership team of Ron and Joan Webb and Kevin and Carolyn Mosser is leading the church, while pulpit supply is provided by Rob Norris (currently on sabbatical from Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md.), Aaron Anderson, and Keith Greer.

Joan Webb told me that the preaching team is working great, their regular attenders come from seventeen households, and they have new visitors every week.

SheepsheadBayLaunch

Resurrection-Sheepshead Bay held its first worship service on November 22.

Resurrection-Sheepshead Bay held its first worship service on November 22. Pastor Brian Steadman told me that they also are off to a tremendous start. He said they have had new visitors at each of their services, as those attending one week are bringing friends and family the next week. Further, he noted that a majority of their worshipers haven’t been to church in decades. As Brian put it to me, “They’re hearing the gospel and coming back to the gospel.”

The new plant is part of the multi-site Resurrection-Brooklyn church led by Matt Brown. Brian led the church’s Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief ministry from 2012-2015, and through that effort became known as “The Pastor of Disaster.” Sheepshead Bay was one of the areas hardest hit by the hurricane. For more information about the church, see www.resurrectionsheepsheadbay.org.

Transformation (church revitalization)

KenPriddy

Ken Priddy

Members of the GO Team (Ken Priddy, Bob Stauffer, and Bill Rasch) have been extremely busy since our General Assembly in June. From July 1 to March 1, they have no less than 123 appointments with presbyteries, churches, and groups of churches to explore revitalization. By means of the “Great Commission Matrix,” the GO Team leads congregations and presbyteries to evaluate their ministries in light of the Great Commission to “make disciples.”

This ministry’s effectiveness is on display in the transformation taking place in congregations. Earlier this fall, we celebrated the turnaround that Ardara Presbyterian Church has enjoyed. You can see more at www.epcepnews.wordpress.com/2015/11/23/celebrating-gods-faithfulness-a-church-revitalization-story. We look forward to sharing other “Ardara stories” as more of our churches embrace revitalization.

Effective Biblical Leadership

CCO—EPC Partnership

In 2007, the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) became a preferred ministry partner with us. In 2015, our Next Generation ministry has moved to deepen this relationship into a thriving partnership that equips and connects EPC church with campus ministries in strategic university cities. CCO has the resources to train and deploy campus ministries and EPC has the national scope of churches to expand the ministry. For more information about CCO, see www.ccojubilee.org.

To develop this partnership, our Church Planting Team met October 26-27 with CCO leaders in Pittsburgh. Dean Weaver (a member of the EPC Committee on Administration), Bill Enns, and I also participated. We believe this partnership is consistent with our vision and can greatly enhance our church planting ministries, and we have begun the process of implementation.

Leadership Institute 2016

To be a “global movement of congregations,” leadership development is essential. We held our inaugural Leadership Institute the day before General Assembly convened. Thom Rainer was our featured plenary speaker on Tuesday morning, and four leadership tracks were held on Tuesday afternoon. Those four tracks focused on the four Strategic Initiatives. As we prepare for 2016 General Assembly, we have eleven tracks planned. Topics range from developing children and youth in biblical knowledge to helping congregations seeking a pastor with the search process. The Leadership Institute seeks to prepare every kind of ministry for greater effectiveness. More information will follow in the registration information for General Assembly.

Per Member Asking update

These exciting kingdom opportunities God has for us can only become a reality with your support. If the Lord provides you with additional funds at the end of December, will you please consider funding these?