Category Archives: Denominational News

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

JeffJeremiah

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.

#epc2018ga

Descending Overture from 2018 General Assembly available

 

DescendingOverture18ACommissioners to the 38th General Assembly approved a proposed amendment to the EPC Book of Government regarding the role of Commissioned Pastor.

As a proposed constitutional amendment, the Overture now goes to the EPC’s presbyteries for discussion and vote. If approved by 11 of the 14 EPC presbyteries (75 percent), the amendment comes to the 39th General Assembly for ratification. The 2019 Assembly will be held at Cherry Hills Community Church in suburban Denver, Colo.

Church sessions should download and distribute the Descending Overture for discussion in their presbytery’s fall meetings, in preparation for voting in each presbytery’s winter meeting.

Click here to download Descending Overture 38-A.

 

Emergency fund launched for Redding, Calif., wildfire relief

 

ReddingWildfireReliefIn response to the Carr wildfire in and around Redding, Calif., the EPC has launched an emergency relief fund to help with recovery efforts. As of August 1, the fire had resulted in six deaths—including two firefighters—and has destroyed more than 1,000 homes and 180 square miles. California fire officials are calling it the sixth-most destructive fire in the state’s history.

“We are all in a bit of shock,” said Jim Howe, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Redding. “Thank you for your prayers—we are still gathering information, and I heard today that our former pastor’s daughter lost her home.”

Click here to donate online (Click the “Click to Donate” button, then choose “Emergency Relief” from the first pulldown menu and “Redding Wildfire Relief (282)” from the second pulldown menu,). Or make check payable to Evangelical Presbyterian Church and designated “Redding Wildfire Relief,” and send to:

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

Donations to the fund will be sent to First Presbyterian Church of Redding to be used for identified needs. Donations beyond those needed for local recovery will be held in a general Emergency Relief Fund to be used at the discretion of the EPC National Leadership Team for future emergency relief needs.

EPC calls for Day of Prayer and Fasting ahead of July 18 Andrew Brunson hearing

 

AndrewBrunsonPrayerGuide201807HorizontalThe trial of Andrew Brunson, EPC Teaching Elder imprisoned in Turkey since October 2016, resumes on Wednesday, July 18. In an effort to stand with and pray for the Brunson family, the EPC is issuing a Call to Prayer and Fasting for Tuesday, July 17.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, has been communicating with Andrew’s wife, Norine, by encrypted text message.

“She is so thankful for our ongoing prayers and support,” Jeremiah said. “On July 7, she posted on her Facebook page, ‘Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for persevering in prayer with us. I pass on your comments to Andrew from time to time. YOU, the body of Christ, are truly amazing! Where else do people love and pray for others they’ve never met? What a testimony YOU have been.’”

Jeremiah also suggested praying Scripture in four specific ways in advance of the July 18 hearing:

  1. That Andrew will be strengthened, emboldened, and released: Pray Isaiah 42:3 (A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out. In faithfulness, He will establish justice.); Isaiah 40:31 (Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength); and Luke 4:18 (The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free).
  2. That Norine will not grow weary: Pray Exodus 17:12 (When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady until sunset.) and Isaiah 40:29 (He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak).
  3. That the Brunson’s children (Jordan, Jacqueline, and Blaise) would walk in the steadfast love of the Lord: Pray Lamentations 3:22-23 (Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness).
  4. That Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey, would be directed by the Holy Spirit: Pray Proverbs 21:1 (The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases).

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.

At least one media outlet in Turkey is speculating that Andrew could be home soon. The article, titled “Pastor Brunson’s detention has become too costly for Turkey,” offers the opinion that “many diplomats in Ankara expect (Andrew’s) potential release followed by his deportation pending trial on the July 18 hearing” yet cautions that “it is impossible to foresee what the court’s decision will be, but (Andrew’s) release would sure help the ongoing reconciliation process between Turkey and the U.S.”

“We all fervently hope and pray that Andrew’s release is the outcome of next week’s hearing,” Jeremiah said.

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

38th General Assembly makes history with landmark ‘firsts’

 
GA2018LI-Selfie

GA SELFIE—From left, Evelio Vilches, Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah, Eddie Spencer, Moderator Tom Werner

The EPC’s 38th General Assembly, held June 19-22 at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn., made history as the first Assembly to include a “selfie” from the platform. At the beginning of the Thursday afternoon business session, Evelio Vilches, Pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Pembroke Pines, Fla., and Eddie Spencer, Pastor of New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, Fla., took the historic photo prior to their report on how contributions to the EPC’s Hurricane Irma Emergency Relief Fund was used to help their congregations and communities in the aftermath of the September 2017 storm.

“As Stated Clerk,” said Jeff Jeremiah, “it is my ruling that indeed this is the first ever GA selfie.”

In another first, six commissioners started what may become a tradition at the GA Thursday evening worship service—“kilt night.” Donning the traditional Scottish attire were Edward Cummings, Pastor of Terrace Heights EPC in Yakima, Wash.; Alan Trafford, Pastor of Covenant EPC in Lake Jackson, Texas; Suzanne Brown Zampella, Pastor of Connellsville Presbyterian Church in Connellsville, Pa.; Matthew Everhard, Pastor of Faith EPC in Brooksville, Fla.; Case Thorp, Senior Associate Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla.; and Jeremy McNeill, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Bucyrus, Ohio.

GA2018LI-Kilts

KILT NIGHT—From left, Edward Cummings, Alan Trafford, Suzanne Brown Zampella, Matthew Everhard, Case Thorp, Jeremy McNeill.

EPC asks churches, individuals to fast and pray May 5-6 ahead of Andrew Brunson trial resumption

 

AndrewBrunsonPrayerGuide201805HorizontalThe trial of Andrew Brunson, EPC Teaching Elder imprisoned in Turkey since October 2016, resumes on May 7. In an effort to stand with and pray for the entire Brunson family, the EPC is issuing a Call to Prayer and Fasting for the weekend of May 5-6.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, suggests praying Scripture in four specific ways:

  1. That Andrew will be strengthened, emboldened, and released: Pray Isaiah 42:3 (A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out. In faithfulness, He will establish justice.); Isaiah 40:31 (Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength); and Luke 4:18 (The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free).
  2. That Norine will not grow weary: Pray Exodus 17:12 (When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady until sunset.) and Isaiah 40:29 (He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak).
  3. That the Brunson’s children (Jordan, Jacqueline, and Blaise) would walk in the steadfast love of the Lord: Pray Lamentations 3:22-23 (Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness).
  4. That Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey, would be directed by the Holy Spirit: Pray Proverbs 21:1 (The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases).

“Norine was blessed and encouraged by how many people participated in our call to prayer and fasting before the April 16 trial,” Jeremiah said. “On Thursday, April 26, she was able to pass this on to Andrew, with our plan to do it again before May 7. I hope every EPC church will continue to pray for Andrew, Norine, their family, and the rest of the trial as Andrew faces the judges again.”

Following opening arguments on April 16, Brunson was returned to prison. 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.

To help facilitate corporate prayer, a printable bulletin insert in pdf format with these prayer suggestions can be downloaded at www.epc.org/news/freepastorandrew. The bulletin insert is available in two sizes and is designed to be printed on standard 8.5″ x 11″ paper and cut in half (either horizontally or vertically).

EPC issues call to prayer and fasting for April 15 ahead of Andrew Brunson trial

 
AndrewBrunsonOctober2017

Andrew Brunson

On April 16, 2018, EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson will go on trial in Izmir, Turkey. If convicted of the charges in the 62-page indictment filed by the prosecutor, Andrew could be sentenced to 35 years in prison. The indictment charges Brunson with helping terrorist organizations and of trying to convert Turks to Christianity.

In an effort to stand with and pray for the entire Brunson family, the EPC is issuing a Call to Prayer and Fasting for Sunday, April 15. The trial is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. local time in Turkey, which is 2:00 a.m. EDT Monday.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said Andrew’s wife, Norine, has requested three specific prayers:

  • Pray for Andrew’s release, using Psalm 18, which speaks of deliverance from the “cords of death” (v. 4-5).
  • If he is given the opportunity to speak in his defense, please claim Jesus’ promise, “But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourself. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (Luke 21:24-15).
  • That the steadfast love of the Lord will comfort our children (Jordan, Jaqueline, and Blaise) and that He will give them peace and help them to trust.

“As we consider Norine’s steadfast faithfulness and courage, my prayer is that she not grow weary,” Jeremiah said. “I have been claiming Galatians 6:9 and Exodus 17:12 for her, and she knows that we are helping ‘hold up her arms’ for her husband.”

In addition to the April 15 Day of Prayer and Fasting, a seven-day prayer guide for the week leading up to the trial can be downloaded at www.epc.org/files/andrewbrunson7dayprayerguide.

“I encourage the Prayer Team of every EPC church to utilize this guide and lift Andrew, Norine, their family, and the trial to the throne of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Jeremiah said.

38th General Assembly registration open

 

GA2018BannerOnline registration for the 38th General Assembly is now open. The Assembly meets June 19–22 at Hope Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn. The theme of this year’s annual meeting is “Forward: Engage, Empower, Embrace,” based on Philippians 3:13–14.

The annual Leadership Institute on Tuesday has 14 seminars this year to help provide resources for building a leadership development culture. Topics include:

  • Being a Public, Media-Friendly Evangelical in the Trump Era
  • Building Blocks of a Missional Church
  • Discerning the Spirits
  • Discipleship in Student Ministry
  • Making Disciples Who Make Disciples
  • Planting Multi-Ethnic Churches
  • Putting Baptism to Use
  • Religious Support and Protecting Free Enterprise
  • The Beauty of Reformed Worship
  • The Gospel in Dark Places: Ministry to Exploited and Trafficked Women
  • The Lord’s Supper in the Reformed Tradition
  • The Means of Grace in the Scriptures Proclaimed
  • The Reformation of Preaching
  • The Life and Legacy of MLK in Memphis (special bus tour of MLK-related sites)

The theme reinforces our awareness on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that something bigger is happening in Memphis and beyond in our culture in 2018 than just what God is doing in and through the EPC. Our Leadership Institute plenary speakers on Wednesday—Immaculée Ilibagiza, Greg Thompson, and Jennifer Ross—will take an intentional look at deep hurts beyond our denomination to help us minister the gospel effectively in our culture.

Ilibagiza is a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and is regarded as one of world’s leading speakers on faith, hope, and forgiveness. Her book Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust has sold more than two million copies and has been translated into 17 languages.

Thompson is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and currently serves as Director of Research and Strategy at Clayborn Reborn, a historic Civil Rights site in Memphis. He is active in national conversations surrounding race and equity in America, and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia where he wrote his dissertation on Martin Luther King Jr.

Ross has served as Director of Matthew’s Ministry, the Special Needs Ministry of the Church of the Resurrection (United Methodist) in Kansas City, for 15 years. She also serves as Education Chairperson for the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City and serves on the board of Inclusion Connections—a regional non-profit organization serving the special needs community. She has degree in special education and 30 years of experience working with individuals with special needs in schools, state facilities, colleges, and churches.

The first of five business sessions convenes on Wednesday afternoon, June 20, 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:

  • Rufus Smith, Senior Pastor of Hope Church (Thursday at 8:30 a.m.)
  • Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary (Thursday at 7:30 p.m.); and
  • Dean Weaver, EPC Moderator (Friday at 8:30 a.m.).

A special event this year is a Wednesday evening program featured renowned comedian Michael Jr. He has appeared on The Tonight Show, Comedy Central, Jimmy Kimmel Live, CNN, ComedyTV, as well as in the most prestigious comedy clubs in the country, including The Improv, The Laugh Factory, The Comedy Store, and others. He also is well-known for bringing his family friendly comedy to Christian and church audiences.

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/ga2018.

March Jeremiah Journal describes General Assembly participation benefits

 

In the March edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah describes just a few of the benefits of attending the EPC’s annual General Assembly in June.

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.

Jeff and Cindy Jeremiah to represent EPC at Billy Graham memorial service

 

BillyGrahamEPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah and his wife, Cindy, will represent the denomination at the private memorial service for Billy Graham on Friday, March 2, at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C.

“We are beyond honored to be invited to this celebration of Billy Graham’s life,” Jeremiah said. “It’s truly amazing to think about how God used him to share the gospel with millions of people around the world.”

About 2,300 invited guests are expected to attend the service, which will be held under a large tent that has been constructed in the main parking lot in front of the Library. The tent is designed to serve as a reminder of Graham’s early ministry in “The Canvas Cathedral”—the white canvas tent in downtown Los Angeles where 350,000 people heard him share the gospel over eight weeks in 1949.

Following the 90-minute service, Graham will be laid to rest beside his late wife, Ruth, in the Library’s Prayer Garden.

Among Graham’s many personal connections to members of the EPC, Ruth was a member of Christ Community Church in Montreat, N.C.

“Billy and Ruth were married in Graham Chapel (on the campus of Montreat College), which is where we gather weekly to worship,” said Richard White, Pastor of Christ Community Church, which joined the EPC in 2007. “She was a member of the church until her passing.”

A live stream of the memorial service will be available beginning at 10:00 a.m. (EST) at https://memorial.billygraham.org/live-stream/.

January Jeremiah Journal provides hurricane relief update

 

In the January edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri provides an update on EPC relief efforts in response to hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria that struck in fall 2017.

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.

Seminary programs benefit EPC students preparing for ministry

 

Partnerships between the EPC and two evangelical seminaries offer significant financial savings for those pursuing formal theological education.

MAPThe EPC’s Mentored Apprenticeship Program (MAP), de­vel­oped in collaboration with Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, makes eight specific ministry courses available online at half the normal cost of tuition. These courses—dis­cipleship, ethics, leadership, pastoral care/counseling, ministry as mission, apologetics, preaching, and evangelism—may be taken while at­tending any other seminary and are all transferrable according to Association of Theo­logical Schools (ATS) rules.

The EPC’s new requirements for ordination to the office of Teaching Elder, approved by the 36th General Assembly in response to changing trends in theological education nationwide now require the completion of these eight courses.

RTSIn addition to MAP courses through Gordon-Conwell, the Andrew Jumper Scholarship is available for EPC-affiliated students at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS). The scholarship is a full-tuition award for an incoming, residential Master of Divinity (MDiv) student at any RTS campus, and is named for the EPC “Founding Father” and longtime pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Mo.

Candidates for the Jumper Scholarship should be members in good standing of an EPC church, under care of an EPC presbytery, and must demonstrate future commitment to the EPC. The deadline for application is March 15 for entry into the MDiv program in the following summer or fall.

Brian Gault, RTS Director of Financial Aid, said the scholarship exists because of the generosity of donors who care for the preparation of future pastors in the EPC, adding that additional donations to the scholarship fund directly support students.

“As the fund grows, we can support more students,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if future EPC ministers never had to pay for tuition to attend RTS?”

Kent Mathews, Pastor of the EPC’s Grace Community Fellowship in Ottawa, Kan., serves as the Director of MAP. He noted that the online MAP courses not only involve the same types of readings, videos, and assignments encountered in a traditional seminary course, they also involve a mentored relationship with a local pastor or other ministry leader, as well as in-the-field ministry project for each course.

“Research demonstrates that the top three things seminary students currently wish of their education are reduced tuition, a relation­ship with a mentor, and the opportunity to gain practical experience in the subjects they are studying” he said.

“The MAP course projects help students gain that practical ministry experience in their local context, and because they are offered at half the normal cost of tuition, it is literally like receiving a $7500 scholarship.”

Mathews added that a student completing at least six of the eight MAP courses will earn a Certificate of Completion from Gordon-Conwell. He emphasized that a student does not need to be a pursuing a master’s degree—or even have a bachelor’s degree—to take the courses, making it an ideal training vehicle for even non-ordained church or parachurch staff who want to improve their skills and knowledge.

Gordon-Conwell operates campuses in Hamilton, Mass; Boston, Mass.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Jacksonville, Fla. (Registration for MAP courses is through the Charlotte campus.) For more information, contact Mathews at kentmathews@sbcglobal.net or 785-418-1635.

Reformed Theological Seminary offers the MDiv degree at its campuses in Jackson, Miss., Orlando, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Atlanta, Ga.; Washington, D.C.; Dallas, Texas; and Houston, Texas. For more information about the Jumper Scholarship, contact Gault at bgault@rts.edu.

Support EPC World Outreach on Giving Tuesday

 

GivingTuesday
The EPC and its missions arm, World Outreach, has joined the global social media initiative, #GivingTuesday, that seeks to counteract the consumerism of Black Friday and  Cyber Monday with a celebration of giving.

“World Outreach desires to be an organization that gives some of our most precious resources—the members of our EPC churches—to the least-reached and unengaged places of the world for the expansion of the Church and the glory of God,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “On this day that emphasizes online charitable giving, we follow the path set before us from our Heavenly Father, who loved the world so much that He gave His only Son for it.”

Click here to participate in #GivingTuesday with your support of World Outreach global workers or special projects.

Church Planters Retreat offers refresh and recharge

 
ChurchPlantersRetreatB

Attendees of the EPC Church Planters Retreat enjoyed breakout sessions on a variety of topics, including fundraising, self-care, worship, and more.

As one of the EPC’s four strategic initiatives, church planting is a priority in the EPC. A significant aspect of supporting church planting is supporting and ministering to church planters. A key strategy in supporting EPC church planters is the annual Church Planters Retreat.

This year’s retreat was held October 25-27 at Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, Colo. Nearly 50 EPC church planters, their spouses, and members of the Church Planting Team (CPT) joined presbytery leaders and others for three days of training and renewal that included peer networking, breakout and mentoring sessions, fellowship, prayer, and more.

Tom Ricks, CPT chair, explained that “church planting nuts-and-bolts” training sessions focused on topics such as fundraising, worship, self-care, and preaching in a start-up situation.

“Church planting is one of the hardest and loneliest endeavors of which I have ever been a part,” said James Daniels, pastor of Chelsea Presbyterian Church in suburban Birmingham, Ala. The church plant is not yet holding formal worship services, but is in the formation stage of hosting social events such as prayer breakfasts to build a local core group.

“The retreat came at a critical time in the process, and offered a beautiful balance of information and transformation,” Daniels added. “I’m entering back into my local community renewed and inspired for the days ahead.”

“This retreat was absolutely necessary,” said Brian Roskin, pastor of River City Church in St. Charles, Mo. “The topics were thoughtful and relevant for my current situation. I was able to connect with others doing the same thing, creating a network for me.”

Breakout sessions for spouses were led by Patty Robinson, wife of Shawn Robinson, founding pastor of Clayton Community Church in Clayton, Calif., and a CPT member. Her topic, “Engaging, Equipping, and Encouraging,” addressed how to navigate the call to be a church planter’s wife—including managing expectations and boundaries.

“Taking care of your relationship with God, knowing how and when to invest in the (church) plant, and protecting your marriage and family is what make the journey unique,” she said.

Another component of support for EPC church planters is a Church Planters’ Cohort, now in the planning phase with a launch goal of January 2018.

“The cohort will meet bi-monthly via FaceTime,” Ricks noted, “and cover topics essential to the first two years of church planting.” He added that “covenant triads” will provide opportunity for church planters to check in, support, and pray for each other.

Cohort leader Bart Garrett, pastor of Christ Church East Bay in Berkeley, Calif., reported that eleven church planters expressed interest during the retreat in this continuing training/support effort.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, noted that the retreat could not happen without local church giving to Per Member Asking, since food and lodging are funded in the EPC budget.

“Commissioners to the 2017 General Assembly in Sacramento approved funding church planting—as well as the other strategic initiatives of church revitalization, effective biblical leadership, and global movement—in the EPC budget, so every church that participates in Per Member Asking is investing in EPC church planting.”

Ricks noted that many EPC presbyteries pay travel expenses for church planters and their spouses, “so they can attend virtually cost-free.”

“The Church Planting Team and I are grateful for the opportunity to help invest in and grow the next generation of EPC church planters,” Ricks said. “We’ve seen many churches come along side us as ‘Parents, Partners, and Patrons’ of church planting. Thank you to everyone who supports church planting. If you’re not yet involved but interested in learning more, let me know!”

Ricks can be contacted at tom@greentreechurch.com or 314-909-9197, ext. 1007.

ChurchPlantersRetreatA

EPC church planters and their spouses at the 2017 Church Planters Retreat in Colorado Springs, Colo.

 

International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church set for November 5, 12

 

IDOP2017Hebrews 13:3 command Christians to pray for those suffering as if they themselves were suffering. In an effort to unite believers in this scriptural principle, November 5 and 12 have been designated International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) by the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).

The command is especially meaningful in the EPC, as Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson marked one year in a Turkish prison in October.

“Scripture is clear that if one suffers, we all suffer,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “I know I have experienced this over the past 13 months with Andrew Brunson’s imprisonment.”

Eric Metaxas, author of the New York Times #1 bestselling Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy included Brunson in a list of Christians around the world persecuted for their faith.

“In Turkey last year, American missionary Andrew Brunson was locked up on the absurd grounds that he was a terrorist,” Metaxas wrote in a blog post on BreakPoint.org.

The WEA reports persecution as a daily reality of at least 100 million Christians around the world. Now marking its 21st year, the IDOP is observed in more than 100 countries. This year’s theme is “From Ashes to Glory.”

For more information and free IDOP church resource kits, see www.idop.org or www.opendoorsusa.org.

As a “global movement of churches,” the EPC stands with—and prays for—persecuted Christians and is committed to:

  • The global mission of EPC World Outreach, which is to tell the story of Jesus in the Hard Places among people who have no church;
  • Fraternal partnerships with like-minded, Bible-believing bodies; and
  • Awareness of and solidarity with persecuted Christians.

Thanksgiving offering to support World Outreach Family Gathering

 

2017ThanksgivingOfferingThe 2017 EPC Thanksgiving Offering has been designated for the World Outreach Family Gathering. To help facilitate contributions, a bulletin insert is available in printable pdf format on the EPC website.

Family Gathering, held every four years, is six days of fellowship, worship, and renewal for all World Outreach global workers. The 2018 Family Gathering will be held in Greece.

“These gatherings are a delightful respite for our workers, many of whom are lonely for Christian fellowship, or just plain weary from the demands of ministry in the Hard Places,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “Contributions will augment the World Outreach Family Gathering budget and help pay for expenses such as travel, lodging, and food.”

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

For more information, contact World Outreach at wo@epcwo.org or 407-930-4328.