Category Archives: Denominational News

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


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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


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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.

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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.

Bart Francescone named Executive Director of EPC Benefit Resources, Inc.


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Bart Francescone

Following a nationwide search, Bart Francescone of Cream Ridge, N.J., has been named Executive Director of EPC Benefit Resources, Inc. (BRI). He fills a vacancy created when the BRI Board of Directors elected to relocate operations to the EPC Office of the General Assembly in Orlando, Fla. Current Director of Benefits Don Voyles declined an offer to move to Orlando, and completes his work with the EPC on October 31.

“Don has served the EPC with distinction for almost four years,” said Phil VanValkenburg, EPC Chief Operating Officer. “Largely through his efforts and expertise, EPC Benefits is in a much better place than it was in 2013. We look forward to Bart building on the great foundation Don has set for us.”

Francescone comes to the EPC from Heartland Fidelity Insurance Co. of Washington, D.C., where he served as Chief Operating Officer. He previously was Executive Vice President for Benecard Services (Clifton N.J.; Orlando, Fla.; and Mechanicsburg, Va.). Earlier in his career he managed an entrepreneurial program at Princeton University; worked in business development and venture management; and was a staff accountant with a CPA firm.

“I very much look forward to serving the EPC,” Francescone said. “I hope to put everyone at ease regarding their healthcare needs and retirement plans, and enable all to more fully focus on their ministerial callings.”

He has more than 20 years of experience with companies that provide health benefit plan administration services, benefit consulting, and insurance protection to employer and union health plans. He holds insurance producer licenses in health, life, property, and casualty in 45 states. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

Francescone is an active member of Allentown Presbyterian Church in Allentown, N.J., where he has served as an adult education teacher, confirmation instructor, small group leader, youth leader, prayer leader, and church treasurer. He also has served as a substitute teacher and member of the Finance Committee at Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville, N.J. He has served as a Young Life volunteer leader and committee member, and volunteers in local youth and recovery programs as well as in food, shelter, and medical care organizations.

He and his wife, Lisa, have been married 29 years and have three adult children: Alex, Liz, and Holly. Lisa has served as a special education teacher in the Upper Freehold (N.J.) Regional School District for 10 years.