Category Archives: Denominational News

42nd General Assembly registration open

 

Online registration for the 42nd General Assembly is now open. The Assembly meets June 21-24 at Ward Church in Northville, Mich. The theme of this year’s annual meeting is “Recharge,” based on Acts 1:8. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The annual Leadership Institute will feature five plenary speakers and five ministry-specific leadership development gatherings, each of which is open to all General Assembly attendees:

  • Chaplains Workshop, featuring Jan McCormack, Chair of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Programs at Denver Seminary, and Mark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser. McCormack will lead sessions on “The Role of Spirituality and Religion in Crisis and Disasters,” “Religious Accommodation is the Boss’ Decision,” and “Moral Injury Affects Everyone.”
  • Church Health and Church Planting, led by Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College; Jimmy Scroggins, Lead Pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Todd Thomas, Campus Pastor of Family Church Sherbrooke in Lake Worth, Fla.
  • Trafficking In Our Backyards, led by Bonnie Gatchell, Executive Director of Route One Ministries in Boston, Mass.
  • Understanding Evangelism: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Reflections on Evangelism in the Reformed Tradition, hosted by the Westminster Society. Topics include Evangelism in Colonial Presbyterianism, Evangelism and Mission in the Old and New Testaments, Evangelism in the Established Scottish Kirk and the Dissenting Irish Church, and The Art of Manfishing.
  • World Outreach Revised Master Plan, led by Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of EPC World Outreach.

The Tuesday morning plenary session, “Pursuit of Public Fidelity,” will be led by Vincent Bacote and Sandy Willson. Their discussion will consider not only whether Christians have (or need) permission to engage the public square, but also what it means to reflect Christlikeness in public practice, as well as what to make of the typically slow rate of social change and the tension between relative allegiance to a nation and/or a political party and ultimate allegiance to Christ.

Bacote serves as Professor of Theology and Director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill. Willson is Pastor Emeritus of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.

The Tuesday afternoon keynote speaker is Ed Stetzer, Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, where he also serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center.

The Wednesday afternoon plenary speakers are Andrew Brunson and Brad Strait. Their presentation, “Persecution: Building Effective Biblical Leadership through Global Movement Wisdom,” includes a panel discussion on “Real Lessons from Real Persecution” with Erick Schenkel, Setan Lee, and Clay Jones.

Brunson and his wife, Norine, were involved in starting churches, training, aid to refugees, and a house of prayer in Turkey for 23 years until being falsely accused of terrorism in October 2016. He remained imprisoned for two years. Their current ministry—WaveStarters—was birthed as Andrew’s prayer in 2007 to “draw me so close to your heart that you will be able to trust me with the authority to start waves.” WaveStarters is focused on the Muslim world, the persecuted church, and preparing the next generation to stand in difficult times.

Brad Strait, Moderator of the EPC’s 41st General Assembly, serves as Senior Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo.

Schenkel serves with Cru as Executive Director of The JESUS Film Project. Lee is an EPC Teaching Elder who survived the “killing fields” genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot in the 1970s. Jones leads Second Glance Ministries, which focuses on sexual abuse, sexual trafficking, and pornography issues.

The first of five business sessions convenes on Wednesday afternoon, June 22, at 4:00 p.m. (Eastern). Business sessions continue on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.; and Friday at 11:00 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.

Worship service speakers include:

  • Julie Hawkins, Nest Steps Pastor for Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church in Gig Harbor, Wash.
  • Scott McKee, Senior Pastor of Ward Church.
  • Terence Gray, Assistant Pastor at Ward Church.
  • Marcelo Robles, Senior Pastor of La Misión Church in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • Brad Strait, Moderator of the 41st General Assembly.

Other gatherings include a wide variety of Networking Lunches each day, as well as World Outreach, women’s ministry, and ministry wives.

For complete information, see www.epc.org/ga2022.

National Church Health Team developing personal evangelism resource based on Three Circles method

 

When it comes to healthy church growth, evangelism should be a primary means of adding people to the church. The church is strengthened spiritually and numerically when the gospel is proclaimed, and the Holy Spirit enables people to respond by grace through faith.

Bob Stauffer

Bob Stauffer, EPC National Director of Church Health, said that the unfortunate reality is that churches often experience a disconnect between understanding evangelism’s role in church growth and becoming a church that actively evangelizes. Church leadership must both value evangelism and teach members how to share their faith, Stauffer often says. However, a 2019 Lifeway Research survey found that 55 percent of people who attended church at least once per month reported that they had not shared with someone how to become a Christian in the past six months.

“Over my many—many—years in ministry, one thing I can almost always count on is that an evangelistic church is much more likely to be a healthy church,” Stauffer noted. “One of the first things we wanted to do as a Church Health Team is offer a resource that can help our congregations in the area of knowing how to share their faith.”

Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations (and companion Life on Mission smartphone app) and its Three Circles evangelism method is the resource Stauffer and his team are starting with for a clear, practical, and simple approach to personal evangelism.

Developed by Jimmy Scroggins, Lead Pastor at Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., Three Circles is a simple way to explain the gospel through the lens of God’s design: sin’s entrance into the world and the brokenness it creates, and how the gospel of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection gives people the means to recover and pursue God’s design for their lives and the created order.

If a narrative of God’s design, our brokenness, and the redeeming power of the gospel sound familiar, it’s because the language echoes ideas Reformed thinkers have articulated for years—often using the terms creation-fall-redemption-consummation.

But why base a resource on a specific evangelism method? Why not endorse several—or let churches choose their own method?

The Church Health Team believes that if churches have to select their own evangelism method, the chances are good that they will pick nothing.

Glenn Meyers

“It can be a real challenge to encourage people to share their faith in ways that are practical and doable,” said Glenn Meyers, Pastor of Ardara United Presbyterian Church in Ardara, Pa. Meyers is a member of the Church Health Team and also is current Chairman of the EPC National Leadership Team. “Because Three Circles is simple, graphic, and adaptable, this tool is just what we needed.”

Over the past few months, two Family Church pastors have conducted Three Circles training with various groups in the EPC. These include nearly 150 attendees at the fall meeting of the Presbytery of Alleghenies, and the January meeting of the National Leadership Team at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando.

Meyers attended both meetings and has since shared the Three Circles model with the congregation’s junior and senior high school students. He also plans to train church’s elders and deacons in how to use it.

“By training the entire church in the same evangelism model, we will have a shared language of evangelism—a vocabulary that translates across groups in the church,” Meyers said. “I hope this shared language will strengthen a culture of evangelism in the church.”

Stauffer noted that what’s true in one church can be true across the denomination.

“If churches embrace the Three Circles method and use it to actively evangelize, I believe an EPC denominational culture of evangelism will grow and flourish,” he said. “The best place to start is the Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations book and Life On Mission app.”

Scroggins will lead an evangelism training session on Tuesday morning at the 42nd General Assembly, June 21-24 at Ward Church in suburban Detroit. Registration opens on April 1.

“I believe God is preparing us to be actively involved in the ongoing outreach of His gospel love, all to the growth and the glory of His Kingdom,” Meyers said. “The Three Circles are going to be a handy tool.”

by Megan Fowler
EPConnection correspondent

February 2022 EPC financial report: PMA support dips, behind 2021 pace

 

Contributions to Per Member Asking (PMA) in fiscal year 2022 (FY22) received by the Office of the General Assembly through February 28 total $1,557,346. The total is $42,638 (2.6 percent) less than the $1,599,346 FY22 PMA support projection to fund the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations. February PMA support was $135,767—$36,293 less than the monthly projected budget amount of $172,060.

PMA contributions through two-thirds of FY22 (which runs from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022) are $28,000 (0.4 percent) behind the $1,585,346 contributed over the same period in FY21.

“The rate of inflation in our country is hurting everyone—including our churches,” said Stated Clerk Dean Weaver. “I am so thankful for the continued support in this current financial climate. I also am grateful that our staff has been very careful with expenses—which to date are about $55,000 under budget. Yet I pray we can close the budget gap in the final four months of the fiscal year.”

Of the $1,557,346 received, $311,469 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $4,286,220 in designated gifts were received through February 28. This total was $598,663 (16.2 percent) more than the $3,687,557 in designated gifts received in the same period in FY21. Much of the increase over the previous fiscal year can be attributed to more than $286,000 donated to the EPC’s Domestic Emergency Relief Fund in response to Hurricane Ida’s destruction across Louisiana in September 2021, and more than $264,000 in additional donations to World Outreach workers and initiatives.

Of the total, $3,878,868 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $407,352 was designated for EPC projects. These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to WO global workers or other projects.

Designated gifts include support for World Outreach global workers and projects, and contributions to EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings.

Jerry Iamurri to assume missions agency leadership post

 

Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk, has been named the Chief Executive Officer of InFaith.org, effective April 4. InFaith is an evangelical, non-denominational ministry based in suburban Philadelphia. Iamurri said the organization serves some of the most “overlooked and underserved” people in the United States through nearly 200 U.S.-based missionaries.

“These missionaries serve in urban ministry, rural ministry, church planting, discipleship, children and youth ministries, chaplaincy, prison ministry, camps, and much more,” Iamurri said.

“I am deeply disappointed personally to not have opportunity to continue to serve with Jerry,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “However, I am thrilled for the opportunity he and his wife, Sandi, are stepping in to. I know God will use Jerry in mighty ways leading InFaith, just as He has used him in the EPC.”

Iamurri has served Assistant Stated Clerk since 2017. He previously served as Pastor of Bethany Presbyterian Church in Havertown, Pa. Under his leadership, the congregation transitioned to the EPC in 2012. Iamurri previously served Presbyterian congregations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Texas. In addition to his ministry experience, Iamurri was an Assistant District Attorney for the Philadelphia (Pa.) District Attorney’s Office from 1999 to 2003.

He also is a former chairman of the EPC Ministerial Vocation Committee.

“I have been incredibly blessed to serve the EPC over the past five years,” Iamurri said. “It’s been a privilege, pleasure, and the greatest blessing of my life. With this new call from the Lord, I am looking forward to helping InFaith reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, as we do in the EPC.”

EPC World Outreach to hold weekly virtual prayer meetings for Ukraine

 

In response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and eastern Europe, EPC World Outreach is hosting virtual prayer gatherings at 11:00 a.m. (Eastern) each Thursday in March. The meetings will be held via Zoom and are available to all with registration required.

Gabriel de Guia

“We held a virtual prayer gathering on short notice last Thursday, and more than 100 people registered,” said Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of World Outreach. “It was a powerful time of intercession, as well as an opportunity to hear reports from the field—glimpses of what God’s people are doing in this crisis to meet the needs of many in Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic, and Russia.”

In addition, de Guia said opportunities for assistance were “talked about and prayed over.”

“We have many opportunities to come alongside this gospel work and how the EPC International Disaster Relief Fund will be used in sending resources to those engaged on the front lines,” de Guia explained. He said World Outreach is focusing on three strategic locations to deploy donations to the EPC’s International Disaster Relief Fund:

1. Poland. Bruce Anderson, Director of World Outreach’s International Theological Education Network (ITEN), is coordinating with a long-time trusted ministry partner in Lublin, Poland. Donations would support threefold efforts:

  1. Assisting Christian chaplains in Ukraine who bring medicines, medical supplies, other personal supplies, and gospel ministry to soldiers throughout Ukraine. These chaplains do not carry weapons but need helmets and vests.
  2. Help evacuate disadvantaged people in Ukraine who are at particular risk.
  3. Help provide food, clothing, housing arrangements, and other necessities of Ukrainian refugees coming to Lublin.

2. Hungary. World Outreach global workers who live in Hungary are already housing two families who have fled Ukraine. Opportunities to help other families increase by the moment.

3. Czech Republic. A ministry partner of Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tenn., is involved with ministry to refugees in Prague. He is in Prague now, assessing the situation firsthand. Ministry teams are responding to an absence of any organization as busloads of Ukrainians are dropped off at stations with nowhere to go to provide shelter and basic needs.

“There’s constant flux in this chaotic moment and other opportunities will arise,” de Guia said. “But for now, these are the clearest ones for us to engage in based on trusted relationships.”

Click here to register for the prayer gathering. Click here to donate to the International Disaster Relief Fund.

“In All Things” podcast episode 15 explores church planting in the EPC with Tom Ricks

 

Episode 15 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Tom Ricks, leader of the EPC’s Church Planting Team. This week, host Dean Weaver and Ricks discuss why church planting is a strategic priority in the denomination. Ricks also shares poignant memories of Kirk Adkisson, planting pastor of All Souls Church in Nashville, Tenn., who died on February 19.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

International Disaster Relief Fund launched as Ukraine crisis widens

 

The EPC has launched an international disaster relief fund to help relieve suffering when needs arise round the world that are outside the scope of the domestic EPC Emergency Relief Fund, used for situations in North America.

“The crisis in Ukraine is dire, and we are called to help as we are able,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “Our existing relief fund is not set up for this type of need. This new fund will provide a way for people to give when disaster strikes in areas where we work but where we don’t have EPC churches.”

Weaver noted that donations to the fund will be forwarded to EPC World Outreach workers “on the ground” in affected areas, international ministry partners, or to appropriate other agencies and organizations at the discretion of EPC leadership.

“The need right now is almost unfathomable with the mass migration of displaced people fleeing Ukraine,” said Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of EPC World Outreach. “Women and children are leaving the country with little more than the clothes on their backs, while the men are required to stay behind and fight. It’s heartbreaking to think that for some of them it is their last goodbye.”

Click here to donate to the International Disaster Relief Fund.

Contributions are tax-deductible, and donations that exceed directly related disbursements will be held for other international humanitarian disaster relief situations.

Thank you for providing help to those in need.

Prayer requested for Ukraine

 

The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), of which the EPC is a member, joins the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) in condemning the violation of international law by Russia and calling for an immediate end to the attacks on Ukraine. WEA and EEA also call upon churches around the world to pray for restoration of peace.

“We join our brothers and sisters around the world in prayer for peace in Ukraine,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “May God grant peace and safety to those in harm’s way. We pray that God would use this tragic situation for His ultimate glory, and that Ukrainians and Russians alike will come to know the Lord Jesus as their Savior in the midst of this crisis.”

Thomas Schirrmacher, WEA Secretary General Bishop, said, “We are gravely concerned to yet again witness armed conflict that will inevitably lead to tragic loss of human lives, including innocent civilians who only desire to live in peace. We call for an end to the hostilities, an immediate ceasefire, and respect for Ukrainian territorial integrity. We also call on the global Christian community to pray for peace in Ukraine. Europe has witnessed the horrors of war in the past and has learned that armed conflict and military occupation only bring suffering and devastating.”

The European Evangelical Alliance released the following statement:

“The European Evangelical Alliance condemns all attacks upon Ukraine. General Secretary Thomas Bucher said, ‘We see no justification for these actions and are deeply distressed by the death, destruction, chaos, and misery that will result.’ The EEA calls upon Christians to pray for all who suffer and for those who have the power to save lives and bring humanitarian aid and protection. And let us pray for all those with the power to stop the war and to bring about long-term peace.”

Formed in 1846, the WEA seeks to strengthen local churches through national alliances, supporting and coordinating grassroots leadership and seeking practical ways of showing the unity of the body of Christ. For more information, see www.worldea.org.

The EEA exists to foster unity and evangelical identity and provide a voice and platform to evangelical Christians. Seeking empowerment by the Holy Spirit, it extends the Kingdom of God by proclamation of the gospel to all nations and by Christ-centered transformation within society. For more information, see www.europeanea.org.

January 2022 EPC financial report: PMA support outpaces January 2021, designated giving up 15 percent

 

As of January 31, Per Member Asking (PMA) contributions received by the Office of the General Assembly since the July 1 start of the EPC’s fiscal year total $1,421,979. The amount is $12,157 more than the $1,409,822 received from July 1, 2020, through January 31, 2021.

January PMA contributions were $181,693. This brings the 12-month rolling average for monthly support to $198,187—an increase of 3.1 percent over the $195,210 monthly rolling average as of January 31, 2021.

While PMA contributions are up in fiscal year 2022 (FY22) compared to FY21, year-to-date contributions are $5,944 below the $1,427,923 budgeted projection to support the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations.

“I am so very grateful that our churches continue to demonstrate commitment to the EPC with their PMA contributions,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “That support continues to run ahead of last year, and with January’s contributions we have almost closed the budget gap.”

Of the $1,421,979 received, $284,396 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $3,895,904 in designated gifts were received through January 31. This total was $503,542 (15.1 percent) higher than the $3,342,362 in designated gifts received from July 1 through January 31, 2021. Designated gifts include support for World Outreach global workers and projects, and contributions to EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s holiday offerings.

Of the total, $3,472,453 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $373,451 was designated for EPC projects. These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to WO global workers or other projects.

Collaboration Team seeks to grow inter-department discussion, ministry efforts

 

Led by Michael Davis, the EPC’s Chief Collaboration Officer, representatives from a variety of EPC ministries and committees met via video conference on February 10 to cultivate and enhance ministry efforts. The goal of the monthly meetings is to enhance alignment between the Office of the General Assembly, EPC World Outreach, the Next Generation Ministries Council, the Revelation 7:9 Task Force, and other permanent and interim committees of the denomination.

“God has always made sure that we had a redemptive plan, not just for the here-and-now, but for the generations to come,” Davis said. “In our mission, vision, and every component in which we do our ministry, it’s not just to think about what we are doing now but how it will affect generations down the road.”

He emphasized that the next generation of leaders in the EPC—whether they serve in the local church, on the mission field, or in denominational staff roles—are affected “by what we do now. We are not just seeking to be effective and efficient in aligning the strategic priorities for strategy’s sake. We want to align so we look like a puzzle that’s all together and not separated into our parts.”

Davis also noted the strategic priorities of Multiplication (church planting), Transformation (church health), Global Movement, and Effective Biblical Leadership “are not just a good idea. We are setting the landscape and the trajectory to teach our children, and hopefully their children’s children, how to effectively win people for the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The group discussed ways to identify and enhance alignment, as well as some tactics for collaborating across the various committees and ministry areas.

Joining Davis were Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of EPC World Outreach; Jason Dunn, Associate Director of World Outreach; Greg Aydt, Chairman of the Next Generation Ministries Council; Andrew Smith, Co-Chairman of the Revelation 7:9 Task Force; Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk; Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk; Brian Smith, EPC Director of Communications and Digital Strategies; and Vanessa Mullendore, Strategic Priorities Administrative Assistant.

“In All Things” podcast episode 12 features longtime EPC pastor and author Rodger Woodworth

 

Episode 12 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Rodger Woodworth, Pastor of New City Church in Pittsburgh, Pa., and author of several books. This week, host Dean Weaver talks to Woodworth about his experience in cross-cultural church planting, English philosopher and theologian G.K. Chesterton’s notion of the “radical center,” and Woodworth’s recent book, Playing Favorites: Overcoming Our Prejudice to Bridge the Cultural Divide.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 11 features EPC church health and evangelism initiatives with Bob Stauffer

 

Episode 11 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Bob Stauffer, National Director of Church Health for the denomination. This week, host Dean Weaver and Stauffer discuss the strategies and structures being developed to serve congregations in the areas of church health and personal evangelism. In addition, Stauffer explains the benefits of a Transitional Pastor for a church that is between called pastors.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Stated Clerk Dean Weaver launches quarterly strategic-level video series

 

EPC Stated Clerk Dean Weaver has launched a quarterly video series focusing on strategic-level initiatives of the EPC. In the first episode, Weaver recaps the January meeting of the National Leadership Team and some of the topics the group discussed.

“As I say in this first episode, we think it’s valuable to share some topics that our national leaders are discussing,” Weaver said. “We hope it will help our pastors and church leaders stay current on the life of the EPC from a strategic vantagepoint.”

Each episode on the video blog will be hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80, as well as posted to the denomination’s news and information channel, EPConnection. The videos also will be available on the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. Audio podcast versions can be accessed on the EPC’s podcast channel at podcast.epc.org, as well as Spotify and iTunes (search for “Evangelical Presbyterian Church”).

December 2021 EPC financial report: PMA support above 2020, close to budget

 

Contributions to Per Member Asking (PMA) in fiscal year 2022 (FY22) received by the Office of the General Assembly through December 31 total $1,240,286. The amount is only $28,509 (2.2 percent) less than the $1,268,795 FY22 PMA support projection to fund the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations. December PMA support was $351,348—$8,308 more than the monthly projected budget of $343,020.

PMA contributions in the first half of FY22 (which runs from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022) are $5,400 (0.4 percent) above the $1,234,886 contributed over the same period in FY21.

“December’s PMA contributions were the highest they’ve been since at least 2018,” said Stated Clerk Dean Weaver. “I am very thankful that our churches continue their strong support of the EPC, and hope we are able to close the remaining budget gap as we enter a new calendar year.”

Of the $1,240,286 received, $248,057 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $3,393,931 in designated gifts were received through December 31. This total was $474,518 (16.3 percent) more than the $2,919,413 in designated gifts received in the same period in FY21. Much of the increase over the previous fiscal year can be attributed to the more than $242,000 donated to the EPC’s Emergency Relief Fund in response to Hurricane Ida, which struck Louisiana in August 2021.

Of the total, $3,066,522 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $327,410 was designated for EPC projects. These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to WO global workers or other projects.

Designated gifts include support for World Outreach global workers and projects, and contributions to EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 9 features EPC inner-city church planter Brian Evans

 

Episode 9 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Brian Evans, Pastor of 5point7 Community Church in Detroit, Mich., and member of the EPC National Leadership Team. This week, host Dean Weaver and Evans discuss the importance of the local church in effective inner-city ministry, as well as Evans’ background growing up in the same underserved neighborhood he now serves.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 8 highlights EPC human resources with Marti Ratcliff

 

Episode 8 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Marti Ratcliff, EPC Human Resources Manager. This week, host Dean Weaver and Ratcliff discuss her role and responsibilities at the Office of the General Assembly and identify a variety of best practices in human resources unique to the local church.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 5 features Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri

 

In Episode 5 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” host Dean Weaver welcomes Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk and Chief Governance Officer. The two discuss how Iamurri’s background and role at the Office of the General Assembly serves the EPC, its churches, and its pastors.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Heartland Seminary’s innovations benefit students and EPC congregations

 

TE Kent Mathews serves as President and Academic Dean for Heartland Seminary and School of Ministry in Kansas City. The school is a commended resource of the EPC Ministerial Vocation Committee.

“Why is it,” Kent Mathews keeps asking, “that preaching is the only class in which seminary students are required to practice what they’re learning?” An EPC Teaching Elder who serves as President and Academic Dean of Heartland Seminary and School of Ministry in Kansas City, Mathews asks a long list of other questions related to seminary education in the 21st century:

  • Why are academics so often separated from application?
  • Does someone learn to become an evangelist simply by reading books and listening to lectures—shouldn’t he or she be required to actually “do” evangelism, or apologetics, or pastoral care?
  • Why don’t seminaries attempt to make traditionally academic subjects like theology or church history more practical?
  • Why are students not asked to reflect on how what they study might apply to their daily lives or their current ministries?
  • Why aren’t students required to identify and meet weekly with a mentor—someone who is resourced by the seminary to invest his or her life in the life of the student and whose purpose is to discuss the student’s failures and successes; patterns, processes, and learned behaviors; attitudes and approaches to ministry? In short, to take the student under his or her wing and impart the things that seminary doesn’t address?
  • Why is so little of what future pastors actually do in day-to-day ministry taught—or even talked about—in seminary courses?
  • Why is seminary education so expensive?

Mathews knows students are asking them too, along with this one: How will I pay off my exhorbitant student debt why working in my modestly paid pastoral position?

“According to a ten-year-old study, seminarians were asked if they could change anything about their seminary experience,” Mathews noted. “The top three answers were to reduce the cost of tuition, allow me to practice what I’m learning or make seminary courses more hands-on practical, and provide a mentor to invest in my personal development.”

Mathews explained that those answers are the basis for Heartland Seminary’s Master of Divinity program.

“Heartland is the first accredited MDiv program to make all three of these things non-negotiables,” he said, adding that the program meets all of the EPC’s educational ordination requirements for Teaching Elders and was recently recognized as a “Commended Resource” by the EPC’s Ministerial Vocation Committee.

“The MVC was very excited to commend Heartland as a resource for the EPC,” said Jerry Iamurri, Assistant Stated Clerk. Iaumurri serves as the Office of the General Assembly’s staff resource for the MVC. “As seminary education continues to evolve to meet the needs of the next generation, Heartland offers students a unique avenue for ministry preparation that will surely benefit the EPC and its churches.”

Heartland is firmly committed to conservative biblical scholarship, Reformed theology, and the Westminster Confession. Tuition for the 72-credit Master of Divinity degree is $500 per course.

“Typical seminaries charge between $1,500-$2,000 per course,” Mathews said, adding that each Heartland class is completely accessible online and incorporates a close mentor relationship for every student.

Heartland also maintains an in-person Master of Arts in Applied Theology program in the Kansas City area that has been pioneering its program since 2000.

“The plea for practical training has been proven in our program,” Mathews said. “Our second-most popular course is Cultural Analysis and Engagement, where we talk about the major issues that are currently polarizing both culture and the church. We discuss how to understand both sides and how to engage positively in the discussion and affect change.”

The most popular course? “How to Not Only Study the Bible, but Actually Apply It in Your Life.”

Mathews said the curriculum is also non-traditional in that “up to half of the books students are required to read are books that the student identifies for himself or herself—as long as they are approved by the professor—which allows each student to focus on areas of particular interest to him or her within the scope of the course curriculum.”

He added that assignments in all courses are geared toward application.

“For example, students read top-level, highly regarded texts on each of the three broad periods of church history, then are required to write research papers on the 25 most important people, events, and developments in each period and how they should affect both daily Christian living and effective pastoral ministry,” he said.

Julien de Leiris and Paulo Barros are “textbook examples” of the effectiveness of Heartland’s innovative approach. De Leiris has just begun his MDiv studies while Barros completed his this past summer. Both men are on staff at Colonial Presbyterian Church EPC in Kansas City, which hosts the in-person Heartland classes.

Paulo Barros

Barros, who serves as Colonial’s Director of Worship and Arts, has been a worship leader for more than half his life—the last 21 as a fulltime vocation. At 57 years of age, he was the oldest student in the program.

“I hadn’t been in school for a long time and it was tough,” he admitted. “But I always wanted to learn how to pastor others. I needed that knowledge and felt drawn to it, so this was part of my dream to be a better worship leader. When you work with vocal leaders and musicians, you develop relationships, you shepherd them. I can do that much better now.”

De Leiris, Colonial’s Executive Director of Ministry and Programs, also leads Called to Serve, a ministry intending to do no less than “energize and revitalize the Reformed Church that is slowly dying in France.”

Julien de Leiris

Two years ago, after two decades as CEO of major public works projects for the city of Leon (the second largest city in France), de Leiris felt God calling him “to serve Him, not just faithfully but fully.” To the consternation of his non-Christian extended family, he resigned his job and moved his wife and children across the Atlantic and half of the United States to be obedient to that call.

Called to Serve will bring French youth leaders to study a variety of successful churches in the Kansas City area for several months before returning to apply their newly acquired skills and knowledge in local French Reformed Churches,” De Leiris explained. “The FRC funds one-year of sabbatical for every pastor after his or her fifteenth year in ministry. We are developing a practical continuing education program for them over here as well.”

“Just like Paulo and Julien,” Mathews said, “all of our students gain invaluable skills and insights that will bless both them and their ministries. But the benefits to the EPC go further. EPC churches will be able to call new pastors who won’t make all of their initial mistakes at the expense of their first churches.”

Mathews emphasized that Heartland MDiv graduates “have acquired more than just information from their education. Churches will also be able to call pastors who don’t have five to ten to twenty years of student debt to pay off. And the denomination will begin to develop a growing subculture of ministerial leadership development—one that believes the current generation of pastors should be involved in the discipleship of the next generation of pastors.”

For more information about the Heartland Seminary and School of Ministry, see www.hsmkc.org.

by Craig Bird
EPConnection correspondent

“In All Things” podcast episode 4 highlights Theology Committee with Zach Hopkins

 

Episode 4 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Zach Hopkins, Pastor of Edgington Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Taylor Ridge, Ill., and current chairman of the EPC’s Theology Committee. He and EPC Stated Clerk Dean Weaver discuss the scope and work of the Theology Committee, and highlight Hopkins’ involvement with the Westminster Society.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 3 highlights EPC World Outreach with Gabriel de Guia

 

Episode 3 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of EPC World Outreach. This week, host Dean Weaver and Gabriel discuss Gabriel’s journey to faith in Christ, more than 20 years serving with Cru, and now leading the global missions arm of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

October 2021 EPC financial report: PMA support rebounds, less than 3 percent behind budget

 

Contributions to Per Member Asking (PMA) received by the Office of the General Assembly in fiscal year 2022 (FY22) through October 31 total $745,272. The total is $18,627 (2.4 percent) less than the $763,899 FY21 PMA support projection to fund the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations. October PMA support was $213,399.

PMA support in the first four months of FY22 (which runs from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022) is $35,634 (4.6 percent) behind the $780,906 contributed over the same period in FY21. The 12-month rolling average for monthly PMA contributions is now $197,229—approximately 1 percent less than the rolling average as of October 31, 2020.

“In this season of giving thanks, I am very grateful that PMA support was strong in October,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “In addition, October was a good month for our investments and our operating expenses to date are more than $90,000 under budget. Each of our primary trend lines were up in October from the previous month. God is so good!”

Of the $745,272 received, $149,054 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $2,073,006 in designated gifts were received through October 31. This total was $307,965 (17.4 percent) more than the $1,765,041 in designated gifts received in the same period in FY21. Much of the increase over the previous fiscal year can be attributed to $170,000 donated to the EPC’s Emergency Relief Fund since July 1 in response to Hurricane Ida.

Of the total, $1,857,552 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $215,454 was designated for EPC projects. These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to WO global workers or other projects.

Designated gifts include support for World Outreach global workers and projects, and contributions to EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 2 highlights EPC benefit programs with Bart Francescone

 

Episode 2 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Bart Francescone, Executive Director of EPC Benefit Resources, Inc. This week, host Dean Weaver and Bart discuss the EPC benefits program for Pastors and church staff, including the medical benefits plan, wellness and preventative care programs, retirement plan, and more.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Dean Weaver, World Outreach staff explain 2021 Thanksgiving Offering

 

The 2021 EPC Thanksgiving Offering is designated for a World Outreach project to provide Christian literature and other resources to Afghan refugees in the U.S. and Europe. In this brief video, Stated Clerk Dean Weaver, World Outreach Executive Director Gabriel de Guia, and World Outreach Associate Director Jason Dunn describe how donations to the project will be used.

The financial goal for the 2021 Thanksgiving Offering is $20,000. Secure online donations can be made at www.epc.org/donate/thanksgivingoffering. Text-to-give also is available by texting “epcthanksgivingoffering” to 50155 from any smart device. Donors who prefer to send a check should put “Thanksgiving Offering (041)” on the memo line and send to:

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

For help with donations, contact Catherine Rutter, World Outreach Finance Assistant, at (407) 930-4473.

Open Enrollment for EPC benefits underway through November 30

 

November is Open Enrollment month for EPC Benefit Resources, Inc., (BRI), which presents an opportunity for churches to newly enroll or make changes to their benefit plan offerings to eligible employees. In addition, the Open Enrollment period introduces the EPC’s 2022 Benefit Plan enhancements, changes, and premium rates. All enrollment changes made during Open Enrollment will be effective January 1, 2022.

  • Eligible individuals can be enrolled in the EPC Benefit Plans for the first time.
  • Changes can be made to an eligible individual’s benefit selections for 2022.
  • Churches can enroll in EPC Benefit Plans for the first time.
  • Churches can change their Plan offerings for 2022.

Open Enrollment is a “passive process” for current participants, said Bart Francescone, BRI Executive Director. “That means those already enrolled in the EPC benefit plans will automatically retain their 2021 benefit elections unless they choose a new plan or decline an existing coverage for 2022.”

The EPC provides five Medical Plan options to the staffs of EPC churches and ministries. Plans include traditional Platinum, Gold, and Silver Plans, as well as High-Deductible (HDHP) Gold and Bronze Plans with Health Savings Account (HSA) options. Other available programs include Dental and Vision benefits, as well as Life and Disability Insurance coverages.

Bart Francescone

“The variety of benefit levels offered and range of premium rates allow for churches to select plans that meet budgetary constraints and satisfy their benefit commitments to staff,” Francescone said. “All five plans use the same nationwide, unrestricted network of hospitals, doctors, medical practitioners, and pharmacies that are used by major national employers and health plans throughout the country.”

He added that all five medical plans include 24/7 telemedicine, prescription drug coverage, and wellness programs. Additionally, the plans provide special assistance programs to support those with chronic conditions, or who encounter an unexpected diagnosis or utilize high-cost medications.

Enhancements to the BRI medical plans for 2022 include:

  • My Active Wellness, a program to promote awareness of preventative care, keep healthy members healthy, and to start others on a track to improved physical and emotional health.
  • Care Management and Nurse Health Coaches for those with common conditions such as chronic pain; heart, lung, and kidney disease; and asthma.
  • Livongo, a nationally recognized chronic conditions management program focused on supporting those with high blood pressure, diabetes, and pre-diabetic conditions, as well as addressing associated co-conditions such as depression and weight loss.
  • Healthcare Bluebook, with procedure-quality rankings in 35 clinical categories for more than 4,000 hospitals and 200,000 doctors, as well as pricing transparency tools.
  • Single ID card for both Medical and Prescription Drug coverage.

“As many as one in three adults in the U.S. are diabetic, or on the threshold of becoming diabetic,” Francescone said. “In addition, medications for heart disease—such as drugs treating high blood pressure—are our most common prescriptions. These chronic conditions and their side effects affect us not only physically, but emotionally and financially. The Livongo condition management programs are personalized and have a proven record of member satisfaction, with measurable  and sustainable results. This will be a real blessing to those who have struggled with these conditions. We hope our participants will take advantage of the program, which is included in all five of our medical plans.”

Francescone also noted that premium rates for the 2022 medical/prescription drug plans are increasing by only 2 percent—substantially less than the current rate of inflation.

“The BRI Board of Directors believes this is the lowest increase we’ve ever had, and it follows last year’s low average increase of 3.6 percent,” Francescone said. “The BRI Board of Directors and staff have worked hard to maintain our high-quality plans at the lowest possible cost. This has enabled us to keep our increases significantly lower than the national weighted-average medical cost trend, despite the ongoing situation with COVID and the national healthcare landscape.”

Premium rates for the Vision, Life and Disability Insurance are unchanged for 2022, while premiums for the Dental plans will increase by 8 percent.

EPC benefit plans are available to all full-time (30 hours or more per week) employees of EPC churches, as well as Chaplains, ministers serving out-of-bounds, and various other categories.

“Anyone new to the EPC—or interested in enrolling in one of our benefit programs for the first time—should reach out to whoever handles benefits at their church regarding their interests,” he said.

For more information about 2022 benefit offerings, see www.epc.org/2022openenrollment or contact BRI at (407) 930-4492 or benefits@epc.org.