Category Archives: Denominational News

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.

Reformed Theological Seminary dedicates Jeremiah Patio

 

EPC Stated Clerk Emeritus Jeff Jeremiah and his wife, Cindy, were honored on November 3 with the dedication of the Jeremiah Patio at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Orlando. The 32-by-16-foot fellowship space is centrally located adjacent to the main entrance of the campus and features seating for up to 20 people, lighting, and two woodburning fire pits with removable tabletops.

“I am very grateful for the relationship that I’ve enjoyed with Reformed Theological Seminary that extends back to the mid-to-late 1980s,” Jeremiah said. “I especially remember conversations with leadership of RTS then about the possibility of online learning and how that might expand the education of the next generation of leaders in the church of Jesus Christ.”

In remarks made prior to cutting the ribbon to open the patio, Jeremiah thanked Scott Swain, RTS Orlando Campus President; Leigh Swanson, RTS Executive Vice President; Mike Glodo, RTS Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Jeremiah’s predecessor as EPC Stated Clerk; and the staff of the EPC Office of the General Assembly, many of whom attended.

In noting the heavy travel responsibilities of his 15 years as Stated Clerk, Jeremiah also thanked his wife, Cindy, “for her sacrificial commitment to her Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, the sacrificial commitment she made to the EPC, and the sacrificial commitment she made to me.”

The patio was announced at Jeremiah’s retirement banquet during the 41st General Assembly in June and is a joint effort between RTS and the presbyteries of Florida and the Caribbean, East, Gulf South, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and West.

Swanson also spoke at the dedication, thanking the EPC and the contributing presbyteries “for making this beautiful fellowship space possible.”

“We also honor Jeff and Cindy, thanking God for their ministry,” she said. “They have been steadfast in their service to Christ. They have given care to countless pastors and their families. They have made sacrifices well beyond what we have seen. It is our privilege to name the patio in your honor.”

EPC launches “In All Things” podcast

 

The EPC has launched a new podcast, “In All Things,” hosted by Stated Clerk Dean Weaver. In each week’s 30-minute episode, Weaver and his guests discuss topics related to the EPC and the greater Church. In the first episode, three members of the EPC’s National Leadership Team (NLT) discussed the group’s scope and function. NLT Chairman Glenn Meyers; Brad Strait, Moderator of the 41st General Assembly; and Rosemary Lukens, Moderator-elect of the 41tst General Assembly), also provided an overview of the EPC’s four strategic priorities.

“I am very excited to talk to leaders throughout the EPC and tell our story in this long-form podcast format,” Weaver said. “We call this series, ‘In All Things’ because as the Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 1, all things were created through and for our Lord Jesus—He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. So we plan to discuss ‘all things’ as they relate to the EPC. The Office of the General Assembly exists to serve our churches, and we are offering this podcast as a way for people to hopefully better understand some of the ways we do that.”

Guests in future episodes include leadership staff at the Office of the General Assembly, committee chairmen, EPC authors, and many more.

Episode 1 is available below, and also can be downloaded on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple 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.

Thanksgiving offering to fund materials for ministry to Afghan refugees

 

The 2021 EPC Thanksgiving Offering has been designated for a World Outreach project to provide Christian literature and other resources to Afghan refugees in the U.S. and Europe.

“In the Book of Esther, Mordecai wrote to Esther, ‘for such a time as this,’” said Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of World Outreach. “In the last two months, thousands of Afghans have fled their homeland and reached the U.S. and Europe. God seems to be answering the prayer for Afghans to know Him by opening doors for them to come to us. I was in the Indianapolis airport just last week and saw a group of about 50 Afghan families. There were older people, parents, little kids—the whole spectrum. While they were being led through the terminal by their guides, they were looking around very bewildered. It was very emotional for me, and I said a quick prayer for them. Their situation has to be so, so difficult.”

Contributions to the Thanksgiving Offering will pay for printing and/or reprinting of Christian materials and other media in the Dari and Pashto languages, as well as electronic distribution of the Bible in these translations.

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.

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

Pastor-spouse retreat: a gift of refreshment and healing

 

Annie Rose

by Annie Rose
TE, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes

From October 18 to 22, about 70 EPC pastors, spouses, and global workers gathered in Seven Springs, Pa., for the first-ever EPC Pastor-Spouse retreat. I was blessed to be a part of this group as we came together to rest and be refreshed by the Lord.

Our retreat was led by Jim and Shari Hobby, Anglican pastors who masterfully guided us through an exploration of lament via Psalm 13. Together we reckoned with the biblical invitation to:

  1. Bring our pain to God.
  2. Ask God to intervene, and
  3. Embrace hope.

The Hobbys wove this teaching together with their own personal stories of struggle and lament, which gave everyone in the room permission to be honest and vulnerable about our own challenges. As we sat around our tables throughout the week, brothers and sisters gave voice to the burdens of their hearts, and together we lifted our voices to our heavenly Father, seeking His intervention and clinging to the hope we have in Christ.

Each day we were led in praise and worship by Jeremy Casella and Matthew Montgomery, both talented musicians who led us in praising God through singing Psalms and the great hymns of our faith, often set to new melodies. Jeremy and Matthew also blessed us with a worship concert one evening, which was a wonderful way to bookend the day in praising the Lord.

Following on the intensity of leading a church through COVID, this retreat was for me an oasis. It was a beautiful opportunity to engage in a rhythm of life-giving worship and interaction with my brothers and sisters in the mornings and quiet solitude in the afternoons. What a gift to put aside all other responsibilities for a few days and be fully present to one another and to the Lord!

During those quiet afternoons, retreat participants had several options for how to spend their time. Some took naps, while others explored the hiking trails of Seven Springs or enjoyed bowling or golf. Many took advantage of the resort’s spa services, and perhaps even more were eager to sign up for spiritual direction with the Hobbys or counseling with Tara Gunther or Laura Duggan—professional therapists the EPC brought to the retreat to minister to us! We had a smorgasbord of options for pursuing rest and growth in the Lord, and the cost of everything we did on the grounds of the resort was covered by the EPC.

And speaking of a smorgasbord, all of us were overwhelmed by the quality of the meals provided at Seven Springs. Especially for those of us who are the cooks in our families, it was a gift not only to rest from meal planning but also to enjoy such delicious and healthy food. Our bodies and souls were well fed on this retreat! Our mealtimes were rich with fellowship in the Holy Spirit and with laughter. They were a taste of the world to come!

Finally, one of the subtle but meaningful blessings of the Seven Springs retreat was the participation of our denominational leadership. Stated Clerk Dean Weaver not only led the retreat planning team and recruited all those who served, but he and his wife, Beth, also fully participated in every part of the retreat. Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri also participated, and World Outreach Director Gabriel de Guia and his wife, Rachel, were there as well. Seeing our leaders make the time to not simply run a retreat but participate in it validated the importance of the experience and in an unspoken way gave the rest of us permission to put aside our normal tasks and responsibilities and commit our full attention to the deep work the Holy Spirit was doing among us.

I can’t say enough about how wonderful the retreat at Seven Springs was. As Presbyterians, we know the blessing of coming together to worship and to conduct church business. What a blessing to see that we can also come together simply to enjoy one another and be refreshed by the Lord’s Spirit together.

“I will sing of the LORD, because he has dealt so lovingly with me;
Indeed, I will praise the name of the LORD Most High.” —Psalm 13:6

For details about the February retreat in Orlando, see www.epc.org/pastorspouseretreat.

Worship was a key component of the Pastor-Spouse Retreat.

Church Planters Retreat offers fellowship, equipping, connection, refreshment

 

With 9,500-foot Cheyenne Mountain as backdrop, more than 80 EPC church planters and others gathered at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, Colo., the week of October 18 for the annual Church Planters Retreat.

The theme for the three-day gathering was “Resilience” and featured guest speakers Becky Lanha and Thurman Williams, worship led by Adrianna Christmas, and couples’ coaching sessions led by Cron and Elizabeth Gibson. In addition, participants enjoyed plenty of free time to relax, fellowship with one another, connect over shared experiences, and enjoy the fall colors and striking mountain vistas.

Pete Roman Jr. and his wife, Renee, attended from Saint George, S.C., where he is planting The Village Church of Saint George.

“This week has been fantastic,” he said. “To be able to be around other church planters and encourage one another—to hear the struggles that are going on and the praises and encouraging things that are happening—it’s a huge blessing to be a part of it.”

He noted the similarity in church planting to the eight years they served as missionaries in Bulgaria.

“Nobody really understands missionaries except for other missionaries,” Roman said. “You could be at churches explaining who you were and where your heart is, but unless they had been on the mission field themselves, they just wouldn’t fully get it. This has been the same experience. Being able to be together here and be fed and worship with other people who ‘get’ you is a huge thing.”

In plenary equipping sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, Thurman spoke on “The Fuel for Resiliency: The Power of Weakness,” and “Advancing the Gospel Through Adversity.” Lanha addressed “Evangelism: The Art of Making Friends” and “The Beauty and Pain of Perseverance.” Thurman serves as church panting pastor of New City West End (PCA) in St. Louis, Mo., and Director of Homiletics at Covenant Theological Seminary. Lanha is the church planting pastor of Goodland Church (ECO) in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Friendship and evangelism go hand-in-hand

On Tuesday afternoon, Lanha said friendship is the key to evangelism.

Becky Lanha

“We have made telling our friends about Jesus into a very pressure-filled, event-driven thing,” she told the attendees. “But evangelism is an overflow of the heart, and it starts with friendship.”

She explained that evangelism and friendship go “hand-in-hand,” noting the five thresholds of evangelism described in the book I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus.

“The first threshold is that a person once trusted a Christian—let that sink in,” she said. “So how do we build trust with people? We need to know how to make friends.”

She then outlined five ways to help make friends: Become the mayor of Starbucks, go beyond speed dating, remember what it was like to get your learner’s permit, be Ted Lasso, and unmute yourself from Zoom.

Describing how a daily customer who “lingered longer” received an honorary mayoral title at his local coffee shop, Lanha asked how someone gets elected mayor.

“Becoming a mayor is letting yourself show up, be present, and be fully aware in a place,” she said. “In the early church, they walked into villages and towns with an expectation. They knew that if they were sent there, God was already at work there. So the first step in making friends is to be the mayor. And not only do they get to know you, you get to know them.”

To “go beyond speed dating,” Lanha noted that “we know a little bit about a lot of people, and we let a lot of people know a little bit about us. The safe part, the good part. Instead, we need to open ourselves us to depth to relationships. It’s risky because people hurt people, and it takes a lot of trust in Jesus. Most of us—and most of the world—are struggling with a loneliness epidemic. And it has gospel ramifications.”

Lanha’s fourth method for developing friendships is to remember the excitement of having a learner’s permit.

“You wanted to drive everywhere, any time, with anyone. Remember? And when you only have a learner’s permit, you have to drive with someone else,” she said. “The gospel stories are full of this. Jesus brought people with Him on the greatest journey ever. Invite people along for your ride.”

To be Ted Lasso, Lanha recommended building community through friendships.

“Ted Lasso has a million one-liners, but my favorite is the scene in the first season when two people who know him but don’t know each other come into the room. Lasso said, ‘Congratulations you just met an awesome person!’”

The point, Lanha said, is that Lasso shares his friendships—he doesn’t hog them.

Greg Austen, Assistant Pastor of Church Planting for Ashland Church in Voorhees, N.J., partakes in communion served at the Church Planters Retreat on October 20.

“Not only do people need a friend, they need a place to belong—a community that knows and loves them. Our churches aim to be that, so a step in building friendships is building community.”

She explained the importance of “unmuting yourself from Zoom” was “to be open to letting who you really are come to the table. When we let others know who we really are, we invite others to let us know who they really are.”

She concluded by re-emphasizing that friendship is the “first step” in evangelism.

“There is so much hurt,” she said. “People can come near to Jesus because we have extended the hand of friendship. There is something very, very compelling about friendship. Non-Christians smell it out when it’s only about getting them into your church.”

‘The invitation is to experience suffering’

Speaking from Romans 5:1-11 on Wednesday afternoon, she reminded the attendees that the word “suffering” in verse 3 is a picture of the overall afflictions of life.

“Paul was not caught off guard by this idea of suffering. After all, he was the one who persecuted those who claimed to follow Christ. It was his job, so he knew what he was getting into. But we in the church have created the message that Christ is going to make your life better. We may not do it out loud, but we believe that narrative. But it’s clear here that the invitation is to die and to experience suffering.”

She added that Paul rejoiced in his sufferings because “it’s part of the deal—it’s what he signed up for. We need to normalize suffering in the Christian faith. If you’re suffering, you’re doing it right!”

In describing Paul’s progression of suffering producing endurance producing character producing hope, Lanha noted that the hope is “the assured finish line.”

“We will stand in the glory of God restored to relationship 100 percent. It’s certain,” she said. “Jesus walked the road we walk. His obedience to the Father brought suffering. But here’s the thing: In that obedience, Jesus demonstrated complete and total confidence that God will be faithful to His promises.”

In a similar vein, on Wednesday afternoon Williams told the attendees that adversity is the instrument of the gospel’s advancement. He spoke from Philippians 1:12-14 in his session, “Advancing the Gospel Though Adversity.”

Thurman Williams

“When I first read this passage, I thought that advancing through adversity meant that the gospel is so powerful that God is able to advance the gospel even in the midst of adversity, even in spite of adversity,” Williams said. “But that’s not what Paul is saying here. What Paul is saying is that his adversity is not a hindrance but is the very means of advancement. That is what God uses to advance the gospel.”

Williams explained that in verse 12, Paul says the whole Imperial Guard heard the gospel because he had been imprisoned in Rome.

“How else could he share the gospel with the entire Imperial Guard of the Emperor?” Williams asked. “Through his adversity, he was able to share the gospel with people he never would have been able to.”

He encouraged the church planters to look for opportunities to “enter into the pain” in their communities and find opportunities where God can use adversity.

Fellowship dinners in the foothills of Cheyenne Mountain provided striking views of Colorado Springs and opportunity for connection and relaxation.

“The ultimate instrument of the advance is the cross itself—Jesus becoming a curse for us,” Williams declared. “The impact of the cross of Jesus Christ on unbelievers is that everyone who calls on His name will be saved. The impact on believers is that they will be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. So this passage calls us to enter into adversity and see the gospel advance through it, not in just spite of it or in the midst of it, but because of it.”

In addition to the equipping sessions and couples’ coaching sessions, attendees enjoyed morning yoga with Jessie Steadman, whose husband, Brian, is Pastor of Resurrection Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, N.Y.; and evening fellowship meals at a large home in the foothills of Cheyenne Mountain.

“I am thrilled that we can resource this event for our church planters,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “In so many cases, these brothers and sisters are doing an incredibly difficult work in a culture that sees their efforts as increasingly irrelevant. Yet they are standing firm on their calling and persevering through the adversity that they understand is the very thing God will use to help them reach their communities for Christ.”

The retreat is an annual resource for EPC church planters, hosted by the Church Planting Team. For more information on EPC church planting, see www.epc.org/churchplanting.

Worship is a key component of the Church Planters Retreat.

Noted leadership author Tod Bolsinger headlines annual Executive Pastor/Church Administrator gathering

 

Tod Bolsinger, Senior Congregational Strategist at Fuller Theological Seminary and author of Tempered Resilience and Canoeing the Mountains, explains the Adaptive Change Process to attendees of the first of two Executive Pastor/Church Administrator gatherings on October 21 in Denver, Colo.

At the first of two EPC Executive Pastor/Church Administrator workshops, noted church leadership expert and author Tod Bolsinger discussed the topic “From Surviving to Thriving: How Not to Waste a Crisis.” The event was held October 21-22 in Denver, Colo.

Bolsinger drew from his books Tempered Resilience and Canoeing the Mountains as he described the challenges of being a ministry leader over the past 20 months, noting that 2020 was like 1918, 1929, and 1968 all at the same time.

“We had a health crisis, an economic crisis, and a cultural crisis,” he said. “I don’t know anyone in ministry who isn’t exhausted.”

Bolsinger told the 20 attendees that in Crossing the Unknown Sea, author David Whyte said the antidote to exhaustion is not rest, but “wholeheartedness.”

“Many of us are doing our best, but we have fallen into half-heartedness,” Bolsinger said. “We didn’t go into ministry because we wanted to follow state or local ordinances, or whatever the shifting opinions are. We got into this because we love God and love people, and want to connect people to the God we love. We didn’t go into ministry to be in a place of conflict.”

Bolsinger outlined five steps for not simply surviving a crisis, but thriving within it:

  1. Identify adaptive challenges
  2. Refuel on trust
  3. Focus on the pain points of those you serve
  4. Find yourself a few Sacagaweas
  5. Try some aligned things

Regarding the idea of identifying adaptive challenges, he explained that a crisis has two phases: acute and adaptive.

“The goal of the acute phase is to stabilize, protect, and buy time,” he said. “Think of a medical triage situation, like a hospital emergency room.”

In the adaptive phase of a crisis, leaders should address root issues that they may not have had the will to confront before the crisis.

“You thrive in the acute stage through relationships,” he said. “You survive in the adaptive phase by learning to face losses and addressing the underlying issues that keep you from moving forward. An expert can solve technical problems, and those solutions serve a really important purpose. However, adaptive challenges require people to make a shift in values, expectations, attitudes, or habits.”

Concerning trust, Bolsinger noted that people don’t resist change, they resist loss.

“When trust is gone, the journey is over,” he emphasized. “We need to continually grow our trust account and wisely invest it in what will truly transform. People won’t judge us on intentions; they judge us on impact.”

In focusing on the pain points, Bolsinger described a fundraising effort among a group of potential donors for Fuller Theological Seminary, which he serves as Vice President and Chief of Leadership Formation.

“They told me that nobody cares if your institution—which of course in our case here is our church—stays alive. They only care if your institution cares about them,” he said. “You have to go out and talk to people and know their pain and how you can help with their problem. Nothing will change the more we focus internally. The way to move forward is to ask how we can meet the pain points.”

In explaining the need to “find yourself a few Sacagaweas,” Bolsinger related the story of Sacagawea, the Native American teenaged nursing mother who helped lead the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery across the Rocky Mountains.

“She had no voice, no privilege, no power whatsoever, but she became the key to their being able to continue,” he said. Among other contributions, Sacagawea interpreted for a meeting with a tribe they encountered—and discovered that the chief was her brother. Bolsinger emphasized that the episode was critical to the survival and ultimate success of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

“We need to find some Sacagaweas who can interpret a culture that may be foreign to the one we know.”

In trying “some aligned things,” Bolsinger emphasized the importance of prototypes that align with existing core values.

“Try some experiments that are safe, modest, and aligned,” he said. “Don’t launch the ‘first annual’ thing, just do a one-off thing. And afterward, don’t ask, ‘Did it work?’ Ask ‘What did we learn?’ It’s not failure if we are learning.”

Bolsinger earned MDiv and PhD degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. Prior to being named Vice President at Fuller in 2014, he served as Associate Pastor and Senior Pastor in two Presbyterian churches in California. He is author of Tempered Resilience: How Leaders Are Formed in the Crucible of Change; Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory; Leadership for a Time of Pandemic: Practicing Resilience; and It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian.

The gathering, now in its eighth year, is a two-day event for EPC executive pastors and directors, church administrators, and others in senior operational leadership positions.

Twenty EPC church leaders attended the workshop. In addition to discussing recent challenges and opportunities in their ministry settings—particularly related to changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic—participants shared best practices on a variety of topics related to church administration and operations, technology systems, personnel, vision and strategy, finance, and more.

“There are a lot of conferences out there that you can go to and get something out of,” said attendee Mark Eshoff, Executive Minister for Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, Calif. “But the things we talk about here are the things I work with every day. Minute-for-minute this is absolutely the best use of my time.”

The workshop is a resource of the Office of the General Assembly. The second roundtable, which also features Bolsinger and has the same format as the October 22-22 event, takes place November 11-12 in Orlando. For more information or to register, see www.epc.org/xpadmingathering.

September 2021 EPC financial report: Q1 PMA support lags 2020, behind projected budget

 

As of September 30, Per Member Asking (PMA) contributions received by the Office of the General Assembly since the July 1 start of fiscal year 2022 (FY22) total $531,873. The amount received is $20,337 (3.7 percent) less than the budgeted $552,210 PMA projection to fund the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations. September PMA support was $193,939.

PMA contributions in the first quarter of FY22 are $29,393 (5.2 percent) lower than the $561,266 contributed over the same period in FY21. In addition, the 12-month rolling average for PMA support dipped to $197,749—1.6 percent below the rolling average for September 2020.

“We are disappointed that PMA support is down for the second month in a row,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “Thankfully, our operating expenses to date are more than $100,000 under budget and our overall financial position is strong. I praise the Lord that we have undesignated reserves to withstand a short-term drop. And while it is normal to see a dip in income at this time of year, we all pray that PMA support from our churches grows in the month to come.”

Of the $531,873 received, $106,375 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $1,506,647 in designated gifts were received through September 30. This total was $168,873 (12.6 percent) more than the $1,337,774 in designated gifts received in the same period in FY21. Of the increase, more than $85,000 was donated to the EPC’s Emergency Relief Fund and $37,000 to refugee relief since July 1.

“I am so thankful for the generosity displayed by our congregations when disaster strikes,” Weaver said. “When people are hurting, our churches respond—this is a reminder of the best of who the EPC is.”

Of the total, $1,382,642 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $124,005 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.

Next Generation Ministries Council hosts leadership summit for EPC ministry leaders

 

Collaboration, encouragement, fellowship, and worship were on the agenda for more than 30 EPC children’s ministry, student ministry, and family ministry leaders on October 6-7 in Orlando. The workers from local churches in all 14 Presbyteries met for the inaugural Next Generation Ministries Leadership Summit, hosted by the Next Generation Ministries Council (NGMC).

The focus of the two-day “think tank” was to consider best approaches for ministry to children, students, and families, as well as discuss a variety of challenges facing age-group ministry in the current cultural landscape.

Jen Burkholder

“While the good news of Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, the Church needs to think hard about how we can best reach and disciple the young generations of our communities with the gospel in an ever-shifting culture,” said Jen Burkholder, Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Coalition for Christian Outreach and a member of the NGMC. “We cannot wait any longer to figure out how to equip them for leadership in our denomination and world.”

Among the topics that launched robust discussion among participants were practices, identity, diversity, and networking. Following a presentation on each issue, participants engaged in small group discussion to both foster dialogue and help build community among ministry peers.

Enid Flores, NGMC member and Ruling Elder for Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, led the discussion on diversity.

“When we work with relationships, we get to know our neighbors,” she said. “When we get to know our neighbors, we get the opportunity to have discipleship. And with that, we get a deeper friendship. And at the end, we love our neighbors as He loves us.”

As each table presented highlights of their group discussion, a theme emerged of the desire for broader diversity in the church.

“We talked about how to have the conversation in our church if they don’t want to embrace diversity—even if it’s an age diversity and not a racial one,” said Blaise Shields, Pastor for Youth & Families at St. Andrew EPC in Auburn, Ind. “It makes sense to me that someone who visits the church would feel more at home if they see someone in leadership who looks like them—whatever that may look like.”

Connected to reach the world for Christ’

As part of the discussion on networking, NGMC Chairman Greg Aydt said the Council’s goal is for a stronger level of collaboration among Next Generation Ministry leaders, both within and across Presbyteries.

Greg Aydt

“We are all connected to reach the world for Christ,” said Aydt, who serves as Pastor of Youth Ministry for Advent Presbyterian Church in Cordova, Tenn. “We have a strong belief in the wisdom of the collective—of the group. It’s Trinitiarian in a way. There’s power in that fellowship.”

He said the Council hopes to help foster creation of ministry peer networks all across the EPC.

“Our desire is that no NextGen worker is on an island. Networking has a bunch of strengths—resourcing, collaboration, mutual edification,” Aydt said. “We are thrilled to have denominational leaders who are invested in Next Generation ministry and want to see it prosper.”

Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk, said the Council’s work to connect Next Generation Ministry leaders to each other and also the larger vision of the EPC was already bearing fruit for the Kingdom. Weaver spoke to the gathering on Wednesday afternoon via video conference.

“I have no doubt the God will continue to bless the vision and energy these leaders have for reaching young people in their communities,” Weaver said. “They are natives to the culture that the people they are trying to reach are in, so they are in a unique position that not all of us can be as effective in.”

Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk, noted that the passion for evangelism and outreach among the attendees “signals that both the present and the future of EPC leadership looks promising.”

“These folks are at the tip of the spear in evangelism in their churches and other ministry contexts,” Iamurri said. “Listening to these folks describe how they are reaching their students for Christ is incredibly encouraging.”

Aydt noted that “the next generation is going to reform the Church; whether or not they are formed in the likeness of Christ is up to people like those in the room.”

August 2021 EPC financial report: PMA support below projected budget

 

Contributions to Per Member Asking (PMA) received by the Office of the General Assembly in fiscal year 2022 (FY22) through August 31 total $337,934. The total is $11,246 (3.2 percent) below the $349,180 FY22 PMA support projection to fund the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations. August PMA support was $143,657.

Despite contributions being below the projected budget, FY22 PMA support is $969 (0.3 percent) above the $336,965 contributed over the same period in FY21. In addition, the 12-month rolling average for PMA support is $200,279 (1.2 percent above the rolling average for August 2020). Fiscal year 2022 runs from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022)

“While you never like to see PMA support dip—even a small amount—we feel good about the overall trends and continued participation to begin a new fiscal year,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “The good news is that our operating expenses to date are about $50,000 under budget. Our staff has been diligent in controlling expenses, and I am very thankful for their careful stewardship.”

Of the $337,934 received, $67,587 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $907,079 in designated gifts were received through August 31. This total was $50,752 (5.9 percent) above the $856,327 in designated gifts received in the same period in FY21.

“Our congregations have been so very generous in responding to critical needs like disaster relief in Louisiana and the ministry needs among the growing tide of hurting Afghan refugees,” Weaver said.  “We are committed to getting these sacrificial gifts into the hands of those who need it the most as quickly as possible.”

Of the total, $891,969 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $15,110 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.

Bob Stauffer named National Director of Church Health

 

Bob Stauffer

Bob Stauffer, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Alleghenies, has been named the EPC’s National Director of Church Health. This new role at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando will oversee the denomination’s strategic priority of Church Revitalization.

“I am excited to serve the EPC in this capacity of helping churches better understand how they can be healthy congregations,” Stauffer said. “We are already developing plans for a church health structure both nationally and within each Presbytery to give the entire process ‘rails to run on’ in the areas of evangelism, church health, and transitional pastorates.”

A member of the EPC’s first ordination class in 1982, Stauffer has served in a wide variety of roles in his 40 years of ministry. Among these are Associate Pastor of NorthPark EPC in Pittsburgh, Pa.; Planting Pastor of Carmel Valley EPC in San Diego, Calif.; Pastor of Tabernacle EPC in Youngstown, Ohio; Planting Pastor of Gateway EPC in Slippery Rock, Pa.; and several transitional pastorates. He also served as the EPC’s National Outreach Director; Church Development Coordinator for the Presbytery of the Alleghenies; a Church Health leader for Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic’s GO Center; and Regional Director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. For the past 34 years he also has served as a high school baseball and strength and conditioning coach.

“I am thrilled that Bob is leading this critical effort in the life of the EPC,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “Those who know Bob know that his passion for the local church to be everything God has called her to be as the Bride of Christ is infectious. In addition, his vast experience helping churches all across the EPC through the revitalization process will be a tremendous benefit to the entire denomination.”

A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Stauffer is a graduate of Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa., and Pittsburgh (Pa.) Theological Seminary. He also holds a doctorate from Reformed Theological Seminary.

He and his wife, Debbie, have been married for 42 years and have three children—all involved in ministry—and eight grandchildren.

Spaces still available for October pastor-spouse retreat

 

Twenty spots remain available for the October pastor-spouse retreat for EPC pastors who serve in Presbyteries that are not hosting their own renewal retreat this fall or winter. The retreats will be held October 18-22 at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Southwest Pennsylvania, and February 14-18, 2022, at the Canterbury Retreat and Conference Center in Central Florida.

The retreats are offered at no cost to the pastor and his or her spouse—singles are welcome— and registration for each is limited to 50 couples.

For more information and to register, see www.epc.org/pastorspouseretreat.

Prayers requested for Louisiana as Hurricane Ida approaches

 

As Hurricane Ida approaches Louisiana with 150 mph winds, please join EPC leadership in prayer for those in its path. Several EPC churches in Louisiana are in the path of the storm:

  • First Presbyterian Church in Thibodeaux (Pastor: Bill Crawford)
  • First Presbyterian Church in Houma (Pastor: Bill Crawford)
  • Woodland Church in New Orleans (Pastor: Joseph McDaniels)
  • Church of the Resurrection in New Orleans (Pastor: Ben Cunningham)
  • New Covenant EPC in Mandeville (Pastor: Hunter Gray)
  • Faith Presbyterian Church in Covington (Pastor: Jason Wood)
  • River Community Church in Prairieville (without a Pastor, but Whitney Alexander is Moderator of Session).
  • First Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge (Pastor: Gerrit Dawson).

Pray that God’s grace and protective hand will sustain those who have not been able to evacuate. Pray also for each of these Pastors and their staff and leaders as they care for their congregations and communities today and in the days to come.

Call to prayer in the EPC

 

The National Leadership Team of the EPC issued a call to prayer on August 18, 2021, in response to numerous situations around the world, including wildfires in the Western U.S. and Canada, the August 14 earthquake in Haiti, the fall of Afghanistan, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Registration open for EPC pastor-spouse retreats

 

The Office of the General Assembly is hosting two pastor-spouse retreats for EPC pastors who serve in Presbyteries that are not hosting their own renewal retreat this fall or winter. The retreats will be held October 18-22 at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Southwest Pennsylvania, and February 14-18, 2022, at the Canterbury Retreat and Conference Center in Central Florida.

“We believe that the health of our churches correlates directly with the wellbeing of our pastors—who are at the point of the spear on the front lines of the advancement of the gospel,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “These five-day getaways are designed to provide our pastors and their spouse with refreshment, renewal, and recharge.”

Based on the theme, “Moving out of the COVID Wilderness: Working through Trauma and Transition,” the two gatherings will feature Bible studies and prayer times led by Jim and Shari Hobby of the Anglican Church in North America. Christian psychologist Tara Gunther will be available for counseling sessions, and plenty of free time is built into the schedule for exploring the retreat centers’ amenities or local attractions.

Each of these retreats is offered at no cost to the pastor and his or her spouse, and registration for each is limited to 50 couples.

“The pastor’s Presbytery, congregation, and/or Session is encouraged to express care for their pastor and spouse by providing transportation costs as well as childcare options, since childcare is not provided,” Weaver noted. “A limited number of scholarships are available to help defray travel and childcare costs if needed.”

For more information and to register, see www.epc.org/pastorspouseretreat.

Michael Davis named EPC Chief Collaborative Officer

 

Michael Davis

Michael Davis, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Central South, has been named the EPC’s Chief Collaborative Officer. This new role at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando encompasses strategic leadership with particular emphasis on strategic priorities and senior leaders; collaborative networking at all levels of the denomination; and development and innovation with a focus on missional “best practices.” Davis begins his responsibilities on August 2.

“Michael’s primary responsibilities will be to identify where God is at work inside and outside of the EPC, and help connect and network ministries, Presbyteries, and congregations to the missio dei in order that we might fulfill the EPC’s mission,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk.

Since 2017, Davis has served as Associate Teaching Pastor for Downtown Church in Memphis, Tenn. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor for Memphis City Seminary. He previously served as an adjunct instructor for the Memphis Center of Urban Theological Studies, Assistant Pastor to Young Adults at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, and Chaplain for Missouri Baptist Medical Center in St. Louis.

“I am incredibly energized and excited to be the Chief Collaborative Officer for our denomination,” Davis said. “This potential for innovation and collaboration will cultivate a thriving, gospel-driven denomination that will see fruit for years to come. God has provided our denomination with an abundance of opportunities that will benefit our communities, nation, and the world all for the glory of God. It is an amazing honor to serve in this capacity.”

Davis is a graduate of the University of Missouri in Columbia and Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. He has served as the Board Chairman for Advance Memphis since 2015, and also is on the Boards of a variety of Memphis-area ministries, including Service Over Self, Presbyterian Day School, The Center for Executive Leadership, and Memphis City Seminary. He has served on the EPC’s Church Planting Team, Next Generation Ministries Council, and Presbytery of the Central South Ministerial Committee.

He and his wife, Serena, have two children. Their third child is due in late November.

June EPC budget report: PMA contributions finish FY21 ahead of budget, over FY20 total

 

At the June 30 close of the EPC’s fiscal year, Per Member Asking (PMA) contributions to the EPC totaled $2,402,378. The amount is $348,166 (16.9 percent) more than the PMA support projection to fund the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations.

Fiscal year 2021 (FY21) PMA support was $12,507 more than the $2,389,871 contributed over the same period in FY20. The EPC’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. In addition, June PMA support of $213,296 brought the 12-month rolling average for monthly PMA contributions to $201,198. The rolling average is 0.4 percent above the 12-month rolling average as of June 2020.

“God is so good,” said Stated Clerk Dean Weaver. “We ended the fiscal year in a strong financial position, which can only be attributed to His faithfulness to our churches. I am grateful that our leaders understand the value in contributing to the global movement of Evangelical Presbyterian churches that is the EPC. I want to especially recognize the five churches with the highest PMA contributions last year: Hope Church (Memphis, Tenn.); Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis; Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville (Tenn.); Lake Forest Church (Huntersville, N.C.); and Colonial Presbyterian Church in Kansas City.”

Of the $2,402,378 received, $480,548 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, the Office of the General Assembly received $5,579,940 in designated gifts in FY21. This total was $226,233 (4 percent) less than the $5,806,173 in designated gifts received in FY20. 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, $5,426,889 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $153,051 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.

As noted in previous monthly reports, the decline in the total from FY20 is largely attributed to an anonymous $250,000 gift for church planting in December 2019 and more than $375,000 donated to the Emergency Relief Fund in 2019-2020 in response to Hurricane Dorian and the spring 2020 tornado outbreak.

“If we don’t consider any donations to church planting or emergency relief, giving to our global workers and designated funds is up more than $400,000 over last (fiscal) year,” Weaver said. “More than $360,000 of that was to support our World Outreach global workers. Who would have imagined when we closed the books on 2020 a year ago in the midst of the pandemic shutdown that a year later we would report this level of giving? God is so good!”

May 2021 EPC financial report: PMA support continues above budget, above 2019 level

 

Contributions to Per Member Asking (PMA) received by the Office of the General Assembly in fiscal year 2021 (FY21) through May 31 total $2,189,082. The amount is $335,599 (18.1 percent) more than the $1,853,483 FY21 PMA support projection to fund the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations.

With one month to go in the fiscal year (which runs from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021), PMA contributions are $25,812 above the $2,163,270 contributed over the same period in FY20. In addition, May PMA support of $154,111 brought the 12-month rolling average for monthly PMA contributions to $201,471. The rolling average has now increased for three consecutive months and is 1 percent above the 12-month rolling average as of May 2020.

“When we presented a significantly reduced budget to the 40th General Assembly last September, none of us envisioned being where we are at the end of May,” said Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah. “I am very grateful for how our churches have supported PMA in this most unusual year.”

“Our churches continue to demonstrate amazing generosity to the EPC,” said Dean Weaver, Stated Clerk-elect. “The past three months especially are truly awe-inspiring. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s grace toward us.”

Of the $2,189,082 received, $437,816 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $5,153,361 in designated gifts were received through May 31. This total was $236,059 (4.4 percent) lower than the $5,389,420 in designated gifts received in the same period in FY20. As noted in previous monthly reports, the discrepancy is largely attributed to significant donations to the Emergency Relief Fund following Hurricane Dorian’s devastation in the Bahamas and North Carolina in September 2019, and several large anonymous gifts designated for church planting efforts. Not counting contributions to those two areas, giving to designated funds is $400,267 more than in FY20.

Of the total, $5,031,772 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $121,589 was designated for EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings.

These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to World Outreach global workers or other projects.

Revised Procedure Manual for Ministerial and Candidates Committees now available

 

The revised, second edition of the Procedure Manual for Ministerial and Candidates Committees is now available for download in PDF format. The Manual was developed by the EPC’s Ministerial Vocation Committee as a resource for EPC Presbyteries, churches, and ministerial candidates. The second edition includes amendments and legislative actions approved through the 38th General Assembly.

The manual can be downloaded at no cost from the EPC website at www.epc.org/downloads/#training and from the EPC Resources online store at www.epcresources.org.

“The Procedure Manual puts in one place the constitutional requirements from the Book of Order, practices required by our Acts of Assembly, and other helpful material,” said Jerry Iamurri, Assistant Stated Clerk. “It also contains sections that will have great value to search committees, Sessions, and Candidates Under Care.”

New to the second edition is “From Candidacy to Call: an Overview of the Ordination Process.” The section provides a high-level overview of the process of the pastoral call, including steps and milestones for candidates, search committees, and Presbytery Ministerial and Candidates committees.

Another change from previous editions is that forms, checklists, and other resources designed to be used by Presbyteries and churches are not included in the second edition, but rather provided as links to downloadable forms on the EPC website.

“Many of these forms are updated—sometimes multiple times—between printings of the Manual,” Iamurri explained. “These forms have been available on the EPC website all along. With this edition we included an Appendix that includes a clickable link for each form, which will always be the most current version.”

Commissioner’s Handbook, committee reports available for 41st General Assembly

 

The 41st General Assembly Commissioner’s Handbook and reports from the EPC’s permanent and interim committees to the Assembly are now available for download in PDF format at www.epc.org/ga2021documents. The Handbook is available in its entirety as well by individual sections.

The Assembly will be held June 22-25 at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.

“Every Commissioner should take time between now and the Assembly to familiarize themselves with the 30 Recommendations we will act on,” said Jeff Jeremiah, Stated Clerk.

Other documents available include the 2020 Annual Church Report; Auditor’s reports of the EPC’s Combined Financial Statements and Benefit Resources, Inc, (BRI) Benefits Plan and BRI Retirement Plan financial statements; Churches Received, Dismissed, and Dissolved in 2020-2021; Provisional Minutes of the 40th General Assembly, and more.

In addition, Commissioner assignments for the Standing Committees on Administration, Memorials and Appreciation, Theology, and World Outreach are available. In-person Commissioners will participate in Standing Committees on Thursday, June 24.

In addition to the GA Documents page of the website, all permanent and committee reports for the 2020-2021 ministry year are available at www.epc.org/committees/reports.

#epc2021ga

Phil Linton reflects on seven years as Director of World Outreach

 

Phil Linton

At the end of this month, I will step down after seven years as Director of World Outreach. I want to reflect here on four developments I’ve seen in our work during that time.

Internationalized Church-planting Teams

The EPC World Outreach global workers we send out from North America almost always end up teaming with spiritual brothers and sisters sent out from Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. These relationships are rarely orchestrated from denominational or mission agency headquarters, but rather are organic partnerships that grow as disciple-makers from very different cultures discover each other working on the same task directed by the same Spirit.

Second-generation EPC WO Global Workers

By Presbyterian standards EPC World Outreach is relatively young, having sent out its first workers in 1985. But in recent years we have seen adult children (Jackie, Peter, and Josh) from three different EPC WO families return with the EPC into full-cycle church planting among people with least access to the gospel. With these folks we build on the foundation of decades of the very best preparation for cross-cultural ministry.

Repatriated Immigrant Global Workers

The dream of escape to America—the Land of Opportunity—is still very much alive throughout much of the world. Few who have achieved that dream give it up and return to the lands of their birth, but we in EPC World Outreach have several families where at least one spouse fits that description. These families have unusual credibility with neighbors who recognize they are animated by a power greater than material success. Coupling that credibility with a deep understanding of local culture to share the gospel has had a major impact in many cases.

National Church Missional Leaders

As World Outreach Director, I receive several requests each week from Christians around the world, asking for “partnership.” Of course, partnership may have many different meanings, but usually these appeals are for funds to carry out ministry in their communities. As important as these ministries are, I routinely turn down such requests to focus our resources and energies on a different kind of partnership.

World Outreach has developed close relationships with church leaders in Asia and Africa whose eyes are always on the frontiers of their communities. They look beyond where their churches are, to the neighborhoods, villages, and towns where no churches are. They pray for those places; they go to those places; they train and send people to those places; and EPC WO comes alongside to help them. Our efforts here become magnified and multiplied for a hundred-fold effect.

One final note: these developments in World Outreach have been gifts from God through the labors of people other than me. It has been the labors of loving missionary parents which have borne sweet fruit in the lives of our World Outreach MKs. It has been the faithful service of elders in our presbyteries who nurtured relationships with national church missional leaders in places like Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Albania, and Russia. It has been EPC pastors who welcomed and befriended immigrant Christians in their congregations, and then encouraged and guided them to be sent back by EPC World Outreach. And it has been our WO global workers who have recognized “God’s team” in the faces of El Salvadoran, Brazilian, Singaporean, Indonesian, Albanian, etc. brothers and sisters and reached out hands to work together. To all of you, I say thank you for your service to Christ, and for making my work as WO Director a joy.

Grace and peace,

Phil Linton
Director, EPC World Outreach