Category Archives: Events

Student mission conferences offer unique worldview experiences

 

High school and college-aged students—as well as their leaders—have multiple opportunities in the coming months to be encouraged, equipped, and challenged to dig deeper into the God’s Word and His heart for the nations. For more information about any of these conferences, contact Cassie Shultz, EPC World Outreach Church Liaison, at cassie.s@epcwo.org or 407-930-4314.

EPC Summer Mission Jam
June 24-29, 2019—Fremont, Calif.
July 8-13, 2019—Hamtramck, Mich.

SummerMissionJam2019Summer Mission Jam is a mission and outreach equipping conference for high school groups. Participants will work alongside EPC partner churches to minister to Muslim peoples in these two cities. Registration is $480 and includes lodging and meals (except dinner on Monday).

A minimum of 80 registered students is required by November 15 in order to host this event; students, leaders, or youth groups interested can complete a brief online survey to learn more and indicate interest in either the California or Michigan event.

Urbana
December 27-31, 2018—St. Louis, Mo.

Urbana2018Held every third December, Urbana is a global mission conference that creates a sacred space for college students to learn more about missions and discern God’s call for their life. Among the speakers is the EPC’s own Beth Paz, Director of High School Ministry for First Presbyterian Church in Fresno, Calif.

Registration is $515 until November 15; $615 after that date; lodging is approximately $125 plus taxes. The EPC Next Generation Ministries Council provides a limited number of $150 scholarships to students interested in attending; go to www.epc.org/nextgen/urbanascholarshipapplication for details and to apply. Learn more about this potentially life-changing conference at www.urbana.org.

Cross Conference
January 2-5, 2019—Louisville, Ky.

CrossConference2019Cross Conference is a global missions conference for college students that focuses on reaching the unreached peoples of the world. Registration is $119 until November 30, and $139 until registration closes on December 18, 2018. Lodging is approximately $116 plus taxes. The EPC Next Generation Ministries Council provides a limited number of $40 scholarships to students interested in attending; go to www.epc.org/nextgen/crossconferencescholarshipapplication for details and to apply. Learn more about this exciting conference at www.crossforthenations.org.

In the short video below, David Platt, Pastor-Teacher for McLean Bible Church in McLean, Va., and former President of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, explains why Cross is not just for those who sense a personal call to serve on the mission field.

Executive Pastor/Church Administrator Roundtable features church communications expert Mark MacDonald

 

XPGatheringAt the first of two EPC Executive Pastor/Church Administrator Roundtable workshops held this fall, veteran church communicator Mark MacDonald discussed the importance of strategic, intentional communications to a local church’s efforts in effectively reaching its community as well as its members and attendees.

MacDonald is Executive Director of the Center for Church Communication, and is author of the Amazon best-seller Be Known for Something. He serves as Strategic Communication Catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, which serves more than 3,000 Florida Southern Baptist Churches.

The roundtable, now in its sixth year, is a two-day workshop for EPC executive pastors, church administrators, and others in senior ministry operations leadership positions.

Phil VanValkenburg, EPC Chief Operating Officer, hosts the event each year.

“We believe in the biblical principle that ‘iron sharpens iron,’ and this event is an opportunity for our church leaders to hear from their peers who face many of the same issues as they do in their ministries,” VanValkenburg said. “As we continue to focus on effective biblical leadership as one of our strategic initiatives, by being ‘better together’ we glean from each other’s experience—and our churches receive the benefit.”

Twenty-four EPC church leaders participated in the workshop October 18-19 in Denver, Colo. Participants discussed their specific ministry victories and challenges, shared best practices on a variety of topics related to church administration, and networked on such issues as technology systems, personnel, culture, vision and strategy, finance, generosity, and many others.

The workshop is a resource of the Office of the General Assembly. The second roundtable takes place November 1-2 in Orlando. For last-minute registration possibilities, contact marti.brenner@epc.org.

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

 

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

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Tom Werner, 38th GA Moderator

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

Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality approved

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

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

The Letter was approved by unanimous vote of the Assembly.

Commissioned Pastor expansion proposed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stated Clerk re-elected

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Jeff Jeremiah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New interim committee to be appointed

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

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

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

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

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

Budget, special projects approved

The total approved Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19—July 2018 through June 2019) budget for EPC operating expenses is $2,669,231. This amount includes $438,199 in direct funding of the four strategic initiatives—$92,690 for Church Revitalization; $182,680 for Church Planting; $121,290 for Effective Biblical Leadership; and $41,539 for Global Movement. In addition, 20 percent of Per Member Asking (PMA) contributions to the EPC support Global Movement in the form of funding the overall ministry of World Outreach. Funding for the strategic initiatives was added to the EPC operating budget in the FY2018 budget; they previously were funded through undesignated cash reserves since their 2014 inception.

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

In other administration-related business, commissioners approved:

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

New committee and board members elected

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other business items

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

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

Bart Hess Award for church growth and revitalization

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Church Planting Team highlights growth in plants, networks

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

TomRicks

Tom Ricks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GO Center describes revitalization tools, new funding model

KenPriddy

Ken Priddy

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

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

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

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

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

World Outreach reports progress, sets goals

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Phil Linton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#epc2018ga

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Prosecutors in the case have asked for a 35-year prison sentence on charges that Brunson helped terrorist organizations and worked to convert Turks to Christianity.

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

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

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

GA worship speakers include Ligon Duncan, Eli Morris, Rufus Smith, Dean Weaver

 

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(Clockwise from top left): Ligon Duncan, Eli Morris, Dean Weaver, Rufus Smith

Worship has been an integral part of the EPC’s annual General Assembly since the inaugural Assembly in 1981. The 38th General Assembly, to be held June 19-22 at Hope Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn., carries on this hallmark.

Eli Morris, Hope Church Senior Associate Pastor, will speak prior to the opening business session at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 20.

Rufus Smith, Hope Church Senior Pastor, will deliver the message at the Morning Worship Service at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 21.

Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary, will preach at the World Outreach Global Worker Commissioning Service on 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 21.

Dean Weaver, Moderator of the 37th General Assembly and Lead Pastor of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in Allison Park, Penn., will lead the Moderator’s Service of Communion and Prayer at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, June 22.

“Each of our worship speakers have been integrally involved in ministries that allow them to address our theme of ‘Forward!’” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “I fully anticipate that God has a dynamic, relevant word for us through these gifted communicators.”

Weaver is a Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Alleghenies and has served as Pastor of Memorial Park since 2006. He was Founder and Co-Moderator of the New Wineskins Association of Churches (NWAC), a group of about 200 theologically conservative Presbyterian churches formed in 2001 from growing discontent regarding the general direction of the PC(USA). The NWAC was dissolved in 2011. Weaver also is President and co-founder of EduNations, a non-profit corporation that builds and operates schools in Sierra Leone, West Africa. He is a graduate of Grove City College in Grove City, Penn.; Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (M.Div.); and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.).

Duncan was raised in the home of an eighth-generation Presbyterian Ruling Elder, and has authored, co-authored, edited or contributed to more than 35 books. At age 28, he was elected to the faculty of RTS, where he taught Systematic Theology until 1996 when he accepted the pastorate of the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Miss. He served as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) General Assembly in 2004-05, the youngest minister in the PCA’s history to be elected Moderator. He returned to RTS in 2012 and became Chancellor/CEO in 2013. He is a graduate of Furman University in Greenville, S.C.; Covenant Theological Seminary (M.Div. and M.A. in Historical Theology); and the University of Edinburgh New College in Scotland (Ph.D.).

Smith served Hope Church as Associate Pastor of Discipleship from September 2010 until November 2013, when he was elected to succeed Richard Craig Strickland’s 25-year founding pastorate. From 1988-2010, he served as Senior Pastor of the inter-racial and inter-generational City of Refuge Church in Houston, Texas. While in Houston he served as Lead Chaplain for the NBA Houston Rockets for three years. He studied at Houston Baptist University and maintains an active traveling and speaking schedule.

Morris, in addition to his role as Senior Associate Pastor for Hope Church, serves as Chaplain with the FBI Memphis Division. He is passionate about meeting the needs of the underprivileged, and serves on the boards of STREETS Ministry, Oasis of Hope, Luke 4:18 Ministries, and MIFA Emergency Services. He is a graduate of the University of Memphis, Memphis Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and Fuller Theological Seminary (D.Min.).

Click here for more information about the 38th General Assembly, including daily schedules, links to online registration, and more.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Church Planters Retreat offers refresh and recharge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Executive Pastor/Church Administrator Roundtable features church leadership expert Mike Bonem

 

XPRoundtableAt the first of two EPC Executive Pastor/Church Administrator Roundtable workshops held this fall, noted church leadership coach and consultant Mike Bonem discussed the joys and challenges of the “second chair” role. He defined a Second Chair Leader as “a person in a subordinate role whose influence with others adds value throughout the organization.”

Bonem earned an MBA from Harvard University, is a longtime business executive, and later served 11 years as Executive Pastor for a large church in Houston, Texas. He is author of Leading from the Second Chair, Thriving in the Second Chair, In Pursuit of Great and Godly Leadership, and Leading Congregational Change.

The roundtable, now in its fifth year, is a two-day workshop for EPC executive pastors, church administrators, and others in senior ministry (but second-chair) leadership positions.

Phil VanValkenburg, EPC Chief Operating Officer, hosts the roundtable each year.

“We want our church leaders to know that they have peers who face many of the same issues as they do in their ministries,” VanValkenburg said. “As we continue to focus on effective biblical leadership as one of our strategic initiatives, by being ‘better together’ we glean from each other’s experience and each of their churches gets great benefit.”

Twenty EPC church leaders participated in the workshop October 26-27 in Denver, Colorado. Participants discussed their specific ministry victories and challenges, shared best practices on a variety of topics related to church administration, and networked on such issues as technology systems, personnel, vision and strategy, finance, and many others.

The workshop is a resource of the Office of the General Assembly. The second roundtable takes place November 16-17 in Orlando.

World Outreach Forum hotel deadline approaching

 

Forum2017The annual World Outreach Forum is coming to Orlando in November, and the deadline to secure the group hotel rate is October 13.

This year’s Forum will focus on “Mobilizing Our Churches for Global Movement” and features a look at ways EPC congregations can:

  • Directly engage unreached people groups nearby,
  • Impart vision to reach the lost through short-term mission trips, and
  • Strategically send their own sons and daughters long-term through Engage 2025.

The Forum is a time of training, vision casting, and alignment around the global focus of the EPC. It is a great opportunity for presbytery Missions/World Outreach Committee members, church mission directors, and other mission-minded laymen, working on projects such as Engage 2025 to sharpen and learn from each other.

The workshop will be held November 13-14 at the Marriott SpringHill Suites Orlando Airport, starting at 1:00 p.m. with lunch on Monday and concluding after lunch on Tuesday.

“Representatives from EPC churches at the cutting edge of missions will share their stories, and we’ll explore how World Outreach can help all of our congregations,” said Phil Linton, Director of EPC World Outreach.

The cost is $79 per person and includes registration, two lunches, and one dinner. Lodging is available for $129 per night through October 13. Hotel rates increase after that date.

For more information and to register and make hotel arrangements, see www.epcwo.org/forum or contact the World Outreach office at wo@epcwo.org.

World Outreach Forum to highlight ways to mobilize the local church

 

Forum2017The 2017 World Outreach Forum will address the topic of “Mobilizing our churches for global movement” by addressing ways EPC congregations can:

  • Impart vision to reach the lost through short-term mission trips,
  • Directly engage unreached people groups in their local communities, and
  • Strategically send their own sons and daughters long-term through Engage 2025.

The workshop will be held November 13-14 in Orlando, Fla., starting at 1:00 p.m. with lunch on Monday and concluding after lunch on Tuesday. Come and collaborate with presbytery and church mission leaders and the World Outreach U.S. Team for a time of sharing, vision casting, and alignment around the global focus of the EPC.

“The mission initiatives of our churches are a treasure, and the Forum is where we get to look at the crown jewels,” said Phil Linton, Director of EPC World Outreach.  “Representatives from EPC churches at the cutting edge of missions will share their stories, and we’ll explore how World Outreach can help our congregations.”

The cost is $79 per person and includes registration, two lunches, and one dinner. Lodging is available for $129 per night and the deadline to secure the group rate is October 13.

For more information and to register and make hotel arrangements, see www.epcwo.org/forum or contact the World Outreach office at wo@epcwo.org.

Dick Stenbakken’s renowned first-person narratives open to all during GA Chaplains Workshop

 
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Col. Dick Stenbakken, U.S. Army (Retired)

Imagine that you have been assigned as the U.S. Army chaplain to the leaders of the German High Command on trial for war crimes following World War II. How would you minister to men who had intentionally, willfully, and systematically murdered millions of people?

Now imagine that you are on board the troop ship S.S. Dorchester, torpedoed in the North Atlantic by a German U-boat in 1943 and immortalized by the selfless actions of four Army chaplains who gave their life jackets so others might survive. As recipient of one of those life vests, how do you respond?

Retired Army Col. Dick Stenbakken will portray these two individuals in first-person narratives from 9:15-10:30 a.m. and 1:15-2:30 p.m. as part of the annual EPC Chaplain’s Workshop on in conjunction with the 37th General Assembly in Sacramento, Calif. The Workshop will be held on Tuesday, June 20, in the Wells Chapel at Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church. Stenbakken’s presentations are open to all on a space-available basis.

In “The Nuremberg Chaplain,” Stenbakken portrays Henry Gerecke, chaplain to men who the world labeled as monsters, parishioners with whom he walked to the gallows.

In “The Dorchester Story,” Stenbakken recounts the S.S. Dorchester and the chaplain who gave him the chance to live.

Stenbakken served 24 years as an Army Chaplain, including one year of combat duty in Vietnam, and four years as the director of Family Life Ministries for the Army Chief of Chaplains Office. Following his retirement from the Army, he directed Chaplaincy Ministries on a world-wide basis for his denominational headquarters. He has presented to the U.S. Senate, the Pentagon, major health care organizations, leadership conferences, college campus settings, and a variety of military and civilian congregations across North America, Africa, India, Asia, Europe, Japan, and Germany. He holds four Master’s Degrees and a Doctorate in Education. For more information about his first-person narratives, see www.biblefaces.com.

For more information about the 37th General Assembly, see www.epc.org/ga2017. For details about the Chaplain’s Workshop, click here or contact Mark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser, at epcendorser@yahoo.com.

FirstPersonNarratives

CCO Jubilee Conference available at no cost for EPC leaders

 

One of the EPC’s strategies for reaching and building Next Generation leaders is through its strategic partnership with Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO). Through that partnership, any EPC leader may attend CCO’s 2017 Jubilee Conference at no cost for registration. Jubilee will be held February 17-19 at the Westin Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh, Pa. The annual event attracts more than 3,000 attendees each year.

For more than 40 years, the Jubilee Conference has helped college students talk, learn, think, and dream about the public implications of their personal transformation. And it’s not just for those pursuing a career in ministry—Jubilee is designed for all students to help them understand how to be involved faithfully in whatever discipline they choose—both in college and the years to come.

The three-day conference normally costs approximately $300 per person. In addition to the waived registration fee, EPC leaders are offered a discounted rate at the Omni William Penn Hotel. Two meals also will be provided free of charge—Saturday lunch and Saturday dinner.

Free registration is available to any EPC pastor, elder, church or presbytery staff member, or other leader as a ministry of the EPC Student and College Ministries (SCM) Committee. One of the committee’s primary goals is to further develop EPC’s partnership with CCO to help growing numbers of EPC churches develop or improve their ministry to college students and millennials.

To register, go to the Jubilee Partners page at www.jubileeconference.com/jubilee-partner. For more information, see the CCO website at www.ccojubilee.org or contact Elliott Simko, CCO Partnership Coordinator, at esimko@ccojubilee.org.

Reformed Theological Seminary offers EPC polity course

 


rtsReformed Theological Seminary
(RTS) in Orlando is offering a course in EPC polity during its upcoming Winter 2017 term. The class will meet January 9-12 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Subjects to be studied include polity, discipline, EPC history, and current developments within the denomination. The course will focus on the biblical and theological foundations for Presbyterian polity and how they are applied through the confession, constitution, and policies of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church within the historical contexts of the Reformed tradition, American Presbyterianism, and the EPC’s own history and distinctives.

Instructors are Don Fortson, Mike Glodo, and Jeff Jeremiah. Fortson is Professor of Church History at RTS’s Charlotte, N.C., campus and author of Liberty in Non-Essentials: The Story of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Glodo is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at the RTS Orlando campus and served as EPC Stated Clerk from 2001-2006. Jeremiah has served as Stated Clerk of the EPC since 2006.

The course is open to EPC and non-EPC students from other seminaries, as well as RTS students of all campuses and will satisfy the Master of Divinity course requirement, regardless of the student’s denominational affiliation. Students can take the course for credit or as an audit.

For information on how to register, contact Winston Miller, Director of Admissions for the RTS Orlando campus, at wmiller@rts.edu.

Transitional (Interim) pastors training scheduled

 

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

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

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

A variety of pertinent topics will be discussed, including:

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

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

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

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

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

International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church set for November

 

idop2017While every Sunday is a good Sunday to remember our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ throughout the world who suffer for their faith, November 6 and 13 have been designated International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) by the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).

The WAE reports statistics showing persecution as “a daily reality of at least 100 million Christians around the world.” Now marking its 20th year, the IDOP has grown substantially and is observed in more than 100 countries. This year’s theme is “If one suffers we all suffer together” (1 Corinthians 12.26).

Free IDOP church resource kits are available online at www.opendoorsusa.org, www.idop.org, and www.persecution.com.

We believe that standing with—and praying for—persecuted Christians is part of God’s vision for the EPC. As a “global movement of churches,” we’re committed to:

  • The global mission of EPC World Outreach
  • Fraternal partnerships with other churches (for example, our recent partnership with the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico), and
  • Awareness of and solidarity with persecuted Christians.