Category Archives: General Assembly Meeting

National Leadership Team welcomes new members, looks to future

 

NLT201908In its August meeting, the EPC’s National Leadership Team (NLT) convened its 2019-2020 year by welcoming five new members, reviewing the EPC’s mission and vision, and looking to possible futures for the denomination. The meeting was held August 20-21 at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo., and is one of four in-person gatherings each year.

The 39th General Assembly approved an update to the composition and functions of the NLT, and much of the agenda for the meeting reflected the newly defined responsibilities:

  • Seek the mind of Christ for the EPC and to express this in a mission statement that states who God has called the EPC to be.
  • Development of vision and strategies that express what God is calling the EPC to do to carry out the mission statement.
  • Assess the execution of the mission, vision, and strategies on behalf of the General Assembly.
  • Encourage EPC presbyteries and local churches to participate in implementing the mission, vision, and strategies.

“With the Assembly’s action in June, the NLT is now formally charged with leadership and strategic ‘looking out to the horizon’ and how we could be prepared for that—both the opportunities and the potential challenges,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “I am thankful for the members of the committee and how seriously they take the collective responsibility to seek the mind of Christ for the EPC.”

The 39th General Assembly also approved increasing the roster of the NLT to twelve elected members. New to the committee are Gerry Arnold, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Gulf South; Brian Evans, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Midwest; Brett Garretson, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the West; Duke Lineberry, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; and Dave Strunk, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Southeast.

Other members are Tom Werner (Chairman), Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of Mid-America; Chris Danusiar, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; Nancy Duff, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; Phil Fanara, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the East; Michael Gibson, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains; Rob Liddon, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Central South; Rosemary Lukens, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; Luder Whitlock, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; Case Thorp (Moderator of the 39th General Assembly), Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; Glenn Meyers (Moderator-elect), Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies; and Jeremiah, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest.

The next meeting of the NLT is scheduled for November 5-6.

Church, Pivot!

 

ThorpPivotArtby Case Thorp
Moderator of the 39th General Assembly

Michael Jordan, I am not. Yet my stocky frame came into its own during middle school basketball. While I wasn’t the one leading in the number of baskets scored, setting the standard in layups, or scoring on average more than four points a season (yes, a season, not a game), my pivot was something to behold. I could take the ball, swing my hips, and redirect the ball in a new direction with my mean pivot. All the skinny boys who weren’t slammed to the floor by my moves—and my hips—were in awe at such skill. I got a nickname from my feats of athletic prowess: The Enforcer.

I find this move, the pivot, an analogy for today’s church.

CaseThorp

Case Thorp

As Presbyterian Christians, we instinctively appreciate our past and recognize the movement that Reformed Christianity was in Europe, the Americas, and beyond. In theory—and from theological conviction—as Reformed Christians we seek to continue the reform begun in Christ’s Church in the glory days of Calvin and others.

Yet the danger of focusing upon our past is that we focus so much on where we’ve been that we can grow lethargic about our future as a church and where the Holy Spirit is leading us.

I see the church as needing to pivot as does a basketball player, who keeps one foot planted while being free to move the other as the situation in front of him or her unfolds. The church today needs to keep one foot firmly grounded in Scripture and our confession, and yet pivot in our methodologies in order to make the pass or attempt the shot. We must push harder on the work of reforming due to the cultural decay around us.

With a smart pivot, our shot toward the goal can result in flourishing Reformed churches for the 21st century that have a robust mission, a clear note of praise for the Father, and sightings of the Kingdom of God that abound.

Over my term serving the Evangelical Presbyterian Church as Moderator, my aim is to advance a conversation. This conversation occurs between us all: church planters, solo pastors, ruling elders, and stated clerks. It is the conversation that seeks honesty and realism about the state of today’s church, and likewise a focus on methodological changes that will lead to the future to which Christ calls us.

Besides traveling to be with many of you, I will be creating a series of blog posts and podcasts focused on issues of pivoting toward a rich and robust future of ministry, spiritual growth, adult conversion, and more. And so I begin this journey by sharing my opening remarks upon investiture as Moderator.

My intent with these remarks made at Cherry Creek in June was to present to the church and her leaders some past challenges to inspire us for present ministry threats, and then illustrate some of those headwinds. For cultural headwinds are nothing compared to the Spirit of God who fills our sails.

Remarks delivered on June 19, 2019, at the 39th General Assembly of the EPC held at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo.:

In September of 1866, my great-great grandfather—the Reverend Charles Thorp—left Noke, Oxfordshire, England, to serve as a missionary, first in Canada, then in the frontiers of America. The challenges and obstacles during his ministry were great, yet the records indicate he never lost his zeal for the gospel or Christ’s church.

Charles lost the companionship of his beloved older brother, who took off to pursue the Australian gold rush of 1851—never to be heard from again. Charles found his oldest child and namesake, at the age of 3, dead in the home’s cistern, which someone tragically had left open. Years later, and four more children later, Charles lost his first wife to death.

Despite these dreadful setbacks, Charles raised a total of ten children, remarried a parishioner four months after conducting her father’s funeral, built three church buildings and a school on the wooded frontiers of Jacksonport, Wisc.; Tampa, Fla., and Mansfield, La. All this time, records show that his highest salary was $800 a year. He got two days of vacation after Christmas, and two Sundays away from his church for mission work. Described in letters as the “indefatigable missionary,” Charles never let a challenge get in the way of the gospel.

115 years later (and just 38 years ago), Bart Hess and Andy Jumper locked arms with Ed Davis, George Scotchmer, and Jim Van Dyke and launched out on their own journey. They dared to explore a frontier where Christ’s church could be both Reformed and evangelical.

They had to minster and creatively lead the church through the issues of their day:

The 20th century rise of evangelicalism;
The impact of the long awaited civil rights movement on society;
The explosion of the church in the global south;
Progressive theology undermining the authority of Scripture and uniqueness of the gospel; and
Social revolutions in America for women and human sexuality;

Our founding fathers, even some here in this room today, began this experiment in theology, polity, church culture, and missional effectiveness that we inherit.

If you were present 38 years ago at the first General Assembly of the EPC, would you please now stand.

Friends, we have our challenges.

The Greatest Generation increasingly join the great General Assembly in glory. Baby Boomers retire at the rate of 10,000 a day, and corporations are preparing for three out of four top executives and management leaders to be gone in the next five to seven years. Gen-Xers and Millennials find themselves taking the reigns of leadership presented with both missional challenges and evangelistic opportunity. Such as:

Adult conversions have bottomed out for us, and we recognize the paltry discipleship we’ve offered our people the past 50 years;
Post-modernism has redefined the meaning of a man, a woman, a child, even the in-utero child, such that a Christian anthropology seems like a foreign, political threat to our neighbors;
Many churches in America today give us Presbyterians a run for our money reaching the masses while perpetuating the false gospel of prosperity, starry-eyed pastors seeking fame, and worship-tainment dislocated from her historic moorings; and
We are only beginning to taste and see the impact of technology and a connected world on our own politics, economics, interpersonal relations, and ministry.

The challenges are great; the horizon darkens.

And yet, we are here. We are here.

We are here because we know our God is sovereign. Amen? Amen.

We are here because we know the gospel of Jesus Christ works, brings salvation, change, and restoration. Amen? Amen.

We are here because we know that the Bible tells our story, the story of our God, and the story of God’s mission to the world!

We are here because we know the words of our confession to be true: “The primary and highest purpose of human beings is to glorify God and to enjoy Him completely forever.”

We are here because we know our mission as Reformed, Evangelical, Missional, and Presbyterian is the best expression of church as illustrated in Scripture.

Oh, we have challenges, but if we didn’t we’d already be in the New Jerusalem beholding the beatific vision.

As Moderator, I stand with you; here. I pledge to serve you well and with humility. I pledge to face the horizons ahead of us arm in arm because with the Holy Spirit as the wind in your sails, Christ’s church will shine.

Case Thorp is a Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. He serves as Senior Associate Pastor of Evangelism for First Presbyterian Church in Orlando.

2019 Leadership Institute, 39th General Assembly worship service recordings available

 

GA2019VideosVideo recordings of the 39th General Assembly are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/ga2019recordings. Included are the Leadership Institute plenary sessions, worship service speakers, and several permanent committee verbal reports.

The videos feature Andrew and Norine Brunson; Doug Webster; Brad Strait, Lead Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church (the Assembly host church); Léonce Crump Jr., Senior Pastor of Renovation Church in Atlanta, Ga.; Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk; Mark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser; Tom Ricks, Chairman of the EPC Church Planting Team; and more.

In addition, audio recordings of most of the Leadership Institute breakout sessions and select Networking Lunches are available.

New for 2019 is that these Leadership Institute sessions and Networking Lunch recordings also are available in podcast form on Spotify and iTunes—search for “Evangelical Presbyterian Church.”

“I hear from more than a few people each year that they have a hard time deciding which seminar to attend because there are so many quality, relevant topics,” Jeremiah said. “We tried to address that this year by making the sessions available in podcast form for the first time. So for those who could not get to Denver for the event, they can get this training on their smartphone or other device.”

The videos also are available on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80 in the “39th General Assembly” playlist.

#epc2019ga

Nine churches join EPC, three church plants become local churches in 2018–2019

 

A total of 12 churches joined the Evangelical Presbyterian Church as local churches in the reporting period of May 31, 2018, through June 1, 2019. Of the nine new congregations, eight transferred from the Presbyterian Church (USA). One was previously an independent Presbyterian church. In addition, four church plants attained local church status.

These newest members of the EPC family of churches are:

Antioch Presbyterian Church (Jacksonville, N.C.)
Pastor currently vacant
www.antiochpresbyterian.weebly.com
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

Church of the Redeemer (Maryville, Tenn.)
Dave Strunk, Pastor
www.churchotr.com
Presbytery of the Southeast

Deerfield EPC (Bridgeton, N.J.)
Kenneth Larter, Pastor
www.deerfieldpres.org
Presbytery of the East

First Presbyterian Church (Martinsburg, W.Va.)
Rufus Burton, Pastor
www.fpcmartinsbgwv.org
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

First Presbyterian Church of Stanton (Stanton, Ky.)
Lucas Waters, Pastor
www.fpcstanton.com
Presbytery of the Southeast

Grace Brevard EPC (Brevard, N.C.)
Brian Land, Pastor
www.gracebrevardchurch.org
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

Grove Presbyterian Church EPC (Dunn, N.C.)
Michael Weaver, Pastor
www.grovechurchofdunn.com
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

Langhorne Presbyterian Church (Langhorne, Pa.)
Bill Teague, Pastor
www.langhornepres.org
Presbytery of the East

Nación Santa (Haines City, Fla.)
Luis Quiñones, Pastor
www.nacionsantaflorida.com
Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean

New Albany EPC (New Albany, Ohio)
David Milroy, Pastor
www.newalbanypresbyterian.org
Presbytery of the Alleghenies

Stow Presbyterian Church (Stow, Ohio)
Bob Stanley, Pastor
www.stowpres.church
Presbytery of the Alleghenies

The Table (San Francisco, Calif.)
Troy Wilson, Pastor
www.thetablesf.com
Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest

Woodlands Presbyterian Church (Hot Springs Village, Ark.)
Randy Carstens, Pastor
www.woodlandschurchhsv.org
Presbytery of the Central South

#epc2019ga

Case Thorp elected Moderator of 39th General Assembly

 
GA2019CaseThorpPrayer

Former EPC General Assembly Moderators lay hands on Case Thorp, newly installed Moderator of the 39th General Assembly, as Thorp’s father, Chuck, (left) offers the prayer.

Case Thorp, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean, was elected Moderator of the EPC’s 39th General Assembly on June 19 at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo. Thorp serves as Senior Associate Pastor for Evangelism at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando.

In his opening remarks, Thorp acknowledged that believers—and the Church—will face adversity.

“Oh, we have challenges,” he said. “If we didn’t, we’d already be in the New Jerusalem. But these challenges, friends, are opportunities. So I am honored to serve you, to stand here arm-in-arm with you, and to face the horizons knowing we have the Holy Spirit in our sails and Jesus calling us forward.”

GA2019CaseThorpInvestiture

Thorp receives the the traditional stole and Moderator’s cross from Tom Werner, Moderator of the 38th General Assembly.

In his role in Orlando, Thorp combines his passion for teaching with his interest in the confluence of faith and work. He founded and leads The Collaborative for Cultural and Economic Renewal (a faith, work, economics outreach in Orlando), and also serves as a city network leader for the Made to Flourish Network (a faith and work network for pastors). He also helped found IDignity, a social enterprise that assists the underprivileged obtain essential government identification.

He serves as adjunct faculty for Palm Beach Atlantic University and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, and has preached in Madagascar, Tajikistan, and Brazil. In addition, his writings have been published in the Wall Street Journal, The Green Room Blog and the Orlando Sentinel.

A native of Atlanta, Ga., Thorp is a graduate of Oxford College, Emory University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Fuller Theological Seminary (from which he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree in Missional Ecclesiology).

He and his wife, Jodi, have three children: Alexandra, 13; Charles, 11; and Brooks, 6.

#epc2019ga

Chris Piehl: Ephesians 3:14-19 is a prayer for today’s church

 

GA2019Worship-PiehlIn the Wednesday afternoon worship service of the 39th General Assembly, Chris Piehl noted three components of the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the church at Ephesus as recorded in Ephesians 3:14-19. Piehl serves as Pastor of Students and Families for Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo., the host church for the Assembly.

“Paul prays for God’s power for them, for Christ to dwell in their hearts, and for them to experience God’s fullness,” Piehl said.

Regarding the prayer for God’s power for the church, Piehl said that it was not physical strength that Paul was praying for them, but rather it was for their spiritual being.

“They needed the strength of someone who could step into the brokenness and aloneness they were experiencing in their lives,” he said. “My question for you is this: Are you struggling with loneliness? Uncertainty? Doubt? Fatigue? Then this prayer is for you.”

Concerning the prayer for Christ to “dwell in their hearts,” Piehl said the word Paul uses is “that Christ would dwell deeply in their lives—that Christ would be the master of their house with full and complete control of them,” he said. “Do you desire that Christ might dwell deeply in your heart? Do you desire to chase after him with everything you have?”

Finally, Piehl explained the portion of the prayer in which Paul prayer for the Ephesian church to experience God’s fullness.

“Paul is saying that to be full of the fullness of God is to understand this vast, unmeasured, deep, deep love of Jesus,” he said. “That is what Paul is praying for his church. My question for you is: If you are honest, would you say your love has grown cold or maybe callous? Do you long to comprehend the love of Christ for you and those you serve? Do you desire to be filled with this love?”

Piehl also noted that Paul’s prayer is based on the work that Christ has already accomplished. “So Paul can pray this prayer with confidence, knowing that it will be fulfilled because it has already been fulfilled in Christ,” he concluded.

#epc2019ga

2019 Leadership Institute: Turning Sessions into Spiritual Communities

 

GA2019LI9-SessionsIn the 2019 Leadership Institute seminar Turning Sessions into Spiritual Communities, Doug Resler discussed a variety of spiritual practices designed to help Ruling Elders grow in Christ so that they can accomplish their task of being the mind of Christ for the local church.

“We’ve got to look beyond the sermon time in our worship service. That’s not the only time we preach.”

Resler’s session was part of the Leadership Institute “Leadership” track. He serves as Senior Pastor for Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo.

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2019 Leadership Institute: Praying the Prayers of the Bible

 

GA2019LI87-PrayerIn the 2019 Leadership Institute seminar Praying the Prayers of the Bible, James Banks emphasized to session attendees that Scripture teaches believers how to pray.

“There are more prayers of praise than anything other kind of prayer in Scripture, which should tell us something about how we pray. The second most are cries for help and deliverance.”

Banks’s session was part of the Leadership Institute “Prayer” track. He serves as Pastor of Peace Church in Durham, N.C., and is the author of Prayers for Prodigals and Praying the Prayers of the Bible.

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2019 Leadership Institute: Serving Jesus in the Ordinary (Small) Church Context

 

GA2019LI7-OrdinaryContextIn the 2019 Leadership Institute seminar Serving Jesus in the Ordinary (Small) Church Context, Roy Yanke had attendees divide into cohorts and discuss challenges they continually face in their ministries.

Yanke’s session was part of the Leadership Institute “Congregational Ministry” track. He serves as Executive Director of Pastor-in-Residence (PIR) Ministries in Farmington Hills, Michigan. PIR is an commended resource of the EPC Ministerial Vocation Committee.

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2019 Leadership Institute: Leading as a Shepherd

 

GA2019LI6-ShepherdDudleyAs a portion of his 2019 Leadership Institute seminar Leading as a Shepherd, Bill Dudley provided guidance on how Teaching Elders can shepherd the members of a church Nominating Committee tasked with recommending a slate of Ruling Elders for the congregation.

“It’s the holy wisdom that Jethro had and Moses had that a Nominating Committee also needs to understand as they recommend church members for leadership roles. It’s not that they have a just list of names, but that they recommend people who are gifted and called. These people will be serving and facilitating for mission and outreach, and not just preservation of the past.”

Dudley’s session was part of the Leadership Institute “Leadership” track. He serves as Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Southeast and was the Moderator of the 33rd General Assembly.

#epc2019ga

2019 Leadership Institute: The Church and Its Common Doctrine

 

GA2019LI5-WestminsterHopkinsIn the 2019 Leadership Institute seminar The Church and Its Common Doctrine, Zach Hopkins discussed some of the distinguishing characteristics of the Reformed tradition.

“We are a confessional people. But what does that mean to be ‘confessional?’ As Presbyterians, we adhere to a “good faith subscription” to the Westminster Confession of Faith; what (EPC Stated Clerk) Jeff Jeremiah describes as an ‘open and honest’ subscription.”

Acknowledging the well-known saying that “Doctrine divides,” Hopkins noted that in the EPC, “our doctrinal unity is the foundation upon which our fraternal unity exists. We are united in our doctrinal convictions.”

Hopkins’ session was part of the Leadership Institute track on Reformed Theology. He serves as pastor of Edgington Presbyterian Church in Edgington, Illinois.

#epc2019ga

2019 Leadership Institute: Transitional Pastors Training

 

GA2019LI4-TransitionalPastorsIn the 2019 Leadership Institute seminar Transitional Pastor Training, Ken Priddy described the stages in the life of a local church—incline, recline, and decline—and presented some tell-take signs of a declining church.

“A church on the incline is usually driven by vision, while a church on the decline becomes structure-driven. In the absence of vision and programs, church leaders tend to keep the machinery running—having the meetings and the things that are already in place. But they don’t do it with much impact.”

He also noted that while inclining churches are more likely to be innovative in methodology, a declining church tends to be complacent and lapse into routine.

“Not complacent like ‘we don’t care,’ but complacent in the sense that they don’t have the wherewithal to make it any different.”

Priddy’s session was part of the all-day training workshop for Transitional Pastors. He is Team Leader for the EPC’s Church Revitalization Task Force and Executive Director of the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic’s GO Center.

#epc2019ga

2019 Leadership Institute: Chaplain’s Workshop

 

GA2019LI3-ChaplainsWorkshopIn the 2019 Leadership Institute seminar Biblical Leadership and Decision Making, Michael Moyles asked some poignant questions of those attending the annual Chaplains Workshop.

“What is important to you? What do you use day-to-day to make important decisions? Are you are making life-changing, irreversible decisions based on mistaken priorities? What would it take to change it?”

A five-time brain cancer survivor who has undergone 10 brain surgeries, 42 rounds of radiation, and 29 rounds of chemotherapy, Moyles noted that his wife has sat in a waiting room for 11 hours, 10 times, praying.

“I have undergone three major surgeries—including brain surgery—in the past two months. My wife was adamant that I not take this engagement today, because her priority is my health. Now, I am with my tribe here—speaking to and being with chaplains and military—so I made it a priority to be here. But I have every expectation that she will be proven right tomorrow.”

A retired Air Force Colonel, Moyles is a popular Christian speaker, teacher, and writer.

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2019 Leadership Institute: Unstoppable Youth Ministry

 

GA2019LI2-YouthMinistry.jpgIn the 2019 Leadership Institute seminar Unstoppable Youth Ministry: Self Care, Andrew Mills offered some practical tips on maintaining healthy life-ministry balance as a youth worker.

“One of the most important thing you can do is to set and maintain boundaries. There is no shortage of good things you can do, so you have to say ‘no’ to some good things. Not all good ideas are great ideas—some produce great results and others would hardly be noticed if you stopped doing them. Know what the truly valuable things are and do those. Don’t feel like you need to try every good idea.”

Mills’ session was part of the all-day Leadership Institute track, “Unstoppable Youth Ministry.” He serves as Associate Pastor/Director of Youth Ministry for Covenant Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Miss..

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2019 Leadership Institute: Children and Family Ministry Training

 

GA2019LI1-ChildrenFamily.jpgIn the 2019 Leadership Institute seminar Transformational Family Ministry: Catch the Vision!, Becky Shultz discussed the importance of prayer to a local church’s ministry to children and families.

“I encourage you to pray for your children’s ministry, the children who are in it, and the volunteers who serve in it, and listen to what God tells you. Take those steps in obedience and join Jesus in the work He’s doing. And know that your children’s and family ministries might look different than the children and family ministries down the street. And that’s okay. There’s no formula; just pray and follow Him and He will lead.”

Shultz’s session was part of the all-day Leadership Institute track, “Children and Family Ministry Training.” She is the Community Engagement Director for FamiliesAlive in Centennial, Colo., and co-author of the Words of Grace family devotion series.

#epc2019ga

39th General Assembly check-in underway

 

GA2019CheckInUnderwayThe check-in disk at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in suburban Denver, Colo., is a busy place as commissioners and guests arrive for the 39th General Assembly. Among those checking in on June 18 are (from right) Lisa and Gary O’Keefe from Fellowship Evangelical Presbyterian Church in South Lyon, Mich., where he serves as a Ruling Elder, and (left) Dean Weaver, Moderator of the 37th General Assembly and current Chairman of the National Leadership Team.

#epc39ga