Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri (left) monitors the written report of the Permanent Judicial Commission as Chair Yvonne Chapman presents the Commission’s report to the Assembly. The EPC’s 40th General Assembly was conducted via video conference from the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando. (photo credit: Jeff Guetzloe)
Commissioners to the EPC’s 40th General Assembly elected Presbytery of the Alleghenies Teaching Elder Dean Weaver as the denomination’s fourth Stated Clerk, adopted a fiscal year 2021 (FY21) budget of $2.3 million, and approved 36 other recommendations from the EPC’s permanent and interim committees, commissions, and boards. The Assembly was held September 17-18 via video conference from the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando.
Commissioners also elected Glenn Meyers as Moderator and Brad Strait as Moderator-Elect. Meyers serves as Ruling Elder and Commissioned Pastor of Ardara United Presbyterian Church in Ardara, Pa., in the Presbytery of the Alleghenies. Strait serves as Senior Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo., in the Presbytery of the West.
More than 800 individuals registered for the Assembly, including 388 Teaching Elders and 416 Ruling Elders who submitted voting credentials.
“For the first time in my 14 years as Stated Clerk—and possibly in the history of the EPC—we had more Ruling Elder commissioners than Teaching Elders this year,” said Jeff Jeremiah. “When the EPC started in 1981, the founders wanted our General Assemblies to have strong Ruling Elder representation. I am grateful that our virtual format allowed for so many Ruling Elders to participate.”
Fourth EPC Stated Clerk elected
Dean Weaver, Lead Pastor of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in Allison Park, Pa., was elected as the EPC’s fourth Stated Clerk. He will be installed at the 41st General Assembly in June 2021. Weaver currently serves as Co-chairman of the EPC’s Revelation 7:9 Task Force and was the Moderator of the 37th General Assembly.
Bill Dudley, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Southeast and Chairman of the Stated Clerk Search Committee, said Weaver has “a devotion to the church” and “has demonstrated what sacrificial leadership looks like” over the years.
“He is a man with a mission for God on his mind in every aspect in the life of the Church,” Dudley said.
Upon his election, Weaver said he was “greatly humbled that you would entrust such a stewardship to me to be the fourth elected Stated Clerk of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, following in the footsteps of Ed Davis, Mike Glodo, and Jeff Jeremiah. I walk in the footsteps of giants and am the inheritor of that legacy for which I am deeply grateful. I am profoundly dependent on you for your prayers, your support, and your love.”
He expressed belief that that the EPC’s best days are still ahead.
“Jeff has led us through unprecedented times with incredible courage and great faith and stamina,” Weaver said. “I am proud to be his friend, and quite frankly a little overwhelmed to follow him. But at the same time, I honestly believe that God is going to lead us through the wilderness wanderings of the coronavirus pandemic into a promised land. I am confident that this Kingdom that cannot be shaken, that God has called us to together, that God is going to do exceedingly abundantly more than you and I could ever ask or imagine.”
The Assembly also approved Weaver’s terms of call, which go into effect on January 1, 2021.
Budget and Special Projects approved
Commissioners approved a Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21—July 2020 through June 2021) budget for EPC operating expenses of $2,361,047. This represents a 17 percent decrease in projected spending from the FY20 budget.
Tom Werner, Chairman of the National Leadership Team (NLT) and Ruling Elder for Greentree Community Church in Kirkwood, Mo., said the reduced budget was a reflection of the difficulties faced by churches in projecting future offering receipts.
“In light of the fact that giving is uncertain this year, we have tried to budget based on our per-member askings and additional giving from churches to maintain a ‘bare bones’ budget but without cutting essentials,” Werner said.
Ruling Elder Rob Liddon, Chairman of the NLT Finance Committee and Moderator of the 30th General Assembly, noted that the primary area of reduction from the FY20 budget was in travel expenses.
“We were able to reduce travel expenses because we are doing more Zoom meetings,” Liddon said. “We believe this budget meets the current realities of what is needed with what we believe would be the reality of the incoming revenues.”
The FY21 budget includes $254,000 in direct funding of the four strategic priorities—$140,000 for Multiplication (Church Planting); $30,000 for Transformation (Church Revitalization); $41,000 for Global Movement; and $43,000 for Effective Biblical Leadership. 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 FY18 budget. From their inception in 2014 through FY18 they had been funded through undesignated cash reserves.
In a separate action, commissioners authorized the NLT to increase funding of targeted line items in the budget should FY21 revenue exceed projected spending. These increases would be focused on strategic ministry opportunities.
“In the age of COVID, this is just a logical follow-up to the approval of a bare-bones budget,” Werner said. “If giving is robust, if the heavens open, if COVID goes away, and churches are able to give generously, then we would like as an NLT to have the authority to pursue ministry opportunities above and beyond what the bare-bones budget permits.”
The Assembly also approved a variety of Special Projects for FY21, which are supported outside of PMA but would be fully funded if each EPC church contributed an additional $6.02 per member above the PMA target of $23 per member.
In other administration-related business, commissioners approved 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.
Ron Horgan, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic and Chairman of the Benefit Resources, Inc., Board of Directors, said the approved recommendation “protects us in the event that there should be any attempt to have our housing allowance income declared as taxable.”
Book of Government amendments ratified
The Assembly ratified two Descending Overtures, which thereby amend the EPC’s Book of Government.
The first amendment addresses the examination of candidates for ordination. Added to Book of Government 11-2C is language that presbyteries should consider the candidate’s motivation to not only be an ordained Teaching Elder, but also be a part of the EPC.
The second adds language making explicit that “the office of co-pastor is not a constitutionally recognized calling in a local church” to Book of Government 9-5A.1. This amendment clarifies the position the EPC has held since 1985. The fifth General Assembly sustained a Permanent Judicial Commission opinion that year stating that “the office of co-pastor as being non-existent” and the only recognized offices for Teaching Elders in a local church are that of Pastor, Associate Pastor, and Assistant Pastor.
Interim committees extended
Commissioners approved extensions for the Giving Culture Study Committee (GCSC) and the Revelation 7:9 Task Force. The Giving Culture Study Committee was approved to continue through the 41st General Assembly (2021), while the Revelation 7:9 Task Force will maintain its work through the 42nd General Assembly (2022).
The Revelation 7:9 Task Force was approved by the 38th General Assembly in 2018 and appointed by 38th GA Moderator Tom Werner. The group spent its first year primarily listening within the denomination and provided an interim report of its findings to the 39th General Assembly. As stated in the NLT’s written report to the 40th General Assembly, the Task Force’s goal is “the presentation of S.M.A.R.T. (Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time-sensitive) recommendations, accompanied by resources and templates for EPC congregations to become more ethnically, age, and economically Revelation 7:9 mosaic communities.”
Commissioners also approved distributing the Revelation 7:9 Task Force written report to all EPC presbyteries, churches, and pastors.
The GCSC was approved by the 39th General Assembly and appointed by 39th GA Moderator Case Thorp. The committee’s charge is to address how to improve the long-term culture of giving to the EPC. Related to the GCSC’s work, commissioners approved four additional recommendations:
- For the Generosity Resources Committee to develop resources to aid congregations in enriching their financial collection practices to include the latest methods of giving and financial stewardship.
- For the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) to develop a plan to educate presbyteries and sessions as to the purpose and role of the OGA.
- For the Ministerial Vocation Committee, in conjunction with the NLT, to develop strategies to aid those church leaders acutely suffering from after-effects of their prior denominational affiliations and practices.
- For the Theology Committee, with assistance from the Ministerial Vocation Committee, to define the terms “connectional” and “connectionalism” as understood by the EPC.
Provisional opinions ratified
Commissioners sustained three provisional opinions from the Stated Clerk that were issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. The Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) recommended that all three opinions be upheld.
The first opinion was issued by Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah on March 11. Jeremiah stated that a presbytery with sufficient technology to ensure that every participant is able to hear and/or see, vote, and participate in a virtual meeting is permitted to hold their stated and/or called presbytery meetings virtually.
The second opinion was delivered on April 2. As with a presbytery meeting, Jeremiah wrote that a session or congregation with sufficient technology is permitted to hold a virtual meeting.
Jeremiah issued the third opinion on June 22, in which he ruled that the administration of the Lord’s Supper during a virtual worship service is temporarily permissible under the Constitution.
In additional judicial matters, commissioners approved a PJC-amended overture from the Presbytery of the Gulf South. That overture asked the Assembly to amend Book of Government G-13, “The Ordination and/or Installation of Officers.” The intent of the overture was to resolve potential confusion in the roles of Ruling Elder and Deacon. The goal was accomplished by adding phrases that clarify the office of Ruling Elder or Deacon as distinct from that of Teaching Elder; that Ruling Elders and Deacons report to their Session rather than to a presbytery; that congregants submit only to Teaching/Ruling Elders; and that congregants pledge to fulfill the terms of the call and make provision for the Teaching Elder.
Commissioners also ratified the PJC’s rulings on two separate disciplinary matters in which the respective Complaints were dismissed, and another ruling in which the appeal of an earlier ruling was dismissed.
Committee and Board Members elected
In addition to electing Meyers as Moderator and Strait 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 Will Barnes, Presbytery of the Midwest; TE Erik Ohman*, Presbytery of the West; Randy Shaneyfelt*, Presbytery of the Great Plains, who was elected as Chairman.
Chaplains Work and Care Committee: TE Marty Carpenter, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; TE Scott Rash, Presbytery of the Great Plains; TE Brad Yorton*, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest.
Generosity Resources Committee: RE Bobby Cobbs*, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; RE Ted Hailes*, Presbytery of the Central South.
Ministerial Vocation Committee: RE Richard Gash, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; TE Doug Resler, Presbytery of the West.
National Leadership Team: RE Earla Bethel, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; RE Frank Carter*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Victor Jones, Presbytery of the Gulf South; TE Patrick King, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; RE Rosemary Lukens*, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; TE Dave Strunk*, Presbytery of the Southeast.
Next Generation Ministries Council: TE Michael Davis, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Enid Flores*, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; TE Andrew Koesters*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Becky Shultz*, Presbytery of the West.
Nominating Committee: RE Marian Bradshaw*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Alan Conrow*, Presbytery of the Midwest; TE Wayne Hardy*, Presbytery of the Great Plains; TE Juan Rivera, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. In addition, Susan Humphreys (RE, Presbytery of Mid-America) was elected as Chairman.
Permanent Judicial Commission: RE Yvonne Chapman*, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Jeff Hollingsworth, Presbytery of the Southeast; RE Ken Roberts*, Presbytery of the West.
Presbytery Review Committee: RE Ron Bengelink, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; RE Jane Bodden, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; RE Ray Kinat, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; TE Jason Steele, Presbytery of the Midwest.
Theology Committee: RE Fred Flinn*, Presbytery of the Central South; TE Zach Hopkins*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Cameron Shafer, Presbytery of the Midwest.
World Outreach Committee: TE Whitney Alexander, Presbytery of the Gulf South; RE David Miller*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; RE Wes Peterson, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Porter Waring, Presbytery of the Central South.
In other committee-related action, commissioners approved a recommendation from the Women’s Resource Council (WRC) to disband as a permanent committee of the EPC and have presbyteries facilitate women’s ministries in local churches.
Sharon Beekman, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the West and Chairman of the WRC, noted that the WRC was approved by the 36th General Assembly with the purpose of supporting and equipping women in local EPC churches. She reported that in the last four years, the WRC has made available and promoted a variety of vetted resources posted on the EPC website, a blog for aspiring writers, and a Facebook group for women in the EPC.
“Unfortunately, EPC women have not utilized these resources,” she said. “The traffic is very low, so the NLT and the WRC concluded that women’s ministry is best conducted at the local church and the presbytery level. They have a better understanding of what the needs of women are, and of the culture of the various presbyteries.”
Beekmann said funds contributed through EPC Special Projects in previous years as “Per Woman Asking” and held in WRC-designated funds at the Office of the General Assembly would be dispersed to the presbyteries for women’s ministries in local churches. She said they currently have a balance of approximately $60,000.
EPC Endorsement Policy revised
Commissioners approved revisions to the EPC Endorsement Policy as written and recommended by the Theology Committee. The policy, originally adopted in 2002, serves as the denomination’s guidelines for entering into partnerships and official relationships with ministry organizations outside the EPC.
Zach Hopkins, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes and Chairman of the Theology Committee, said the committee’s purposes were “to bring it back into the operational conscience of the Assembly” and “updating it for the sake of effectiveness and constitutional clarity.”
Other business items approved
Commissioners approved a variety of other business items presented by the EPC’s Fraternal Relations, World Outreach, and Presbytery Review committees. Those items were:
- Extending and updating the EPC’s 20-year fraternal relationship with the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, with a renewed focus on church planting.
- Approving The Outreach Foundation as an approved agency. Based in Franklin, Tenn., the ministry’s stated priorities are to help the Church live out its missional calling; build the capacity of the global church, especially where the church is vulnerable or growing rapidly; and transform lives through mission involvement.
- Approving PAK7 as an approved agency. The ministry’s mission is “to serve Pakistani Christians in their witness to Jesus Christ and the gospel through exceptional television programming.” PAK7 has a presence in Pakistan, the U.K., and the U.S., with American offices in Greenville, S.C.
- Approving Frontier Fellowship as an approved agency. Frontier Fellowship was founded by noted missiologist Ralph Winter in 1981 as Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship and is “committed to mobilizing Presbyterian churches for frontier mission and reaching the least-reached for Christ.” The ministry is based in Richfield, Minn.
- Approving Avant Ministries as an approved cooperative agency. The mission of the organization is to “glorify God by helping others enjoy His presence through planting and developing new churches in the unreached areas of the world.” Formerly known as Gospel Missionary Union, the Kansas City-based ministry is one of the oldest missionary sending agencies in English-speaking North America.
- Adopting the Minutes of the 39th General Assembly.
- Approving the 2019-20 minutes of the 14 EPC presbyteries (with some minor exceptions requiring response to the Presbytery Review Committee by December 31, 2020)
- Approving the responses from the presbyteries to exceptions issued by the 39th General Assembly.
- Accepting the invitation from Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn., to host the 41st General Assembly in June 2021.
The Chaplains Work and Care Committee, Generosity Resources Committee, Ministerial Vocation Committee, and Next Generation Ministries Council did not present any recommendations to the 40th General Assembly.
In closing the Assembly, Meyers thanked commissioners for participating in “the most distinctive General Assembly in this most unusual 40th year of the EPC.”
“In it, we’ve witnessed the glory of the ‘Always’ God,” Meyers said. “Always present. Always faithful. Always leading His Church—His people—triumphantly in the Great Commission ministry. Always leading us triumphantly to the new heaven and the new earth and our eternal future. We depart declaring our faith and our confidence, our hope and our joy, for what the Lord Jesus has for us in this challenging time.”