In business actions at the EPC’s 39th General Assembly, commissioners approved 33 recommendations, including the formation of two interim committees, amendments to the Rules for Assembly, and amendments to the Book of Government. The Assembly was held June 18-21 at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in suburban Denver, Colo.
Brad Strait is the Senior Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo., which hosted the 39th General Assembly.
Commissioners also welcomed nine new churches to the EPC since the 38th Assembly adjourned; elected Case Thorp, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean, as Moderator; and elected Glenn Meyers, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies and the Caribbean, as Moderator-Elect. Meyers serves as Commissioned Pastor of Ardara Presbyterian Church in Ardara, Pa.
More than 1,000 registered commissioners and guests attended the Assembly, including 399 Teaching Elders and 282 Ruling Elders who submitted voting credentials.
At the 38th General Assembly in 2018, Jeff Jeremiah was elected to a fifth three-year term as Stated Clerk—at which time he announced he would step down in June 2021. The search committee, appointed by outgoing Moderator Tom Werner, has a representative from each of the EPC’s 14 presbyteries. The Chairman is Teaching Elder Bill Dudley, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Southeast and Moderator of the EPC’s 33rd General Assembly.
“The search team’s goal is to have my successor named by next year’s GA,” Jeremiah said. “That will allow for a period of overlap and as seamless a transition as possible.”
In addition to Dudley, the members are Ritchey Cable, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Mid-America; Chris Danusiar, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; Michael Davis, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Central South; Nancy Duff, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; Scott Griffin, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest and Moderator of the 36th General Assembly; Marc Huebl, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the West; Laurie Johnston, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains; Victor Jones, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Gulf South; Bob LeSuer, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies; Rosemary Lukens, representing the National Leadership Team; David Mennel, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Midwest; José Rodriguez, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the East; Allen Roes, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic and Moderator of the 28th General Assembly; and Luder Whitlock, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.
The second interim committee is a Giving Culture Study Committee, which is tasked with studying—and ultimately to make recommendations on—how to best address the long-term culture of support for the EPC. The National Leadership Team (NLT) made the recommendation.
“To be clear, funding for the national level of the EPC is not in a crisis position,” Jeremiah noted. “This committee will help us ensure that we do not get into one.”
In its written report to the Assembly, the NLT noted that roughly half of the EPC’s member churches give 90 percent or more of their calculated PMA, but one-third “give very little or nothing.”
“EPC churches generally are in accord on biblical and missional matters, cohesive on connectional structures, and share much cultural harmony, but seem not to be united in sharing financially what is required to carry out the EPC mission and vision,” the NLT wrote. “A fundamental question facing the EPC as a movement of churches is: ‘What does it mean to be connected to the EPC?’”
Members of the committee are Bob Coleman, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the West; Jane Cooper, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Gulf South; Jamie Cupshalk, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the East; Scott McKee, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Midwest; Bruce Novkov, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Southeast; and Gina Stewart, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest. Mike Gibson, Chairman of the NLT Finance Committee and a Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains, is an ex officio member.
Rules for Assembly
The National Leadership Team recommended an amendment to Section 15-1 of Rules for Assembly, which is the “organizing document” for the EPC. Rules stipulates the operation of the General Assembly, as well as the committee structure and work of the Assembly between annual meetings. Section 15-1 required two-thirds of enrolled commissioners vote to approve any recommendation that would amend or suspend Rules. In its written report to the Assembly, the NLT proposed amending the requirement to a two-thirds vote of commissioners “present” (rather than enrolled).
The Assembly approved a change to the process for amending the EPC’s Rules for Assembly.
Jeremiah provided a recent example of the rationale behind the recommendation.
“In 2018, we could not act on several recommendations—including ones that would increase the size of both our Chaplains Work and Care Committee and Presbytery Review Committee. As the EPC has grown, the work load for these groups has increased, so we needed to increase the manpower to carry that load. However, when those items came up on the docket last year, we did not have two-thirds of our total enrollment present so we could not act on them.”
Following an amendment to the motion from the floor of the Assembly to increase the percentage of commissioners present voting in the affirmative from two-thirds to three-fourths, the recommendation was approved.
Book of Government
The Assembly approved two items that now become Descending Overtures, because they are amendments to the EPC’s Book of Government.
The first amendment added language that “Co-pastor is not a recognized calling in a local church. Except as otherwise provided in the Book of Government, the Pastor of the church shall be the Moderator of Session” to section 9-5A.1.
“The Book of Government states that the only constitutionally recognized roles for Teaching Elders in the EPC are Pastor, Associate Pastor, and Assistant Pastor,” Jeremiah explained. “This recommendation seeks to add clarity.”
The second was an overture from the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest concerning the ordination process for candidates coming under care of a presbytery. The overture specified that in addition to stating the reason he or she is requesting ordination as a Teaching Elder as part of the public examination, the candidate should express his or her motive for seeking ordination by an EPC presbytery.
As Descending Overtures, these two items now go to the presbyteries’ fall and winter meetings for discussion and vote. Presbyteries may debate the substance of a Descending Overture, but not make amendments. To be presented at the 40th General Assembly as Ascending Overtures for discussion and vote, 11 of the 14 presbyteries must approve the overtures.
Budget and Special Projects
Commissioners approved a Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20—July 2019 through June 2020) budget for EPC operating expenses of $2,651,995. This represents a decrease in projected spending of $16,716 from the FY2019 budget.
The FY2020 budget includes $426,717 in direct funding of the four strategic priorities—$56,000 for Transformation (Church Revitalization); $200,000 for Multiplication (Church Planting); $122,050 for Effective Biblical Leadership; and $48,667 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 FY18 budget; since their 2014 inception they had been funded through undesignated cash reserves.
The Assembly also approved a variety of Special Projects for FY20, which are supported outside of PMA but would be fully funded if each EPC church contributed an additional $3.53 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.
National Leadership Team
The Assembly approved an amendment to Rules that revised and updated the functions of the National Leadership Team, as well as clarifying its relationship with the General Assembly. The action added to Rules section X.10-1A.3 that the NLT (subject to General Assembly review, approval, and the Book of Order) has the “primary responsibility to seek the mind of Christ for our denomination and to express this in a mission statement that states who God has called the EPC to be.” Additional functions added under the amendment include “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; and encourage EPC presbyteries and local churches to participate in implementing the mission, vision, and strategies.”
The action also amended Rules to clarify that the NLT serves as Directors of the corporation “for the purposes of compliance with the laws of the state in which the EPC is incorporated and in accord with EPC by-laws.”
In specifying its relationship to the General Assembly, an Explanatory Statement was added to Rules section X.10-1A. This statement clarifies that the NLT “is not a court of the denomination, nor a commission of the General Assembly, but a committee of the denomination, with authority derived from the Book of Order. The NLT is therefore responsible to the General Assembly and carries out its work under the authority of the General Assembly by proactively making recommendations to the General Assembly and exercising authority to carry out those recommendations as approved by the General Assembly.”
Next Generation Ministries Council
Commissioners approved a recommendation to define the duties of the Next Generation Ministries Council in Rules X.10-1F.2.a as “to encourage and support Next Generation Ministry Leaders Workers (paid and/or volunteer) by promoting and providing training events, resources, mentoring and networking opportunities. The Committee will also coordinate the allocation of scholarship funds to provide financial assistance to individuals wishing to participate in relevant conferences and events.”
In addition, a recommendation was approved that would encourage each presbytery to create Next Generation Networks for children, youth, and college workers (paid and/or volunteer) in collaboration with the Next Generation Ministries Council. The action encourages presbyteries to provide time and opportunity for Next Generation Ministries network workers to give announcements and promote events and/or opportunities to collaborate. These networks would include ordained and non-ordained workers.
Permanent Judicial Commission
Commissioners approved two recommendations from the Permanent Judicial Commission regarding the Presbytery of the East and First Korean Presbyterian Church of Virginia (FKPCV) in Annandale, Va.
The church was dissolved by motion at the Presbytery of the East’s April 26-27 Stated Meeting, to become effective May 15. Several officers of the church subsequently filed complaints with the PJC related to the presbytery action. The PJC recommended that those complaints be dismissed since the complainants failed to file “a prompt written dissent or protest to the decision” of the presbytery as stated in the EPC’s Book of Discipline, section 14-2B.2.
In addition, the Assembly ratified a decision by the PJC that disciplinary charges brought against the officers of FKPCV by the presbytery remain the jurisdiction of the Presbytery of the East, and not in the jurisdiction of the PJC since the Commission is not “the proper court of original jurisdiction” as defined in Book of Discipline section 4-1.
Two actions by the Assembly were referred to the permanent Theology Committee upon their approval by commissioners.
The first action was a recommendation from the National Leadership Team to study a decision by the Michigan chapter of Bethany Christian Services (BCS) in light of the EPC’s Position Papers on Abortion and Human Sexuality. In April 2019, the agency acceded to a state government requirement and agreed to place children for adoption in the homes of same-sex couples.
“Bethany has been an EPC ‘Approved Agency’ since 1989 and provides adoption, foster care, and pregnancy support,” Jeremiah said. “Yet the Michigan chapter’s decision places strongly-held EPC positions on abortion and human sexuality in tension, if not conflict. It is appropriate for the Theology Committee to research this matter and present its findings to the 40th General Assembly.”
The second recommendation also came to the Assembly from the National Leadership Team. The action assigned the Theology Committee the task to study how the EPC can be more sensitive to the needs of the disabled.
In its written report to the Assembly, the NLT highlighted two documents written by Michelle Munger, Peninsula Director for the Faith Inclusion Network of Hampton Roads in Norfolk, Va., and a speaker at the 2019 Leadership Institute.
Munger’s resources “call attention to the need and opportunity to ensure that disabled individuals are recognized and included in the life and ministry of the EPC,” the NLT wrote in its rationale for the recommendation. “‘Sacraments and the Disabled’ encourages the EPC to look at how we view and minister to those who are disabled. ‘Book of Order notes for disability concerns’ looks at places in our Constitution where we could intentionally be more inclusive of the disabled.” The recommendation noted that these materials would serve as a starting point for the Theology Committee’s work.
Members of the Theology Committee are Zach Hopkins (Chairman), Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; Fred Flinn, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Central South; John Moody, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains; Ron DiNunzio, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the East; Gordon Miller, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of Mid-Atlantic; and Ryan Mowen, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies.
Unlike other permanent committees that meet regularly, the Theology Committee only meets to receive and study such theological matters as may be referred to it by the General Assembly and to return its opinions and requested papers or documents to the Assembly, as stated in Rules section 10.1G.
Committee and Board Members
RE Glenn Meyers, Commissioned Pastor of Ardara Presbyterian Church in the Presbytery of the Alleghenies, was elected as Moderator-elect.
In addition to the election of Thorp as Moderator and Meyers 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 Michael Bush*, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; RE Jim Lewien, Presbytery of the West; RE Sandy Siegfried, Presbytery of the Great Plains. Ron Horgan (RE, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic) was elected as Chairman.
Chaplains Work and Care Committee: RE Bruce Alexander*, Presbytery of the East; TE Timothy Foster*, Presbytery of the Central South; TE Glen Holman, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Jennifer Prechter, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; TE Brad Yorton, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest. In addition, TE Mark Ingles (Presbytery of the West) was re-elected to another three-year term as Chaplain Endorser.
Fraternal Relations Committee: RE Jerry Harmon*, Presbytery of the Central South; TE Joe Pallikkathayil, Presbytery of Mid-America; TE Alan Trafford, Presbytery of the Gulf South.
Generosity Resources Committee: TE Jeff Porter, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic.
Ministerial Vocation Committee: TE Fred Lian, Presbytery of the West; RE Frank Rotella*, Presbytery of the East.
National Leadership Team: RE Gerry Arnold, Presbytery of the Gulf South; RE Chris Danusiar*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; RE Brian Evans, Presbytery of the Midwest; TE Brett Garretson, Presbytery of the West; RE Duke Lineberry, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Dave Strunk, Presbytery of the Southeast; TE Luder Whitlock*, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.
Next Generation Ministries Council: Jen Burkholder*, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; Martha Daniel*, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; Ivan Moore, Presbytery of the Alleghenies.
Nominating Committee: RE John Adamson*, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Brian Altmyer*, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; RE Henry Beck, Presbytery of the Gulf South; RE Jan Bole*, Presbytery of the West; RE Jeff Chadwick, Presbytery of the Southeast; TE Bill Dudley, Presbytery of the Southeast; RE Alan Smith*, Presbytery of the East. In addition, Alan Conrow (TE, Presbytery of the Midwest) was elected as Chairman.
Permanent Judicial Commission: TE George Dakin*, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; TE Neil Ellison*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Don Harms, Presbytery of the Midwest.
Presbytery Review Committee: TE George King, Presbytery of the Gulf South; TE Gary O’Keefe, Presbytery of the Midwest.
Theology Committee: RE Gordon Miller, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE John Moody*, Presbytery of the Great Plains.
Women’s Resource Council: Kathy Clymer, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Rebecca Duvall, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; Kathleen Marcy*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; Kim Sinclair*, Presbytery of the Midwest.
World Outreach Committee: RE Susan Lear, Presbytery of the Great Plains; RE Johnny Long, Presbytery of the West; David Van Valkenburg, Presbytery of the West.
In other committee-related action, commissioners approved increasing the size of the Chaplains Work and Care Committee from six to nine members, the National Leadership Team from 13 to 16 members, and the Presbytery Review Committee from four to six members. In addition, the number of ex-officio members on the Fraternal Relations Committee was reduced from four to two—keeping the Stated Clerk and Moderator, and removing the immediate past Moderator and the Moderator-elect.
The Assembly also approved recommendations to delete the permanent Church Planting and Revitalization Committee (CPRC) from Rules, and divide the GA Standing Committee for Church Planting and Revitalization into two separate bodies to better address the differing emphases of the two strategic priorities. With the strategic priorities of multiplication and transformation now included in the EPC operating budget, the CPRC believed its existence was no longer necessary and recommended it be disbanded.
Finally, commissioners approved a recommendation regarding the makeup of the Nominating Committee. The decision amended Rules Section XI.11-1-3 from “There shall be at least two more Ruling Elder than Teaching Elder members” to “Ordinarily, there should be at least two more Ruling Elder than Teaching Elder members.” The recommendation also removed the restriction of members who serve all or part of one three-year term being ineligible for re-election for one year.
Other business items
Several other business items were unanimously approved without discussion. Those items were:
- Maintaining the EPC’s relationship with the Presbyterian Church of Ghana through both bodies’ membership in the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
- Continuing the Fraternal Relations Committee’s dialogue with leaders of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland about a formal fraternal relationship.
- Approving Third Millennium Ministries as an approved agency. Based in Casselberry, Fla., the ministry’s vision is “Biblical Education. For the World. For Free.” They provide masters-level print, audio, online, DVD, and satellite radio and television broadcasts for Christian leaders worldwide at no cost to the participant. The ministry is accredited by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).
- Approving SAT-7 as an approved Mission Agency of EPC’s World Outreach. Based in Easton, Md., SAT-7’s vision is “to provide the churches and Christians of the Middle East and North Africa an opportunity to witness to Jesus Christ through inspirational, informative, and educational television services.” The organization is accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), ECFA, Missio Nexus, and others.
- Approving a recommendation from the Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) to reject an overture from the Presbytery of the East to amend the Book of Government. The presbytery proposed adding an additional Ruling Elder category to the definition of “Voting Members of Presbytery” in section 19-2A. By approving the PJC’s recommendation, the presbytery’s overture was not brought to the floor for consideration.
- Approving the Minutes of the 38th General Assembly.
- Approving the 2018-19 minutes of the 14 EPC presbyteries (with some minor exceptions requiring response to the permanent Presbytery Review Committee by December 31, 2019), as well as approving the responses from the presbyteries to exceptions issued by the 38th General Assembly.
- Approving the 2018-19 minutes of the Fraternal Relations Committee, Ministerial Vocation Committee, National Leadership Team, Women’s Resource Council, and World Outreach Committee.
- Accepting the invitation from Hope Presbyterian Church in Cordova, Tenn., to host the 40th General Assembly in June 2020.
As a matter of record, Descending Overture 18-A from the 38th General Assembly was not ratified by 11 of the 14 presbyteries, so it did not come to the 39th Assembly for action. That Overture proposed amending Book of Government 9-11 concerning the ministry of Commissioned Pastors. Only six presbyteries voted to approve the Overture during their winter meetings.
Registered attendance at the 39th General Assembly was 1,020—including 399 Teaching Elders and 282 Ruling Elders who submitted voting credentials.