Category Archives: General Assembly Meeting

1981 General Assembly recordings featuring D. James Kennedy, Francis Schaeffer now available

 

Recordings of the inaugural EPC General Assembly worship service speakers are now available in both audio and video formats. The speakers for the first Assembly were D. James Kennedy, Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and renowned theologian and author Francis Schaeffer. Kennedy spoke on “God’s Purpose for His Church.” Schaeffer’s message was titled “To be God’s Church in the Midst of the 20th Century Confusion.”

Videos of the messages are available below, and also on the EPC website at www.epc.org/ga1981 and in the “1st General Assembly” playlist on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80.

Audio versions in podcast format are available on the EPC’s Podbean channel, or search “Evangelical Presbyterian Church” on Spotify or iTunes.

“We’ve had a number of people ask if a recording of Francis Schaeffer’s talk existed,” said Brian Smith, EPC Director of Communications. “I was afraid that if we had one, it had gotten lost in the Office of the General Assembly’s relocation to Orlando in 2016. In God’s providence, we found the original videotapes in one of the very last boxes we unpacked in our storage room this summer. We are very pleased to make these recordings available at long last.”

The 1981 Assembly was held September 22-23, 1981, at Ward Presbyterian Church in Livonia, Mich.

The recordings include the featured speakers’ introductions. Kennedy was welcomed by Bartlett Hess, longtime Pastor of Ward Presbyterian Church. Schaeffer was introduced by A. George Scotchmer. Hess (1910-1999) and Scotchmer (1916-1993) were later honored as two of five EPC “Fathers of the Church.”

Giving Culture Study Committee begins GA-appointed work

 

GivingCultureStudyCommittee201910Members of the Giving Culture Study Committee held their initial meeting at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando, October 8-9. The group was appointed by Moderator Case Thorp in response to a recommendation approved by the 39th General Assembly to address how to improve the long-term culture of giving to the EPC.

In its first face-to-face meeting, the group discussed the scope of its work, reviewed recent giving trends to the EPC Office of the General Assembly, and addressed a variety of issues that will inform and affect recommendations it may make to future General Assemblies.

The committee’s work is based on trends that indicate a weakening level of support for EPC Per Member Asking (PMA). While PMA realization approached a historic high of 74 percent relative to the full PMA level of $23 in 2018, approximately one-third of EPC churches do not contribute to PMA, or give very little.

“This committee will wrestle with the question of ‘What does it mean to be connected to the EPC?,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Is it theological, ecclesial, collegial, branding, collaborative, or something else? The answer is what defines the EPC giving culture.”

Members of the Giving Culture Study Committee are Jane Cooper (Chair), Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Gulf South; Bob Coleman, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the West; 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. Jeremiah, Thorp, and Mike Gibson, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains and Chairman of the National Leadership Team Finance Committee, serve as ex officio members.

Commissioners to 39th General Assembly approve interim committees, amendments to Rules for Assembly

 

GA2019ThemeArt-WebBannerIn 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.

39GA-Strait

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.

Interim Committees

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).

39GA-JeremiahWerner

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.

Theology Committee

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

39GA-Meyers

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.

39GA-Commissioners

Registered attendance at the 39th General Assembly was 1,020—including 399 Teaching Elders and 282 Ruling Elders who submitted voting credentials.

Bart Hess Award presented to Covenant EPC of Monroe, La.

 
CovenantBartHessAward

Jeff Jeremiah presents the 2019 Bart Hess Award to John Mabray, Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Monroe, La., on June 20 at the 2019 General Assembly. To Mabray’s right are Associate Pastor Jonathan Wagner and Ruling Elder Wayne Smith.

Covenant Presbyterian Church (EPC) of Monroe, La., is the recipient of the 2019 Bartlett L. Hess Award for church revitalization. The award was presented to the congregation on August 18.

“The revitalization of Covenant Monroe is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes,” Pastor John Mabray told the 39th General Assembly when the award was announced on June 20.

EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah said Covenant EPC received the 2019 award “because of its outstanding work in church revitalization.”

The Hess Award is given annually to the EPC church that has demonstrated the most innovative approach to church growth or revitalization. Church growth—in both its spiritual and numerical aspects—is an essential part of the mission of the church. The award provides a vehicle by which positive, reproducible innovation is encouraged and shared with others in the EPC. It is named for Bart Hess, founding pastor of Ward Church in suburban Detroit, who was instrumental in the establishment of the EPC in 1981.

September Jeremiah Journal recaps 39th General Assembly

 

In the September 2019 edition of the Jeremiah Journal, Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah recaps the 39th General Assembly, held June 18-21 at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in suburban Denver, Colorado.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80. Each month’s update also is posted to EPConnection and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

For a transcript of this month’s edition in printable pdf format, click here.

Stated Clerk Search Committee begins work

 

StatedClerkSearchCommittee201908The Stated Clerk Search Committee held its first in-person meeting August 27-29 at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando.

The committee was appointed by 38th General Assembly Moderator Tom Werner and announced to the 39th General Assembly in June. Their purpose is to identify the successor to Jeff Jeremiah, who has served as EPC Stated Clerk since 2006. Upon his election to a fifth three-year term at the 38th General Assembly in 2018, Jeremiah announced his plans to depart from the role in June 2021.

The goal is for the next Stated Clerk to be elected by the 40th General Assembly.

“I speak for the entire committee when I ask the EPC for its collective prayers as we seek the mind of Christ in this incredibly important work,” said Teaching Elder Bill Dudley, Search Committee Chairman. He currently serves as Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Southeast, and was the Moderator of the 33rd General Assembly. “Our Lord Jesus Christ has used Jeff Jeremiah in amazing ways as the EPC has grown tremendously under his leadership. God will use our next Stated Clerk to lead us into the future He has for the EPC, so we deeply desire for God to speak clearly to us.”

The committee is comprised of eight Teaching Elders and seven Ruling Elders, with an individual from each of the EPC’s 14 presbyteries and one official representative from the National Leadership Team.

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.

StatedClerkSearchCommittee201908B.jpg

Members of the Stated Clerk Search Committee are (left to right) Victor Jones, Ritchey Cable, Scott Griffin, Allen Roes, David Mennel, Laurie Johnston, Nancy Duff, Marc Huebl, Michael Davis,  Rosemary Lukens, Luder Whitlock, Bob LeSuer, Bill Dudley (Chairman), José Rodriguez, and Chris Danusiar.

World Outreach Evaluation Team convenes first meeting

 
WorldOutreachStudyCommittee

Members of the World Outreach Evaluation Team are (left to right) Rob Liddon, Jerry Iamurri, Alan Johnson, Brad Gill, Brian Tweedie, Betsy Rumer, Johnny Long, and Kevin Cauley.  

In its report to the 39th General Assembly, the EPC National Leadership Team (NLT) announced the formation of a World Outreach Evaluation Team in response to Phil Linton’s retirement in June 2021. Linton has served as Director of World Outreach since 2014. The Evaluation Team held its first meeting August 27-28 at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando, with the goal of filing its report in time for the NLT to form the World Outreach Director Search Committee by the 40th General Assembly.

“Anticipating that the search for Phil’s successor will begin in earnest after the 2020 General Assembly, the NLT concluded that the next ten to twelve months would be an excellent opportunity to review and evaluate the ministries and work of World Outreach,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “This is not a search committee, but their work will help set the table for the task that a search committee will undertake in 2020 and 2021.”

Rob Liddon, Ruling Elder for Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn., and Moderator of the 30th General Assembly, is serving as chairman. Other members are Kevin Cauley, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; Brad Gill, Ruling Elder from Presbytery of the Midwest; Alan Johnson, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the West; Johnny Long, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the West; Betsy Rumer, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies; and Brian Tweedie, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Midwest. Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri is serving the committee as staff resource from the Office of the General Assembly.

Cauley and Long are members of the permanent World Outreach Committee; Johnson and Rumer are former members of the World Outreach Committee, with Rumer serving as Chairman in 2017-2018. Liddon also serves on the National Leadership Team.

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.

#epc2019ga

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.

#epc2019ga

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.

#epc2019ga