Category Archives: General Assembly Meeting

38th GA sings Andrew Brunson’s ‘Worthy of My All;’ hears daughter read letters from prison, describe family’s ordeal

 

Addressing the 38th General Assembly on June 21, Jacqueline Furnari—Andrew Brunson’s daughter—described her family’s ordeal over the 20 months since her father’s imprisonment in Turkey.

“October 7, 2016—more than a year and a half ago—is the day my parents were called into the police station,” Furnari said. “This was my oldest brother’s 21st birthday, and he never got his birthday (telephone) call.”

She said that her parents had been working to secure permanent resident status so they could stay in Turkey long-term, and thought they were being summoned for questions related to their application.

“What they were not expecting was to be told that they had been deemed a threat to national security and that they were going to be deported,” she told the Assembly. “This all happened so quickly that they were barely able to tell a few family members what was going on before their phones were taken away and they were taken into custody.”

The Brunsons’ daughter added that she did not find out until several days later.

“My aunt called me and asked if I had an update,” she said, adding that the next two weeks were “absolutely terrifying” for her and her two brothers.

“We didn’t know why they were taken,” she said. “We didn’t know what was happening. We didn’t know how they were being treated; how they were being kept. We had absolutely no information and no way to get that information. All we knew was that something was very, very wrong.”

Andrew’s wife, Norine, was released after nearly three weeks of detention. “It was a relief to get some news and understand what was starting to happen,” Furnari said. “But at the same time that conversation I had with her was heartbreaking because she had just said goodbye to my dad and didn’t know when she would see him again.”

She read portions of several letters her father had written to her from prison.

AndrewBrunsonOctober2017

Andrew Brunson

“’I am attempting to follow His example,’” she read. “‘I declare with my will that I will submit to Him. I am kept here by force, but I can choose to submit with my will even though my emotions are severely distressed and not at all wanting to submit. I am trying to be faithful even when overwhelmed with fear—faithful to declare God’s character even when I don’t understand. I ask you to pray for me in this, to be faithful to the end.’”

The letter also contained the words of a prayer Andrew told her that he prays each night:

“’Father God, I ask that you pour out on me the courage and strength, the endurance, perseverance, and steadfastness of Jesus,’” she read, adding that he also wrote, “I declare God’s character, and pray that He uses this time to work deeply in my life.”

Furnari concluded by reading a message Brunson penned to the EPC:

“’My brothers and sisters of the EPC, I am so grateful to you for standing with us during this difficult time—for praying for us. I know a number of people have fasted, and I thank you for doing this. It’s a great blessing to us to be part of the EPC family. I pray every day to be faithful to the end, and it is my desire to show the great worth of Jesus Christ by being willing to suffer for Him. I ask that you pray for me in this, that I will be faithful to the end. I hope that next year I will be able to thank all of you in person rather than through my beautiful daughter, but again, thank you for standing with us. Your brother, Andrew.’”

Furnari also testified that she and her family have seen God at work in the midst of the situation. In an interview with EPConnection, she said when her father wrote his song, “Worthy of My All,” that she knew he was “going down a better path.”

“When he was arrested he went through a really dark time,” she said. “At some point, he was allowed to have his guitar but he couldn’t bring himself to play it, or even touch it. But the moment I heard he written a song I knew that he was doing a lot better. He had it in him to pick up that guitar and not just sing the usual worship songs, but write one for God to express his aguish, but also his desire to honor God in his situation.”

Click here or on the image above to watch Furnari’s entire presentation, followed by Assembly attendees singing Andrew’s modern hymn, “Worthy of My All.”

Click here for more information about Andrew Brunson, including a timeline of events, sheet music for “Worthy of My All,” and more.

#epc2018ga

38th General Assembly makes history with landmark ‘firsts’

 
GA2018LI-Selfie

GA SELFIE—From left, Evelio Vilches, Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah, Eddie Spencer, Moderator Tom Werner

The EPC’s 38th General Assembly, held June 19-22 at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn., made history as the first Assembly to include a “selfie” from the platform. At the beginning of the Thursday afternoon business session, Evelio Vilches, Pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Pembroke Pines, Fla., and Eddie Spencer, Pastor of New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, Fla., took the historic photo prior to their report on how contributions to the EPC’s Hurricane Irma Emergency Relief Fund was used to help their congregations and communities in the aftermath of the September 2017 storm.

“As Stated Clerk,” said Jeff Jeremiah, “it is my ruling that indeed this is the first ever GA selfie.”

In another first, six commissioners started what may become a tradition at the GA Thursday evening worship service—“kilt night.” Donning the traditional Scottish attire were Edward Cummings, Pastor of Terrace Heights EPC in Yakima, Wash.; Alan Trafford, Pastor of Covenant EPC in Lake Jackson, Texas; Suzanne Brown Zampella, Pastor of Connellsville Presbyterian Church in Connellsville, Pa.; Matthew Everhard, Pastor of Faith EPC in Brooksville, Fla.; Case Thorp, Senior Associate Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla.; and Jeremy McNeill, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Bucyrus, Ohio.

GA2018LI-Kilts

KILT NIGHT—From left, Edward Cummings, Alan Trafford, Suzanne Brown Zampella, Matthew Everhard, Case Thorp, Jeremy McNeill.

EPC adds seven churches in 2017–2018

 

Seven churches joined the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in the reporting period of May 23, 2017, through June 1, 2018. The new EPC churches were announced on June 22 at the 38th General Assembly at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.

Ken Roberts, Moderator of the 32nd EPC General Assembly, prayed for the new churches.

“You already know every person who will be attending all these churches,” Roberts said in his prayer. “You know their needs, joys, hurts, and hearts. We pray for each staff member who will be ministering to each person in these congregations. As we commit these churches to you, may You be gloried in the worship and business of each church, and in each heart.”

These newest members of the EPC family of churches are:

Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (Leawood, Kan.)
Sheldon MacGillivray, Pastor
www.cornerstoneks.org
Presbytery of the Great Plains

First Presbyterian Church (Malden, Mo.)
Derek Evans, Commissioned Pastor
www.facebook.com/Malden-Presbyterian-Church-144604838944152/
Presbytery of the Central South

Hendersonville Presbyterian Church (Hendersonville, N.C.)
Bill Campbell, Pastor
www.hendersonvillepc.org
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

New Life Gathering (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Scott Jackson, Pastor
www.newlifeknoxville.org
Presbytery of the Southeast

Walkersville Presbyterian Church (Waxhaw, N.C.)
Eric Bartel, Pastor
www.facebook.com/pages/Walkersville-Presbyterian-Church/117441554948378
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

Wayside Presbyterian Church (Sanford, N.C.)
Robert Johnson, Pastor
www.facebook.com/pages/Wayside-Presbyterian-Church/464287536951632
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

Wylliesburg Evangelical Presbyterian Church (Wylliesburg, Va.)
David Wood, Stated Supply Pastor
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

Each of the new churches was a previous congregation of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

#epc2018ga

Memphis church planter closes Friday morning with brief report

 

GA2018LI-TimJohnsonTheAvenueTim Johnson, Commissioned Pastor for The Avenue, an EPC church plant in the Summer Avenue area of Memphis, brought a brief report at the close of the Friday morning business session of the 38th General Assembly at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.

He noted that the church plant, which hopes to launch later in 2018, is “not trying to do anything unique or special, but is seeking to plant the flag of Jesus” in an under-resourced part of Memphis.

“What we want to see is that in 20 years, people would come to Summer Avenue and ask ‘what happened here?'” Johnson said. “And we want to hear someone else answer, ’20 years ago, some people who loved Jesus came here.’”

#epc2018ga

38th General Assembly celebrates EPC chaplains

 

GA2018LI-ChaplainLineupMark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser and Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the West, introduced 25 of the denomination’s chaplains to attendees of the 38th General Assembly at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn., on June 21. He reported that the number of EPC chaplains has increased from 36 in 2012 to 65 in 2018.

“These dedicated men and women are called by God to serve outside the local church,” Ingles said, noting that chaplains can many times feel isolated in their ministries.

“They often work for a secular institution that doesn’t always appreciate the work that they are doing. So we need to pray for them, care for them, love them, and support them.”

Chaplains in attendance at the 38th Assembly were (left to right):

Jason Riggs
Clinical Chaplain, W.G. (Bill) Hefner Veterans Administration Medical Center
Salisbury, N.C.

Lt. Cmdr. Tim Foster, USNR
Command Chaplain, USS Fitzgerald
Pascagoula, Miss.
(Also serves as Senior Pastor of Highland Heights EPC in Memphis, Tenn.)

Ron Pierce
Chaplain, Mobile County Sheriff’s Office and FBI Mobile Field Office
Mobile, Ala.

Jennifer Prechter
Chaplain, Pediatric Palliative Care Team, Arnold Palmer Medical Center
Orlando, Florida

Bob Claus
Acute Care Chaplain, Dignity Health Care
Phoenix, Ariz.

Lt. Col. John Torres
Deputy Wing Chaplain, 105th Airlift Wing, Stewart Air National Guard Base
Newburgh, N.Y.
Also serves as Pastor of Goodwill Church, Montgomery, N.Y.

Lt. Col. Marty Fields
Wing Chaplain, 172nd Airlift Wing
Jackson, Miss.
(Also serves as Senior Pastor of Grace Chapel Madison in Madison, Miss.)

Scott Rash
Chaplain, Liberty Hospital Hospice
Liberty, Mo.

Kate Huddelson
Chaplain, University of Kansas Medical Center
Kansas City, Kan.

Lt. Josh Schatzle
Chaplain, U.S. Navy Reserve
St. Louis, Mo.
(Also serves as Pastor of Hope Church, Carbondale, Ill.)

 Maj. David Horton
Branch Chief, 86th Air Wing Chaplain, Ramstein Air Force Base
Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany

Capt. B.J. Newman
Chaplain, Ohio Air National Guard
Dayton, Ohio
(Also serves as Adult Discipleship and Care Pastor for Kirkmont Presbyterian Church in Beavercreek, Ohio)

Sam Adamson
Chief Chaplain, Veterans Administration Greater Los Angeles Health Care System
Los Angeles, Calif.

Capt. Bryan Knedgen
Battalion Chaplain, 406th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, U.S. Army Reserves
Ann Arbor, Mich.

Capt. Patrick Cobb
Medical Professional Brigade Chaplain, Army Medical Defense Department Center and School, Joint Base San Antonio
Ft. Sam Houston, Texas

James Harris
Chaplain Candidate, USAF Reserves
(Also serves as Director of Community Groups and College Ministries for Reynolda EPC Village Campus, Winston-Salem, N.C.)

Ted Tromble
Staff Chaplain, Aurora BayCare Medical Center
Green Bay, Wisc.

Lt. Col. John Rhodes
Chaplain, Mississippi Wing Civil Air Patrol, DeSoto Composite Squadron
Olive Branch, Miss.

Maj. John Richards
Chaplain, U.S. Army Reserve
Belle Chase, La.

Maj. Jason Kim
Deputy Wing Chaplain, Nellis Air Force Base
Las Vegas, Nev.

Capt. Graham Baily
USAF Chaplain, Whiteman Air Force Base
Knob Noster, Mo.

Helen Franssell
Chaplain, Capital Caring Hospice, Northern Virginia Region
Falls Church, Va.

Nick Tyler
Battalion Chaplain, 1030th Transportation Battalion, Virginia National Guard
Gate City, Va.

Ross O’Dell
Chaplain, Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources, Northeast Indiana Region
Columbia City, Ind.
(Also serves as Pastor of Trinity EPC in Columbia City, Ind.)

#epc2018ga

‘How does Jesus see your city?’ asks 38th GA host pastor Rufus Smith

 
GA2018LI-RufusSmith

Rufus Smith, Senior Pastor of Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.

In the Thursday morning worship service of the 38th General Assembly, host pastor Rufus Smith of Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn., asked the attendees of the 38th General Assembly, “How does Jesus see your city?”

Speaking on Matthew 9:35-38, Smith related his personal story of coming to faith in Christ as a teenager by describing five actions of Jesus described in the passage.

First, the Hope Church Senior Pastor noted that Jesus “went.”

“He was out among the people,” Smith said. “Before we ever get to this text, Jesus had already had seven encounters with people. I’m in the kingdom today because someone did that in my city.”

Second, Smith said that Jesus “saw” as He went among the people.

“He saw their physical needs, and he saw their spiritual needs,” he said. “You can’t know if you don’t go.”

Third, Smith emphasized that Jesus “acted.”

“Jesus had compassion for those He saw,” Smith said. “An equation for this is sympathy plus action equals compassion. On the other hand, sympathy plus inaction equals ‘nice’—which is a kind way to do nothing.”

Fourth, he noted that Jesus “said.”

“He said to His disciples, ‘the harvest is plenteous.’ What do you say about people?” Smith asked. “Do you say they are hellions or are they a harvest? Are you cursing the dark or lighting a candle? How does Jesus see your city? How do you see your city?”

He reminded the GA attendees, “Someone in your city is waiting for the harvester to come.”

Finally Smith said Jesus “sent.”

“He is the Lord of the harvest,” Smith said, “and He has been harvesting a long time. He says to me and you to go and be a harvester.”

#epc2018ga

Tom Werner elected Moderator of 38th GA

 
GA2018LI-TomWernerPrayer

Tom Ricks (right), Pastor of Greentree Community Church in Kirkwood, Mo., leads the prayer for Tom Werner as former General Assembly Moderators in attendance lay hands on the newly elected Moderator of the 38th General Assembly.

GA2018LI-TomWerner

Tom Werner

Tom Werner, Ruling Elder from Greentree Community Church in Kirkwood, Mo., was elected Moderator of the EPC’s 38th General Assembly on June 20 at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn. The vote was unanimous.

“You have granted me a great honor,” Werner said. “I look forward to serving the Evangelical Presbyterian Church with great pleasure.”

Until his retirement in 2015, Werner worked as an attorney for a St. Louis-based technology company, where he was General Counsel and served in various business capacities. He previously practiced law for several firms in St. Louis.

He has served on the EPC’s Theology Committee, including one year as Chair, and contributed to the EPC Leadership Training Guide. He also has served as Moderator of the Presbytery of Mid-America, and on the presbytery’s Ministerial Committee. He has participated on missions teams to Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Honduras, and Albania.

Werner has degrees from DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.; St. Louis University Law School; a Masters in Taxation from Washington University Law School; and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis.

He and his wife, Susan, have been married for 40 years and have two adult children and three grandchildren. They have attended Greentree Community Church for nearly 20 years, and previously attended Central Presbyterian Church in St. Louis.

Eli Morris challenges 38th General Assembly to live Philippians 2

 

GA2018LI-EliMorrisMessageEli Morris, Senior Associate Pastor of Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn., challenged the EPC’s 38th General Assembly immediately prior to the opening business session at Hope Church on Wednesday, June 20.

“How can we as churches live Philippians 2?” Morris asked the attendees. “Not that we have the strength, or the numbers, or the theology. Do we have the humility to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our communities?”

#epc2018ga

Live webcast available for 38th General Assembly worship, business sessions

 

GA2018BannerThe 38th General Assembly worship services, business sessions, and Leadership Institute plenary sessions are available via live stream online at www.epc.org/ga2018livestream and in the GA mobile app beginning on Wednesday, June 20.

The Assembly is at Hope Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn.

“I know many people are not able to attend the Assembly in person, but want to follow the proceedings and hear our worship speakers,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “I am thankful that so many people are able to stay connected through our webcast.”

Note that due to copyright restrictions, Immaculée Ilibagiza’s Leadership Institute session on Wednesday morning and comedian Michael Jr.’s concert on Wednesday evening cannot be streamed. In addition, the global worker commissioning portion of the Thursday evening worship service will not be broadcast due to security concerns.

For more information about the 38th General Assembly, including full schedule, speaker bios, and more, see www.epc.org/ga2018.

#epc2018ga

2018 Leadership Institute: Being a Public, Media-Friendly Evangelical in the Trump Era

 

GA2018LI-MediaFriendlyEvangelicalIn the 2018 Leadership Institute seminar Being a Public, Media-Friendly Evangelical in the Trump Era, Carmen LaBerge described how she got involved with national media as a resource they could call on to provide Christian perspective.

“I went to the meetings of the press associations and introduced myself as someone they could contact if they ever needed background information on topics of faith,” she said. “How else was I going to cultivate a relationship with the writers of the NY Times and the Washington Post? The notion that the Bible might say something about government was totally foreign to them.”

She encouraged the attendees to build relationships with members of the media in their locales.

“Many times, they are the Ethiopian eunuch on the road and we need to be the Phillip,” she said.

LaBerge is a writer, speaker, and Christian talk radio host. She has hosted the daily Christian radio talk show The Reconnect with Carmen LaBerge since 2016.

#epc2018ga

2018 Leadership Institute: Discipleship in Student Ministry

 

GA2018LI-StudentMinistryIn the 2018 Leadership Institute seminar Discipleship in Student Ministry, Meg DeHaven discussed ways to invest in student ministry volunteer leaders.

“Be creative in how you invest in your leaders. It’s not always spiritual discipleship, but it can be as simple as giving them a week off from leading youth activities each season, or a Smoothie King gift certificate so they don’t have to eat pizza all the time.”

DeHaven serves as Director of Children and Youth for Bethany EPC in Havertown, Pa.

#epc2018ga

 

 

2018 Leadership Institute: Discerning the Spirits

 

GA2018LI-DiscerningSpiritsIn the 2018 Leadership Institute seminar Discerning the Spirits, Sharon Beekmann described several methods that Satan employs.

“One of the ways Satan works is as a tempter,” she said. “Satan does not always tempt us to do things that are inherently evil, but he does try to get us to do things that are outside the will of God.”

Beekmann is author of Rescued and Redeemed: How to Discern Demons from the Divine and Silencing Satan: Handbook of Biblical Demonology. She serves as Associate Professor at Denver Theological Seminary.

#epc2018ga

2018 Leadership Institute: Putting Baptism to Use

 

GA2018LI-BaptismIn the 2018 Leadership Institute seminar Putting Baptism to Use, Mike Glodo reminded the gathering that baptism’s principle symbolism is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

“Baptism symbolizes that we died with him,” he said. “It doesn’t just speak of the start of the Christian life, it speaks to the whole Christian life. So our baptisms are a visible word to illustrate ethical implications. And this word says I’ve died to sin and self, and was raised to new life.”

Glodo is Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Dean of the Chapel at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.

#epc2018ga

2018 Leadership Institute: The Reformation of Preaching

 

GA2018LI-ReformationPreachingIn the 2018 Leadership Institute seminar The Reformation of Preaching, David Swanson reminded attendees that they all have been impacted at some point by the public proclamation of God’s Word.

“To understand that at some point we will be the preacher that someone else describes in a setting similar to this is both daunting and a responsibility that I don’t want,” he said. “But God is Word and when we speak His Word in the context of its truth and our diligent study, His Spirit flows through us. Therefore, I should have an expectation that God is going to work in the lives of those who hear His Word.”

Swanson is Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Florida.

#epc2018ga

 

2018 Leadership Institute: The Gospel in Dark Places: Ministry to Exploited and Trafficked Women

 

GA2018LI-ExploitedTraffickedIn the 2018 Leadership Institute seminar The Gospel in Dark Places: Ministry to Exploited and Trafficked Women, Bonnie Gatchell offered some practical ways to minister to women involved in human trafficking.

“There are silent victims all around us who need to see what it is to have heathier marriages than what they may have known, to demonstrate healthier ways of conflict resolution, and to have healthier relationships with our employees and employers.”

She also encouraged pastors to preach sermons about biblical women.

“We can preach countless women in the Bible,” she said. “If I’m a female but only hear about Moses, Joseph, David, and Paul but never hear about Deborah, Esther, Ruth, or Rahab, it tells me I’m a lesser gender and makes me a vulnerable person.”

Trafficking survivor Tricia Grant shared her story with the session attendees, noting that “the people who trafficked me are still advertising for exotic dancers.”

Gatchell is an ordained Teaching Elder and the Founder and Director of Route One Ministry, a Boston-based program that reaches women exploited by entering strip clubs. Grant is a survivor of sex trafficking who now educates youth and adults in large group and one-on-one settings.

#epc2018ga

2018 Leadership Institute: Building Blocks of a Missional Church

 

GA2018LI-BuildingBlocksMissionalChurch.jpgIn the 2018 Leadership Institute seminar Building Blocks of a Missional Church, Randy H described the value telling stories as a method of mentoring.

“In the Bible, mentoring is throughout the narrative, but it’s a bunch of stories like spaghetti on the wall. It’s all over the place” he said. “So there’s not necessarily a formula, it can be messy, and it’s not about me telling my story. It’s a door to building relationships.”

He added that he often tells Muslim that he works with that he’s been married for 26 years, “and I ask them to ask me how I’ve done it. When they do, it lets me tell them of God’s commands regarding marriage.”

He followed the example with five key questions that can be asked to help pull listeners into a spiritual story:

  1. What was interesting to you in this story?
  2. This is God’s great story; He is the main actor. So what did you learn about Him?
  3. What so we learn about humans? How do we respond or not respond to God?
  4. What is our response to God?
  5. Who might we tell this to?

Randy H is a global worker serving through EPC World Outreach and serves in a location that is undisclosed for security reasons.

#epc2018ga