Category Archives: Global Movement

Revelation 7:9 Task Force begins work

 

Revelation79TaskForce

Members of the EPC Revelation 7:9 Task Force met at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando, November 13-14. The group was appointed by Moderator Tom Werner (standing) in response to a recommendation approved by the 38th General Assembly “to study how the EPC can better become a denomination that faithfully embraces and serves its neighbors from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9).”

In its first face-to-face meeting, the group discussed the scope of its work, reviewed preliminary results of an online survey sent to EPC pastors in October, and explored a variety of opportunities and potential challenges that could inform their work over the next two years.

“I am excited about the work of the Task Force,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Their first year can be summed up in one word: Input. They are not working in a vacuum, but seek to learn about our churches and communities from pastors and leaders in the EPC, as well as glean from the experiences of other denominations and organizations that have navigated these same waters in recent years.”

The Task Force is co-chaired by TE Rufus Smith, Presbytery of the West; and TE Dean Weaver, Presbytery of the Alleghenies. Members are TE Tom Clymer, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Marc de Jeu, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; TE David Dwight, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Enid Flores, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; Phyllis Le Peau, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Soon Pak, Presbytery of the Midwest; Beth Paz, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; Brandon Queen, Presbytery of the Gulf South; TE Tim Russell, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Tom Werner, Presbytery of Mid-America; and Ted Winters, Presbytery of Mid-America.

Student mission conferences offer unique worldview experiences

 

High school and college-aged students—as well as their leaders—have multiple opportunities in the coming months to be encouraged, equipped, and challenged to dig deeper into the God’s Word and His heart for the nations. For more information about any of these conferences, contact Cassie Shultz, EPC World Outreach Church Liaison, at cassie.s@epcwo.org or 407-930-4314.

EPC Summer Mission Jam
June 24-29, 2019—Fremont, Calif.
July 8-13, 2019—Hamtramck, Mich.

SummerMissionJam2019Summer Mission Jam is a mission and outreach equipping conference for high school groups. Participants will work alongside EPC partner churches to minister to Muslim peoples in these two cities. Registration is $480 and includes lodging and meals (except dinner on Monday).

A minimum of 80 registered students is required by November 15 in order to host this event; students, leaders, or youth groups interested can complete a brief online survey to learn more and indicate interest in either the California or Michigan event.

Urbana
December 27-31, 2018—St. Louis, Mo.

Urbana2018Held every third December, Urbana is a global mission conference that creates a sacred space for college students to learn more about missions and discern God’s call for their life. Among the speakers is the EPC’s own Beth Paz, Director of High School Ministry for First Presbyterian Church in Fresno, Calif.

Registration is $515 until November 15; $615 after that date; lodging is approximately $125 plus taxes. The EPC Next Generation Ministries Council provides a limited number of $150 scholarships to students interested in attending; go to www.epc.org/nextgen/urbanascholarshipapplication for details and to apply. Learn more about this potentially life-changing conference at www.urbana.org.

Cross Conference
January 2-5, 2019—Louisville, Ky.

CrossConference2019Cross Conference is a global missions conference for college students that focuses on reaching the unreached peoples of the world. Registration is $119 until November 30, and $139 until registration closes on December 18, 2018. Lodging is approximately $116 plus taxes. The EPC Next Generation Ministries Council provides a limited number of $40 scholarships to students interested in attending; go to www.epc.org/nextgen/crossconferencescholarshipapplication for details and to apply. Learn more about this exciting conference at www.crossforthenations.org.

In the short video below, David Platt, Pastor-Teacher for McLean Bible Church in McLean, Va., and former President of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, explains why Cross is not just for those who sense a personal call to serve on the mission field.

World Outreach commissions 13 new global workers

 

WOlogo-RGB900EPC World Outreach commissioned 13 new global workers on June 21, 2018, at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn. The commissioning took place during the Thursday evening worship service of the 38th General Assembly.

To financially support one or more of these new workers, visit www.epcwo.org and click the “Give/Support” button. For more information about World Outreach and its ministries or people, email wo@epcwo.org.

Meet these new global workers:

Scott and Colleen
Scott and Colleen have been serving at First Presbyterian Church of Little Rock, Iowa, since 2004, when Scott was called to become their pastor. In recent years, they sensed God leading them to pursue cross-cultural mission outreach. While carrying out pastoral responsibilities in Little Rock, Scott and Colleen completed Serge’s Sonship course and four months of WO-mentored Muslim outreach. They will join a Serge church planting team in a predominantly Muslim, multi-ethnic community in London, England.

Tim and Debbie
Tim and Debbie honed their cross-cultural and language skills over decades of pioneer church planting in East Asia. They’ve taught at local high schools and colleges, started non-profit development organizations, raised cattle, and operated camps for “third-culture kids” (children raised in a culture other than that of their parents’). Their home church is Trinity EPC in Florence, S.C. They will serve under a co-op agreement with Pioneers.

Todd and Pru
Todd and Pru spent the first decade of their marriage on an OM International church planting team in North Africa. They put the lessons learns there to use in designing a program to train a new generation of evangelists and disciple-makers for the Turkic world. Their family now includes two sons, Brennen and Corren, who have visited five continents in their short lives. They are members of First Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Oregon City, Ore. They will join the Presbytery of the Great Plains’ Engage 2025 initiative to plant churches among Albanian Muslims in Macedonia.

Saul and Jesse
Saul and Jesse have lived out the missional calling since their early years. Saul went on his first mission trip when he was 11 years old, and Jesse grew up in Malawi where her parents were missionaries. They are members of Hope Church of Carbondale, Ill., where as newlyweds they helped start Hope’s first mission committee. While researching ministry opportunities for their church family, they attended an Encounter WO event in December 2014. They have served as volunteer WO Mission Assistants since October 2016, and now will join the WO Mobilization Team.

S and A
S and A both grew up in South Asia—S in an extended family of prominent Muslims, and A in a Christian family from a Hindu background. They have been commissioned to plant churches among Muslims of South Asia and metro Detroit. After their marriage, S and A reached out to their primarily Muslim neighbors and work contacts, and were instrumental in starting several household Bible studies in the Detroit area. For more than 10 years, S has been praying for Rohingyas—a Muslim people fleeing violence in their home country of Myanmar. This year, local authorities gave him an open invitation to work in the world’s largest refugee camp, which is home to more than 500,000 Rohingya refugees. S and A are members of Faith EPC in Rochester Hills, Mich.

Portia
After graduating from Nyack College in New York with a major in Intercultural Studies, Portia moved to a majority Muslim city in Europe to join an OM International church planting team. As teammates left one-by-one, Portia persevered, building friendships and reading the Bible with those friends. Goodwill Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, N.Y., sent her out six years ago, and she was commissioned this year as a WO/OM International co-op worker.

Ben and Ellie
A year after their marriage in 2012, Ben and Ellie moved to High Wycombe, England, to join Greg and Sally Livingstone on a church planting team among South Asian Muslims. Three years later, they returned to the U.S. to continue Muslim outreach in Dearborn, Mich., and finish their studies at Moody Theological Seminary. They will serve as co-op workers through Frontiers, and will move to a Muslim city in South Asia next year where Ben has accepted a teaching position. Ben and Ellie are members of Cornerstone EPC in Brighton, Mich.

 

Commissioners to 38th General Assembly approve Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality, re-elect Stated Clerk, propose Commissioned Pastor revision

 

GA2018BannerCommissioners to the EPC’s 38th General Assembly approved 26 recommendations, declined two others, and for procedural reasons took no action on an additional five. The Assembly was held June 19-22 at Hope Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn.

TomWerner

Tom Werner, 38th GA Moderator

Recommendations that were approved include a Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality, the re-election of Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah to a new three-year term, proposed changes to the role of Commissioned Pastor, and more. Commissioners also welcomed seven new churches to the EPC since last year’s Assembly; elected Tom Werner, Ruling Elder from Greentree Community Church in St. Louis, Mo., as Moderator; and elected Case Thorp, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean, as Moderator-Elect. Thorp serves as Senior Associate Pastor for First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla.

Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality approved

The Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality is a companion document to the Position Paper on Human Sexuality that was approved by the 36th General Assembly in 2016 and ratified by the 37th Assembly in 2017. The 36th General Assembly, meeting at Ward Church in Livonia, Mich., also approved the formation of an interim committee to write the Pastoral Letter. The committee held several listening sessions at the 37th General Assembly in Sacramento. The preliminary draft was released in January 2018 to Teaching Elders and Sessions for comment.

Sandy Willson, Interim Committee Chair, reported that the draft also was sent to “select outsiders who have particular expertise, training, and personal experiences that would qualify them to provide feedback. The men and women consulted included persons with personal and professional experiences with same-sex attraction, physical and sexual abuse, terminal degrees in counseling, and experience in theological education.”

The Letter was approved by unanimous vote of the Assembly.

Commissioned Pastor expansion proposed

The recommendation to expand the role of Commissioned Pastor was presented by the EPC’s Interim Committee on Ministerial Education (ICME), with the affirmation of both the permanent Ministerial Vocation Committee (MVC) and the Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC). If ratified by the EPC’s presbyteries, the recommendation will allow a Commissioned Pastor to serve on a church staff that has an ordained Teaching Elder serving as Pastor.

A Commissioned Pastor is a Ruling Elder who has been temporarily authorized by a presbytery and given the authority of a Teaching Elder. The role was previously reserved only for a congregation without a Pastor, mission churches, church plants, or chaplaincy roles in hospitals, hospices, prisons, or other institutions.

Michael Flake, MVC Chair reported approximately 40 Commissioned Pastors currently serve in the EPC.

“Almost all of these serve in their home church,” he said. “These are churches that do not have a Pastor, and one of their Ruling Elders will agree to be examined by the presbytery and become a Commissioned Pastor.”

He said one of the benefits of a Commissioned Pastor is that a church with this type of stable leadership is more likely to not only stabilize but also become healthy and grow to the extent that they can then call a Teaching Elder.

“Unfortunately,” Flake said, “in our current way of doing things when that happens the Commissioned Pastor is out of a job because we have no provision for having a Commissioned Pastor in a church with a Teaching Elder.”

Allowing a church to have both a Teaching Elder and a Commissioned Pastor “would continue to recognize the calling that God has placed in certain Ruling Elders’ lives—acknowledging what God is already doing,” Flake said, adding that it also could help with pastoral burnout by giving a Teaching Elder an opportunity to have a Ruling Elder step in and help with certain pastoral duties. He emphasized that a Commissioned Pastor would still be subject to the approval of the presbytery.

ICME Chair Fred Lian noted that the recommendation allows the presbytery—which can mandate theological continuing education for the Commissioned Pastor—to “invest in our Ruling Elders who have been called to a more fuller role of ministry to their churches and their communities.”

Because the Assembly-approved recommendation proposes changes to the EPC’s Book of Government, it is now Descending Overture 18A. Each of the EPC’s 14 presbyteries will vote on the Overture at their winter 2018 meeting, having discussed it at their fall meeting. Presbyteries may debate its substance, but the Overture may not be amended. To be presented for adoption at the 39th General Assembly, 11 of the 14 presbyteries must approve the Overture.

Stated Clerk re-elected

JeffJeremiah

Jeff Jeremiah

Jeremiah was elected to a fifth term as Stated Clerk. He has served as the EPC’s Chief Executive Officer since 2006.

“I am so very grateful to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving me this ministry that you have just confirmed for three more years,” Jeremiah said following his unanimous re-election. “This will be my last term as the Stated Clerk. In the next three years, I will do all that I can to help prepare for the future of the EPC. I love you, and want God’s very best for you—and for us—when I lay this ministry down.”

He challenged the “Boomers” in attendance—those born between the early 1940s through the mid-1960s—to support, mentor, encourage, and champion the younger men and women in the EPC.

“We must do this if we are going to secure the future of the EPC as a mighty instrument used by God for the expansion of His Kingdom in this place and around the world,” Jeremiah said.

He said his other goal in his last term was to continue to work on behalf on Andrew Brunson. He referenced Luke 18—where Jesus addresses the issue of counting the cost—reflecting on the nearly two years since the EPC Teaching Elder was imprisoned in Turkey.

“How could we have counted the cost then, when we had no idea what was ultimately going to happen and how long this would take?” he asked. “The only answer I have is that there some tasks that our Lord calls us to, and we do them. I will admit that this task has been costly, but I bear that cost knowing that it is what God has called me to.”

Jeremiah described his relationships with numerous U.S. Government officials that he has developed over the 20 months since Brunson’s incarceration.

“I have been amazed by the doors the Lord has opened for us in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “But we know the only open door that matters is the door of the plane through which Andrew and Norine come back to the United States. Until that day comes, we will not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time will reap a harvest if we will not give up. I have spoken for all of us when I have repeatedly assured Andrew and Norine that we will never give up. Never.”

New interim committee to be appointed

Commissioners authorized Moderator Tom Werner to appoint an interim committee “to study how the EPC can better become a denomination that faithfully embraces and serves our neighbors from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9).”

The recommendation came from the National Leadership Team (NLT), which explained the rationale for the committee in its report to the Assembly:

“At its January 2018 meeting, the NLT spent considerable time discussing where God is calling the EPC in the next decade. One of the areas in which the NLT believes we can improve as a denomination is in our efforts to minister to the diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural communities that surround many of our churches and that the Lord calls us to serve.”

Scott Griffin, NLT Chair, said the goal is to “make our denomination look more like the neighborhoods where God has planted us.”

The recommendation was unanimously approved by the Standing Committee on Administration, and added to an omnibus consent motion.

Budget, special projects approved

The total approved Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19—July 2018 through June 2019) budget for EPC operating expenses is $2,669,231. This amount includes $438,199 in direct funding of the four strategic initiatives—$92,690 for Church Revitalization; $182,680 for Church Planting; $121,290 for Effective Biblical Leadership; and $41,539 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 FY2018 budget; they previously were funded through undesignated cash reserves since their 2014 inception.

The Assembly also approved a variety of Special Projects for FY19, which are supported outside of per-member-asking (PMA) but would be fully funded if each EPC church contributed an additional $5.62 per member above the PMA target of $23 per member.

In other administration-related business, commissioners approved:

  • A recommendation that shifts approval of applications to the EPC Church Loan Fund from the EPC Foundation to the NLT Finance Committee.
  • The EPC Restated Articles of Incorporation and Corporate Bylaws. These documents stem from a liability study undertaken in 2014. That study led to a corporate restructure of the EPC in which World Outreach and Benefit Resources, Inc., were separated as legal entities from the EPC ecclesiastical body, but remained under the oversight of the General Assembly.
  • 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.

New committee and board members elected

In addition to the election of Werner as Moderator and Thorp 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 Robert Draughon*, Presbytery of the Central South; Michael Moore, Presbytery of the Central South; TE Bill Reisenweaver, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

Committee on Chaplains Work and Care: TE Greg Holman, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Jennifer Prechter, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; TE David Snyder*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Richard Swedberg*, Presbytery of the West; TE Brad Yorton, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest.

Committee on Church Planting and Revitalization: RE Franklin Carter*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic. (Carter was not seated due to Assembly approval of Recommendation GA38-14 to disband the Committee on Church Planting and Revitalization.)

EPC Foundation Board: RE Ben Borsay, Presbytery of the Midwest; Mark Eibel, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; RE John Graham, Presbytery of the Southeast.

Committee on Fraternal Relations: RE Carol Culbertson, Presbytery of the West; TE Don Fortson, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic.

Committee on Ministerial Vocation: RE Neal McAtee*, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Caroline Tromble*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes.

National Leadership Team: RE Phil Fanara*, Presbytery of the East; RE Michael Gibson*, Presbytery of the Great Plains; RE Rob Liddon*, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Rosemary Lukens*, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest.

Next Generation Ministries Council: Greg Aydt, Presbytery of the West; Meg DeHaven, Presbytery of the East; TE Andrew Mills, Presbytery of the Gulf South; RE Becky Shultz, Presbytery of the West; Ryan Suzuki, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest.

Nominating Committee: RE Marion Bradshaw, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Larry Carlson, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; RE Susan Humphreys, Presbytery of Mid-America; RE Joe McCoy, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE David Ricketts, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; TE Wayne Hardy, Presbytery of the Great Plains.

Permanent Judicial Commission: RE Amanda Cowan, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; RE Don Flater*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Dana Opp*, Presbytery of the Alleghenies.

Presbytery Review Committee: RE Cecil Matthews*, Presbytery of the West.

Committee on Theology: TE Ron DiNunzio, Presbytery of the East; TE Ryan Mowen, Presbytery of the Alleghenies.

Women’s Resource Council: TE Sharon Beekman*, Presbytery of the West; TE Mary Brown*, Presbytery of the Great Plains; RE Lynn Burdge, Presbytery of the Central South; Anita Campbell, Presbytery of the Alleghenies.

World Outreach Committee: TE Chris Bear, Presbytery of the East; TE Rick Dietzman, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; RE Patrick Tucker*, Presbytery of the Central South.

Other business items

Several other items of business were unanimously approved without discussion. Those items were:

  • Ratifying Descending Overtures 17-A, 17-B, 17-C, and 17-D. Overture 17-A amended the Book of Government sections 9-6A and 10-8B.2a, bringing consistency to the wording of the two sections by specifying the term of service for an out-of-bounds call as a renewable term of up to three years. Overture 17-B amended the Book of Government sections 21-2D.2e and f, expanding areas of ongoing authority that may be given to the Ministerial Committee at the discretion of the presbytery. Overture 17-C amended the Book of Government section 10-7 by creating and defining the called position of Transitional Pastor. Overture 17-D amended the Book of Government section 9-5A.1 for consistency with section 10-7 to clarify that all calls to Teaching Elders must be approved by the presbytery. Each of these overtures were approved by the 38th General Assembly, and subsequently approved by the presbyteries at their winter 2017-18 meetings.
  • Giving the permanent Fraternal Relations Committee the authority to develop a fraternal relationship with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, as well as the authority to appoint EPC representatives to engage with groups where participation of the Stated Clerk is not necessary.
  • Disbanding the permanent Church Planting and Revitalization Committee (CPRC). The CPRC stated in its report to the Assembly that the successful implementation of the Church Planting Team under the leadership of Tom Ricks and the Church Revitalization Task Force (now known as the GO Center led by Ken Priddy) since 2012 and 2013, respectively, made the CPRC “superfluous and no longer necessary.”
  • Re-assigning Benton, Washington, Crawford, and Sebastian counties in northwest Arkansas from the Presbytery of the Central South to the Presbytery of the Great Plains.
  • Approving Operation Mobilization as an approved Cooperative Mission Agency, Timothy Two as an approved Mission Agency, and Equip International as an approved Mission Agency of EPC’s World Outreach.
  • Supplementing the EPC Foundation Board with at least one volunteer representative from each presbytery. These volunteers would help expand awareness of the Foundation’s services as they speak to churches and individuals in their presbyteries.
  • Approving the minutes of the National Leadership Team, Next Generation Ministries Council, Women’s Resource Council, and permanent committees on Church Planting and Revitalization, Fraternal Relations, Ministerial Vocation, and World Outreach.
  • Approving the minutes of the 14 EPC presbyteries (with some minor exceptions requiring response to the permanent Presbytery Review Committee by December 31, 2018).
  • Accepting the invitation from Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo., to host the 39th General Assembly in June 2019.

Bart Hess Award for church growth and revitalization

The annual Bart Hess Award for church growth and revitalization was presented to Restoration Church in Munford, Tenn. for their revitalization efforts. Mike Gibson is the Pastor, and the congregation joined the EPC in 2010.

Limited by a sanctuary built in 1911 and now landlocked with no parking or expansion room, the church was experiencing only incremental, transfer growth and not reaching the unchurched in its community.

“We weren’t expanding the Kingdom, we were just rearranging the sheep,” Gibson said, noting that he and his leadership team undertook a study of its community to address the issue. “We wanted to know what kind of needs they had and what we could do to minister to them, and what were we doing or not doing to attract them or be a total disinterest to them.”

In response to what the study revealed about the church and the community, the congregation changed its name to Restoration Church, adopted a contemporary worship style, and developed a ministry to families.

“A lot of the people around us had been through a divorce but were very family-oriented,” he said. “They were very concerned about not repeating what had happened in their homes that resulted in divorce. And they were very interested in receiving help.”

Jeff Jeremiah affirmed the church’s willingness to not only ask hard questions about its health and ministry to its community, but also its effort to make changes in response to the answers they received.

“Under Mike’s leadership, lives are being redeemed, revived, and restored through the ministry of Restoration Church and I am thrilled that their hard work has been recognized by the entire EPC,” he said.

Church Planting Team highlights growth in plants, networks

In addition to business recommendations voted on by commissioners, the EPC’s interim and permanent committees and boards presented reports to the Assembly on their work over the past year.

TomRicks

Tom Ricks

Tom Ricks, Chair of the Church Planting Team (CPT), reported 43 active EPC church plants in 16 states. He also reported at least three churches “went from being a church plant to being a localized congregation, which is the ultimate goal—getting them to stand on their own two feet and then multiply themselves by planting other new churches.”

Ricks reported two church planting networks currently, with two more in development. Ricks noted that one of these networks, in St. Louis, Mo., was formed by five EPC churches in the Presbytery of Mid-America. “We have bound together and have committed our resources and energies for the sole purpose of planting churches in the city of St. Louis—not in the county or in the surrounding area but in the urban part of the community.”

He also noted seven active church plants in underserved neighborhoods around the country. Ricks emphasizing that the CPT is looking at not only underserved neighborhoods, but also unreached areas—particularly in the northeast and on the West Coast.

“These are a couple of areas in our country where there is tremendous opportunity in a post-Christian era to plant churches and share the gospel.”

Additional church planting activities described in the Church Planting and Revitalization Committee’s printed report to the Assembly included:

  • A new church plant in an area of Nashville, Tenn., with an 80-percent minority population.
  • An Hispanic church plant in Charlotte, N.C., launched by Lake Forest Church in Hendersonville, N.C., in partnership with the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico (INPM). The EPC signed a church-planting partnership with the INPM in 2016, and the Charlotte congregation will be led by a church planter from Mexico.
  • Church of the Resurrection in New Orleans, La., launched in 2017 by the Gulf Coast Church Planting Network.
  • The inaugural “church planting cohort” designed to encourage and equip EPC church planters, and led by Bart Garrett, Lead Pastor of Christ Church East Bay in Berkeley, Calif.

Ricks, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Mid-America, is Pastor of Greentree Community Church in St. Louis, Mo.

GO Center describes revitalization tools, new funding model

KenPriddy

Ken Priddy

Ken Priddy, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic and Director of the EPC GO Center, provided the report for the GO Center, the primary EPC vehicle for church revitalization. He explained that the GO Center is an equipping ministry “that engages and empowers pastors, church leaders, and congregations to move forward into greater health and vitality—to revitalize—through training, consulting, coaching, and assessing.”

He said each of the EPC’s 600-plus churches “is at the epicenter of a domestic mission field,” noting that the people in these missions fields are not simply lost; they are missing from the family of God. “They are waiting for the gospel to get to them,” he said. “The question is, ‘How and when will our churches take the gospel out?’ That is the question that the GO Center seeks to answer.”

Priddy reported that 12 of the EPC’s 14 presbyteries now has a volunteer GO Center Coordinator, who serves as a link between the GO Center and the needs and interests of the presbyteries. Priddy also said that more than 30 volunteers have been trained to serve as GO Center Vision Team Coaches. Coaches work with a local church Vision Team to encourage and assist those teams through implementation of the GO Center training in their local context. He also said new training materials have been created and implemented.

A further area of emphasis over the past year has been the development of relevant metric tools to assess the health of participating churches and their progress through the GO Center’s revitalization process.

Finally, Priddy reported a shift in the ministry’s funding structure for the future. He said the GO Center has been incorporated as its own 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and effective July 1, 2018, will receive funding from three streams. The first is continued, though reduced, support from the EPC administrative budget. The second is a fee structure  attached to the ministry services provided, Third will be donor funding solicited by the GO Center through the EPC Foundation.

World Outreach reports progress, sets goals

PhilLinton

Phil Linton

Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach (WO), noted four major accomplishments since the 2017 Assembly in Sacramento:

  • The WO global worker assessment and approval process was completely revised.
  • A thorough mid-term evaluation of Engage 2025 was completed, and Engage 2025 Team Leaders (and their families) were brought together and given new tools, resources, and training to carry out their task.
  • A manual for International Business as Mission (IBAM) was developed and approved.
  • Multi-year Ministry Plans were developed to deliver specific goods and services to our International Theological Education Network partners.

Linton said IBAM will be a major focus for the coming year.

“This past year has seen the maturation of a process in laying the groundwork, and this is the year we want to see that implemented,” he said. “Our goal is to have six hubs for business professionals across the country to incubate and take advantage of the business acumen, counsel, and energy of business people in the EPC.”

He shared a second goal for IBAM of having two entrepreneurial business professionals joining the World Outreach team in the next year.

Linton also reported that the goal he shared at the 2017 General Assembly in Sacramento—11 new global workers commissioned at this year’s Assembly—was nearly met. Seven families and one single candidate were appointed by World Outreach Committee in the last 12 months.

“We still need to provide reinforcements for our Engage 2025 pioneer church planting teams,” Linton told the 2018 Assembly. He said World Outreach will be praying and working to have six new global workers commissioned next year to join existing Engage 2025 teams serving in the Muslim world.

#epc2018ga

38th GA World Outreach activities celebrate God’s work in the world

 

GA2018BannerMore than 50 EPC World Outreach global workers and staff are registered to attend the 38th General Assembly, June 19-22 at Hope Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn. Don’t miss the opportunity to get to know the ministries of World Outreach and its global workers! World Outreach activities and meetings include, but are not limited to:

Tuesday Leadership Institute: Building Blocks of a Missional Church
This seminar is geared to ignite your church to missional living and also help build a missional DNA within your congregation. God’s heart is for the nations, and we are all given the opportunity to participate in this work using our many different talents.

Tuesday Evening World Outreach Banquet
This year’s World Outreach banquet will honor Greg and Sally Livingstone, who helped start Operation Mobilization in the 1960s, directed the U.S. office of North Africa Mission in the 1970s, founded Frontiers in the 1980s, and now serve as EPC World Outreach Senior Advisors. The guest speaker is Bob Blincoe, President of Frontiers USA. Also featured will be “stories from the mission field” presented by World Outreach global workers serving overseas.

Wednesday Networking Lunch: Where in the World are You Going?
Need ideas for short-term mission projects for your church? Join us to discover what other EPC churches are doing, exchange information and ideas, and create an opportunity for new partnerships to begin. If you have a short-term opportunity to share, contact Shawn Stewart at shawn.s@epcwo.org.

Wednesday Dinner: Global Worker Presentations
For those who purchased tickets for Wednesday dinner, come hear World Outreach global workers describe how God is using and blessing their work among people groups who have little or no access to the gospel.

Thursday Dinner: Global Worker Meet-and-Greet
Join us for dinner and meet your World Outreach global workers, including our newest appointees who will be presented to the Assembly in the worship service following dinner.

Thursday Evening Worship with Global Worker Commissioning
The featured speaker for the Thursday evening worship service is Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. In addition, new World Outreach global workers will be commissioned. Please note that due to potential security concerns, the commissioning portion of this service will not be live streamed.

World Outreach exhibits
Many of our global workers will have displays about their ministries at the World Outreach exhibit area in the Main Lobby at Hope Church. Stop by any time between Tuesday and Friday afternoon and get acquainted!

For additional World Outreach events at this year’s General Assembly, including more Networking Lunches on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, see www.epc.org/ ga2018worldoutreachevents. If you have questions about any of these activities, contact Cassie Shultz at cassie.s@epcwo.org or 407-930-4313.

For details about the 38th General Assembly, including daily schedules, Assembly documents, and more, see www.epc.org/ga2018.

#epc2018ga

GA2018WO

 

World Outreach dinner to feature Bob Blincoe, honor Greg and Sally Livingstone

 

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Bob Blincoe

Bob Blincoe, President of Frontiers USA, is the guest speaker for this year’s World Outreach banquet in conjunction with the 38th General Assembly. The dinner and program will be held on Tuesday, June 19, at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.

In addition, Greg and Sally Livingstone will be honored for their lifetime sharing the love of Christ with and in the Muslim world. The Livingstones helped start Operation Mobilization in the 1960s, directed the U.S. office of North Africa Mission in the 1970s, founded Frontiers in the 1980s, and now serve as EPC World Outreach Senior Advisors. Greg is the author of several books, including You’ve Got Libya: A Life Serving the Muslim World and The Muslim World: A Presbyterian Mandate.

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Greg and Sally Livingstone

Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach, said GA attendees “won’t want to miss hearing John Piper, George Verwer, and Bob Blincoe tell the story of how God has used an EPC couple to change the missional course of the global Church.” Piper and Verwer will appear via pre-recorded video.

The banquet also will feature reports from several EPC global workers, who will tell stories of how God is working among the various people groups they serve.

For more information about the 38th General Assembly, including registration, daily schedules, other World Outreach activities, and more, see www.epc.org/ga2018. For details about the World Outreach Dinner, contact Cassie Shultz, World Outreach Assistant, at cassie.s@epcwo.org or 407-930-4313.

EPC short-term missions in 2018: Puerto Rico and beyond

 
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Shawn Stewart

by Shawn Stewart
Coordinator of Mobilization,
EPC World Outreach

Puerto Rico…

Our EPC churches in Puerto Rico are right in the middle of neighborhoods that are still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Maria. The need for short-term mission teams in Puerto Rico has never been higher!

Our three EPC churches in Puerto Rico are now working with Praying Pelican Missions to assist EPC churches in sending short-term mission teams to the island. Will your church be one of them?

If you are interested, contact Kevin Gamradt of Praying Pelican Missions and let him know you are an EPC church interested in working with one or more of our EPC churches in Puerto Rico: Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster-Bayamón in the San Juan area, or Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangélica en Añasco or Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangélica Mayagüez on the western part of the island.

They are seeking teams for spring, summer, and fall. These teams can be made up of youth, adults, or combined (it will be extremely helpful for at least one member of your team to be fluent in Spanish). And just for the record, in my best missiological speculation Praying Pelicans does missions well. They have genuine, year-round partnerships with the local church, and they work through the local church in their plans and efforts.

I will be in Puerto Rico in February to learn more, so watch for a follow-up report on the needs and opportunities.

and beyond…

EPC World Outreach tried to birth a 2018 summer mission trip for high school students to work among the Middle Eastern population (particularly Muslim) of Dearborn and Hamtramck, Michigan. Due to problems finding appropriate housing and a sending agency to help coordinate this, we have postponed our launch until 2019.

If you would be interested in helping us organize this—or a similar project in Fremont, Calif., among that city’s large Afghan population—please contact me at shawn.s@epcwo.org. I am particularly interested in talking to folks who would like to serve on a planning team.

Thank you for your prayerful consideration of these opportunities!

Support EPC World Outreach on Giving Tuesday

 

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The EPC and its missions arm, World Outreach, has joined the global social media initiative, #GivingTuesday, that seeks to counteract the consumerism of Black Friday and  Cyber Monday with a celebration of giving.

“World Outreach desires to be an organization that gives some of our most precious resources—the members of our EPC churches—to the least-reached and unengaged places of the world for the expansion of the Church and the glory of God,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “On this day that emphasizes online charitable giving, we follow the path set before us from our Heavenly Father, who loved the world so much that He gave His only Son for it.”

Click here to participate in #GivingTuesday with your support of World Outreach global workers or special projects.

International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church set for November 5, 12

 

IDOP2017Hebrews 13:3 command Christians to pray for those suffering as if they themselves were suffering. In an effort to unite believers in this scriptural principle, November 5 and 12 have been designated International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) by the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).

The command is especially meaningful in the EPC, as Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson marked one year in a Turkish prison in October.

“Scripture is clear that if one suffers, we all suffer,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “I know I have experienced this over the past 13 months with Andrew Brunson’s imprisonment.”

Eric Metaxas, author of the New York Times #1 bestselling Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy included Brunson in a list of Christians around the world persecuted for their faith.

“In Turkey last year, American missionary Andrew Brunson was locked up on the absurd grounds that he was a terrorist,” Metaxas wrote in a blog post on BreakPoint.org.

The WEA reports persecution as a daily reality of at least 100 million Christians around the world. Now marking its 21st year, the IDOP is observed in more than 100 countries. This year’s theme is “From Ashes to Glory.”

For more information and free IDOP church resource kits, see www.idop.org or www.opendoorsusa.org.

As a “global movement of churches,” the EPC stands with—and prays for—persecuted Christians and is committed to:

  • The global mission of EPC World Outreach, which is to tell the story of Jesus in the Hard Places among people who have no church;
  • Fraternal partnerships with like-minded, Bible-believing bodies; and
  • Awareness of and solidarity with persecuted Christians.

Thanksgiving offering to support World Outreach Family Gathering

 

2017ThanksgivingOfferingThe 2017 EPC Thanksgiving Offering has been designated for the World Outreach Family Gathering. To help facilitate contributions, a bulletin insert is available in printable pdf format on the EPC website.

Family Gathering, held every four years, is six days of fellowship, worship, and renewal for all World Outreach global workers. The 2018 Family Gathering will be held in Greece.

“These gatherings are a delightful respite for our workers, many of whom are lonely for Christian fellowship, or just plain weary from the demands of ministry in the Hard Places,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “Contributions will augment the World Outreach Family Gathering budget and help pay for expenses such as travel, lodging, and food.”

The annual Thanksgiving Offering supports a project approved by the General Assembly each June, alternating between World Outreach and Church Planting and Revitalization.

For more information, contact World Outreach at wo@epcwo.org or 407-930-4328.

Emergency fund launched for Mexico earthquake relief

 
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Photo credit: EDGARD GARRIDO / Reuters

In response to requests for assistance from leadership of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico (La Iglesia Nacional Presbiteriana de México or INPM) following a series of devastating earthquakes that hit Mexico in September, the EPC has launched an emergency relief fund to help with recovery efforts. The EPC and INPM entered into a fraternal partnership in 2016, with an initial focus on church planting.

On September 8, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck near the coast of Chiapas in Southern Mexico. The epicenter of a 7.1-magnitude earthquake that hit on September 19 was approximately 40 miles south of Mexico City—resulting in the collapse of more than 40 buildings. On September 23, a 6.1-magnitude quake shook the southern state of Oaxaca. More than 500 people have been reported killed, with more than 6,300 injured. The majority of INPM churches are located south and east of Mexico City, in some of the highest-damage areas.

“We understand that ‘donor fatique’ is a possibility,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “The EPC has already given more than $550,000 to the Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria disaster relief funds. However, the National Leadership Team believes we should make this effort for our fraternal partners to the south, trusting the Lord will provide.”

Click here to donate online (Choose “Emergency Relief” from the first pulldown menu and “Mexico Earthquakes Relief (509)” from the second pulldown menu,) or make check payable to Evangelical Presbyterian Church and designated “Mexico Earthquakes Relief,” and send to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

Donations to the fund will be sent to the INPM. Thank you for providing help to those in need.

World Outreach Forum to highlight ways to mobilize the local church

 

Forum2017The 2017 World Outreach Forum will address the topic of “Mobilizing our churches for global movement” by addressing ways EPC congregations can:

  • Impart vision to reach the lost through short-term mission trips,
  • Directly engage unreached people groups in their local communities, and
  • Strategically send their own sons and daughters long-term through Engage 2025.

The workshop will be held November 13-14 in Orlando, Fla., starting at 1:00 p.m. with lunch on Monday and concluding after lunch on Tuesday. Come and collaborate with presbytery and church mission leaders and the World Outreach U.S. Team for a time of sharing, vision casting, and alignment around the global focus of the EPC.

“The mission initiatives of our churches are a treasure, and the Forum is where we get to look at the crown jewels,” said Phil Linton, Director of EPC World Outreach.  “Representatives from EPC churches at the cutting edge of missions will share their stories, and we’ll explore how World Outreach can help our congregations.”

The cost is $79 per person and includes registration, two lunches, and one dinner. Lodging is available for $129 per night and the deadline to secure the group rate is October 13.

For more information and to register and make hotel arrangements, see www.epcwo.org/forum or contact the World Outreach office at wo@epcwo.org.

37th GA summary: Commissioners approve budget, funding Strategic Initiatives, Position Paper on Human Sexuality, new presbyteries

 

2017GAbannerRegOnlineCommissioners to the EPC’s 37th General Assembly approved a variety of business items, including funding the four strategic initiatives from the EPC operating budget, adopting the Preliminary Position Paper on Human Sexuality as the Position Paper on Human Sexuality, creating two new presbyteries, and more.

The strategic initiatives of church planting, church revitalization, effective biblical leadership, and global movement have been funded through undesignated cash reserves since their inception in 2014. The decision funds the strategic initiatives through the EPC operating budget for the first time.

The total approved July 2017–June 2018 (fiscal year, or FY18) budget for EPC operating expenses is $2,310,583. This amount includes $268,000 in direct funding of the four strategic initiatives, with $135,000 allocated for Church Revitalization; $120,000 for Church Planting; $8,000 for Effective Biblical Leadership; and $5,000 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.

The Assembly also approved a variety of Special Projects for FY18, which are funded outside of per-member-asking (PMA) but would be fully funded if each EPC church contributed an additional $6.83 per member above the PMA target of $23 per member.

The Position Paper on Human Sexuality replaces the Position Paper on Homosexuality and Position Paper on the Sanctity of Marriage. The 35th General Assembly, meeting in Orlando in 2015, approved the formation of an interim committee to edit the homosexuality paper, which had been adopted in 1986 and revised in 1994 and 2014. While the EPC’s position on the issue had not changed, the 2015 Assembly recommended that language in the paper be updated to reflect how that position is expressed in response to changing cultural trends.

The new Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest and Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest will be formed from the existing Presbytery of the Pacific, effective January 1, 2018. The Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest will include Alaska, Oregon, Washington, the portions of Idaho and Montana west of the 114th meridian, and the portion of California north of a line 10 miles south of state highway 299. The Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest includes the entire states of Hawaii and Nevada; the portion of Arizona west of the 114th meridian; and the portion of California south of a line 10 miles south of state highway 299.

Using the most recent reporting numbers for the Presbytery of the Pacific, the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest will have 39 churches and approximately 7,000 members, while the Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest will include 30 churches and approximately 10,800 members.

Commissioners also approved two additional presbytery related items: adjusting the boundary between the current presbyteries of the Pacific and West to fall on the 114th meridian, and changing the name of the Presbytery of Florida to the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

Transitional Pastor call approved

In other business, commissioners approved a new ordained call of Transitional Pastor; welcomed 16 new churches to the EPC since last year’s Assembly; and elected Dean Weaver, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies as Moderator and Tom Werner, Ruling Elder from Greentree Community Church in St. Louis, Mo., as Moderator-Elect.

The Transitional Pastor call was a recommendation from the Ministerial Vocation Committee, which believed the term “transitional” not only better defined the task, but also further established the role as a call from the Session of a church. The provisions state that a Transitional Pastor:

  • Is called by the Session to serve a congregation while it is seeking a pastor;
  • Intentionally leads the congregation toward greater health and readiness for their next pastor;
  • Will ordinarily be appointed by the presbytery to moderate the Session during his or her time of service;
  • Would retain membership in his or her home presbytery, if different from that in which the call is located; and
  • Is introduced to the receiving presbytery and enrolled as a corresponding member (voice but no vote) upon approval of the Ministerial Committee.

Commissioners also approved four additional recommendations from the Ministerial Vocation Committee to amend the Book of Government. These actions:

  1. Adjust the wording in two sections related to the term of service for an out-of-bounds call to reflect that such term is renewable for up to three years;
  2. Allow a presbytery to authorize its Ministerial Committee to serve as a judicial or administrative commission, or be appointed as an ongoing administrative commission;
  3. Add the Transitional Pastor as a recognized pastoral relationship for Teaching Elders in a congregational setting; and
  4. Clarify that a Session may call a Teaching Elder as Assistant Pastor or Transitional Pastor, and is authorized to invite a Teaching Elder as Stated Supply Pastor or Occasional Supply Pastor—all of which must be approved by the presbytery since they involve a Teaching Elder.

Pastoral Letter committee reports progress

In addition to business recommendations voted on by commissioners, the EPC’s interim and permanent committees and boards presented reports to the Assembly on their work over the past year.

The Interim Committee on Pastoral Letter was appointed following the 36th General Assembly in response to that Assembly adopting the then-Preliminary Position Paper on Human Sexuality. In his report as committee chair, Sandy Willson said the committee has divided the task into ten preliminary chapters, with each having a three-part format: biblical and theological framework, cultural issues and objections, and pastoral application. The Committee hosted Network Lunches on Thursday and Friday designed to garner input and feedback from commissioners on the topic. Willson, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Central South, recently retired as Senior Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.

Every EPC church a “Parent, Partner, or Patron” of church planting

Tom Ricks, Chair of the Church Planting Team, reported more than 37 active church plants in the EPC.

He also noted that since the Church Planting Team trains, nurtures, and equips all EPC church planters, and helps congregations, networks, and presbyteries get the right church planters in the right places, the goal is to provide resources and support above and beyond a church’s regular ministries and operations. Ricks emphasized that this is best accomplished when each EPC congregation becomes a “Parent, Partner, or Patron” of at least one church plant.

Additional activities over the past year reported by the Church Planting Team in its printed report included:

  • Holding an annual church planters’ retreat, with Ricks requesting that presbyteries help defray travel costs for attendees.
  • Adding three new members to the Church Planting Team leadership team: Rufus Smith, Pastor of Hope Church in Memphis, Tenn.; Richard Rieves, Pastor of Downtown Church in Memphis, Tenn.; and John Bueno, EPC Home Missionary.
  • Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tenn., and Cherry Hills Community Church in Denver, Colo., launching church planting initiatives in their communities.
  • The Gulf Coast Church Planting Network launching their first church plant in New Orleans, La.

Ricks, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Mid-America, is Pastor of Greentree Community Church in St. Louis, Mo.

Mentored Apprenticeship Program announced

As part of the Interim Committee on Ministerial Education’s report, Kent Mathews introduced the Mentored Apprenticeship Program. The program was designed to help meet the EPC’s new educational requirements for ordination to the office of Teaching Elder, approved by the 36th General Assembly. These requirements—approved in response to changing trends in theological education nationwide—stipulate 66 credit-hours of required seminary coursework, including 42 hours of Bible, theology, and church history. The remaining 24 hours include the ministry- and skill-based disciplines of discipleship, ethics, leadership, pastoral care/counseling, ministry as mission, apologetics, preaching, and evangelism.

In partnership with Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, eight courses have been developed to address these areas and are available online at half the normal Gordon Conwell tuition cost. Five courses will be available during GCTC’s fall semester, with the remaining three scheduled to be available in 2018.

Mathews emphasized that students at any seminary accredited by the Association for Theological Schools are eligible to take the MAP courses for credit, and a student completing six of the eight courses will earn a Certificate of Completion from Gordon Conwell. He noted that a bachelor’s degree is not required for the Certificate Program, so it is ideal for a non-ordained church or parachurch staff member who want to improve their skills and knowledge.

In addition to the coursework, students complete a hands-on project, supervised by a mentor with whom the student regularly meets.

Click here for more information on the Mentored Apprenticeship Program.

Mathews is Pastor of the EPC’s Grace Community Fellowship in Ottawa, Kan., and serves as Director of the Mentored Apprenticeship Program. In his role with MAP, he is the grading instructor and professor of record at GCTS.

NLT celebrates stewardship, church planting rate

In the National Leadership Team report, chair Mike Moses emphasized that the EPC is a missional denomination that serves the ministry of its member churches and presbyteries, and not a top-down hierarchy “that everything is trying to feed.”

“In everything we do, we are attempting to resist a top-down approach,” Moses said, “but instead be a national leadership that serves and resources and champions what the Holy Spirit of God is doing in our churches and presbyteries.”

As an example, he discussed the relocation of the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) to Orlando, Fla., which was completed in 2016. Specifically, he noted that even while the EPC was growing, OGA operations have been streamlined from 20 full-time-equivalent employees in past years to a current level of 17.

“I think that speaks to the priority of our executive leadership of being good stewards of the funds that are entrusted to them through per-member-asking so that as much of it as possible goes to advance our shared mission and vision.”

As another example of using PMA to resource ministry locally, Moses shared some statistics related to church planting.

“In 2010, when Jeff Jeremiah appointed a Church Planting Team led by Tom Ricks, 2.1 percent of our churches were church plants,” he said. “That is an anemic church planting rate—half of what experts say is a healthy church planting denomination.”

As Ricks had reported earlier, Moses noted that 4.3 percent of EPC churches were church plants in 2016, and since January 2017 the rate has grown from 4.3 percent to 6.2 percent.

“We are now more than a healthy church-planting denomination, we are an exemplary church-planting denomination—and we thank the Lord for that by His grace.”

He emphasized that none of those new congregations were planted by the Office of the General Assembly.

“That came come from culture change of us together saying that this is important—this is a priority—and then our ability to just resource and fan into flame what God is birthing in our churches and presbyteries.”

Moses, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic, serves as Pastor of Lake Forest Church in Charlotte, N.C.

Stated Clerk report emphasizes connectionalism

In the Stated Clerk’s report, Jeff Jeremiah emphasizing the relational emphasis of being in the EPC.

“It’s an expression of who we are,” Jeremiah said. “It’s an expression of our connectionalism. We aren’t in connection just because it’s convenient, or a good idea, or tradition. We’re committed to connectionalism because its biblical.”

He emphasized the quality of this connectionalism by referencing some of the “one anothers” of the New Testament. “Welcome one another, accept one another, be kind to one another, instruct one another, be subject to one another, encourage one another, forgive one another, build up one another, encourage one another, hold one another accountable, and of course, love one another.”

Jeremiah also reported that giving to the EPC budget has improved over the past two years, from 61 percent of the PMA goal in 2015 to 68 percent in 2016.

Additional information in the Stated Clerk’s printed report included an explanation of his roles in both promoting and protecting the EPC; a breakdown of how the EPC’s Office of the General Assembly budget is funded and how those funds are used; a discussion of staff transition at the national level of the EPC; and a directory of churches received, dissolved, or dismissed in the period May 28, 2016, through May 22, 2017.

Church revitalization expands through GO Center

In a video report to the Assembly, Ken Priddy described the work of the EPC’s GO Center, which develops materials and conducts training for church revitalization. Priddy, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic, is Director of the GO Center. He said the GO Center continues to recruit Vision Team coaches and Presbytery Coordinators for each of the EPC’s 13 presbyteries, noting that 13 Presbytery Coordinators are currently in training and represent 10 presbyteries.

Priddy explained that a congregation’s Vision Team leads the revitalization efforts for the church, and Vision Team Coaches work with them, while Presbytery Coordinators are the link between the presbytery and the GO Center.

He said with the three “layers” of Vision Team, Vision Team Coach, and Presbytery Coordinators, the GO Center is now able to provide “a much broader, much deeper ministry to the churches, the pastors, the leaders, the congregations that we’re endeavoring to serve.”

Priddy reported that since the 2016 General Assembly, the GO Center has presented 40 on-site training events. In addition, 19 pastors and leaders currently are active in online training through “GO Clusters,” 40 pastors and leaders have completed training through the GO Clusters, and 21 pastors have expressed interest in a new “X52” online training vehicle, which Priddy said focuses on developing Great Commission skills among pastors.

He also noted that in the past few years, more than 170 EPC churches have engaged the ministry of the GO Center.

Bart Hess Award for church growth and revitalization

The annual Bart Hess Award for church growth and revitalization was presented to Closer to God Church in Kearny, N.J., for their work in community outreach. In addition to local evangelism, members of the congregation provide professional courses, medical care, legal assistance, and counselling for immigrant families in the community; minister to the poor through a food bank; support presbytery mission projects; and help plant new churches in the Newark, N.J., area. Valdir Reis is the Pastor of the multi-ethnic, Portuguese-speaking church.

World Outreach plans student outreach event

Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach (WO), reported that in the past 12 months the World Outreach Committee focused on the areas of mobilization, the Engage 2025 initiative, the International Theological Education Network (ITEN), and personnel.

“The work of World Outreach Committee has been to position World Outreach to aid our churches so that we aren’t left on the bench and are active participants in God’s rescue mission,” he said.

One effort to aid EPC congregations with outreach training is a youth conference scheduled for June 26-29, 2018, in Detroit, Mich. The event will include an opportunity for ministry to Muslims in the area. Linton noted that space is limited to 100 high school students, and internships are available for college students. As details are finalized, information will be available at www.epcwo.org.

“It’s going to be a life-changing experience for these students,” Linton said, “and it’s part of our efforts to work at a grass-roots level with our congregations and the youth in our congregations so that we become an incubator for missions passion, and passion for the Lord Jesus and His Kingdom.”

He also reported that summer internships for college students are available through several of WO’s partner agencies.

Linton concluded his report by telling commissioners that growth of WO global workers overseas plateaued in 2016, following many years of steady growth. He said that while the three missionaries who were appointed on Thursday evening were cause for celebration, “in the past year we had as many missionaries leave World Outreach as join World Outreach.”

He asked the Assembly to commit to pray for 11 missionaries to be appointed at the 2018 General Assembly.

“We need 11 new appointees commissioned next year just to meet the recruitment needs for our current teams who have established tenuous toeholds in some of crucial areas. We have folks who have made heroic efforts, but we need those reinforcements.”

Ed McCallum honored for 20 years of service

On Friday of the Assembly, Ed McCallum was recognized for his 20 years of service as Assistant Stated Clerk. McCallum began a new role as Associate for Site and Program Development with the International Theological Education Network of EPC’s World Outreach following the Assembly.

New committee and board members elected

In addition to the election of Weaver as Moderator and Werner 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:

Benefit Resources, Inc., Board of Directors: RE Robert Draughon, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Kim Ray, Presbytery of the Pacific; TE Ronald Horgan, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Erik Ohman, Presbytery of the Midwest; Randy Shaneyfelt, Presbytery of the Great Plains.

Committee on Chaplains Work and Care: TE David Snyder, Presbytery of the Midwest; TE Karen Bolte*, Presbytery of the Pacific; TE Ted Tromble*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes.

Committee on Church Planting and Revitalization: TE Jeff Moore*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes.

EPC Foundation Board: RE Bobby Cobbs, Presbytery of the Pacific; RE Ted Hailes, Presbytery of the Central South.

Committee on Fraternal Relations: RE Gwynn Blair*, Presbytery of Florida; RE Peter Pugliese*, Presbytery of the Alleghenies.

Committee on Ministerial Vocation: RE Neal McAtee, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Frank Rotella, Presbytery of the East; TE Brad Strait*, Presbytery of the West; RE Phil Stump*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic.

National Leadership Team: RE Chris Danusiar, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Nancy Duff, Presbytery of the Pacific; RE Leigh Swanson*, Presbytery of Florida; RE Glen Meyers, Presbytery of the Alleghenies.

Permanent Judicial Commission: RE Yvonne Chapman, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Ken Roberts, Presbytery of the West; RE David Tyra*, Presbytery of the Pacific.

Presbytery Review Committee: TE Helen Franssell*, Presbytery of the East; RE Diane Manon*, Presbytery of the Midwest.

Committee on Theology: TE Zach Hopkins, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; RE Fred Flinn, Presbytery of the Central South.

Women’s Resource Council: TE Sharon Beekman, Presbytery of the West; TE Mary Brown, Presbytery of the Great Plains; Elizabeth Parker, Presbytery of the Gulf South; Kathy Mercy, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Lana Roberts, Presbytery of the Pacific; Jessi Schatzle, Presbytery of the Central South.

World Outreach Committee: RE David Miller, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Kevin Cauley*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Brad Buescher*, Presbytery of the Great Plains.

(TE denotes Teaching Elder. RE denotes Ruling Elder. * denotes second term.)

Omnibus consent motion items

At each year’s Assembly, a number of recommendations from various Standing Committees are entered into a single Omnibus Consent Motion that commissioners vote on. These recommendations do not need discussion or debate, either because they are routine procedures or already received unanimous consent. Eight recommendations were referred to the 37th General Assembly’s Omnibus Consent motion, which commissioners unanimously approved without discussion. Those items were:

From the Standing Committee on Administration:

  • That Communication 17-02 from the presbytery of the West regarding the change of their boundary with the Presbytery of the Pacific be received as information.
  • That Recommendation #3, “that the Assembly provide the EPC Foundation with ten minutes at each General Assembly meeting where a church can provide a testimonial for the substantial financial value gained by working through the Foundation” be adopted.
  • That Recommendation #6, “That the Assembly ‘highly encourage’ each Presbytery to create time on their meeting agenda at least once (or more) per year for EPC Foundation updates, new ideas, plus Q&A. It would also be a time for the church leaders attending to schedule and or meet on specific issues with members of the EPCF board” be adopted.

From the combined Standing Committee on Christian Education and Communications and Student & College Ministries:

  • That Recommendation #42, “that the Assembly postpone the effective date of the ‘Next Generation Ministry Council’ as a Permanent Committee until July 1, 2018, allowing adequate time for consultation of the joint Student & College Ministries/Christian Education & Communications Committees with the National Leadership Team as required by the action of the 36th GA” be approved.

From the Standing Committee on Fraternal Relations:

  • That Recommendation #7, “that the Assembly approve the EPC entering into a fraternal relationship with the Evangelical and Reformed Presbyterian Church of Peru for the purpose of developing equipping materials (theological and practical) and church revitalization materials for leaders in the Peruvian Church” be adopted.

From the Standing Committee on World Outreach:

  • That Recommendation #4 from the Foundation Board, “that the Assembly explore the feasibility of the Foundation working closely with World Outreach assisting in fund raising for missions and help in general financial issues” be adopted

Other recommendations:

  • That the Assembly receive the written reports of the Standing Committee on World Outreach and the Standing Committee on Church Planting and Revitalization, neither of which had recommendations coming to the floor.
  • That the Minutes of the Permanent Committees on Ministerial Vocation, Chaplains Work and Care, Student and College Ministries / Christian Education and Communications (meeting jointly), Fraternal Relations, Administration (National Leadership), Board of Directors of the EPC Corporation, Women’s Resource Council, and World Outreach be approved with minor corrections.

#epc2017ga

With additional reporting by Michael Herrin, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Gulf South.

Changing the funding recommendation: an explanation

 
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Jeff Jeremiah

by Jeff Jeremiah
EPC Stated Clerk

On April 24, the National Leadership Team (NLT) reported to you the following recommendation:

The administration and strategic initiatives of the General Assembly ought to be supported by the giving of EPC churches. The expected giving amount from each church should be either $23 per member or one percent of that church’s annual budget. Following fiscal year 2020, the expectation is that all giving should be at the 1 percent level.

On May 23, the NLT announced this change to the recommendation:

The administration and strategic initiatives of the General Assembly ought to be supported by the giving of EPC churches.

Since May 23, many people have asked members of the NLT and me, “What happened?” The short answer is that the NLT asked, listened, and responded to you.

The feedback we received focused on two elements of the April 24 recommendation. The first was reaction to the word “Expected.” There was resistance by too many who took the word “expected” to mean “requirement” or “mandatory requirement.” We also heard, “By doing this, the NLT is moving the EPC to become a ‘top-down, bureaucratic denomination no different from the PC(USA).” The NLT was stunned. Their knee-jerk reaction was to delete “expected.”

There also was resistance to “one percent.” This came from our historically high-supporting Per Member Asking churches.

Per Member Asking (PMA) is the primary way our churches fund the budget of the national level of the EPC. For some of these churches, moving from PMA to one percent meant they would have to increase their giving. Those churches know how much they give, and they are aware of churches who are every bit as capable of giving but do not. They are justifiably frustrated with this situation. They have no interest in increasing their financial support until under-supporting churches step up. The NLT had no interest in antagonizing the churches who have faithfully invested in the EPC for years.

A secondary concern was this: A number of churches expressed support for the move to one percent of their budget because it would decrease their giving to the EPC. For the NLT, this was not the motivation we were looking for as we seek to fund a mission- and vision-driven denomination!

Based on these responses we received, the NLT pulled “expected” and “one percent” from the recommendation, leaving only the strategic initiatives portion of the original recommendation in the proposal. This begs the question, “Where did ‘expected’ and ‘one percent’ come from?” The short answer is that the NLT asked, listened, and responded.

At the end of 2015, support for Per Member Asking was at 61 percent of the goal. Two groups were mostly responsible for this shortfall. The first was a number of recent arrivals to the EPC who had to pay large ransoms in order to come to us. They were not yet in a position to support the EPC. The second group was comprised of some churches who have been in the EPC for a long time. They simply choose not to give, or give very little.

In January 2016, the NLT directed me to engage in what we called a “Listening Tour.” I’d talk with EPC church leaders about how they felt about their relationship with the EPC, let them know that the EPC is becoming a mission- and vision-driven denomination, and asked about their level of financial support to EPC. In April, the NLT received my partial report, and decided they needed more feedback than what I can glean from my one-on-one meetings. They decided to hold focus group meetings at our 2016 General Assembly, which were led by a communications consultant.

As a result of those focus group meetings, we found out there was strong support for funding the strategic initiatives—church planting, church revitalization, effective biblical leadership, and global movement—in the EPC budget. And there were two surprises.

First, we were told that “voluntary” giving to PMA is problematic. The word offered to replace it was “expected”—giving to the EPC should be “expected.”

Second, “PMA” itself is problematic. It’s not a good way to measure a church’s capacity to give. In its place was proposed one percent of a church’s budget.

The NLT received these results in August and asked, “Is this accurate?” We decided to survey the lead pastors of our 600 churches, as we wanted feedback from each church. The results of the survey:

  • Put the strategic initiatives in the EPC budget
  • “Voluntary” giving to the EPC is “problematic,” and “expected” was offered in its place.
  • “PMA” is “problematic,” and “one percent” was offered in its place.

The NLT asked, listened to what you said, and was confident that the original recommendation is what you wanted. We found out differently between April 24 and May 23.

Upon reflection, I realized this mistake. We did not serve you well in that we should have reported to you the results of the focus groups and survey in late October or early November. We could have done this and we didn’t.

In keeping with our “Generation to Generation” General Assembly theme, and paraphrasing Scott Griffin’s sermon in the Moderator’s Service of Communion and Prayer on June 23: I’m a Boomer. Reaching out to Builders: I apologize for that mistake. The buck stops here. Reaching out to the GenXers: I am not the “savvy guy” in this. Reaching out to the Millenials: The National Leadership TEAM will do better in the future.

Let me finish with good news.

Earlier, I reported that 2015 PMA was 61 percent of the goal. Simply by asking what you think about a mission- and vision-driven denomination and listening to what you’ve said, look at what has happened: 2016 Per Member Asking came in at 68 percent of the goal.

We still have work to do. I believe that an acceptable minimum level of support is 80 percent. We’ll keep working on this until you tell us otherwise.

Thank you, and God bless you!

#epc2017ga

Strategic Initiatives inclusion in EPC budget, special projects approved

 

Commissioners to the 37th General Assembly approved funding the strategic initiatives of church planting, church revitalization, effective biblical leadership, and global movement into the fiscal year 2018 budget for the EPC Office of the General Assembly. This marks the first year in which the strategic initiatives will be funded through the EPC operating budget. Since their inception in 2014, the initiatives have been funded through undesignated cash reserves.

The total approved July 2017–June 2018 (fiscal year, or FY18) budget for EPC operating expenses is $2,310,583. This amount includes $268,000 in direct funding of the four strategic initiatives, with $135,000 allocated for Church Revitalization; $120,000 for Church Planting; $8,000 for Effective Biblical Leadership; and $5,000 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.

The FY18 budget also includes $1,412,580 for personnel, including staff salaries and benefits, travel, and expenses; and $630,003 for general administration.

The 2017-18 budget represents an increase of $246,350 over the 2016 budget, made possible by some lower costs of operating in Orlando plus projected 5% growth in PMA contributions. Due to a migration from a calendar-year budget to a fiscal-year budget in January 2017, the 2016 budget was the most recent 12-month reporting period.

In addition, the Assembly approved Special Projects requests from the various ministries of the EPC totaling $771,500. These projects are funded from designated giving and are separate from the operating budget.

#epc2017ga

Meet World Outreach global workers at the 37th General Assembly

 

2017GAbannerRegOnlineMore than 50 World Outreach global workers and staff are registered to attend the 37th General Assembly, June 20-23 at Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, Calif. Attendees have numerous opportunities to get to know them and their ministries.

WOlogoTuesday Evening World Outreach Banquet
This ticketed-only event on Tuesday, June 20, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. will feature “field reports” from WO global workers in Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia. The guest speaker for the evening is Emily Foreman, author of We Died Before We Came Here.

Wednesday Networking Lunch: Global Worker Meet-and-Greet
Grab a boxed lunch on Wednesday, June 21, in the Nelson Family Life Center Rec Hall and head to Conference Room C/D for the WO Global Worker Meet-And-Greet Networking Lunch from 12:00-1:30 p.m.

Wednesday Breakout Dinner: Global Worker Presentations
For those who purchased tickets for Wednesday dinner at Fair Oaks, join us in Conference Room B/C for a breakout dinner and hear ministry updates from Brian and Keri (East Asia), Asaph and Lynn (South Asia), Robert and Joyce (Middle East), David and Meg (Central Asia), and Chris and Kirsten (Europe).

Thursday Networking Lunch: International Theological Education Network
ITEN is World Outreach’s ministry to train global leaders so that they can train and send their own missionaries to unreached peoples. Join Bruce Anderson and Stephen Woodworth on Thursday, June 22, from 12:00-1:30 p.m. in the Family Life Center, Conference Room B, and hear inspiring stories, get information about ITEN sites developing around the world, share your ideas and experience, learn from specialists working in the field, and find out how you can be involved.

Thursday Networking Lunch: International Business as Mission
Grab a boxed lunch and come to Room 12 on the first floor of the Kids and Youth (KAY) Center on Thursday, June 22, from 12:00-1:30 p.m. and hear Randy H., an entrepreneur who has worked in Southeast Asia for 17 years; Harry T., an entrepreneur actively seeking God’s direction on how to be involved; and John M., World Outreach stateside IBAM global worker. This panel will explain how to use your business talents and experiences in mission; how to coach and mentor entrepreneurs and businesses; how to financially support business as mission; and how to do vocational workplace ministry in your own neighborhood.

Thursday Evening Worship
The featured speaker for the Thursday evening worship service, 7:30 p.m. in the Fair Oaks Worship Center, is World Outreach’s own Mike Kuhn. Kuhn serves as Lecturer in Discipleship and Biblical Theology for the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon. In addition, new World Outreach global workers will be commissioned. Please note that due to potential security concerns, the commissioning portion of this service will not be streamed.

Friday Networking Lunch: Sending our EPC Sons and Daughters
Historically, the pioneers from America to Korea, the Arab Middle East, Turkey, and Iran were Bible-soaked Presbyterians. World Outreach has embraced that challenge once again—sending long-term teams of 6-8 individuals to people groups without biblical churches and where very few nationals are able and willing to go. Who will you prepare and send from your church? Join Shawn Stewart and Greg Livingstone on Friday, June 23, from 12:00-1:30 p.m. in the Fair Oaks Family Life Center, Conference Room B.

World Outreach exhibit area
Many of our global workers will have displays about their ministries at the World Outreach exhibit area in the Nelson Family Life Center Rec Hall at Fair Oaks. Stop by any time between Tuesday and Friday afternoon and get acquainted!

  • Bruce Anderson, ITEN
  • Rob, Mobilization
  • John and Allison, Central Asia
  • Brian and Keri, East Asia
  • Asaph and Lynn, South Asia
  • David and Mindy Fenska, Mobilization
  • Chris and Debbie Gibson, Member Care
  • Alison, South Asia
  • Randy and Martha, Southeast Asia
  • Robert and Joyce, Middle East
  • Stephen Kelley, Muslim World
  • Jacqy, New Appointee
  • Greg and Karen, Muslim World
  • Mike, Middle East
  • Greg and Sally Livingstone, Mobilization
  • John and Jan, IBAM
  • Ed and Nan McCallum, ITEN
  • Mike and Tammy, Southeast Asia
  • Greg, Middle East
  • David and Meg, Central Asia
  • Elizabeth, Middle East
  • Shawn and Lisa Stewart, Mobilization
  • Phil Thrash, Mobilization
  • Dan Tidwell, Communications
  • Mark and MJ, Mobilization
  • David and Debbie Walker, Southeast Asia
  • Stephen Woodworth, ITEN
  • The Youngs, South Asia

Note: Some last names have been omitted for security reasons.

#epc2017ga