Category Archives: Global Movement

Support EPC World Outreach on Giving Tuesday


GivingTuesday
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


EPNewsMexicoEarthquakesRelief

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


JeffJeremiah

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