Category Archives: Ministers

Turkish court levels more charges against Andrew Brunson


Andrew Brunson

Andrew Brunson

A Turkish court added three new charges against imprisoned EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson on August 24. The charges include gathering state secrets for espionage, attempting to overthrow the Turkish parliament and government, and to change the constitutional order.

According to a report from the World News Group, Brunson could face up to four consecutive life sentences if convicted. The article quoted Brunson as saying during court proceedings, “I am a defender of Jesus Christ. I am a religious man who builds a church and does it in the knowledge of the state. I will never support any Islamic movement.”

“We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to ‘pray without ceasing,’” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Please do not stop praying for Andrew. He and his family need it more than ever.”

Brunson has been held since October 2016, and has been charged in a separate Turkish court with membership in the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), the network of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen whom Turkish authorities blame for masterminding the July 2016 failed coup attempt.

Goodwill EPC (N.Y.) mourns two members lost in Mississippi military plane crash


Hopkins-Snowdon

Gunnery Sgt. Mark Hopkins (left) and Staff Sgt. Joshua Snowden (right).

Two of the 16 U.S. service members killed when a U.S. military plane crashed in Mississippi in July were members of Goodwill Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, N.Y. Gunnery Sgt. Mark Hopkins, 34, and Staff Sgt. Joshua Snowden, 31, were serving in the U.S. Marine Corps when the KC-130 refueling tanker crashed July 10 near Itta Bena, Miss., about 85 miles north of Jackson.

John Torres, Pastor of Goodwill EPC, said the two Marines were well-respected members of the congregation.

“Josh was faithful in his attendance, and Mark was also very active in the church,” he said, noting that Hopkins was “very well known in his unit as a strong Christian. Mark fostered a sense of community wherever he went, and my prayer is that as a church we will honor him by modeling that as we minister to his family.”

He said Snowden, a Texas native, “always had a bit of home in him, whether it was his hat or his truck. Words can’t express how much these men will be missed—not only by their families of course, but by our church.”

Torres said Brian Hill, EPC Chaplain and Pastor of the nearby Circleville (N.Y.) Evangelical Presbyterian Church, also has been ministering to the community following the accident.

“I am so thankful for Brian, who has been helping the families and community here,” Torres said.  “I think this tragedy has reminded us that our soldiers don’t have to be deployed to be in harm’s way, so I pray that all of our military chaplains would be in the best possible position to minister on their respective bases.”

Snowden is survived by his parents, one sister, and four brothers. Click here for a full obituary notice.

Hopkins is survived by his wife, Patricia, and three children: Wyatt, 2, Abby, 1, and Lewis, 5 months. Click here for a full obituary notice.

The aircraft was part of the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452 based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y. The squadron is a reserve unit of the U.S. Marine Corps. At the time of the accident, the flight from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina was transporting personnel and equipment to Naval Air Field El Centro, Calif.

Turkey levels charges against Andrew Brunson


Andrew Brunson

Andrew Brunson

Turkish media is reporting May 19 that EPC teaching elder Andrew Brunson is being accused of being a “Kurdish sympathizer” and a “Gülenist.” The timing of the media reports potentially reveals Turkey’s response to President Trump and Vice President Pence’s pleas to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on May 16 to release Brunson from prison and allow him to return to the United States. Brunson has been held since October 2016.

“I cannot stress enough how significant these accusations are,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “In fact, the Turkish government views them as nothing less than treason.”

Hurriyet, the leading English-language news outlet in Turkey, reported that prosecutors are citing Brunson for “delivering sermons to the Kurds with a ‘special purpose’”—wording that implies support for an ethnic group that Turkey is waging a military campaign against. The Kurds are a minority group in Turkey (primarily located in the eastern and southeastern parts of the country, as well in Iran, Iraq, and Syria) and for many years have unsuccessfully pressed for more autonomy.

Yeni Şafak, a pro-Erdoğan news outlet, published an article yesterday under the headline “FETO Chaplain” that condemned Brunson for supporting Islamic cleric Fethulah Gülen, who has lived in the United States since 1999. Gülen leads a loose organization involved largely in education but also in other areas. Gülen and Erdoğan are former allies, but in 2015 the Turkish government labeled his movement the Fethullahist Terror Organization—or FETO—and classified it as terrorist. Erdoğan blames Gülen and FETO for leading a coup attempt against him last summer that ultimately failed. Gülen has repeatedly denied the charge.

“It is time to redouble our prayer efforts,” Jeremiah said in a statement to the EPC. “Please take time in your worship services this weekend to plead to the Lord on Andrew’s behalf.”

Trump, Pence press Andrew Brunson’s release to Turkish President Erdoğan in White House meetings


FreePastorAndrew

In meetings held on May 16, U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence appealed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for Andrew Brunson’s release. Brunson, an EPC teaching elder, has been imprisoned in Izmir, Turkey, since October 2016.

The EPC received reports from two different sources that both Trump and Pence advocated for Andrew’s freedom.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said that one of these individuals “told us that Mr. Pence asked him to reach out to the EPC directly. I know I speak for the Brunson family in expressing our most sincere appreciation to the President and Vice President for their efforts today.”

Jeremiah noted four items that occurred in the meetings:

  1. Pence met with the Turkish leader first, and pleaded that Andrew’s case be expedited and resolved as quickly as possible.
  2. At the lunch that followed, Trump raised Andrew’s case at both the beginning and end of lunch. His plea was very similar in language with the Vice President’s.
  3. After the lunch, Pence raised it a final time.
  4. Pence was personally engaged in this with Erdoğan, and Trump spoke knowledgeably about Andrew’s situation.

“We are all very grateful for the prayers of so many people in the days leading up to today’s events,” Jeremiah added. “Please keep praying in the aftermath of this meeting.”

Brunson’s situation has garnered attention from news organizations across the theological and political spectrum, including ABC News, CBS News, The Christian Post, Fox News, International Christian Concern, Jewish News Service, National Catholic Register, National Review, Presbyterian Lay Committee, Slate, Time Magazine, USA Today, World Watch Monitor, and others. Links to many of these reports are available on the EPC’s Andrew Brunson resource page at www.epc.org/forgottenamericaninturkey.

EPC Home Missionary John Bueno releases Spring 2017 newsletter


LatinsUnitedSpring2017John Bueno, EPC Home Missionary serving with Latins United Christian Ministries (LUCM), invites you to read his Spring 2017 newsletter, in which he discusses the overwhelming need in Uganda. The Moyo district of northern Uganda has seen an influx of more than 150,000 refugees from the Kajo Keji region of South Sudan, and refugees now outnumber the native population.

Bueno also highlights recent ministry efforts in Mexico and Columbia, as well as a church plant in the Hispanic community of Bellevue, Neb., in partnership with Avery Presbyterian Church.

Click here to download the Spring 2017 edition in pdf format.

For more information about LUCM, contact Bueno at john.bueno@epc.org or 402-350-3815.

Andrew Brunson subject of U.N. oral intervention; Turkey may accelerate trial


Andrew Brunson

Andrew Brunson

The International Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) delivered an oral intervention March 10 to the 34th session of United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on behalf of EPC teaching elder Andrew Brunson. Brunson has been imprisoned in Turkey since October 7, 2016. The ACLJ is representing the Brunson family in legal efforts to secure Andrew’s release and return to the United States.

Also on March 9, USA Today reported that Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim will consider speeding up Brunson’s trial on charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” The Brunson family, the EPC, and the ACLJ strongly refute the allegation, and the charging documents state that no evidence has been gathered against him.

“Please pray for Andrew and his wife regarding these new developments,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “She especially needs our prayers as she not only remains in Turkey to minister to Andrew in her weekly visits, but also deals with the emotional roller coaster of emotions when new developments occur.”

The EPC has set up an Andrew Brunson Resources web page that provides information about the ongoing situation, ways to keep Andrew’s plight in the public eye, and links to news article about his imprisonment.

Congressional leaders release letter requesting Andrew Brunson’s freedom


senateletterrelease

The Foreign Affairs committees of the United States House and Senate issued a press release on February 16 calling for the immediate release of EPC teaching Elder Andrew Brunson. The press release urging Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to grant Brunson’s freedom was signed by 78 members of Congress and includes both Republicans and Democrats.

https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/press-release/congressional-leaders-seek-release-american-pastor-unjustly-detained-turkey/

Brunson was detained in October 2016 and falsely charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization” in December. He has been held for more than four months despite the charging documents presenting no evidence against him.