Category Archives: Ministers

European Parliament pens letter to Turkey, urging Andrew Brunson’s release

 

EuropeanParliamentAndrewBrunsonLetter2018-05-04-150 members of the European Parliament signed a May 4 letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan requesting the EPC Teaching Elder’s release.

The letter begins, “We express our deep concern about the wrongful imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson” and concludes, “Pastor Andrew Brunson has been living peacefully in Turkey for 23 years. We believe he is an innocent political prisoner; therefore, we urge you again to release him without delay.”

The signatories also reminded Erdoğan of the European Parliament’s February 7 resolution, in which Turkey was urged to respect its own European and international commitments on the prohibition of arbitrary detention by releasing Brunson.

“Andrew’s imprisonment continues to draw international attention,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “All of us in the EPC are grateful for the support of so many people and governments around the world who believe so strongly that Andrew should be reunited with his family.”

The signatories included Lars Adaktusson and Peter van Dalen, the vice-chair and co-chair, respectively, of the European Intergroup on Freedom of Religion.

Click here to read the entire letter, including the names of all signatories and the countries they represent.

President Trump tweets support for Andrew Brunson, warns Turkey of consequences for continued imprisonment

 

TrumpTweet20180417.jpgAs international media continue to issue reports of Andrew Brunson’s trial in Turkey on April 16, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted his support of the EPC Teaching Elder. The President’s message on social media, which was delivered on April 17, reads:

“Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason. They call him a Spy, but I am more a Spy than he is. Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!”

On April 18, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration warned Turkey that it is considering punitive “consequences” if Brunson is not freed.

Wess Mitchell, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. State Department, said the State Department is consulting with Congress about “possible measures” if Brunson is not acquitted or released.

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Andrew Brunson

Brunson is being tried on charges that he aided terror groups and committed espionage against Turkey, where he has lived since 1993. At the time of his arrest in October 2016, he had been serving as Pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church since he planted the congregation in 2010.

 

In an 30-minute video interview available on the Christian Broadcasting Network website, Aykan Erdemir—a former member of the Turkish parliament and now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C.—said Brunson’s 18-month, pre-trial imprisonment “has become a sort of torture.”

“Right after the noon break when he came back and was defending himself, he had a mental breakdown. He sat down; it’s reported that he started crying and he told the judge how difficult it is to survive in this kind of isolation chamber,” Erdemir said.

Following more than 12 hours of testimony, the judge adjourned the hearing until May 7 and ordered Brunson returned to prison. The Wall Street Journal reported that as he was being escorted from the courtroom, Brunson turned to his wife and said, “I am going crazy here, I love you.”

Brunson was sent to the facility where he was held from December 2016 through August 2017, which is notorious for its overcrowding. As many as 22 inmates are held in cells designed for eight prisoners.

Brunson’s trial has garnered media coverage internationally, with outlets in such locations as Japan, Nigeria, and Singapore reporting on the situation.

EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah encouraged people to share media reports of the trial among their social media networks.

“I want to keep Andrew’s situation in the public eye as much as possible,” Jeremiah said. “The entire world needs to know about Andrew, and both pray to the Lord and advocate to their leaders on Andrew’s behalf.”

Andrew Brunson returned to custody following opening arguments

 
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Andrew Brunson

Following more than 10 hours of testimony on April 16, EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson was returned to prison as the judge delayed further hearings until May 7.

“I am very disappointed that Andrew was not released today,” said EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah. “I just can’t imagine how discouraged Andrew and Norine are right now.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Andrew defended himself for five hours against the charges in the indictment.

“I don’t accept any of the allegations or accusations,” Brunson said in fluent Turkish. “I love Turkey. I’ve been praying for Turkey for 25 years. I want truth to come out.”

Following the close of proceedings on April 16, Bloomberg reported an apparent connection between the May 7 date and the scheduled sentencing of a Turkish banker convicted in January 2018 of taking part in a billion-dollar scheme to evade American sanctions against Iran. The banker—Mehmet Hakan Attila—was deputy general manager for international banking at a Turkish state bank. On April 9, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman rescheduled Attila’s sentencing from April 11 to May 7.

“We will continue to cry to God in prayer for our brother in Christ,” Jeremiah added. “As Andrew’s trial has drawn the attention of the U.S. and global media, we need to do all we can to keep the world’s attention on Andrew and his unjust imprisonment.”

Andrew Brunson denies charges as trial begins in Turkey

 
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Andrew Brunson

Speaking at the beginning of his trial on April 16, EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson denied accusations that he aided terror groups or spied against Turkey. The trial convened at 9:00 a.m. local time (2:00 a.m. EDT) in Aliaga, Turkey. Aliaga is about 40 miles north of Izmir, where Brunson served as pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church at the time of his arrest in October 2016.

“I don’t accept any of the allegations or accusations,” Brunson said in fluent Turkish. “I did not engage in any illegal activity. I had no relations with anyone engaged in such activity. I am a Christian pastor. I did not join an Islamic movement. Their aims and mine are different.” He also said, “I’ve never done something against Turkey. I love Turkey. I’ve been praying for Turkey for 25 years. I want truth to come out.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Brunson’s defense statement lasted five hours, “during which he at times appeared overwhelmed by emotion and wept.”

Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Sam Brownback, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom at the U.S. Department of State, were in the courtroom. During a recess in the proceedings, Brownback, who also is a former senator and governor of Kansas, told reporters that the United States cares deeply about its relationship with Turkey, and “that relationship is going to have difficulty moving forward as long as Andrew Brunson is incarcerated.”

As of 1:00 p.m. April 16, EPC leaders have not been contacted by sources close to the situation, but have been monitoring international news media for reports from the trial. Among the many media outlets producing articles about the proceedings are Reuters, the Saudi Gazette, and the Washington Post.

“Please continue to pray today as the trial proceeds,” said EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah. “We will provide further updates as more information is available.”

North Carolina Senator visits Andrew Brunson in Turkish prison

 
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Thom Tillis

Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) announced on March 28 that he met with imprisoned EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson on Monday, March 26, at Buca Prison in Ismir, Turkey. Brunson has been held since October 7, 2016, on terrorism-related charges.

Tillis issued the following statement:

“Pastor Brunson is strengthened by his love for his family and his faith in God, but his health has deteriorated. He has lost 50 pounds and spends 24 hours a day in a cell with limited human contact.  He is attempting to visit a doctor this week, which involves him being handcuffed and transported with several armed guards. He fears the possibility that the American government accepts the indictment and forgets about him, which we will not allow to happen.

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Andrew Brunson

“There should be no mistake that Pastor Brunson is the victim of false accusations, and we call upon the Turkish authorities to honestly and transparently review his indictment. Pastor Brunson is being used as a political pawn by some elements of the Turkish government. These elements seek to undercut the longstanding partnership between the United States and Turkey, in which our two nations have enjoyed close diplomatic, economic, and military ties. It is vital that our nations continue this partnership and continue to work together to pursue our common interests.

“I would also note the continued detention of multiple other U.S. citizens, as well as several Turkish staff of the U.S. diplomatic Mission, on scant evidence under the state of emergency, which continues to undermine the partnership between our two countries. It is time for Pastor Brunson and these individuals to be reunited with their families. We look forward to Pastor Brunson’s return home to America.”

Formal indictment filed against Andrew Brunson in Turkey

 
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Andrew Brunson

A court in Turkey has accepted a 62-page indictment against EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson on terrorism-related charges. Prosecutors are asking for a 35-year prison sentence.

His trial is scheduled to begin April 16.

In a statement, Cece Heil of the American Center for Law and Justice—which is representing the Brunson family in legal and advocacy efforts—said the indictment is “wholly lacking merit” and “provides no evidence regarding criminal action by Pastor Andrew, which comes as no surprise. Incredibly, the indictment now admits that Turkey considers sharing the gospel an ‘act of terrorism.’”

Media reports indicate that the indictment charges Andrew with being an “executive” in the Gülen organization that Turkish President Erdoğan blames for the failed July 2016 coup attempt. Hurriyet News, the leading state-run media outlet in Turkey, reports Andrew is charged with committing crimes on behalf of terrorist organizations. In addition, the Global News Network is reporting that the indictment claims Andrew was using his position as a Christian minister to sow discord among the population, and sought to divide the nation and award authority of the result to the Gülenists and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which launched a separatist movement in 1984 and Turkey has designated a terrorist organization. An article in WorldWatch Monitor quotes Andrew’s Turkish lawyer, and explains the challenges Andrew’s defense team faces.

“I confess that I don’t understand how this all fits into God’s plan,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Please continue to pray for Andrew and Norine in light of this development, and that somehow God would use it for His glory and Andrew’s freedom.”

Andrew Brunson’s daughter testifies to U.N. Human Rights Council; prosecutor demands 35-year prison sentence

 
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Jacqueline Furnari (center) implored the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 9 to help get her father, EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson, released from Turkey where he has been imprisoned since October 2016.

Jacqueline Furnari, daughter of Andrew and Norine Brunson, told members of the United Nations Human Rights Council that Turkey “should not get away with holding my father one more day” and pleaded with the U.N. to work to get her father released and returned to the United States. She spoke to the Council on March 9 in Geneva, Switzerland.

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Andrew Brunson

Brunson, an EPC Teaching Elder who has lived in Turkey since 1993, has been imprisoned since October 7, 2016. He is accused of participation with groups the Turkish government blames for the failed July 2016 coup attempt.

On March 13, a Turkish prosecutor demanded a 35-year prison sentence, according to a report by the Doğan News Agency in Turkey. The prosecutor charged Brunson, 50, with being a “member and executive” of the Fetullah Gülen organization, which the government of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan blames for the coup attempt and considers a terrorist group.

Click here for more coverage of Furnari’s testimony to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

On March 13 and 14, multiple media reports in the U.S. indicated that Andrew had been officially indicted on charges that he was an “executive” with the Gülen movement. (Under the Turkish legal system, once an indictment is made the court has 15 days to return a decision on the indictment. If approved, the case will proceed and the prosecution phase will begin.)

“Norine and I have been in regular contact via encrypted email this week,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “She is so grateful for our continued prayers for her husband, and confirmed to me on Thursday, March 15, that the news reports of an indictment were inaccurate.”

Click here for a detailed report on the most recent accusations.

Jeff and Cindy Jeremiah to represent EPC at Billy Graham memorial service

 

BillyGrahamEPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah and his wife, Cindy, will represent the denomination at the private memorial service for Billy Graham on Friday, March 2, at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C.

“We are beyond honored to be invited to this celebration of Billy Graham’s life,” Jeremiah said. “It’s truly amazing to think about how God used him to share the gospel with millions of people around the world.”

About 2,300 invited guests are expected to attend the service, which will be held under a large tent that has been constructed in the main parking lot in front of the Library. The tent is designed to serve as a reminder of Graham’s early ministry in “The Canvas Cathedral”—the white canvas tent in downtown Los Angeles where 350,000 people heard him share the gospel over eight weeks in 1949.

Following the 90-minute service, Graham will be laid to rest beside his late wife, Ruth, in the Library’s Prayer Garden.

Among Graham’s many personal connections to members of the EPC, Ruth was a member of Christ Community Church in Montreat, N.C.

“Billy and Ruth were married in Graham Chapel (on the campus of Montreat College), which is where we gather weekly to worship,” said Richard White, Pastor of Christ Community Church, which joined the EPC in 2007. “She was a member of the church until her passing.”

A live stream of the memorial service will be available beginning at 10:00 a.m. (EST) at https://memorial.billygraham.org/live-stream/.

EPC chaplain Tim Mallard featured in PBS documentary to air February 13

 

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“We’ll Meet Again,” a documentary series airing on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) will feature the story of EPC chaplain Tim Mallard’s encounter with a Navy chaplain following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon. The segment is part of the episode, “Heroes of 9/11,” scheduled for broadcast and web stream on Tuesday, February 13, at 8:00 p.m. EST (broadcast times may vary by location).

In 2001, Mallard was assigned as a Department of the Army Intern in the Office of the Chief of Chaplains at the Pentagon. Following the attack, a chaplain’s tent was set up 50 yards from the impact site.

“All I did for days was walk around wearing my cross and people would walk up in pain, needing care,” Mallard told the United Methodist News Service in an article posted February 8.

On the morning of September 15, Mallard went to the chaplain’s tent and collapsed in the back, overcome with his own grief.

Capt. Doug Waite, a United Methodist chaplain serving in the U.S. Navy, saw Mallard and knew he needed help. He stopped, then hugged and prayed with young Mallard. The two men never saw each other again until the producers of “We’ll Meet Again” reunited them.

Mallard said Waite’s compassion that day has been critical for the next 16 years of his ministry, as he has gone on to serve multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“The thing that made the most difference was when I looked up and saw his face, just the kindness and Christian compassion really touched me and encouraged me,” Mallard said. “I was able to go out and keep doing my ministry because of his ministry to me.”

Mallard now serves as director for recruiting and endorser relations, headquarters, Department of the Army in Washington.

Click here for more information about the PBS documentary series.

(with additional reporting from Kathy Gilbert, UMNS)

Jim Van Dyke, EPC “Father of the Church” and 3rd GA Moderator, dies at 89

 

JimVanDykeDr. James Frazier “Jim” Van Dyke, Moderator of the 1983 General Assembly, died January 17 in his longtime home of Rome, Ga. He was 89. He was involved in the founding of the EPC and in 1992 was named one of five “Fathers of the Church.”

A native of Jewel Ridge, Va., Van Dyke was ordained in the Presbyterian Church U.S. (PCUS) in 1954 and served churches in Virginia and Florida before accepting the call to First Presbyterian Church of Rome, Ga., in 1974. He led the church into the EPC in 1982, and retired in 1992 following the longest pastorate in that congregation’s history.

Prior to his service as Moderator he was Stated Clerk of the EPC’s then-Presbytery of the South. He served a member of numerous boards, including King College (now University) in Bristol, Tenn; Thornwell Children’s Home in Clinton, S.C.; Montreat College in Montreat, N.C.; and Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C. He also served on the Ministerial Advisory Board of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Miss., and many local charity and service organizations in Rome, including the Rotary Club, Red Cross, Salvation Army, and United Way. He also was a member of the 7th District Congressional Advisory Committee under Rep. Larry McDonald, who represented Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 until 1983.

Van Dyke was a graduate of King College in Bristol, Tenn. He earned a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Va., and a Master of Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J. He also was awarded a Doctor of Divinity from King College.

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Rosemary; daughter Miriam Van Dyke of Tucker, Ga.; son Joel Van Dyke of Greenville, S.C.; son and daughter-in-law John and Lisa Van Dyke of Norfolk, Va.; and six grandchildren.

A memorial worship service will be held at First Presbyterian Church in Rome, Ga., on January 20.

Click here for a full memorial notice.

Paul Heidebrecht, 2006 Moderator, dies at 67

 
PaulHeidebrecht

Paul Heidebrecht

Rev. Dr. Paul Heidebrecht, Moderator of the 26th General Assembly and current Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes, died at home in West Chicago, Ill., on January 2. He was 67.

A native of Winnipeg, Canada, he was raised in a Mennonite immigrant family and graduated from the University of Winnipeg. He also earned a Master’s Degree from Wheaton Graduate School and a PhD from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.

He served as Associate Pastor for the EPC’s Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Warrenville, Ill., from 1990-2001. He later was Executive Director for Christian Leaders for Africa, and beginning in 2012 served as Pastor of Calgary Community Reformed Church in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He became the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes on January 25, 2016.

Heidebrecht authored several books and periodicals, and was a contributing editor to the Africa Study Bible.

He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Priscilla; daughter Kecia Heidebrecht of Chicago; son and daughter-in-law Caleb and Elisabeth Heidebrecht of Brooklyn, N.Y.; son and daughter-in-law Andrew and Katina Heidebrecht of Salt Lake City, Utah; and four grandchildren: Jeremiah, Eliza, Mark, and Christopher Lucas. He also is survived by eight siblings and many nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held on Saturday, January 6, from 10:00–11:45 a.m. at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, with a memorial service at 12:00 p.m. Memorial gifts may be directed to Immanuel Presbyterian Church.

Click here for a full memorial notice and to sign the guest book.

U.S. Helsinki Commission hears pleas of Andrew Brunson’s daughter

 
JacquelineFurnari

Andrew Brunson’s daughter Jacqueline Furnari is shown in a frame from the recorded video of the U.S. Helsinki Commission’s November 15 hearing on Turkey, “Prisoners of the Purge: The Victims of Turkey’s Failing Rule of Law.”

Jacqueline Furnari, daughter of Andrew Brunson, shared an emotional plea for the United States to continue efforts to secure the release of her father. She spoke to the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, on November 15 in a hearing entitled “Prisoners of the Purge: The Victims of Turkey’s Failing Rule of Law.”

Andrew Brunson is an EPC teaching elder, arrested in Turkey in October 2016 and subsequently held on charges of espionage and terrorism. The hearing was held in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.

“I know my dad and his character as only a daughter can,” she said, “and I know the charges against him are absurd. My father is not an armed terrorist trying to overthrow any government. My dad is a pastor who went to Wheaton College, then on to seminary and got a Ph.D. in New Testament. He has selflessly served Turkey for 24 years now. Everything in his life is centered on his faith. For my family, who has loved, served, and prayed for Turkey and its people, seeing these absurd charges brought against my father has been an extremely painful experience. The past year of our lives has been filled with uncertainty, worry, tears, and countless unanswered questions.”

In her five-and-a-half-minute testimony, Furnari recounted her childhood in Turkey.

“As I grew up, I saw my father pour himself into his work, and how willing he was to sacrifice his needs and wants for the sake of others. He believed, as I do, in a greater purpose in life and actively lived out his life with a purpose of showing people the love and grace of God.”

She also described her February 2017 wedding in a civil ceremony.

“We didn’t want to get married without my parents present, but because my husband is in the military, we could not postpone it. We had received my dad’s blessing, but neither of my parents were there. I will never get that moment back. For those of you who are fathers of daughters, I’m sure you would want to walk your daughter down the aisle. My father didn’t get that.”

Furnari concluded with an emotional plea to the Commission.

“My family has suffered greatly because of these absurd and false charges. Please make any and all efforts to secure my dad’s release and bring him home for Christmas. He’s been imprisoned falsely for far too long.”

Click here to view the 97-minute hearing in its entirety. Furnari’s testimony begins at 50:30, and she responds to questions at 1:10:34.

The Helsinki Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.

Andrew Brunson’s daughter to address Helsinki Commission on November 15

 

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Andrew Brunson

Jacqueline Furnari, daughter of Andrew Brunson, will address the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCU) on Wednesday, November 15, in a hearing entitled “Prisoners of the Purge: The Victims of Turkey’s Failing Rule of Law.” The CSCU also is known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and is an independent agency of the Federal Government. Brunson is an EPC teaching elder, arrested in Turkey in October 2016 and subsequently held on charges of espionage and terrorism.

The hearing will be held at 9:30 a.m. in Room 124 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., and will be webcast live at www.senate.gov/isvp/?type=live&comm=csce&filename=csce111517

“The efforts of the U.S. government to win the release of Andrew Brunson continues,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Vice President Pence met with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim at the White House last week to discuss a number of issues between the two countries—including Andrew.”

Other panelists in Wednesday’s hearing are Jonathan R. Cohen, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs of the U.S. Department of State; CeCe Heil, Executive Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice; and Nate Schenkkan, Director of the Nations in Transit Project at the Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world.

The hearing will examine the factors contributing to the detention of American citizens, particularly Andrew and U.S. consulate employees in Turkey, as well as the judicial processes to which they have been subject. Furnari and Heil will testify about Andrew’s ongoing detention. Witnesses will also discuss the impact of these arrests on U.S.-Turkey relations and policy recommendations that could help secure their release.

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe is responsible for monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental, and military cooperation in 57 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.

Click here for more information.

Church Planters Retreat offers refresh and recharge

 
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Attendees of the EPC Church Planters Retreat enjoyed breakout sessions on a variety of topics, including fundraising, self-care, worship, and more.

As one of the EPC’s four strategic initiatives, church planting is a priority in the EPC. A significant aspect of supporting church planting is supporting and ministering to church planters. A key strategy in supporting EPC church planters is the annual Church Planters Retreat.

This year’s retreat was held October 25-27 at Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, Colo. Nearly 50 EPC church planters, their spouses, and members of the Church Planting Team (CPT) joined presbytery leaders and others for three days of training and renewal that included peer networking, breakout and mentoring sessions, fellowship, prayer, and more.

Tom Ricks, CPT chair, explained that “church planting nuts-and-bolts” training sessions focused on topics such as fundraising, worship, self-care, and preaching in a start-up situation.

“Church planting is one of the hardest and loneliest endeavors of which I have ever been a part,” said James Daniels, pastor of Chelsea Presbyterian Church in suburban Birmingham, Ala. The church plant is not yet holding formal worship services, but is in the formation stage of hosting social events such as prayer breakfasts to build a local core group.

“The retreat came at a critical time in the process, and offered a beautiful balance of information and transformation,” Daniels added. “I’m entering back into my local community renewed and inspired for the days ahead.”

“This retreat was absolutely necessary,” said Brian Roskin, pastor of River City Church in St. Charles, Mo. “The topics were thoughtful and relevant for my current situation. I was able to connect with others doing the same thing, creating a network for me.”

Breakout sessions for spouses were led by Patty Robinson, wife of Shawn Robinson, founding pastor of Clayton Community Church in Clayton, Calif., and a CPT member. Her topic, “Engaging, Equipping, and Encouraging,” addressed how to navigate the call to be a church planter’s wife—including managing expectations and boundaries.

“Taking care of your relationship with God, knowing how and when to invest in the (church) plant, and protecting your marriage and family is what make the journey unique,” she said.

Another component of support for EPC church planters is a Church Planters’ Cohort, now in the planning phase with a launch goal of January 2018.

“The cohort will meet bi-monthly via FaceTime,” Ricks noted, “and cover topics essential to the first two years of church planting.” He added that “covenant triads” will provide opportunity for church planters to check in, support, and pray for each other.

Cohort leader Bart Garrett, pastor of Christ Church East Bay in Berkeley, Calif., reported that eleven church planters expressed interest during the retreat in this continuing training/support effort.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, noted that the retreat could not happen without local church giving to Per Member Asking, since food and lodging are funded in the EPC budget.

“Commissioners to the 2017 General Assembly in Sacramento approved funding church planting—as well as the other strategic initiatives of church revitalization, effective biblical leadership, and global movement—in the EPC budget, so every church that participates in Per Member Asking is investing in EPC church planting.”

Ricks noted that many EPC presbyteries pay travel expenses for church planters and their spouses, “so they can attend virtually cost-free.”

“The Church Planting Team and I are grateful for the opportunity to help invest in and grow the next generation of EPC church planters,” Ricks said. “We’ve seen many churches come along side us as ‘Parents, Partners, and Patrons’ of church planting. Thank you to everyone who supports church planting. If you’re not yet involved but interested in learning more, let me know!”

Ricks can be contacted at tom@greentreechurch.com or 314-909-9197, ext. 1007.

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EPC church planters and their spouses at the 2017 Church Planters Retreat in Colorado Springs, Colo.

 

Imprisoned Andrew Brunson pens modern hymn, “Worthy of My All”

 
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Andrew Brunson holds a small cross given to him as a gift in a photo taken October 10 in the Turkish prison where he is being held.

On November 3, Norine Brunson posted a recording of “Worthy of My All” to the Andrew and Norine Brunson Facebook page. The song was written this fall by EPC teaching elder Andrew Brunson while in prison in Turkey.

On the post, Norine commented, “This is a simple recording of Andrew’s song and his melody. Sung by a precious sister who has been here with us for over ten years. She is not a native English speaker as you can tell, but she is very special to us.”

Click here to listen.

Click here to download printable sheet music in pdf format.

“What a blessing it would be for each of our EPC churches to incorporate this modern hymn into their worship services,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Norine calls it a ‘simple recording,’ but it’s clear that the depth of Andrew’s commitment to Christ flows through these incredibly moving lyrics.”

Brunson has been held since October 2016. At the time of his arrest, he was serving as pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church in the coastal city of Izmir. He faces charges of espionage, acquiring secret political and military information, attempting to destroy constitutional order and overthrowing the Turkish parliament, and membership in an armed terrorist organization.

 

Hope Church Memphis featured in The Gospel Coalition

 

HopeChurchTGCThe Gospel Coalition’s lead story on November 2, “How the Country’s Largest White Presbyterian Church Became Multiethnic,” tells the story of Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn. Planted in 1988 in a predominately white suburban area, within 20 years the congregation was the largest in Memphis—but with less than 1 percent of its 7,000 attendees African American.

The EPC’s largest congregation is now more than 20 percent African American, including the senior pastor, Rufus Smith.

Hope Church will host the 38th EPC General Assembly in June 2018.

Click here for the full story.

The Gospel Coalition is a network of evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition, and was founded by Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, and D.A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill.