Category Archives: Pastors

National Leadership Team holds final meeting before annual General Assembly

 

NLT201904At its April 2019 meeting, the EPC National Leadership Team (NLT) addressed a variety of topics related to its scope of overseeing the continuing work of the General Assembly between stated meetings. The spring meeting—held April 9-10 at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando—is one of four in-person gatherings each year.

Among the items finalized at the meeting were several recommendations for the 39th General Assembly to act on in June. The Assembly will be held June 19-21 at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in suburban Denver, Colo. Also approved for consideration by the Assembly were the 2019-2020 Special Projects and a preliminary FY2020 EPC operating budget.

“The NLT is proposing some revisions to the Book of Order and Rules for Assembly that should help clarify some questions that have arisen over the years,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “These include the office of Pastor and Candidates Under Care, as well as language in the Rules that address the membership of the Nominating Committee and creating separate Church Planting and Revitalization committees to convene at our GA.”

The group also heard reports from Jeremiah on the state of the EPC; Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri on the Candidates Educational Equivalency Program (CEEP); Phil Linton, Director of EPC World Outreach; Phil VanValkenburg, Chief Operating Officer; the Nominating Committee; and the Revelation 7:9 Task Force. The members of the NLT also expressed their appreciation to outgoing chair Dean Weaver from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies and Sabra Carman from the Presbytery of the Midwest.

In addition to Weaver and Carman, members of the National Leadership Team are Chris Danusiar, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; Nancy Duff, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; Phil Fanara, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the East; Michael Gibson, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains; Rob Liddon, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Central South; Rosemary Lukens, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; Glenn Meyers, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies; Luder Whitlock, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; and Moderator-Elect Case Thorp, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

The next meeting of the National Leadership Team is scheduled for August 20-21.

Westminster Presbyterian Church (Enid, Okla.) merges with local congregation to form new Westminster Church

 
WestminsterEnidA

Westminster Presbyterian Church in Enid, Okla., purchased the building and grounds of West Willow Community Church. The two congregations merged to form the new Westminster Church. (Photo credit: Bonnie Vculek / Enid News & Eagle)

Westminster Presbyterian Church of Enid, Okla., recently purchased the building and grounds of West Willow Community Church in Enid, providing a new home to the Westminster members and joining both congregations into the newly formed Westminster Church. Westminster pastor Tim Palmer said his congregation completed the purchase in March, and has moved into the West Willow Community Church location.

Since joining the EPC in October 2011, Westminster has been held its worship services in the sanctuary of the Enid Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Palmer said his congregants are looking forward to having a permanent church home.

“They’re excited,” Palmer said with a laugh. “They like to talk about how they’ve spent time wandering in the wilderness.”

But, they’re not simply buying a church building. It’s more a merger of the two congregations, said Don Tines, pastor of West Willow, who is staying on as administrative pastor. Palmer will be lead pastor of the new congregation, and Tines said the majority of the approximately 60 members of West Willow are joining the 130 members of Westminster Presbyterian to form the new, larger congregation of Westminster Church.

WestminsterEnidB

Tim Palmer (right) is Lead Pastor of Westminster Church. Don Tines (left) is the former pastor of West Willow Community Church and now is Westminster’s Associate Pastor.

Tines, originally from Detroit, has been the pastor at West Willow since he came to Enid in 1983. Palmer, originally from Franklin, Tenn., graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., in 2013. He came to Enid last July to pastor Westminster.

The newly-formed congregation has deep roots in Enid, going back to 1921, when the West Willow congregation formed as the Frisco Mission Church. The congregation incorporated as an independent Bible church in 1935, and in 1992 relocated to its current location and took its new name on West Willow.

Palmer said the Westminster members want to build on that history and continue to build on two strong congregations that can be stronger together.

“We’re two churches that have different strengths and great people,” Palmer said, “and our two churches are much more powerful working together.”

Tines said it was a natural fit for Palmer to take the lead role in Westminster Church.

“I’m much closer to the end of my career than he is,” Tines said, “and we’re hoping and praying he will have a long and successful ministry here.”

Tines said he’s served as a consultant with Westminster since its split from First Presbyterian, and the merger of the two congregations has been a work long in progress. “This is like a marriage that is taking place after a long courtship,” he said.

That new “marriage” has advantages for both congregations, Tines said.

“This is the greatest opportunity, for both congregations, I think we could have imagined,” Tines said. “They get a very nice facility, turn-key, and we get a boost in influence and opportunity.”

Tines said the desire to sell the West Willow church building and merge with Westminster wasn’t born of finances or size of their congregation. “The motive is to do something bigger for the gospel,” Tines said.

He cited the number and size of Enid churches—more than 130 churches, with about 100 of them having congregations smaller than 50 people—as evidence of the need to merge like-minded congregations to effect greater Christian impact in the community.

“The message and the influence wanes because of how many churches we’ve split into,” Tines said, “and it breaks my heart that this community is so splintered.”

Tines said many congregations are split more by personality than by doctrine or denomination. He said those lines were no impediment to joining West Willow and Westminster.

“We don’t have to change much of anything, because we’re both of the same persuasion,” Tines said. “Obviously, we’re very excited about it.”

Palmer said Westminster Church still will be aligned with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, but will serve as a congregation open to varied backgrounds.

“We have a Presbyterian heritage that we’re proud of,” Palmer said. “We’ll always be proud of our background and heritage, but we’re a place where people can come from all different backgrounds to experience the grace of God.”

Palmer said he wants people to view Westminster not as a church for a certain denomination, but as a neighborhood church.

“We want to be the neighborhood church for all the people who live within the circle of this church, and it doesn’t matter if they grew up Presbyterian, or Baptist, or Methodist, or whatever,” Palmer said. “All that matters is that they love Jesus, they want to be a part of a great church family and spread the gospel. We want people to feel like this church is for everybody, and it’s just right down the street.”

Palmer said the new congregation is looking forward to moving forward as one, made possible by strong lay leaders that have been brought into both congregations over the last year.

“God has put the perfect people in place, and we feel like this is the next step God has for us,” Palmer said. “There’s no telling what’s in store with the path we’re on. We have a very bright future.”

Reprinted courtesy of Enid News & Eagle.

https://www.enidnews.com/news/local_news/westminster-west-willow-community-churches-merge-to-form-new-congregation/article_356619fe-e568-5554-838e-bcc1e6cbdd1d.html

 

Don Galardi retires following 39-year pastorate of Community EPC in Owosso, Mich.

 
DonGalardiRetirementA

Don Galardi (right) received a plaque from the Session of Community EPC commemorating his 39 years of ministry. RE Russ Wing presented the plaque on behalf of the Session (pictured left to right): RE Ron DeHaas, RE Emeritus Gordon Parkinson, RE Scott Hammersley, RE Lyle Pratt, RE Collin Rose (behind Wing), TE Jason Steele, and TE Jim Rose (behind Galardi).

Longtime EPC Pastor Don Galardi retired after nearly 40 years of ministry at Community Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Owosso, Mich., in March 2019. He has served as pastor of the Owosso congregation since 1980, and led the church into the EPC’s Presbytery of the Midwest in 1982.

EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah noted that Galardi is the last active EPC pastor who attended the first General Assembly in 1981.

“He retires as the longest-serving pastor in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church,” Jeremiah told those gathered for the retirement service on March 16 at the D’Mar Banquet and Conference Center in Owosso. “What Don has done in serving you for almost 40 years is rare and extraordinary. I know of only one other pastor who has served in the same church for his entire ministry career.”

DonGalardiRetirementB

State Rep. Ben Frederick (right) presented Galardi a congratulatory document signed by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

In addition to his pastorate, Galardi was instrumental in starting a local pregnancy resource center; began the first community food bank; joined with other local groups in outreach events; and taught pastors in Bolivia, Colombia, and Siberia. He is a former Moderator of the Presbytery of the Midwest, and served on the EPC’s Committee on Administration and Permanent Judicial Commission.

In 2015, he published Corrective Church Discipline: What Every Christian Should Know About the Third Mark of the Church which was based on his 2006 dissertation for the Doctor of Religious Studies degree from Trinity Theological Seminary. He also holds a M.A.T.S. degree from Reformed Theological Seminary.

Also in attendance at the ceremony was Michigan State Rep. Ben Frederick, who presented a congratulatory document signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

39th General Assembly registration open

 

GA2019ThemeArt-WebBannerOnline registration for the 39th General Assembly is now open. The Assembly meets June 18–21 at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in suburban Denver, Colo. The theme of this year’s annual meeting is “Unstoppable,” based on Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 7:7 to “keep on asking … keep on seeking … keep on knocking.”

AndrewNorineBrunsonGA

Andrew and Norine Brunson

The theme connotes not only God’s sovereignty, but also the unstoppable, widespread prayer efforts since 2016 on behalf on Andrew Brunson, EPC Teaching Elder imprisoned in Turkey for nearly two years following his detention in October 2016. Brunson is this year’s featured speaker for the Wednesday morning Leadership Institute plenary session and Thursday evening worship service. His wife, Norine, is the featured speaker for the Ministry Wives’ Luncheon on Thursday.

In keeping with the theme, a special interactive Prayer Walk will provide opportunity for attendees to take a 30-45 minute, self-guided experience through a variety of stations of prayer, reflection, and worship.

The annual Leadership Institute on Tuesday will have four full-day tracks (Children/Family Ministry Training, Youth Ministry Training, Chaplain Training, and Transitional Pastors Training), and four afternoon-only tracks (Leadership, Reformed Theology, Congregational Ministry, and Prayer).

Highlights of this year’s Leadership Institute tracks are legal experts offering tips on keeping children and church facilities safe in both the Children/Family Ministry and Youth Ministry tracks; sessions on biblical leadership and decision making from a five-time brain cancer survivor in the Chaplain’s Workshop, as well as a showing of the movie “Indivisible” followed by a discussion led by Darren and Heather Turner, whose story was told in the film; “Turning Sessions into Spiritual Communities,” led by EPC Teaching Elder Doug Resler in the afternoon-only Leadership Track; Scott Redd, President of Reformed Theological Seminary’s Washington, D.C. campus teaching “How the Church Finds its Origin, Unity, and Hope in Jesus Christ” in the afternoon-only Reformed Theology track; two sessions on ministering to individuals and families with disabilities in the afternoon-only Congregational Ministry track; and best-selling author James Banks leading two sessions on prayer in the afternoon-only Prayer track.

The Wednesday afternoon plenary speaker is Doug Webster, an EPC Teaching Elder who has written several books on prayer.

The first of five business sessions convenes on Wednesday afternoon, June 18, at 4:00 p.m. Business sessions continue on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; and Friday at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. (if needed).

Worship service speakers include:

  • Brad Strait, Senior Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church
  • Léonce Crump, Senior Pastor of Renovation Church in Atlanta, Ga.
  • Chris Piehl, Pastor of Students and Families at Cherry Creek
  • Tom Werner, Moderator of the 38th General Assembly

Numerous other gatherings are available that cover a wide variety of ministry interests, including Networking Lunches, World Outreach, Women’s Ministry, and more.

For complete information, see www.epc.org/ga2019.

Dick Little, Moderator of 1997 General Assembly, dies at 87

 

DickLittleRichard Henry “Dick” Little, longtime EPC Pastor and Moderator of the 1997 General Assembly, died March 21 in Winston-Salem, N.C., following a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 87.

Little was born June 30, 1931, in Milwaukee, Wis., and grew up in Anniston, Ala. He graduated from Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., and received a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Va., and Doctor of Ministry degree from Luther Rice Seminary in Jacksonville, Fla.

Little’s first ministry roles were in Fishersville, Va., where he served as Chaplain of the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center and Associate Pastor of the Tinkling Springs Presbyterian Church. He later served as Pastor of Parkview Presbyterian Church in Newport News, Va. From 1965 to 1979 he was engaged in full-time preaching evangelism under the auspices of the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship. In 1980, he became Pastor of Reynolda Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., which he shepherded into the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in 1987. He retired from the Reynolda pulpit in 1995. He remained an active Teaching Elder in the EPC during retirement, serving several congregations including Kempsville Presbyterian Church in Virginia Beach, Va.

In addition to his pastorates and numerous speaking engagements in the United States, Little preached and taught in churches in India, Israel, Italy, Puerto Rico, South America, and Ukraine. He was the founder of the Hawkridge Home for the elderly in Neyyattinkara, India. In the 1970s he served as the Coordinating Director for the First and Second World Conferences of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem. He served on the boards of the Evangelistic Mission to Puerto Rico, The Presbyterian and Reformed Renewal Ministries International, and the Presbyterian Charismatic Communion. He was one of the founding pastors and served on the board of Associates in Christian Counseling in Winston-Salem, N.C.

He was the author of Kiss Your Church: How a Minister’s Preaching and Presence Can Bless God’s Church, published in 2002.

Little is survived by his wife of 60 years, Shirilee; son and daughter-in-law Richard and Tess Little; two grandchildren; three great-grandchildren, and a cousin, Katharine Parrish. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Kathryn Lynne Jones.

A celebration of life service will be held on March 30 at 1:30 p.m. at Reynolda Presbyterian Church. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to River Oaks Community Church World Missions in Clemmons, N.C., or Pruitt Hospice in North Wilkesboro, N.C.

March Jeremiah Journal highlights Hurricane Maria recovery efforts in Puerto Rico

 

In the March 2019 edition of the Jeremiah Journal, Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri and Juan Rivera, Pastor of Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, describe how some of the donations to the EPC’s Hurricane Maria Emergency Relief Fund were put to use in Puerto Rico.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80. Each month’s update also is posted to EPConnection and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

For a transcript of this month’s edition in printable pdf format, click here.

Federal court rules minister’s housing allowance constitutional

 

HousingAllowanceRulingA three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled unanimously on March 15 that the housing allowance tax exemption for ministers is constitutional. The decision reversed a 2017 opinion by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb. Crabb ruled that the exemption provides an unconstitutional benefit to religious individuals, thereby violating the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit that led to the 2017 decision was brought by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The group was challenging a federal law passed in 1954, under which a “minister of the gospel” is exempt from income tax on compensation that is designated part of a housing allowance. The FFRF—which has fought against the housing allowance provision for more than 10 years—argued that the law discriminates against secular employees.

“I am thankful that with the Seventh Circuit’s decision, this matter is settled—at least for now,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “I am confident that the FFRF and other atheist groups are not going to give up their fight easily, so we will continue to monitor the situation and keep our churches and ministers informed.”

Crabb also had ruled in 2013 that the housing allowance was unconstitutional—a decision that was overturned by the Seventh Circuit in November 2014. At the time, the appeals court stated that they did not rule on the “issue of the constitutionality of the parsonage exemption,” leading to the case being refiled under a different legal tactic.

In their most recent ruling, the judges declared that the 1954 law “falls into the play between the joints of the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause: neither commanded by the former, nor proscribed by the latter” and therefore neither endorses nor inhibits religion, and does not cause excessive government entanglement. The judges also noted that Congress has been providing federal tax exemptions for religious organizations as far back as 1802.

Writing for the panel, Judge Michael Brennan said that the primary effect of the housing allowance “is not to advance religion on behalf of the government, but to allow churches to advance religion, which is their very purpose. Providing a tax exemption does not connote sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement” of the government in religious activity.

Ministerial Vocation Committee, presbytery Ministerial/Candidate Committee chairs meet in Orlando

 
MVC-MCC201903

Brad Strait (right), Chair of the Ministerial Vocation Committee, leads discussion during the annual meeting of the MVC and presbytery Ministerial Committee and Candidate Committee Chairs on March 12 in Orlando.

Members of the Ministerial Vocation Committee (MVC) and Presbytery Ministerial and Candidates Committee Chairs met March 12-13 at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando. The MVC addresses ministerial issues at the national level of the EPC, and the Presbytery Chairs lead at the presbytery level.

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of the work tackled by the MVC and these presbytery committees,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “I have said for a long time that the most important committee in our presbyteries is the Ministerial Committee, because when it does its work well it frees the presbytery to focus on mission and outreach. The networking, sharing best practices, and addressing common issues that took place between MVC and these chairs this week will have high value for the ongoing health of the EPC given the overlap in their ministries.”

Among the topics discussed by the group were the EPC ordination process, the Candidates Educational Equivalency Program (CEEP), and strategies to address the ongoing physical, mental, and emotional health of EPC pastors and ministerial candidates.

Members of the Ministerial Vocation Committee are Brad Strait (Chair), Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the West; Michael Flake, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; Neal McAtee, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Central South; Frank Rotella, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the East; Phil Stump, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; and Caroline Tromble, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes.

Ministerial Committee and Candidate Committee Chairs who attended the meeting were Bruce Tenenbaum and Eric Toohey (Presbytery of the Alleghenies); Scott Sealy (Presbytery of the Central South); Jamie Cupschalk and Jay Lee (Presbytery of the East); Rick Gernhardt (Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean); Tom Pitman (Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic); Joshua Hansen and Charles Youther (Presbytery of the Midwest); Ed Cummings and Scott Koenigsaecker (Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest); David Abdo and Jay Hull (Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest); David Hoffelmeyer and Zach Hopkins (Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes); and Greg Daniels (Presbytery of the West).

EPC church members safe following Alabama tornado outbreak

 
AlabamaTornadoDamage201903.jpg

Debris litters a yard the day after a deadly tornado damaged a home in Beauregard, Ala., Monday, March 4, 2019. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

First Presbyterian Church of Opelika, Ala., escaped damage during the March 3 tornado outbreak that devastated portions of southern Alabama. As of March 5, 23 people had lost their lives in Beauregard, a rural community about 10 miles south of Opelika.

“No one in our congregation had major damage or injury,” said Josh Yates, Assistant Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, “though some of our long-time members knew some of the victims.”

Yates reported that numerous aid organizations were in the area, but the authorities are asking people to stay out of the affected area until all residents are accounted for. News outlets are reporting as many as several dozen people are still considered missing.

“We are in a holding pattern right now as far as relief goes,” Yates said. “Since things are still in a search-and-rescue mode, cleanup efforts would probably not occur until next week. Plus, area residents have donated so much in the way of dry goods and supplies that right now we have more than we need.”

Yates noted that the church expects numerous opportunities to minister as the recovery continues.

“We are very thankful that all of our church members were spared,” he said, “but pray for us that we would share the gospel during all of this, and for wisdom to provide the right kind of help when and where it’s needed.”

EPC Home Missionary John Bueno releases Spring 2019 newsletter 

 

LatinsUnitedNewsletter201902John Bueno, EPC Home Missionary serving with Latins United Christian Ministries (LUCM), invites you to read his Spring 2019 newsletter, in which he discusses Latin cross-cultural ministries in the EPC. Among the highlights are Hispanic EPC church plants in Memphis, Charlotte, and Bellevue, Nebr., as well as Bueno’s ongoing ministry in Colombia and the EPC’s partnership with the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico.

Click here to download the Spring 2019 edition in PDF format.

For more information about LUCM, contact Bueno at johnbknox@yahoo.com or 402-350-3815.

EPC pastor pens book on financial obedience

 

DavidSwansonEconomyOfGodDavid Swanson, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, has published his fifth book, The Economy of God: Discovering the Joy of Financial Obedience. The book is a compilation of a 12-week sermon series on money and generosity.

As Swanson states in the book’s introduction, “in Scripture, God has an entire economy that He wants us to observe—a way of working and producing—a way of earning, spending, saving, and giving.”

He also notes that in his 27 years as a pastor, “I have seen time and again how money can be the source of pain, strife, discontent, and division … but it does not have to. Money, when rightly and biblically understood, can be an absolute source of joy and delight.”

The book is available in paperback and Amazon Kindle formats at https://smile.amazon.com/Economy-God-Discovering-Financial-Obedience/dp/1793135614/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1550520951&sr=1-1

You can support the ministries of the EPC by purchasing Swanson’s book (and other items) through the “smile.amazon” program at Amazon.com. When you login to your Amazon account (or set up a new account), use smile.amazon.com and select “Evangelical Presbyterian Church” as your preferred charitable organization. The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of purchase price to the EPC.

Revelation 7:9 Task Force continues “listening tour”

 

Revelation79JanuaryMeetingMembers of the EPC’s Revelation 7:9 Task Force continue to study how the EPC can better become a denomination that faithfully embraces and serves its neighbors from every nation, tribe, people, and language as described Revelation 7:9. The group met at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando, February 5-6.

Continuing its focus on “input” during its first year, the group spent a significant portion of its meeting in discussions with individuals outside the EPC. These include Léonce Crump, Pastor of the multicultural Renovation Church in Atlanta, Ga.; Michael Chen, National Director of Training and Cross-Cultural Ministry for the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO); and Michael Thornhill, CCO Associate Director of Cross-Cultural Ministry and Recruiting. The CCO is a strategic partner of the EPC.

“The hard and heavy work of listening—and listening well—is helped considerably by the support of friends and partners like Pastor Léonce and the CCO,” said Dean Weaver, Pastor of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in suburban Pittsburgh, Pa. “I know I speak on behalf of the entire Revelation 7:9 team when I ask everyone in the EPC to please keep us in your prayers as we continue this important work.”

The Task Force is co-chaired by Weaver and TE Rufus Smith, Presbytery of the West. 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.

 

 

Andrew and Norine Brunson to attend State of the Union address

 
AndrewNorineBrunson

Andrew and Norine Brunson, pictured preparing to leave Turkey in October 2018.

EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson and his wife, Norine, will attend the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., on February 5. The North Carolina natives will be guests of U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). Tillis worked to help secure the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was held in Turkey for two years on charges of terrorism and espionage. Though innocent of the charges, he was convicted on October 12, 2018. He was released on the equivalent of time served and returned to the United States, where he met with President Donald Trump at the White House on October 13.

“The Brunsons demonstrated tremendous grace and unshakable faith during Andrew’s nearly two-year imprisonment and house arrest,” Tillis said in a statement released February 4. “His plight caused Americans from every corner to pray for his release and for leaders in both political parties to work together to apply pressure on the Turkish government to secure his return to American soil. It’s an incredible feeling that nearly one year after I first met Pastor Andrew Brunson in a Turkish prison, where he faced an effective life sentence, I now have the honor of welcoming him and his wife, Norine, as my special guests to the State of the Union.”

Trump will deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House of Representatives Chamber of the U.S. Capitol Building. The address is scheduled to begin at 9:00 p.m. EST.

Nación Santa in Haines City, Fla., celebrates particularization as state’s first Spanish-speaking EPC congregation

 
NacionSantaB

Leslee Quiñones (center) leads worship during Nación Santa’s celebration service on January 20, 2019. To her right is Pastor Luis Quiñones; to her left is Case Thorp, Senior Associate for First Presbyterian Church in Orlando.

Nación Santa (Holy Nation Church) in Haines City, Fla., celebrated particularization on Sunday, January 20, as the newest congregation in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

“I want to say ‘Thank you’ to the presbytery and the EPC,” Pastor Luis Quiñones told the gathering of more than 100 members and guests. “To God be the glory; we made it!”

The multi-national congregation—the first Spanish-speaking EPC church in Florida—has members from Chile, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico. Nación Santa started as a mission church in Kissimmee in 2008, and relocated to the campus of First Presbyterian Church in Haines City in 2014. In early 2017, Quiñones approached David Swanson, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, about leaving their denomination and coming under the oversight of FPCO and the EPC’s Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

“When we remember how we started our relationship with (FPCO), we have to say that God was moving in material ways,” Quiñones said. “Thank you for your love and support. You are one of us.”

Case Thorp, FPCO Senior Associate Pastor and EPC Moderator-elect, delivered a message from Philemon in which he asked the question, “What does it mean to be evangelical?”

Referencing verse 19, in which Paul reminds Philemon that he owes Paul “his very self,” Thorp posed two questions.

“Who do you owe? Who told you about Jesus?” he asked. “But further, who owes their life in Jesus to you because of your life and ministry? Who are you teaching and bringing up in Jesus?”

He noted that the answer to the second question “is why we are evangelical.”

In addition to Thorp, other guests included FPCO Ruling Elders Chris Phillips and Chris Morgan; Mike Gillett, Moderator-elect of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; and Juan Rivera, pastor of Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Rivera delivered the installation charge to Nación Santa’s first class of Ruling Elders— Esther Duque, Adalberto Negrón, Reinaldo Perez, and Kelvin Velez.

 

EPC pastors share victories and challenges, strengthen connectionalism

 

Pastors500-1000Pastors who lead EPC churches with membership of 500-1000 meet each January for networking, fellowship, community, and sharing best practices. At this year’s gathering, held January 16-18 at the Office of the General Assembly, 16 of these pastors discussed a variety of topics relevant to their ministries and settings.

Elder shepherding and discipling, discerning vision, strategic planning, leading through seasons of spiritual attack, self- and staff care, and the blessings and potential pitfalls of a congregation becoming more multi-cultural sparked rich discussion.

Mark Fuller, Pastor of Trinity Church in Plymouth, Mich., said the gathering “is the most encouraging thing I do all year. It is so refreshing to spend this time with peers; I go back home each year excited about how God is going to use what I get from being with this group.”

Others attending were Adam Barr, Peace Church in Middleville, Mich.; Scott Castleman, First Presbyterian Church in Ocean Springs, Miss.; Jeff Chandler, First Presbyterian Church in Bakersfield, Calif.; Scott Farmer, Community Presbyterian Church in Danville, Calif.; Bryan Gregory, Knox Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, Mich.; David Henderson, Covenant Church in West Lafayette, Ind., Scott Koenigsaecker, Sequim Community Church in Sequim, Wash.; Jeff Moore, First Presbyterian Church in Aurora, Ill.; Tony Myers, St. Paul’s EPC in Somerset, Pa.; Robert Perkins, Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church in Moraga, Calif.; Carolyn Poteet, Mt. Lebanon EPC in Pittsburgh, Pa.; Doug Resler, Parker EPC in Parker, Colo.; Tom Ricks, Greentree Community Church in Kirkwood, Mo.; Jeremy Vaccaro, First Presbyterian Church in Fresno, Calif.; and Richard White, Christ Community Church in Montreat, N.C.

Goal reached for Andrew Brunson recuperation fund

 
AndrewNorineBrunson

Andrew and Norine Brunson, pictured as they are leaving Turkey on October 12, 2018.

Editor’s note: This article replaces an earlier version that contained potentially sensitive information.

As of January 2, the goal for the EPC’s “Welcome Back, Andrew!” Fund has been met. Donations to the fund will be used to assist Andrew and Norine Brunson in their recovery from their ordeal in Turkey. The Brunsons returned to the United States on October 13, 2018, following Andrew’s two-year imprisonment on charges of terrorism and espionage.

When the fund was launched in October, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah said the fund would be closed to new donations when the target was reached.

“I know I speak for Andrew and Norine—and Christ Community Church—that starting 2019 knowing that Andrew’s year of recovery is fully funded is an enormous blessing,” Jeremiah said. “I am thankful for so many churches and individuals who gave sacrificially so Andrew and Norine can have this time to recover and seek what God has for them in their next chapter of ministry.”

Andrew is serving as Missionary-in-Residence at Christ Community Church in Montreat, N.C.—his and Norine’s home church. Gifts to the fund are financing the position (which was designed and created specifically for the Brunsons) for one year. Donations to the fund will cover court costs Andrew incurred with his conviction in Turkey of terrorism charges; relocation expenses; a travel allowance to help the Brunsons reconnect with their adult children (who live in three different parts of the U.S.); and seek medical and spiritual assistance as needed.