Category Archives: Pastors

Transitional Pastor call approved by 37th General Assembly


Creation of a new called position of Transitional Pastor was adopted by the EPC 37th General Assembly on June 22 at Fair Oaks Church in Sacramento, Calif. The action not only created and defined the Transitional Pastor position, but also clarified the role of Stated Supply Pastor in Section 10-7 of the Book of Government regarding temporary pastoral relationships.

Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk and former member of the Ministerial Vocation Committee, noted that the committee worked to more accurately reflect the role of an interim pastor in the life of both a local church and the EPC.

“The committee recommended changing the title of Interim Pastor to Transitional Pastor because it more accurately defines the task, and further establishes the role as a ‘call’ from the Session of a church,” Iamurri said.

The provisions of the call 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.
  • Are introduced to the receiving presbytery and enrolled as a corresponding member (voice but no vote) upon approval of the Ministerial Committee.

In addition, those called from outside the EPC would be examined by the presbytery and transferred according to applicable provisions of the Book of Government.

The Ministerial Vocation Committee will oversee the training, certification, and ongoing support of Transitional Pastors.

In clarifying the Stated Supply position, the action allows churches that do not want a transitional pastor to still invite a minister to serve as Stated Supply, and for ministers from outside the EPC to serve as Stated Supply pastors without transferring their ordination to the EPC.

In related actions, the Assembly approved four amendments to the Book of Government:

  • Adjusted 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. The amendment brings the two passages into alignment, limits the length of an out-of-bounds term to three years (with permission to continue renewable), and gives presbyteries discretion to set a shorter term.
  • A presbytery may authorize its Ministerial Committee to serve as a judicial or administrative commission, or be appointed as an ongoing administrative commission. The action allows the committee to dissolve pastoral relationships and dismiss Teaching Elders (according to the EPC Book of Order) when both the congregation and the Pastor concur; approve temporary pastoral relationships; review terms of call or invitations for all pastoral relationships (excluding out-of-bounds) to ensure that the terms meet the minimum established standards; ordain and/or install Teaching Elders in accordance with provisions in the Book of Government; and appoint advisors for Candidates Under Care and mentors for Commissioned Pastors.
  • Added the Transitional Pastor as a recognized pastoral relationship for Teaching Elders in a congregational setting.
  • Clarified 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.

#epc2017ga

Longtime EPC pastor Bob Hopper dies at 65


BobHopperRobert D. “Bob” Hopper passed away suddenly on Monday, June 12, in Elyria, Ohio. He was 65. At the time of his death he was serving as Transitional Pastor for Bay Presbyterian Church in Bay Village, Ohio.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Hopper graduated from Grove City College in Grove City, Pa., in 1973, where he met his future wife, Tacey (Keller), in the freshman orientation line. They were married in the Grove City College Chapel in January 1974. The Hoppers both later graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Mass.

Bob began full-time vocational ministry in 1977 as a pastor in the United Presbyterian Church, where he served for four years, and then spent fourteen years as a pastor and church planter in the Presbyterian Church in America. In the EPC, he served 11 years as pastor of North Park Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Wexford, Pa., and later served interim roles as Transitional Pastor for First Presbyterian Church in Fresno, Calif.; Southport Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Ind.; Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Wichita, Kan.; and Central Presbyterian Church in St Louis, Mo.

The Hoppers’ ministry extended to the Byerzhitsa Church in Bryansk, Russia, where they have participated in short-term projects for more than 20 years—including orphanage ministry and helping with the construction of several of church plants of the Byerzhitsa congregation. Bob also was involved in numerous mentoring and discipleship activities, including serving as an EPC Transitional Pastor coach/mentor, an NRA Firearms Training Counselor, and a certified SIG SAUER Master Firearms Instructor.

His favorite pastimes were spending time with his family, and shooting with family and friends. He also was an avid Pittsburgh Pirates fan.

He is survived by his wife, Tacey; daughter and son-in-law Jessie and Aaron Zacek of Prospect, N.Y.; son and daughter-in-law Seth and Lacy Hopper of Indianapolis, Ind.; son Luke Hopper of Fort Campbell, Ky.; and eight grandchildren: Abigail, Joshua, Madeline, Samantha, and Nathaniel Zacek, and Mikayla, Angela, and Tyler Hopper.

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, June 18, at North Park Evangelical Presbyterian Church. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Bob’s memory to further the ministry of the Byerzhitsa Church—all donations should be made out to North Park Church with “Bryansk” on the memo line.

Click here for a full obituary notice.

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 leaders highlight spring commencement exercises


Three EPC leaders will deliver commencement speeches for institutions of higher learning in May 2017.

JeffJeremiah

Jeff Jeremiah

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, will speak at Knox Theological Seminary. Mike Moses, Pastor of Lake Forest Church in Huntersville, N.C. and Moderator of the 35th General Assembly, will address Montreat College. Sandy Willson, Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn., will speak at the Memphis Center for Urban Theological Studies (MCUTS).

The graduation ceremony for Knox Theological Seminary will be May 19 at 7:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The seminary was founded in 1989 by Dr. D. James Kennedy and leaders of the Coral Ridge congregation, whose desire was to establish a seminary with a theological perspective of historic Reformed theology as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. More than 300 students are currently enrolled in Knox’s residential and online learning programs.

MikeMoses

Mike Moses

The commencement service for Montreat College will be held May 13 at 2:00 p.m. in the school’s Anderson Auditorium in Montreat, N.C. An independent, Christ-centered, liberal arts institution in North Carolina, Montreat College has undergraduate campuses in Montreat and Black Mountain, and adult and graduate studies locations in Asheville, Charlotte, Morganton, Montreat, and online.

SandyWillson

Sandy Willson

The MCUTS commencement ceremony will be held May 1 at 6:00 p.m. at Life Church in Memphis. The non-denominational educational institution provides affordable, accessible, and accredited theological education and training for people serving in the urban context. Affiliated with Lancaster Bible College and Capitol Seminary and Graduate School, it was formed in 2000 through the collaborative effort of the Memphis Leadership Foundation, Neighborhood Christian Centers, Hope Christian Community Foundation, Second Presbyterian Church, and Hope Presbyterian Church.

Andrew Brunson’s imprisonment featured in April 13 NPR segment


National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” afternoon news program broadcast a segment April 13 on Andrew Brunson’s imprisonment in Turkey. Interviewed for the story were Andrew’s sister, Beth Herman, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner, and Cece Heil, a lawyer with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which is representing the Brunsons in legal efforts to secure Andrew’s release.

Click here to listen to the 3-minute, 37-second story. “All Things Considered” is the most listened-to radio program of its kind in the country.

NPR

First Orlando’s Case Thorp pens Wall Street Journal op-ed on Keller/Princeton flap


Case Thorp, Senior Associate Pastor of the EPC’s First Presbyterian Church of Orlando and an alumnus of Princeton Theological Seminary, has written an op-ed article published in the Wall Street Journal on March 23. Thorp’s piece addresses the recent controversy surrounding the seminary’s retraction of its annual Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness. Earlier this year, the mainline seminary announced that it would present the award to Keller, but rescinded the honor on March 22 in response to protests by individuals who do not support the PCA (of which Keller is a member)’s stance on female and LGBTQ clergy.

The article on the Wall Street Journal is behind a paywall, but you can click here to read it on Thorp’s blog at www.casethorp.com.

ThorpWSJ