Category Archives: Pastors

38th GA sings Andrew Brunson’s ‘Worthy of My All;’ hears daughter read letters from prison, describe family’s ordeal

 

Addressing the 38th General Assembly on June 21, Jacqueline Furnari—Andrew Brunson’s daughter—described her family’s ordeal over the 20 months since her father’s imprisonment in Turkey.

“October 7, 2016—more than a year and a half ago—is the day my parents were called into the police station,” Furnari said. “This was my oldest brother’s 21st birthday, and he never got his birthday (telephone) call.”

She said that her parents had been working to secure permanent resident status so they could stay in Turkey long-term, and thought they were being summoned for questions related to their application.

“What they were not expecting was to be told that they had been deemed a threat to national security and that they were going to be deported,” she told the Assembly. “This all happened so quickly that they were barely able to tell a few family members what was going on before their phones were taken away and they were taken into custody.”

The Brunsons’ daughter added that she did not find out until several days later.

“My aunt called me and asked if I had an update,” she said, adding that the next two weeks were “absolutely terrifying” for her and her two brothers.

“We didn’t know why they were taken,” she said. “We didn’t know what was happening. We didn’t know how they were being treated; how they were being kept. We had absolutely no information and no way to get that information. All we knew was that something was very, very wrong.”

Andrew’s wife, Norine, was released after nearly three weeks of detention. “It was a relief to get some news and understand what was starting to happen,” Furnari said. “But at the same time that conversation I had with her was heartbreaking because she had just said goodbye to my dad and didn’t know when she would see him again.”

She read portions of several letters her father had written to her from prison.

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Andrew Brunson

“’I am attempting to follow His example,’” she read. “‘I declare with my will that I will submit to Him. I am kept here by force, but I can choose to submit with my will even though my emotions are severely distressed and not at all wanting to submit. I am trying to be faithful even when overwhelmed with fear—faithful to declare God’s character even when I don’t understand. I ask you to pray for me in this, to be faithful to the end.’”

The letter also contained the words of a prayer Andrew told her that he prays each night:

“’Father God, I ask that you pour out on me the courage and strength, the endurance, perseverance, and steadfastness of Jesus,’” she read, adding that he also wrote, “I declare God’s character, and pray that He uses this time to work deeply in my life.”

Furnari concluded by reading a message Brunson penned to the EPC:

“’My brothers and sisters of the EPC, I am so grateful to you for standing with us during this difficult time—for praying for us. I know a number of people have fasted, and I thank you for doing this. It’s a great blessing to us to be part of the EPC family. I pray every day to be faithful to the end, and it is my desire to show the great worth of Jesus Christ by being willing to suffer for Him. I ask that you pray for me in this, that I will be faithful to the end. I hope that next year I will be able to thank all of you in person rather than through my beautiful daughter, but again, thank you for standing with us. Your brother, Andrew.’”

Furnari also testified that she and her family have seen God at work in the midst of the situation. In an interview with EPConnection, she said when her father wrote his song, “Worthy of My All,” that she knew he was “going down a better path.”

“When he was arrested he went through a really dark time,” she said. “At some point, he was allowed to have his guitar but he couldn’t bring himself to play it, or even touch it. But the moment I heard he written a song I knew that he was doing a lot better. He had it in him to pick up that guitar and not just sing the usual worship songs, but write one for God to express his aguish, but also his desire to honor God in his situation.”

Click here or on the image above to watch Furnari’s entire presentation, followed by Assembly attendees singing Andrew’s modern hymn, “Worthy of My All.”

Click here for more information about Andrew Brunson, including a timeline of events, sheet music for “Worthy of My All,” and more.

#epc2018ga

38th General Assembly makes history with landmark ‘firsts’

 
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GA SELFIE—From left, Evelio Vilches, Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah, Eddie Spencer, Moderator Tom Werner

The EPC’s 38th General Assembly, held June 19-22 at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn., made history as the first Assembly to include a “selfie” from the platform. At the beginning of the Thursday afternoon business session, Evelio Vilches, Pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Pembroke Pines, Fla., and Eddie Spencer, Pastor of New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, Fla., took the historic photo prior to their report on how contributions to the EPC’s Hurricane Irma Emergency Relief Fund was used to help their congregations and communities in the aftermath of the September 2017 storm.

“As Stated Clerk,” said Jeff Jeremiah, “it is my ruling that indeed this is the first ever GA selfie.”

In another first, six commissioners started what may become a tradition at the GA Thursday evening worship service—“kilt night.” Donning the traditional Scottish attire were Edward Cummings, Pastor of Terrace Heights EPC in Yakima, Wash.; Alan Trafford, Pastor of Covenant EPC in Lake Jackson, Texas; Suzanne Brown Zampella, Pastor of Connellsville Presbyterian Church in Connellsville, Pa.; Matthew Everhard, Pastor of Faith EPC in Brooksville, Fla.; Case Thorp, Senior Associate Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla.; and Jeremy McNeill, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Bucyrus, Ohio.

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KILT NIGHT—From left, Edward Cummings, Alan Trafford, Suzanne Brown Zampella, Matthew Everhard, Case Thorp, Jeremy McNeill.

EPC adds seven churches in 2017–2018

 

Seven churches joined the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in the reporting period of May 23, 2017, through June 1, 2018. The new EPC churches were announced on June 22 at the 38th General Assembly at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.

Ken Roberts, Moderator of the 32nd EPC General Assembly, prayed for the new churches.

“You already know every person who will be attending all these churches,” Roberts said in his prayer. “You know their needs, joys, hurts, and hearts. We pray for each staff member who will be ministering to each person in these congregations. As we commit these churches to you, may You be gloried in the worship and business of each church, and in each heart.”

These newest members of the EPC family of churches are:

Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (Leawood, Kan.)
Sheldon MacGillivray, Pastor
www.cornerstoneks.org
Presbytery of the Great Plains

First Presbyterian Church (Malden, Mo.)
Derek Evans, Commissioned Pastor
www.facebook.com/Malden-Presbyterian-Church-144604838944152/
Presbytery of the Central South

Hendersonville Presbyterian Church (Hendersonville, N.C.)
Bill Campbell, Pastor
www.hendersonvillepc.org
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

New Life Gathering (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Scott Jackson, Pastor
www.newlifeknoxville.org
Presbytery of the Southeast

Walkersville Presbyterian Church (Waxhaw, N.C.)
Eric Bartel, Pastor
www.facebook.com/pages/Walkersville-Presbyterian-Church/117441554948378
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

Wayside Presbyterian Church (Sanford, N.C.)
Robert Johnson, Pastor
www.facebook.com/pages/Wayside-Presbyterian-Church/464287536951632
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

Wylliesburg Evangelical Presbyterian Church (Wylliesburg, Va.)
David Wood, Stated Supply Pastor
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

Each of the new churches was a previous congregation of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

#epc2018ga

In MSNBC interview, Senators Lankford, Shaheen discuss imprisonment of Andrew Brunson

 

In an interview on MCNBC’s “Morning Joe” program on May 24, Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) continued their call for punitive action against Turkey due to Andrew Brunson’s prolonged imprisonment. The EPC Teaching Elder has been held since October 2016 on charges of espionage and terrorism.

“He is basically being held hostage by (Turkish) President Erdoğan,” Shaheen said, “and this is a blatant attempt to blackmail the United States and we are not going to stand for it.”

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Lankford and Shaheen are pursuing targeted sanctions against Turkish officials, and are working with Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) on a bill to prevent the transfer of American fighter aircraft and technology to Turkey until the relationship between the two countries improves. In the 10-minute interview, they also discussed the future of U.S.-Turkey relations and Erdoğan’s oppressive tendencies.

Click here to watch the full interview.

Sad, angry, resolute: thoughts from a Turkish courtroom

 
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Richard White, Pastor of Christ Community Church in Montreat, N.C., speaks to a reporter outside the Sakran Prison complex in Aliaga, Turkey, on May 7. White attended the second hearing of EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson’s trial. (photo credit: World Watch Monitor)

by Richard White, Pastor
Christ Community Church
Montreat, N.C.

Sad, angry, and resolute.

These are my states of mind as I wake after Andrew Brunson’s trial. After 10 hours in court, I am deeply saddened that the judge refused to allow Andrew’s request to return home and finish the trial under some form of house arrest. I’m sad at having to watch Norine be brave yet again for her husband and community. She is like Mary pouring her treasure out at Jesus’ feet. It’s her costly treasure of time, lost time with husband and children, her father’s death, and so much more. I’m also sad for the Turkish people and the blatant miscarriage of justice. This bleeds into my anger.

The judge allowed the most ludicrous witnesses to testify against Andrew. One young man, who had angrily left their church years ago, wanted to return to the church but was denied membership because he was such a troublemaker. He refused to repent. On the stand, this man admitted to creating a fake Facebook page in Andrew’s name and posting pro-terrorist items on it. The judge looked passed this and validated this man’s testimony of seeing terrorist flags in Andrew’s church. It was a total lie, but the judge said it carried weight. The judge not only led witnesses with his questions, but also linked all the witnesses at the end in an effort to maintain the case against Andrew. The most angering blow was at the end when the judge decimated Andrew’s witness defense list saying that most of his witnesses were also “suspects” and, therefore, could not testify on Andrew’s behalf. This, in effect, ties the hands of Andrew’s defense.

So, what to do with unresolved sadness and justified anger? This morning I am reflecting on 1 Peter 2:23—“When he was reviled he did not revile in return, when he suffered (unjustly) he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to Him who judges justly.” Also, Psalm 30:5— “Weeping endures for the night but joy comes in the morning.” And Romans 12:12—“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation and constant in prayer.”

God did answer many prayers. Andrew spoke with clarity, authority, and boldness in the Lord as he refuted many, many lies spoken against him. Norine remained strong and alert. I had asked the Lord to be able to get into the courtroom. We got in. I asked to be a visible encouragement to Andrew and to have five minutes to visit with him. Everyone assured me that it would be impossible. No clergy of any faith have visited prisoners during this state of emergency in Turkey. BUT…then there was a technical difficulty with the jumbotron screens and while all were distracted, Andrew turned around in his seat and looked back at us as we sat in the back of the court. Norine said that this was not allowed. But with the judges distracted with the screen, Andrew was able to lock eyes with Norine and me and Sam and several others. I was able to communicate love, prayers, and blessings. It was a sacred and joy-filled moment from the Lord. We all wept. This technological difficulty lasted five minutes. It happened again later so we got another opportunity for eye–to-eye, loving contact. When Andrew was escorted out of the courtroom I moved to a place closer to his exit door and yelled out, “We love you, brother. We will never forget you. The whole church is praying for you back home.”

Joy, sorrow, anger, and resolution.

I remain resolute in standing with and praying for Andrew. I know you do as well. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Remember those in prison as though with them.” So we must keep praying. God is working something much larger than we can see or understand right now. I assured Norine and Andrew (in a note I left for Andrew with the U.S. consular) that our church is praying for them, even at 2:00 a.m. in Graham Chapel.

Thank you for praying. This is the hard work God has for us. Romans 15:30 says, “I appeal to you brothers and sisters by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered.”

Hollywood EPC (Greenville, N.C.) celebrates 75th anniversary

 

Hollywood Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Greenville, N.C., celebrated its 75th anniversary on Sunday, May 6. The church started as a Sunday school in the 1920s, and became a particularized church in 1943.

WITN News in Greenville aired a story about the day’s festivities:

HollywoodEPC

Keith Cobb is the Pastor, and the congregation joined the EPC in 2015.

North Carolina Senator denounces Andrew Brunson trial as “kangaroo court”

 

TillisFoxNewsIn a May 8 appearance on Fox News, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) offered harsh words for Turkey for its continued detainment of EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson, who has been held since October 2016. Brunson was returned to prison following testimony on May 7, with further proceedings postponed until July 18.

“The allegations against him are absurd,” Tillis said, “and even more absurd is Pastor Brunson requesting 10 witnesses to testify in his defense and being denied. That is the nature of this kangaroo court we are witnessing in Turkey.”

Tillis noted that Brunson’s situation continues to strain relations between the two countries.

“It is unheard of for NATO allies to treat people this way,” he said. “We have to look at all of our ties with Turkey and question whether that is the best partner on national defense and economic ties.”

Click here to watch the full six-minute interview.

GA worship speakers include Ligon Duncan, Eli Morris, Rufus Smith, Dean Weaver

 

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GA2018WorshipSpeakers

(Clockwise from top left): Ligon Duncan, Eli Morris, Dean Weaver, Rufus Smith

Worship has been an integral part of the EPC’s annual General Assembly since the inaugural Assembly in 1981. The 38th General Assembly, to be held June 19-22 at Hope Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn., carries on this hallmark.

Eli Morris, Hope Church Senior Associate Pastor, will speak prior to the opening business session at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 20.

Rufus Smith, Hope Church Senior Pastor, will deliver the message at the Morning Worship Service at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 21.

Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary, will preach at the World Outreach Global Worker Commissioning Service on 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 21.

Dean Weaver, Moderator of the 37th General Assembly and Lead Pastor of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in Allison Park, Penn., will lead the Moderator’s Service of Communion and Prayer at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, June 22.

“Each of our worship speakers have been integrally involved in ministries that allow them to address our theme of ‘Forward!’” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “I fully anticipate that God has a dynamic, relevant word for us through these gifted communicators.”

Weaver is a Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Alleghenies and has served as Pastor of Memorial Park since 2006. He was Founder and Co-Moderator of the New Wineskins Association of Churches (NWAC), a group of about 200 theologically conservative Presbyterian churches formed in 2001 from growing discontent regarding the general direction of the PC(USA). The NWAC was dissolved in 2011. Weaver also is President and co-founder of EduNations, a non-profit corporation that builds and operates schools in Sierra Leone, West Africa. He is a graduate of Grove City College in Grove City, Penn.; Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (M.Div.); and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.).

Duncan was raised in the home of an eighth-generation Presbyterian Ruling Elder, and has authored, co-authored, edited or contributed to more than 35 books. At age 28, he was elected to the faculty of RTS, where he taught Systematic Theology until 1996 when he accepted the pastorate of the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Miss. He served as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) General Assembly in 2004-05, the youngest minister in the PCA’s history to be elected Moderator. He returned to RTS in 2012 and became Chancellor/CEO in 2013. He is a graduate of Furman University in Greenville, S.C.; Covenant Theological Seminary (M.Div. and M.A. in Historical Theology); and the University of Edinburgh New College in Scotland (Ph.D.).

Smith served Hope Church as Associate Pastor of Discipleship from September 2010 until November 2013, when he was elected to succeed Richard Craig Strickland’s 25-year founding pastorate. From 1988-2010, he served as Senior Pastor of the inter-racial and inter-generational City of Refuge Church in Houston, Texas. While in Houston he served as Lead Chaplain for the NBA Houston Rockets for three years. He studied at Houston Baptist University and maintains an active traveling and speaking schedule.

Morris, in addition to his role as Senior Associate Pastor for Hope Church, serves as Chaplain with the FBI Memphis Division. He is passionate about meeting the needs of the underprivileged, and serves on the boards of STREETS Ministry, Oasis of Hope, Luke 4:18 Ministries, and MIFA Emergency Services. He is a graduate of the University of Memphis, Memphis Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and Fuller Theological Seminary (D.Min.).

Click here for more information about the 38th General Assembly, including daily schedules, links to online registration, and more.

USCIRF declares Turkish court’s decision in Andrew Brunson trial “unconscionable”

 

USCIRF

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Andrew Brunson

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) expressed disappointment in a Turkish court’s May 7 decision in EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson’s trial on terrorism and espionage charges. After 11 hours of testimony—mostly from anonymous witnesses who testified via video link with disguised faces and altered voices—the judge postponed further proceedings until July 18 and returned Brunson to prison. In addition, the court refused to hear testimony from any defense witnesses.

“We leave the courthouse with serious concerns,” said Sandra Jolley, USCIRF Vice-Chair, who attended the proceedings in Aliaga, Turkey. “Today’s eleven hours of proceedings were dominated by wild conspiracies, tortured logic, and secret witnesses, but no real evidence to speak of. Worse still, the judge’s decision at the conclusion of today’s hearing to dismiss all of the witnesses called by Pastor Brunson’s defense without listening to a single minute of their testimony is simply unconscionable.”

Click here for the Commission’s full statement.

The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission that reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations abroad, and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.

Andrew Brunson to remain imprisoned, Turkish judge rules

 
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Norine Brunson arrives at Aliaga Prison and Courthouse complex in Izmir, Turkey, on May 7, 2018. REUTERS / Osman Orsal

Following testimony in the second phase of Andrew Brunson’s trial on May 7 in Turkey, the court ruled to keep the EPC Teaching Elder jailed until at least the next hearing, scheduled for July 18. The date is 24 days after Turkey’s snap presidential elections, which were called in April by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for June 24—17 months ahead of their original date of November 2019.

Multiple media outlets reported that a secret witness testified anonymously against Brunson, claiming that he assisted militants with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and aimed to create a Christian Kurdish state. The witness spoke via video link with a disguised face and voice.

Brunson denied the accusations, insisting that he never permitted “politics to enter the church. I am helping Syrian refugees, they say that I am aiding the PKK. I am setting up a church, they say I got help from Gülen’s network.”

He has repeatedly denied the prosecutor’s charges that he was involved with terrorism and espionage, and again proclaimed his innocence to the court on May 7.

“My service that I have spent my life on, has now turned upside down,” Brunson said. “I was never ashamed to be a server of Jesus, but these claims are shameful and disgusting.”

Brunson’s lawyer, Ismail Cem Halavurt, said that in Turkey, “if there’s an investigation that lacks evidence, it’s kind of the custom now to fortify the case with secret witnesses that have no credibility, no link to reality.”

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said at least one individual who was present in the courtroom described the hearing afterward as “unfair.”

“I heard from someone who was there that Andrew presented a great defense, and his lawyer made a passionate plea for his release,” Jeremiah said. “Sadly, the judge returned Andrew to prison, which means this unjust and inhuman treatment continues. While this is not the result we had hoped, prayed, and fasted for, we continue to trust that the Lord Jesus Christ will be Andrew and Norine’s strength and shield.”

Attending trial, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom calls for Andrew Brunson’s release

 
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Sandra Jolley

In a statement recorded outside the courtroom in Turkey where Andrew Brunson is on trial on May 7, Sandra Jolley, Vice-Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, issued an appeal for his immediate release.

“Every day that Andrew Brunson spends here in prison is a day that the standing of the Turkish government diminishes in the eyes of not just the United States, but the entire world,” Jolley told reporters.

Click here to listen to Jolley’s interview with reporters. She answers several questions and speaks for approximately two and half minutes.

Andrew Brunson refutes accusations of secret witness in May 7 trial phase as “shameful and disgusting”

 
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Andrew Brunson

In the first updates from Andrew Brunson’s trial on May 7, EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson has strongly denied accusations made by a secret witness. The witness, who testified by video link with disguised face and voice, is described as a former parishioner of the Izmir Resurrection Church. Brunson planted and has served as Pastor of the Izmir congregation since 2010.

The witness reportedly claimed that the church was an intermediary for the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). Turkey considers the PKK a terrorist organization.

LatestUpdates.com first reported that Brunson said, “I reject all the allegations about the PKK terror organization. I have never supported them.”

A report from the trial published later on Monday morning by the Turkish “Hurriyet Daily News” quoted Brunson as “insisting that he ‘never permitted politics in church.’”

The Reuters news service quoted Brunson as declaring, “I was never ashamed to be a server of Jesus but these claims are shameful and disgusting.”

The Washington Post quoted Brunson as responding, “There is not one photograph or tape recording praising the PKK at the (Izmir) Resurrection Church. Our church had several Turkish followers.”

Click here for the full LatestUpdates.com report.

Click here for the Hurriyet Daily News article.

Click here for the Reuters report.

Click here for the Washington Post story.

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

 
AndrewBrunsonOctober2017

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.”