Category Archives: People

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


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Jim and Rosemary Van Dyke

Dr. 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


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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.

EPC Chaplain Endorser uses Christmas display to benefit local food bank


MarkInglesChristmasDisplay2017For the fourth consecutive year, EPC Chaplain Endorser Mark Ingles has leveraged his home Christmas display to benefit the Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado. In 2016, he collected approximately 650 pounds of canned and dry goods from people who stopped in front of his house in Colorado Springs, Colo., to view the display. His goal this year is 1,000 pounds.

“It’s an opportunity to give back to the community,” Ingles said. “More than just the beauty of seeing the display and adding that to people’s season of Christmas; it’s a tangible way of being able to have people drop off food. They’re giving to an incredibly wonderful cause.”

KOAA News 5 in Colorado Springs—the region’s highest-rated newscast—broadcast a 2-minute feature on Ingles’ efforts on December 12. The station posted a separate, 3-minute followup story on their Facebook page on December 16, in which Ingles shared that he was already halfway to the donation goal.

Click here to view the December 12 story.

Click here to view the December 16 feature.

Donations to EPC hurricane relief funds top $860,000


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Dead shrubs and stained walls provide evidence of the extent of flooding in Houston, Texas, as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

As of November 20, more than $860,000 has been donated to the EPC’s emergency relief funds for hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The fund for Hurricane Harvey has received $575,541.54 toward relief efforts in Texas; the Hurricane Irma fund for relief in Florida has received $159,250.67; and the Hurricane Maria fund for Puerto Rico recovery has received $126,862.25.

In addition, $21,000 has been donated to the Mexico Earthquake emergency relief fund, which was set up at the request of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico. The Mexican body is a fraternal partner of the EPC.

“In this week that we celebrate God’s generosity, I praise the Lord for the magnificent generosity demonstrated in support of our hurricane disaster relief funds this fall,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “We continue to work closely with the EPC churches in areas affected by the hurricanes to ensure we can get these funds to them as quickly as possible.”

Recovery efforts in southeast Texas continue, with Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Houston serving as the resource center for Samaritan’s Purse in the area. Pastor Richard Harris said that Samaritan’s Purse has hosted more than 2,800 volunteers at the church during the recovery effort.

“That is a Samaritan’s Purse record for disaster relief work,” he said.

Brad Starner, Director of Church Finance for New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, Fla., expressed gratitude for the donations to the Hurricane Irma fund.

“We thank God and the EPC for the goodness of His people through our denominational family,” he said.  “Almost all of us in Southwest Florida lost trees, electricity, water, internet, and lots of little things from our homes. However, some of us lost considerably more due to flooding and wind damage. In particular, we have families with extensive damage to their homes and property which will require months of rebuilding and repair.”

Starner noted that Immokalee, a largely migrant agricultural community southeast of Fort Myers, was hit especially hard by the storm.

“Immokalee was devastated,” he said. “In partnership with First Baptist Church of Immokalee, we sent teams of volunteers and supplies to those in need—many who simply could not live in their homes due to flooding and wind damage,” he said. “We continue to support those relief efforts directed by our Missions Council, which is taking an active role in caring for those effected by the storm.”

On November 20, the Office of the General Assembly received a check and note from a member of the New Hope congregation, which read,

Please accept the enclosed donations for Hurricane Maria Relief. My daughter, Lily, had a birthday party and collected donations instead of gifts. She also sold brownies and lemonade to add to the donations.

“While it is certainly a blessing to see the amount of money given to these relief funds,” Jeremiah said, “the spirit (and act) of generosity displayed by Lily—who turned 12—and her friends touched me in a way that is hard to describe.”

Each of these emergency relief funds remain open for donations. Gifts can be made online (Choose “Emergency Relief” from the first pulldown menu and the specific fund from the second pulldown menu,) or checks made payable to Evangelical Presbyterian Church with the appropriate fund noted on the memo line and sent to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

“We have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving,” Jeremiah said. “Thank you for your generous, sacrificial response in helping those in need in the EPC.”

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


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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.