Category Archives: People

“In All Things” episode 63 features Earla Bethel, NLT Finance Committee Chair

 

Earla Bethel, Ruling Elder for St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas, is the guest for episode 63 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.” She is a member of the National Leadership Team and serves as Chair of the Finance Committee.

Host Dean Weaver and Bethel discuss her faith journey, as well as how St. Andrew’s and Lucaya Presbyterian Church in Freeport, Bahamas, came to the EPC from the Church of Scotland. Bethel also describes how she applies the principle of Luke 12:48 as a business owner. The two also discuss the background behind the EPC funding formula conversion from Per Member Asking (PMA) to Percentage of Income (POI), and how the Office of the General Assembly stewards those resources.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Annie Rose named Director of Ministerial Support and Development

 

Rev. Annie Rose

EPC Teaching Elder Annie Rose has been named to a new part-time staff position at the Office of the General Assembly, Director of Ministerial Support and Development. Rose also serves as Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes, and previously served as Discipleship Pastor and Executive Pastor at Saddlerock EPC in Wenatchee, Wash.

Her responsibilities include developing and implementing strategies for ministerial health and wholeness in collaboration with the Ministerial Vocation Committee, Presbytery leadership, and others; working with seminaries and other collaborative partners focused on equipping pastors for sustainable ministry; and coordinating resources and support for EPC Teaching Elders. Rose also will aid in crises involving Teaching Elders and their families.

“The EPC has been my church family for 16 years, and I’m thrilled to contribute to a culture of healthy and biblical leadership in our churches,” Rose said. “It is a blessing and an honor to be in a position to support and strengthen our pastors and their families.”

“Annie’s role is tremendously important,” said Michael Davis, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk. “In a time where pastors are unhealthy and on the verge of burnout, Annie will provide proactive care in this critical moment.”

Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk, said Rose “will help us gain traction on leading in the vital area of pastoral preparation, care, and development—how we think about pipeline, discipleship, ending well, the whole scope of how we care for our pastors. The effects of the pandemic aren’t over—even though many of us have moved on from it—and that reality dramatically affects our pastors.”

World Outreach names three to staff positions

 

World Outreach (WO), the international missions arm of the EPC, has named three individuals to staff positions at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando.

Jordin Greer is the new Assistant Director of World Outreach; Torres Kearney joins the staff as Executive Assistant to Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of World Outreach; and Carla Cora will serve World Outreach as Accounting Analyst.

Jordin Greer

Greer comes to WO from Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Wichita, Kan., where she served as a Pastoral Resident. She also served as an adjunct professor at Sterling College in Sterling, Kan., teaching undergraduate students in New Testament and basic Christian doctrine.

Her responsibilities at Eastminster included preaching, pastoral care, and developing and implemented a membership discipleship plan. A Kansas native, she is a graduate of Sterling College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Greer is an ordained Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Great Plains with ministry experience in Guatemala, Albania, Macedonia, the Philippines, Spain, and numerous domestic mission projects.

“Missions has been a part of my life since my call to ministry in 2013,” Greer said. “I believe God is the great initiator of mission and has invited us to partner with Him. I am excited, humbled, and extremely grateful for the opportunity to serve World Outreach in whatever way I can.”

Torres Kearney

Kearney joins the WO staff from First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, Fla., where she served as Mission and Discipleship Coordinator. She was a member of FPCO’s Orlando Heart of the City Fellows Program from 2020-2021 and also served at Third Millennium Ministries, an EPC Approved Mission Agency, as an Assistant Project Manager.

A native of Dublin, Ohio, Kearney is a graduate of Grove City College in Grove City, Pa., where she received the prestigious “Senior Woman of the Year” recognition in 2020.

“I am so excited to join the World Outreach team,” Kearney said. “Over the years the Lord has grown my heart for the world and blessed me with different opportunities to pursue this passion. I am grateful for his provision of a position at World Outreach.”

Carla Cora

Cora serves both WO and the EPC Finance Department led by CFO Pat Coelho. She and her family immigrated to the United States from Brazil in 2022, where she was a Managing Partner for D.F.C. Manutenção de Equipamentos Médicos, a medical equipment maintenance company, and served as an Elder at Bola de Neve Church in São Paulo. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Toledo University Center (Unitoledo) in São Paulo.

“I remember once praying and saying, ‘Father, I just want to serve you, please always prepare an opportunity for me. And here I am!’” Cora said. “I love seeing the gospel moving forward and being able to be a part of that in some way cheers up my heart so much!”

“In bringing Carla, Torres, and Jordin onto our team, the Lord has answered a multitude of prayers, and generously provided,” de Guia said. “I’m excited for their passion for the mission and the giftings they each bring to their roles with EPC World Outreach.”

Ann Adamson, wife of 12th General Assembly Moderator John Adamson, dies at 85.

 

John and Ann Adamson

Ann Summerford Adamson, beloved wife of 12th General Assembly Moderator John Adamson, passed away on December 29 after a long illness. She was 85.

Born in Birmingham, Ala., on April 7, 1937, she grew up in Shelbyville, Tenn., where she attended Central High School. She then attended The University of Chattanooga and was a member of Chi Omega sorority. In 1956 she married her high school sweetheart, John Cowan Adamson. They soon moved to Memphis, where they established their home and raised their three daughters.

A talented artist with a servant’s heart, Ann served her community in many ways. She was a member of the Jr. League of Memphis and LeBonheur Club and was a docent and volunteer at The Pink Palace Museum where she served on the board that planned and implemented the first Pink Palace Crafts Fair. A long-time member of Second Presbyterian Church, Ann was involved in the children’s ministry, women’s Bible studies, WOC Circles, the flower ministry, and other activities. She also was a member of the Chancel Choir for more than 40 years.

Ann enjoyed playing the piano, gardening, sewing, and painting with oils. However, her greatest joys were found in caring for her family and in extending hospitality, graciously serving family and guests. Whether for a meal or an extended stay, she had a gift for making everyone feel at home. Above all, she quietly lived out her deep and abiding faith. The family is greatly comforted to know she is now at home with the Lord.

She is survived by her husband of 66 years, John; daughter and son-in-law Cathy and Pete Gross; daughter and son-in-law Mary and Jimmy Edwards; daughter and son-in-law Sallie and Robert Sutton; and brother and sister-in-law Sid and Beth Summerford; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Memorial gifts can be sent to Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis or The Village at Germantown Foundation.

Mark Ingles and EPC Chaplaincy highlight “In All Things” podcast episode 60

 

Mark Ingles, the EPC’s Chaplain Endorser, is the guest for episode 60 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.” This week’s episode highlights the denomination’s strategic priority of Effective Biblical Leadership.

Host Dean Weaver and Ingles discuss the various ministry opportunities for chaplains in both the military and civilian institutions, as well as his how his role as Chaplain Endorser helps facilitate those pursuing chaplaincy ministry in the EPC. Ingles also recounts his path as the son of an Army father to his own calling as an Air Force chaplain.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Linda Thompson, wife of former World Outreach Committee Chairman Doug Thompson, dies at 74

 

Linda Thompson

Linda M. Thompson, wife of Doug Thompson, died on December 15. She was 74.

In 1983, the Thompsons were commissioned by EPC World Outreach as the denomination’s first overseas church planters. In the 10 years they lived in Toulouse, France, they successfully planted three churches and helped revitalize a fourth congregation. They returned to the United States in 1993, where they served several churches in the Presbytery of the Midwest. In 2020, the Thompsons retired from Ward Church in Northville, Mich., where he had served on the Care Ministry staff. Doug also is a former Chairman of the World Outreach Committee.

She is survived by her husband, Doug; son and daughter-in-law Paul and Betsy Thompson; son Marc Thompson; daughter and son-in-law Monique and Jordan Guelde; and seven grandchildren: Caden, Belle, Evie, Sam, Will, Weston, and Elliana.

EPC Chaplain Endorser serves local charities through Christmas lights display

 

EPC Teaching Elder and holiday decor enthusiast Mark Ingles spends about three weeks getting his Christmas display ready each year. (Photo by Parker Seibold, the Colorado Springs Gazette.)

For nearly a decade, EPC Chaplain Endorser Mark Ingles has used his home Christmas lights display to benefit the Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado. Ingles’ efforts have resulted in nearly six tons of food donations, as well as several thousand dollars in cash for the Springs Rescue Mission in Colorado Springs.

As they have for the past several years, local media outlets in Colorado Springs have helped spread the word. On December 17, the Colorado Springs Gazette published a feature on Ingles’ display, “Colorado Springs Christmas display offers gift of giving.

Local television news stations KKTV 11 News and KOAA News5 also highlighted how Ingles leverages his Christmas spirit to benefit the community:

Ingles estimates he has about 6,000 lights on display. His house is so bright that it can be seen by aircraft approaching Colorado Springs airport.

From suicide attempt to serving Christ: “In All Things” podcast episode 56 features BRI Benefits Administrator Cathy Flores

 

Cathy Flores, Benefits Administrator for EPC Benefit Resources, Inc. (BRI), is the guest for episode 56 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

Host Dean Weaver and Flores discuss her journey from three suicide attempts while growing up with an alcoholic mother to being a teenage unwed mother herself to committing her life to Christ as an adult. Flores also recounts her experiences during a recent mission trip to Cuba in which she led two marriage conferences.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 55 continues conversion from Mormonism conversation with Lisa Brockman

 

Episode 55 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” continues a conversation with Lisa Brockman, Ruling Elder for First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla., and sixth-generation Mormon who came to faith as a college student at the University of Utah.

This week, host Dean Weaver and Brockman conclude their discussion of her path from a devout Mormon childhood to accepting Christ. Brockman relates how her decision to follow Christ affected her relationships with Mormon family members—especially after she wrote her book, Out of Zion: Meeting Jesus in the Shadow of the Mormon Temple.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 54 features former Mormon Lisa Brockman

 

Lisa Brockman, Ruling Elder for First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla., and author of Out of Zion: Meeting Jesus in the Shadow of the Mormon Temple, is the guest for episode 54 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

In part one of a two-week conversation, host Dean Weaver and Brockman discuss her path as a sixth-generation Mormon—including her childhood dream of a temple marriage—to accepting Christ as a student at the University of Utah. She recounts how her spiritual journey was influenced by Josh McDowell, Larry Crabb, and James Spencer. She also describes coming to the realization that the biblical God is the only God who will not abuse His authority.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

World Reformed Fellowship honors Luder Whitlock

 

Rob Norris (left) presents Luder Whitlock with a momento in recognition of his instrumental role in the founding of the WRF.

The World Reformed Fellowship (WRF) honored Luder Whitlock, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean, for his contributions in founding the Fellowship in 2000. Whitlock was recognized during the business session of its sixth General Assembly on October 28 at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, Fla.

“Thank you very much for this unexpected honor, which I will treasure,” Whitlock said. “I recall that first meeting, which was significant. You are my good friends, and the Lord is using you to do great things around the world for which I am grateful.”

In presenting the resolution, WRF Board Chairman Rob Norris said Whitlock “is a man with an enormous capacity for vision. The Lord has gifted him in that way—he sees what God’s Kingdom can be like. We are the product of that vision, though we have not yet fulfilled it.”

Whitlock was instrumental in the founding of the WRF in 2000 when he hosted the organizing meeting in Orlando with leaders from the World Fellowship of Reformed Churches and the International Reformed Fellowship, which he co-founded. He was President of Reformed Theological Seminary for 23 years and has served on the EPC National Leadership Team, as well as the boards of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the World Evangelical Fellowship (North America region), Mission America, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, and Greater Europe Mission. He was the Executive Director of The New Geneva Study Bible and The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, and also served on the editorial council of Eternity Advisory board for the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible translation. He and his wife, Mary Lou, have three grown children and eleven grandchildren.

Resolution 2022-01 of The Sixth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship
In Thanksgiving to God for the Pioneering Contribution of
Dr. Luder G. Whitlock

Whereas, the Apostle Paul instructs believers to: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10);

Whereas, Dr. Luder G. Whitlock is a beloved member of the World Reformed Fellowship, whose pioneering contribution to the formation of the World Reformed Fellowship is recognized by its members and leaders;

Whereas, Dr. Luder G. Whitlock has given testimony through his life and ministry that giving honor and thanks to God surpasses the joy afforded by simple human recognition; and

Whereas, it is appropriate to recognize and celebrate the role played by Dr. Luder G. Whitlock over two decades ago, in this city of Orlando, as the host of the organizing meeting of the World Reformed Fellowship.

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the sixth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship, as follows:

  1. That Dr. Luder G. Whitlock be recognized in honor through heartfelt thanksgiving to God, the King, for his important collaboration in the life and ministry of the World Reformed Fellowship;
  2. That Dr. Luder G. Whitlock receive from this assembly a token that shall mark this, our act of thanksgiving, to God for his ministry;
  3. That the text of this motion be registered in the minutes of this First Business Session of Sixth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship.

Orlando, Florida, USA
28th of October, 2022

The WRF has grown to comprise more than 73 denominational members in 30 countries, 54 congregational members in 26 countries, 114 organizational members in 30 countries, and 374 individual members in 53 countries.

Designed to offer a gathering point where Reformed leaders can work out mutually beneficial cooperative agreements, the WRF focuses on the contemporary needs of the international Reformed community, such as the plight of persecuted Christians, religious freedom, societal changes, incorporation of theological education, missions, publications, and the expansion of evangelical fellowship into all parts of the world.

EPC pastors hold prominent roles at World Reformed Fellowship General Assembly

 

Rob Norris (right) convenes the Sixth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship on October 27 at First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla. Seated are (from left) Case Thorp, FPCO Senior Associate Pastor for Evangelism, and Davi Gomes, WRF International Director.

Church and denominational leaders from the EPC held leading positions at the Sixth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship (WRF) in October. The WRF meeting was held at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, Fla., with the theme, “The Nature and Mission of the Church.”

In noting that “the church is at the core of who we are,” Rob Norris opened the meeting on October 27. Norris is the WRF’s Chairman of the Board and serves as Teaching Pastor for the EPC’s Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md. Norris also led the second Plenary session, “The Worship of the Church.”

“Everything that we are and everything we do as the community of Christ is designed to move towards the glory of God,” he said. “At the very center of our adoration is the blessing and the work of Jesus Christ.”

Norris added that the worship of God can only be accomplished in and through Christ.

“To approach God in any other way is unacceptable,” he emphasized. “Jesus also said the Father is seeking such to worship Him. In this worship we have direct access to the Father’s presence. Quite simply, the Father is seeking exclusive worship—that we would worship Him. He is seeking those who worship in spirit and truth. We are to be devoted to God through and through. To worship the Father in truth means according to the specifics that He revealed about Himself.”

“The Church Under Pressure from the State”

On October 28, EPC Stated Clerk Dean Weaver participated in a panel discussion, “The Church Under Pressure from the State.”

EPC Stated Clerk Dean Weaver (left) participated in a panel discussion on October 28, “The Church Under Pressure from the State.”

In response to a question about EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson’s two-year imprisonment in Turkey from 2016-2018, Weaver noted the contrast between the Turkish and American governments.

“In Turkey, he experienced real persecution from the Turkish government. On the other side, the EPC—working to try to get freedom for Andrew—found a partner in the U.S. government to secure his freedom.”

Weaver noted that pressure on the church in the United States is likely different from that experienced by his fellow panelists.

“Pressure seems to be coming more from the culture than from the government,” he said, adding that societal pressures too often result in division rather than unity.

“The way the church in the U.S. is responding to pressure has been divisive, and it’s over things that aren’t even necessarily doctrinal,” Weaver said. “When the dust settles, 20 percent of the congregation is gone because you did or did not wear masks, and 20 percent of the people are new because you did or did not wear masks. People have made those decisions not on theological convictions but on political convictions.”

He also expressed concern over the church’s response to pressure, more than the pressure itself.

“Pressure is not in-and-of-itself is bad, but if we could see it as under the sovereignty of God rather than something to be avoided, then I think it should unite us. And yet in the last two years the pressure from the pandemic has divided the church.”

Weaver referenced discussions with EPC pastors over the past year to illustrate the point.

“What I have heard from a number of pastors in the EPC is that while attendance is down post-pandemic, giving is about the same. So it appears that the pressure of the pandemic maybe pruned away some who perhaps were not all that connected or invested, but those who have stayed are strong and just as —if not more—committed.”

Other panelists were John McClean, Vice Principal of Christ College in Sydney, Australia; Kin Yip Louie, Associate Professor in Theological Studies at China Graduate School of Theology in Hong Kong; and Sichan Siv, who escaped the “killing fields” of Cambodia’s Pol Pot regime in 1976, and later served U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 2001-2006. He currently serves as a deacon at First Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas.

“Made to Flourish: Faith and Work”

Case Thorp, Senior Associate Pastor of Evangelism and The Collaborative for host church FPCO and Moderator of the EPC’s 39th General Assembly, led a seminar on October 28, “Made to Flourish: Faith and Work.”

Case Thorp led a seminar, “Made to Flourish: Faith and Work” on October 28.

In describing his title, Thorp explained that The Collaborative is FPCO’s evangelism ministry.

“Note that in the name is “co-labor,” Thorp noted. “It is based on 1 Corinthians 1:9 where we are invited by God into fellowship with Christ.”

He also described how The Collaborative approaches evangelism from a relational perspective within the context of the community outside the church.

“At FPCO, we talk about living missionally in our family, neighborhood, and our vocation—and that’s the Collaborative,” Thorp said. “Our focus is discipleship of Christ-followers for their effectiveness in and through their work, and through the culture of their company. I know theology and Bible, but our people know the culture and jargon of their industries. They know where the brokenness and idols are. So we come alongside.”

“Distinguished by Christ”

David Swanson, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, concluded the Assembly with his message, “Distinguished by Christ,” on Sunday morning, October 30.

Preaching from Matthew 16:13-20, Swanson address some of the deepest questions about identity.

David Swanson, FPCO Senior Pastor, preached the conclusion of the Assembly on October 30.

“Who are we in our identity in Christ? Who are we in relationship to the Bride of Christ that God has called us to inhabit and be part of from the moment of our conversion? Who am I in relationship to all my other brothers and sisters? And then Who are we as a church in relationship to the rest of the world? How are we known? How does the world know us? And how do we know each other?”

He said all those questions are critical in the life of the church.

Referencing the Matthew 16 text, Swanson said it was time for the central issue of that day and time to be clarified: Who is Jesus? He emphasized that the question continues to be asked.

“What is staggering to me is that people today get to that place where they are trying to figure out who Jesus is, and they let ‘I’m not sure’ be their answer. They just stop searching. I mean, if there is even the most remote possibility that Jesus could actually be the incarnate Son of God and the Savior of the world don’t you think you ought to get that nailed down? Don’t you think you ought to at least explore? And as the church today, don’t you think we ought to have that question nailed down?”

Assembly Business

In Assembly business, commissioners heard a report from the Theological Commission which presented a proposed Statement on Ecclesiology. The 22-page statement encompassed 12 sections: The Trinity and the Church, The Nature of the Church, The Church and the Kingdom of God, The Church as a Covenant People, The Authority of the Church, The Liturgy of the Church, The Gifts and Ministry of the Church, The Unity of the Church, On Separation and Schism, On Church and Parachurch, The Mission of the Church, and Application of Ecclesiology.

Luder Whitlock, EPC Teaching Elder and former President of Reformed Theological Seminary, opened the WRF business session with prayer on October 28.

The Assembly also honored Luder Whitlock, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean and former member of the EPC National Leadership Team, for his role in founding the WRF in 2000. Whitlock hosted the organizing meeting of the WRF with leaders from the World Fellowship of Reformed Churches and the International Reformed Fellowship.

The WRF is comprised of more than 73 denominational members in 30 countries, 54 congregational members in 26 countries, 114 organizational members in 30 countries, and 374 individual members in 53 countries.

Designed to offer a gathering point where Reformed leaders can work out mutually beneficial cooperative agreements, the WRF focuses on the contemporary needs of the international Reformed community, such as the plight of persecuted Christians, religious freedom, societal changes, incorporation of theological education, missions, publications, and the expansion of evangelical fellowship into all parts of the world.

The EPC is a denominational member of the World Reformed Fellowship.

Fort Myers pastors provide Hurricane Ian update, donations sought for EPC Emergency Relief Fund

 

The pastors of the two EPC churches in Fort Myers, Fla., are reporting that Hurricane Ian had a devastating impact on their congregations. The storm came ashore in southwest Florida September 28 with 150 mph winds.

“Overall, it’s just a disaster zone,” said Mike Jones, Associate Pastor of New Hope Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers. “The further south and west the more profound the destruction. The further east, with the exception of the flooding it’s not as noticeable.”

Both Jones and Paul de Jong, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, reported at least 25 families in their respective congregations lost everything.

“One of our members was rescued at 5:00 a.m. by Miami EMS to get him out of the attic with his wife, son, and 80-year-old mother-in-law,” Jones said, adding that the homes of at least two New Hope staff members are “a total loss.”

The EPC Domestic Emergency Relief Fund is accepting donations to assist EPC churches in these and other disaster areas with identified needs. To contribute, see www.epc.org/emergencyrelief.

“In All Things” podcast episode 47 features discussion of pastoral stressors with Annie Rose

 

Annie Rose, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes and a member of the interim committee writing a Pastor Letter of Racial Lament and Hope, is the guest for episode 47 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Rose discuss her path to ministry as the child of a Complementarian church, as well as how serving as a presbytery stated clerk provides avenues to observe pastoral stressors. Rose provides counsel for both pastors and elders based on those observations, and also talks about her involvement on the Pastoral Letter interim committee and how the group understands that love has to be the basis for biblical lament.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 45 features theological education discussion with Kent Mathews

 

Kent Mathews, President and Academic Dean of Heartland Theological Seminary in Kansas City and Director of the EPC’s Mentored Apprenticeship Program for seminary students is the guest for episode 45 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Mathews discuss the challenges and opportunities in preparing people for vocational ministry, and how Heartland Seminary and the EPC Mentored Apprenticeship Program combine rigorous academic preparation with practical, mentor-partnered application.

Mathews also describes the need to develop a pipeline of ordination candidates for ministry in rural churches—including the benefits of serving in rural communities—and how small churches can be better equipped for fostering community.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Pastoral Letter on Racial Lament and Hope interim committee begins work

 

The Interim Committee tasked with writing a Pastoral Letter on Racial Lament and Hope gathered September 20-21 to begin its work. The group met at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando. The formation of the committee was approved by the 42nd General Assembly and appointed by that Assembly’s outgoing Moderator, Brad Strait.

The co-Chairmen of the committee are Gerrit Dawson, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge, La., and Glenn Meyers, Commissioned Pastor of Ardara United Presbyterian Church in Ardara, Pa., and Moderator of the 40th General Assembly.

Glenn Meyers

“I appreciate the opportunity to serve in this way,” Meyers said. “God has been preparing me personally over the past few years to deal with these issues, and my experience as a Black man is part of the whole. Our pastors are on the front lines of this issue, and even some of my elders are asking me if we want to ‘poke the bear.’ It is a difficult time to be a Black man in America, and I have a new understanding of that.”

Gerrit Dawson

Dawson noted that the American church “has languished on this issue, which has allowed non-biblical groups to grab the narrative. How many of our pastors said this was the most divisive thing they talked about in 2020? I addressed it with our congregation, and after one sentence I was called both a white supremacist and a critical race theorist. It’s difficult—we are balancing the difficulty of being Black in America with the feeling of white people that they are looked at as the problem. But I am passionate that we have a better story to tell,” Dawson said.

“I can’t imagine two better individuals to shepherd this process,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “They bring different viewpoints, but their pastoral hearts will get us where need to go.”

In addition to Meyers and Dawson, members of the committee are Sean Boone, church planting pastor of Woke Bridge Community Church in Ferguson, Mo.; Ken Chang, Ruling Elder for Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo.; Linda McDaniel, Ruling Elder for Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.; Marcos Ortega, Lead Pastor for the Beacon, N.Y., campus of Goodwill Church; George Robertson, Senior Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis; Annie Rose, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; Eric Shipton, Assistant Pastor and Director of Outreach and Missions for Reynolda Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Carol Williams, Ruling Elder for Covenant Presbyterian Church in Sharon, Pa.

Ex officio members are Weaver; Michael Davis, Assistant Stated Clerk; Brad Strait, Senior Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo., and Chairman of the National Leadership Team; Rosemary Lukens, Ruling Elder for Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church in Gig Harbor, Wash., and Moderator of the 42nd General Assembly; and Joe Kim, church planting pastor of Hope Philly Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pa., and Moderator-elect of the 43rd General Assembly.

“In All Things” podcast episode 43 features Bob Garment, EPC Chief Parliamentarian

 

Bob Garment, longtime Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean and the EPC’s new Chief Parliamentarian is the guest for episode 43 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Garment discuss his path to the EPC from his former denomination, including how a newsletter from an EPC church in Louisiana started the process.

Garment also describes how his relationship with the late Howard Shockley, longtime Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic, resulted in his own service for more than 30 years as Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean, and how polity serves the mission of the church.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Body of Eliza Fletcher, kidnapped member of Second Memphis, identified

 

Eliza Fletcher

Memphis Police officials confirmed on September 6 that a body discovered on September 5 is Eliza Fletcher, a member of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn. Fletcher was abducted while jogging on Friday morning, September 2.

Steve Mulroy, Shelby County Deputy Attorney General, called the kidnapping and assault an “isolated attack by a stranger.”

The 34-year-old mother of two was approached by a man in a dark SUV who forced her into the vehicle after a brief struggle. Memphis Police discovered the body at 5:07 p.m. on September 5 in the rear of a vacant duplex in south Memphis, approximately eight miles from the University of Memphis campus where she was abducted and in the vicinity of where the suspect was arrested.

The suspect was initially charged with the kidnapping. On September 6, prosecutors announced additional charges of murder, premeditated murder, and murder in perpetration of kidnapping. The cause of death has not been announced.

“Now it’s time to remember and celebrate how special she was and to support those who cared so much for her,” the family said in a statement. “We appreciate all the expressions of love and concern we have received. We are grateful beyond measure to local, state, and federal law enforcement for their tireless efforts to find Liza and to bring justice to the person responsible for this horrible crime.”

“I am just devastated by this tragedy,” said Michael Davis, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk. “My family and I have known Eliza and Richie for a long time. It’s hard to imagine what they are going through. We are grieving with them, but we all hold on to the promise of Scripture that she is now safe in the arms of her Savior, Jesus. Please continue to pray for Richie, their two children, and their families.”

In a statement, Second Presbyterian Church said the church “is grieving deeply over the loss of dear church member, Liza Fletcher. Please pray for her family and the Memphis community. We’re seeking shelter in the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort whose Son is the blessed hope of the resurrection and will at the Great Day heal us and our world.”

Update: EPC church member abducted, suspect arrested

 

Eliza Fletcher

Eliza Fletcher, a member of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn., was abducted while jogging on Friday morning, September 2. In a statement issued by Memphis police, the 34-year-old mother of two was approached by a man in a dark SUV who forced her into the vehicle after a brief struggle. Fletcher was running on the University of Memphis campus, about a block from the church.

“I know the family well from my time serving as Assistant Pastor at Second,” said Michael Davis, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk. “Please pray for Eliza’s safety, and for her husband, Richie, and their two children. May God bring peace to all today and lead law enforcement as they work the situation. Pray also for the entire Second Pres family as they wait for answers.”

More information is available at www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/local/2022/09/02/jogger-kidnapped-near-university-memphis/7971738001/

September 4 update:

On Sunday morning, the Memphis Police Department released the affidavit in support of arresting Cleotha Abston, 38, in Fletcher’s disappearance.

According to the affidavit:

  • Fletcher was last seen at approximately 4:20 a.m. on Friday, September 2, jogging near the University of Memphis campus about one block from Second Presbyterian Church.
  • A dark-colored GMC Terrain SUV was seen 24 minutes before the abduction surveillance footage.
  • A surveillance camera captured a man “violently and quickly” approach Fletcher, then forced her into the passenger side of a dark-colored GMC Terrain with damage to the right rear tail light.
  • “A male exited the black GMC Terrain, ran aggressively toward the victim, and then forced the victim Eliza Fletcher into the passenger’s side of the vehicle,” the affidavit read. “During this abduction, there appeared to be a struggle.”
  • Investigators found a pair of slide sandals at the scene. Police said DNA from the footwear matched Abston, based on a sample taken from a previous conviction. Other surveillance video showed Abston wearing similar sandals days earlier.
  • Abston’s cellphone placed him near the abduction site around the time Fletcher disappeared.
  • U.S. Marshals found the GMC Terrain on Saturday at an apartment complex in southeast Memphis.
  • Police ended an interview with Abston still not knowing where Fletcher is.
  • Fletcher is believed to have been seriously injured during her abduction.
  • Abston spent just more than 22 years in state prison after being convicted of kidnapping an attorney. He was released from prison in November 2020.

Additional information is available at www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/local/2022/09/04/1-charged-eliza-fletchers-disappearance-no-sign-teacher/7992733001/

As of September 4, Fletcher is still missing.

This story will be updated as information emerges.

Michael Davis named EPC Assistant Stated Clerk

 

Michael Davis, the EPC’s Chief Collaborative Officer since August 2021, has been named Assistant Stated Clerk. In his new position he will provide strategic leadership to the denomination’s strategic priorities of church planting and effective biblical leadership.

“The support from the NLT is affirming as I move forward in this new role,” Davis said. “I am excited to facilitate collaborative strategies that will mobilize our strategic priorities. My hope is to better serve and resource our leaders as they carry out God’s mission.”

Prior to joining the staff of the Office of the General Assembly, Davis served as served as Associate Teaching Pastor for Downtown Church in Memphis, Tenn., and Adjunct Professor for Memphis City Seminary. He has served on the EPC’s Church Planting Team, Ministerial Vocation Committee, Next Generation Ministries Council, and the Revelation 7:9 Task Force. He also has served on the Ministerial Committee for the Presbytery of the Central South.

Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk, said the Assistant Stated Clerk role has been revised since the March 2022 departure of Jerry Iamurri.

“When the Lord called Jerry to be the CEO at inFaith earlier this year, we took the opportunity to evaluate how the Assistant Stated Clerk position can best serve the EPC,” Weaver said. “With the passion and giftings that Michael brings to the table, we felt he was the best person to lead our strategic priorities. At the same time, we wanted to offload some of the polity and governance responsibilities that so often consumed Jerry’s time.”

To address those areas, Bob Garment has been named the denomination’s Chief Parliamentarian. Garment served as Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean for more than 31 years, retiring from the role in October 2021.

“Bob has faithfully served the EPC for many, many years—including as a Teaching Elder, presbytery leader, and in an interim polity capacity since the spring,” Weaver said. “He knows our Book of Order backward and forward, and I am grateful that he will continue serve our churches and pastors in this capacity. We will all benefit from his knowledge and expertise.”

“In All Things” podcast episode 39 features Next Generation Ministries Council, Revelation 7:9 Task Force member Enid Flores

 

Enid Flores, Ruling Elder for Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, is the guest for episode 39 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Flores discuss her involvement in the EPC’s Next Generation Ministries Council and Revelation 7:9 Task Force, as well as her recent service as Moderator of the Presbytery of Florida and Caribbean. Flores also describes her vision for developing pathways of service for younger leaders in the denomination, as well as her desire that every EPC church member would be engaged in the work of the larger Church.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 38 features EPC Chief Financial Officer Pat Coelho

 

Patrick Coelho, Chief Financial Officer at the EPC Office at the General Assembly, is the guest for episode 38 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Coelho discuss his upbringing as a first-generation American and his role as CFO of the denomination. Coelho also explains how he serves as a resource for EPC churches, including how the EPC set up online giving for churches at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and his leadership of the annual gathering for EPC Executive Pastors and church administrators. In addition, he describes the EPC’s fiscal year, annual financial audit, and the recently approved change in funding formula from Per Member Asking (PMA) to Percentage of Income (POI).

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

First Presbyterian Church, Orlando, to host World Reformed Fellowship General Assembly

 

First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, Fla., is hosting the sixth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship (WRF) October 27-30, 2022. Held once every four years, the theme of this year’s meeting is “The Nature and Mission of the Church.”

“This inspirational gathering of Reformed believers from all over the world will include daily worship, a Friday evening outreach concert, workshops on a multitude of important topics, and plenty of time for relationship-building and fellowship,” said David Swanson, FPCO Senior Pastor. “Come to Orlando and join us for what promises to be a very significant time together. With so much upheaval and pain in our world, we need to be together prayerfully for the gospel.”

The Moderator of the Assembly is Rob Norris, Teaching Pastor for the EPC’s Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md.

On Friday, October 28, EPC Stated Clerk Dean Weaver will participate in an 11:00 a.m. panel discussion, “The Church Under Pressure from the State.” Case Thorp, Moderator of the EPC’s 39th General Assembly, will lead a 4:00 p.m. seminar on Friday, “Made to Flourish: Faith and Work.”

Swanson will preach the concluding worship service on Sunday, October 30.

Among the variety of other speakers are Michael Aitcheson, Senior Pastor of Christ United Fellowship (PCA) in Orlando; Michael Allen, Professor of Systematic Theology and Academic Dean at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando; Gerald Bray, Research Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala.; Davi Gomes, WRF International Director and former head of the Andrew Jumper Presbyterian Graduate School of Theology of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil; and Andrew McGowan, Director of the Rutherford Centre for Reformed Theology in Dingwall, Scotland.

Leaders from several EPC World Outreach partner ministries also will appear, including Richard Pratt, President of Third Millennium Ministries, and Steve Curtis, International Director of the Timothy Two Project International.

For more information and to register, see www.wrf.global/assembly.

“In All Things” podcast episode 35 features EPC church member, former imam Mark Christian

 

Mark Christian, member of the EPC’s Covenant Presbyterian Church in Omaha, Neb., and author of The Apostate: My Search for Truth, is the guest for episode 35 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Christian discuss his upbringing in Egypt in a family of the Muslim Brotherhood, becoming an imam at age 12, and how a journey of questioning the claims of Mohamed for a deeper understanding of Islam resulted in a failed attempt on his life and ultimately to faith in Christ.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings. Christian’s book is available on request from the EPC Office of the General Assembly by emailing info@epc.org. Supplies are limited.

Diversity fuels mission of newly localized Tennessee church plant

 

The congregation of The Avenue Community Church in Memphis, following the service of localization held on March 20, 2022, at Highland Heights Baptist Church in Memphis.

Embracing diversity has fueled the mission and growth of The Avenue Community Church (TACC) in Memphis—leading to achieving local church status in the Presbytery of the Central South in March. Local church status means a congregation is self-governing with its own elected and installed officers, including Ruling Elders and Deacons.

“We know from Scripture that God’s true church is diverse, from every nation, tribe, tongue,” said Lead Pastor Tim Johnson. “So as the local church, we strive to be diverse as well.”

Tim Johnson

Johnson noted that TACC’s goal is to be not only multi-ethnic, but also multi-class and multi-generational.

“We have to seek to reach people from all types of backgrounds,” he said. “Our heart is to do what every other faithful church has been doing since its inception, and that is to be working for the God of the Bible reverently, passionately, and faithfully. There’s a blueprint to the church that the Lord left us and that’s what we want to fulfill. We want to witness, we want to worship, we want to edify the body until He comes back.”

TACC has been focused on the community in and around—and is named for—Summer Avenue since its launch in September 2018. Running east-west on the north side of central Memphis, Summer Avenue is one of the most diverse areas of the city. In fulfillment of Johnson’s vision for ministry in the community, TACC acquired and is renovating the old Highland Heights United Methodist Church property on Summer and hopes to hold its worship services in the historic Gothic structure within the next year or so. TACC has met at a local school for the past three and a half years.

“The new location places us right in between two communities we would love to wed and be a bridge and bring together,” Johnson said. “One has the highest dollar amount per square foot, and the other is a very multiracial, lower-middle-class. We strategically have always prayed to be on the Avenue. Now that we are officially on Summer Avenue, we can truly be The Avenue sitting right in the middle of all the intersection of all the people who are doing business on our streets.”

The Summer Avenue corridor in central Memphis is the focus of The Avenue Community Church’s ministry.

Johnson and TACC are accomplishing the work that Second Presbyterian Church of Memphis envisioned in the pre-pandemic days of 2017, according to Dan Burns, Second’s World Missions Pastor.

“We were dreaming and praying about how to help plant a diverse, multi-ethnic church in one of our ‘edge’ neighborhoods,” Burns explained. “There are many dividing lines in Memphis where economic and racial patterns tend to divide the community. We were praying about launching a church ‘on the line’ that could serve the community on both sides and draw them into a common fellowship.”

Burns said Johnson has both the vision and passion to pursue this vision.

“He sensed the Lord lead him and his core team to Summer Avenue, immediately got engaged in the community through youth work and community connections, and launched The Avenue a year later,” Burns said. “The Lord soon gave them energy, direction, and resources to launch—and they weathered the pandemic and racial tension of 2020 with gospel grace.”

And the gospel ministry of TACC will now reach literally around the world.

“I was overjoyed to see the first couple from The Avenue commissioned at the 2022 EPC General Assembly to serve as World Outreach global workers in the Middle East,” Burns said.

Johnson said the journey to local church status wasn’t as encumbering as he anticipated.

“The administrative commission from Second Presbyterian and the delegates from the Presbytery just really made it seem more relational, and that we are brothers and sisters and that we’re excited about this process,” he said. “It did not feel like an interrogation—like with the hope that you would fail—but was a discovery and birthing of a new relationship and friendship. That was quite refreshing.”

Tim Foster, Senior Pastor of Highland Heights Presbyterian Church in Memphis, prays over Tim Johnson during the service of localization held March 20, 2022.

Seeing God’s hand in the formation of TACC and its success led to a “marvelous day of God’s grace” when TACC was constituted as a local congregation, said Ken Van Kampen, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Central South.

“It was, in one sense, the climax and closing of one chapter and the opening of another chapter in the life of the church,” he said, explaining that the timing of TACC’s localization was evidence of God’s blessing.

“The Lord graciously upheld the congregation during COVID,” Van Kampen said. “It was during this time that the leadership of The Avenue—who were ordained and installed as the initial class of Elders and Deacons on March 20—was raised up and trained. In the midst of this it was clear that the Lord prepared the congregation for localization. It was all the power and grace of the Lord.”

Johnson said he has been humbled to see God work through TACC from the very beginning.

“We believe the nations are literally in our backyard: Black, white, Hispanic, rich, poor. We believe that God has placed us uniquely and strategically in the middle of all those people,” he said. “And we think He has placed us in the middle of all those people to preach the gospel, to preach it faithfully, and to preach it indiscriminately to whomever we encounter.”

by Tim Yarbrough
EPConnection correspondent