Category Archives: People

Longtime EPC pastor Bob Hopper dies at 65


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for a full obituary notice.

Divided We Fall: new Luder Whitlock book addresses Christian disunity


LuderWhitlock

Luder Whitlock

What can we do to foster unity and deeper community in a world where so many relationships are fractured and fractious? Luder Whitlock, minister at-large for First Presbyterian Church of Orlando and a member of the EPC National Leadership Team, addresses this question in Divided We Fall: Overcoming a History of Christian Disunity. The book was released in May by P&R Publishing and available from a variety of booksellers.

In the book, Whitlock explores God’s desire for unity in the church, overviews the history of global Christianity with an eye on its schisms and agreements, and points readers toward the necessity of God-honoring fellowship. In the closing chapters, he tackles some challenges and concerns, as well as provides practical steps for increasing trust and developing understanding—particularly within the church.

DividedWeFallAmong the many Christian leaders writing endorsements of the book are Jeff Jeremiah, Leith Anderson, Tim Keller, Mark Noll, and Carmen Fowler LaBerge.

“(Whitlock) makes a simple argument,” said Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, “that it’s time for evangelicals Christians to focus more closely on what they hold in common, especially in the face of increasing cultural opposition to the gospel.”

Divided We Fall explains how we got to where we are—with an amazing mix of tears, anger, and hope,” said Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals.

“At a time when Christian leaders are almost obsessed about the culture,” said Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, “this book rightly argues that we will shape the broader society only to the degree that we make the Christian church what it should be.”

“Biblically rooted, historically informed, and pastorally helpful, this book gracefully fulfills its purpose of strengthening unity and community in Christ’s church,” said Noll, Research Professor of History for Regent University in Vancouver, British Columbia, and plenary speaker for the third annual Leadership Institute at the 37th General Assembly in June.

LaBerge, President of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, said the book is “a must-read for all those interested in the church’s bearing a unified witness to the world.”

Others endorsing the book include David Swanson, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, and Don Sweeting, President of Colorado Christian University.

Whitlock served as president of Reformed Theological Seminary from 1978-2001, and currently is executive director of the CNL Charitable Foundation and the JMS Foundation. He also served as Executive Director of The New Geneva Study Bible and a major revision, published as The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible. He and his wife, Mary Lou, have three children and eleven grandchildren.

Turkey levels charges against Andrew Brunson


Andrew Brunson

Andrew Brunson

Turkish media is reporting May 19 that EPC teaching elder Andrew Brunson is being accused of being a “Kurdish sympathizer” and a “Gülenist.” The timing of the media reports potentially reveals Turkey’s response to President Trump and Vice President Pence’s pleas to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on May 16 to release Brunson from prison and allow him to return to the United States. Brunson has been held since October 2016.

“I cannot stress enough how significant these accusations are,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “In fact, the Turkish government views them as nothing less than treason.”

Hurriyet, the leading English-language news outlet in Turkey, reported that prosecutors are citing Brunson for “delivering sermons to the Kurds with a ‘special purpose’”—wording that implies support for an ethnic group that Turkey is waging a military campaign against. The Kurds are a minority group in Turkey (primarily located in the eastern and southeastern parts of the country, as well in Iran, Iraq, and Syria) and for many years have unsuccessfully pressed for more autonomy.

Yeni Şafak, a pro-Erdoğan news outlet, published an article yesterday under the headline “FETO Chaplain” that condemned Brunson for supporting Islamic cleric Fethulah Gülen, who has lived in the United States since 1999. Gülen leads a loose organization involved largely in education but also in other areas. Gülen and Erdoğan are former allies, but in 2015 the Turkish government labeled his movement the Fethullahist Terror Organization—or FETO—and classified it as terrorist. Erdoğan blames Gülen and FETO for leading a coup attempt against him last summer that ultimately failed. Gülen has repeatedly denied the charge.

“It is time to redouble our prayer efforts,” Jeremiah said in a statement to the EPC. “Please take time in your worship services this weekend to plead to the Lord on Andrew’s behalf.”

Trump, Pence press Andrew Brunson’s release to Turkish President Erdoğan in White House meetings


FreePastorAndrew

In meetings held on May 16, U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence appealed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for Andrew Brunson’s release. Brunson, an EPC teaching elder, has been imprisoned in Izmir, Turkey, since October 2016.

The EPC received reports from two different sources that both Trump and Pence advocated for Andrew’s freedom.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said that one of these individuals “told us that Mr. Pence asked him to reach out to the EPC directly. I know I speak for the Brunson family in expressing our most sincere appreciation to the President and Vice President for their efforts today.”

Jeremiah noted four items that occurred in the meetings:

  1. Pence met with the Turkish leader first, and pleaded that Andrew’s case be expedited and resolved as quickly as possible.
  2. At the lunch that followed, Trump raised Andrew’s case at both the beginning and end of lunch. His plea was very similar in language with the Vice President’s.
  3. After the lunch, Pence raised it a final time.
  4. Pence was personally engaged in this with Erdoğan, and Trump spoke knowledgeably about Andrew’s situation.

“We are all very grateful for the prayers of so many people in the days leading up to today’s events,” Jeremiah added. “Please keep praying in the aftermath of this meeting.”

Brunson’s situation has garnered attention from news organizations across the theological and political spectrum, including ABC News, CBS News, The Christian Post, Fox News, International Christian Concern, Jewish News Service, National Catholic Register, National Review, Presbyterian Lay Committee, Slate, Time Magazine, USA Today, World Watch Monitor, and others. Links to many of these reports are available on the EPC’s Andrew Brunson resource page at www.epc.org/forgottenamericaninturkey.

Dick Stenbakken’s renowned first-person narratives open to all during GA Chaplains Workshop


DickStenbakken

Col. Dick Stenbakken, U.S. Army (Retired)

Imagine that you have been assigned as the U.S. Army chaplain to the leaders of the German High Command on trial for war crimes following World War II. How would you minister to men who had intentionally, willfully, and systematically murdered millions of people?

Now imagine that you are on board the troop ship S.S. Dorchester, torpedoed in the North Atlantic by a German U-boat in 1943 and immortalized by the selfless actions of four Army chaplains who gave their life jackets so others might survive. As recipient of one of those life vests, how do you respond?

Retired Army Col. Dick Stenbakken will portray these two individuals in first-person narratives from 9:15-10:30 a.m. and 1:15-2:30 p.m. as part of the annual EPC Chaplain’s Workshop on in conjunction with the 37th General Assembly in Sacramento, Calif. The Workshop will be held on Tuesday, June 20, in the Wells Chapel at Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church. Stenbakken’s presentations are open to all on a space-available basis.

In “The Nuremberg Chaplain,” Stenbakken portrays Henry Gerecke, chaplain to men who the world labeled as monsters, parishioners with whom he walked to the gallows.

In “The Dorchester Story,” Stenbakken recounts the S.S. Dorchester and the chaplain who gave him the chance to live.

Stenbakken served 24 years as an Army Chaplain, including one year of combat duty in Vietnam, and four years as the director of Family Life Ministries for the Army Chief of Chaplains Office. Following his retirement from the Army, he directed Chaplaincy Ministries on a world-wide basis for his denominational headquarters. He has presented to the U.S. Senate, the Pentagon, major health care organizations, leadership conferences, college campus settings, and a variety of military and civilian congregations across North America, Africa, India, Asia, Europe, Japan, and Germany. He holds four Master’s Degrees and a Doctorate in Education. For more information about his first-person narratives, see www.biblefaces.com.

For more information about the 37th General Assembly, see www.epc.org/ga2017. For details about the Chaplain’s Workshop, click here or contact Mark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser, at epcendorser@yahoo.com.

FirstPersonNarratives

EPC leaders highlight spring commencement exercises


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

JeffJeremiah

Jeff Jeremiah

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

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

MikeMoses

Mike Moses

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

SandyWillson

Sandy Willson

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

Knox Sherer, Moderator of 2002 Assembly, dies at 84


KnoxSherer

Knox Sherer, 1933-2017

Knox Hunter Sherer, Moderator of the 22nd General Assembly, died on April 13, 2017, after a brief illness. He was 84. Sherer was a founder and Ruling Elder of The Village Church in Matthews, N.C., and previously served as a Ruling Elder for Forest Hill Church in Charlotte, N.C., when that congregation was a member of the EPC.

Sherer was a member of EPC Committee on Administration (now National Leadership Team), and was active in the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic for many years—including serving as Treasurer. In his years on the COA, he was a member of the National Outreach Director Search Committee and the Stated Clerk Search Committee that brought Mike Glodo to office following the retirement of Ed Davis, who served 20 years as the EPC’s first Stated Clerk.

Sherer graduated from the University of South Carolina and the USC School of Law. He enjoyed a lengthy career in business and community service, and also served as a Captain in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps of the United States Air Force.

He is survived by his wife, Betty Clark Sherer; a daughter, Betsey (Dr. Robert) Moore of Florence, S.C.; a son, Knox Hunter Sherer Jr. of Matthews, N.C.; two grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.

A memorial service will be held on April 18, 2017, at Back Creek Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, N.C.

Click here for a full obituary.