Category Archives: Presbytery News

Gulf South church leaders assess hurricane damage, plan recovery efforts


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Volunteers prepare donations received by the EPC’s City of Refuge Church as the congregation helps meet needs of its neighbors near downtown Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Amidst the devastation in southeast Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey, a number of EPC congregations in the region have been affected. On August 31, the Presbytery of the Gulf South hosted leaders of Houston-area EPC churches via conference call to assess damage from the storm and discuss recovery strategies for their congregations and communities.

Participants included presbytery leaders Kory Duncan, Bob Vincent, and Michael Herrin; EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah; Richard Harris, pastor of Christ EPC in Houston; Ikki Soma, pastor of City of Refuge Church in Houston; Carter Sanger, pastor of Cornerstone EPC in Katy, Texas; Alan Trafford, pastor of Covenant EPC in Lake Jackson, Texas; and Michel Yonts, pastor of Edna EPC in Edna, Texas. Edna is about 90 miles northeast of Rockport and is the closest EPC congregation to where the hurricane made landfall on August 25.

During the conference call, the church leaders reported that all members of their congregations are safe and accounted for, though some families and individuals responded to mandatory evacuation orders and have yet to be reached. However, some church members’ homes have been flooded, and they will need significant help in the days to come. The church properties only sustained minimal damage. The pastors’ homes were not damaged, with the exception of Harris’ which received minor damage.

Christ EPC suffered some electrical problems at their church building, but the facility received no major flood damage. Harris said the church is making plans to help church members and the community.

Soma reported that City of Refuge, located five miles from downtown Houston, has been helping their neighbors, volunteering, and directing donations to flood victims for several days. The only damage to church property was the loss of some ceiling tiles, though he said 20 percent of the congregation suffered damage to their homes.

Cornerstone in Katy had no damage to their church building, but Sanger said that some church members have not yet been able to determine the amount of flood damage to their homes. He also said they plan to offer space to other congregations whose places of worship were damaged.

Covenant EPC in Lake Jackson is downstream from Houston, so Trafford said they are waiting on the waters to rise to see how much of their area will be flooded. They are making preparations to serve as a shelter for local residents if necessary.

Yonts reported that that town of Edna suffered significant wind damage, but the church building did not flood. He said they were under a mandatory evacuation order, so many of the church members are still out of town. He added that the area is only “just now” getting electric power restored.

Herrin, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Gulf South, said that EPC Chaplains Daniel Situka and Aaron Laenger were both flooded out of their homes.

Evangelist Daniel Nguyen—who works among the Vietnamese community in the Houston area—reported that he’s in the same situation as Lake Jackson, waiting to see how high the rivers will rise to know whether his house will flood. He has made contact with his church members and discovered one had their home flood.

Each pastor noted that they are still evaluating the needs in their congregation and community, and will have to identify what will (and will not) be useful in a recovery effort that will last for months.

Jeremiah encouraged people across the country to donate to the EPC’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. In collaboration with the Presbytery of the Gulf South, donations will be sent to EPC churches affected by the storm. Click here to donate online (Choose “Emergency Relief” from the first pulldown menu and “Hurricane Harvey Relief (506)” from the second pulldown menu,) or make check payable to Evangelical Presbyterian Church and designated “Hurricane Harvey Relief,” and send to:

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

As of September 1, more than $30,000 had been received into the fund.

Descending Overtures from the 2017 General Assembly available


DescendingOverturesCommissioners to the 37th General Assembly approved four amendments to the EPC Book of Government. These amendments address the following topics:

  • Specifying terms of service for an out-of-bounds call.
  • Expanding areas of authority that may be given to a presbytery’s Ministerial Committee.
  • Creating and defining the called position of Transitional Pastor.
  • Clarifying that calls to Teaching Elders must be approved by the presbytery.

All constitutional amendments are sent to the presbyteries for approval. If approved by nine of the thirteen EPC presbyteries (75 percent), the amendments come to the 38th General Assembly for ratification. The 2018 Assembly will be held at Hope Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn.

Sessions should download and distribute the Descending Overtures for discussion in their fall meetings, in preparation for voting in each presbytery’s winter meeting.

Click here to download the Descending Overtures and other documents from the 2017 General Assembly.

 

Pacific Northwest and Pacific Southwest presbyteries formed, Presbytery of Florida renamed


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The new Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest is shown in brown; the Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest is shown in green.

Commissioners to the EPC 37th General Assembly approved dividing the Presbytery of the Pacific into a new Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest and Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest, effective January 1, 2018.

Annie Rose, Ruling Elder from Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Warrenville, Ill., noted that this action would result in the Presbytery of the Pacific multiplying into two, to which Moderator Dean Weaver quipped, “As multiplication is one of our strategic initiatives, this certainly seems in order.”

The Presbytery of the Pacific is the EPC’s largest presbytery by area, and includes all of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, as well as the western portion of Idaho. Not including Hawaii, the presbytery stretches more than 2,600 miles from north to south and spans three time zones from east to west.

The new Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest will include Alaska, Oregon, Washington, the portions of Idaho and Montana west of the 114th meridian, and the portion of California north of a line 10 miles south of state highway 299.

The new Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest includes the entire states of Hawaii and Nevada; the portion of Arizona west of the 114th meridian; and the portion of California south of a line 10 miles south of state highway 299.

Using the most recent reporting numbers for the Presbytery of the Pacific, the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest will have 39 churches and approximately 7,000 members, while the Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest will include 30 churches and approximately 10,800 members.

Ron Bengelink, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Pacific, wrote when submitting the recommendation to the Assembly that both proposed presbyteries contain experienced and capable leadership since the Pacific’s Candidates Care, Ministerial, World Outreach, and Church Planting committees have been functioning with separate Northwest and Southwest teams for the past three years.

In a related presbytery boundary action, the border between the current presbyteries of the Pacific and West was amended to fall on the 114th meridian, effective July 1, 2017. The adjustment provides two benefits:

  • Accommodates a request from Kingman (Ariz.) Evangelical Presbyterian Church for travel convenience of church officers when attending presbytery meetings, and to recognize that most of its members are retired from California and have a strong affinity for that state .
  • Provides a rational and easily defined border between the two presbyteries.

The Assembly also approved an Overture from the Presbytery of Florida to change its name to the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. The basis for the change was that previous Assemblies have approved expanding the boundaries of the presbytery to include the Bahamas and Puerto Rico, and there are indicators that additional Caribbean churches may wish to join the EPC.

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The boundary of the presbyteries of the Pacific (brown) and West (blue) becomes the 114th meridian on July 1, 2017. The current boundary is at left, the new boundary is at right.

#epc2017ga

Three INPM presbyteries seek church planting partners


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The EPC and National Presbyterian Church of Mexico (INPM) ratified a fraternal relationship on September 8 that focuses on church planting in both countries. In October, the EPC was notified that three INPM presbyteries are ready to initiate a relationship with EPC presbyteries:

  • The Presbytery of de la Chontalpa, located in the state of Tabasco in southeast Mexico. This presbytery was organized in March 2016.
  • The Presbytery of de la Riviera Maya in the state of Quintana Roo. It is centered in Cancun, in southeast Mexico.
  • The Presbytery of the State of Morelos, located in south-central Mexico.

Adolfo Arias Job, INPM Executive Secretary, said the three presbyteries present unique church planting opportunities.

“The presbyteries of Chontalpa and Morelos are located in rural zones that are very needy,” he said, “and the Riviera Maya presbytery is in a tourist zone. For these reasons, we have given them all the freedom to evaluate and choose with which presbytery they would like to work in the EPC.”

EPC presbyteries and churches interested in pursuing a relationship with one of these INPM presbyteries should contact EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah at jeff.jeremiah@epc.org.

Presbytery of the Alleghenies partners with Trinity School of Ministry


TrinitySchoolForMinistryIn partnership with the Presbytery of the Alleghenies, Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pa., has developed a Presbyterian Track for its Master of Divinity curriculum.

EPC Pastor Rich Herbster, Trinity’s Director of Presbyterian Studies, said the school has been training Presbyterians for ministry for many years. “Now we are able to improve on an already excellent experience,” he noted. “Those preparing for ministry who are theologically Reformed and evangelical will benefit tremendously from this new partnership.” Herbster also serves as Pastor of Mt. Pleasant Presbyterian Church in Aliquippa, Pa.

Justyn Terry, Trinity’s Dean and President, expressed excitement about the partnership. “We have many friends and alumni in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and look forward to the opportunity to train future pastors for this and other Presbyterian denominations.”

Founded in 1976, the Pittsburgh-area Trinity School for Ministry is an evangelical seminary in the Anglican tradition.

The Presbytery of the Alleghenies covers parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and New York. Since its inception in 2011, the presbytery has nearly tripled in size and now has more than 60 congregations and approximately 16,000 members.

Renewal of fraternal agreement with Argentina presbytery on GA docket


Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, and Guille MacKenzie, Stated Clerk of the St. Andrews (Argentina) Presbytery

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, and Guille MacKenzie, Stated Clerk of the St. Andrews (Argentina) Presbytery.

Dean Weaver, EPC Committee on Administration member,  with St. Andrews Moderator Jorge Lopes (left) and past Moderator Catherine Ogden

Dean Weaver, EPC Committee on Administration member, with St. Andrews Moderator Jorge Lopes (left) and past Moderator Catherine Ogden.

Jeremiah with young adults and Pastor Reinaldo Capparelli of Escalada, one of St. Andrews Presbytery's newest churches.

Jeremiah with young adults and Pastor Reinaldo Capparelli of Escalada, one of St. Andrews Presbytery’s newest churches.

The EPC and St. Andrews Presbytery in Argentina have finalized a new five-year fraternal agreement, which now goes to the Fraternal Relations Committee for review and the 2015 General Assembly for approval. Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah and Committee on Administration member Dean Weaver visited leaders of St. Andrews in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 20-22 in a series of informal gatherings and at their presbytery meeting.

The presbytery met March 21 at Escalada, one of St. Andrews’ newest churches. It was planted in 2012 and was established as a local church—one of ten in the presbytery—in late 2013. In addition, St. Andrews currently has seven church plants.

Both Jeremiah and Weaver addressed the presbytery. The EPC vision statement, presented by Weaver and originally announced at the EPC General Assembly in 2014, received an enthusiastic response. St. Andrews leaders were particularly interested in the EPC’s commitment to multiplication (church planting) and effective biblical leadership. The presbytery has an aggressive church planting strategy and is interested in developing a church planting network. Due to the financial difficulties of local seminaries, challenges of pre-ordination and continuing education are growing more acute.

The Church of Scotland (CoS) established St. Andrews as a presbytery in 1831, and the CoS General Assembly appointed St. Andrews’ ministers until the 1980s when CoS oversight ended. The EPC received St. Andrews as a presbytery in 1987, a status that remained until 2004 when St. Andrews was dismissed as a national church. Since 2004, a series of five-year fraternal agreements have defined the relationship between the two bodies.

Guille MacKenzie, St. Andrews Stated Clerk, has been invited to the EPC 35th General Assembly in June to visit and bring fraternal greetings.

Following the Argentina stop, Jeremiah and Weaver attended the fourth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship (WRF) in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 23-26. The EPC is a member of the WRF, as well as the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).

Presbytery of the West Retreat


Thirty-six members and guests of the Presbytery of the West met for its annual retreat on October 1-3 at Lost Valley Ranch, Colorado.  Brian Post, pastor of Christ Fellowship Church in Ft. Collins, CO led the gathering.

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The theme of this year’s small group discussions was “The Call.”  West’s leaders broke up into groups of 4-6 to discuss and pray for one another after they had heard an aspect of God’s call presented by Eugene Scott, Brad Strait and Brian Post.

Presbytery-of-the-West-Retreat-2In addition to the “just take it easy” option, free time activities on Wednesday afternoon included fishing, skeet shooting and horseback riding.   As usual, the meals were outstanding.  The retreat concluded on Thursday morning with a time of worship and communion.  Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah led in the celebration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

Long time retreat participant Tom Melton said, “This retreat helps us to build trust through relationships with other leaders in our presbytery.”  He added, “We’re able to operate as a body of Christ when we trust each other.”  Jeff Jeremiah said, “The connection that leaders in the West enjoy is without parallel in the EPC.  This yearly retreat has a way of bonding colleagues into friends and friends into brothers and sisters as together we serve our Savior and Lord.”

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