Category Archives: Resources

Church Revitalization Workshop to feature monthly helps

 

Beginning Wednesday, October 28, a panel of EPC pastors who have led church revitalization efforts will host a monthly virtual Church Revitalization Workshop. The content for the series was originally developed for the 2020 Leadership Institute, which was cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Church revitalization is a real need in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church,” said Jerry Iamurri, Assistant Stated Clerk. “According to our annual church report, over 80 percent of our churches are struggling to grow. And many of those have not experienced an adult profession of faith in the last 12 months.”

Facilitators of the workshop include John Mabray, Associate Pastor for Covenant Presbyterian Church in Monroe, La.; Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas; Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo.; and Mike Wright, Pastor of Littleton Christian Church in Littleton, Colo.

Iamurri noted that the facilitators represent “a wide spectrum of church size, geographical context, and life experience. All are currently engaged in the work of church revitalization and have experienced some measure of success.”

Under the leadership of Mabray—who until September 2020 was Senior Pastor of Covenant—and MacPhail, each of those congregations received the EPC’s Bart Hess Award for church vitality. Resler’s pastoral ministry has been characterized by helping struggling churches of all sizes revitalize by applying a systems theory approach. Wright has led his congregation as a replant following a church split.

Resler said each month’s workshop will focus on one or more of three general categories: the revitalized pastor, the revitalized session/leadership, and the revitalized congregation. He added that depending on the number of participants, the meeting may include breakout rooms in which participants can receive coaching applicable for their personal ministry context.

The workshops will be held from 4:00-6:00 p.m. (Eastern) on October 28, November 25, January 27, February 24, March 24, April 28, and May 26. There is no cost to register, and the workshops are open to both Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders. For more information, see www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop.

‘Ministry Practices in Racial Justice and Mercy’ online forum recording available

 

RacialMattersWebinarSession2PanelistsOn August 12, a panel of EPC Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders presented part two of a three-part online forum on a proper biblical response to race and justice, “Specific Ministry Practices in Racial Justice and Mercy: Sessions, Staff, Congregation.” The recording of the presentation is available below.

The webinar was hosted by Case Thorp, Moderator of the EPC 39th General Assembly and Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. Panelists were:

The recording also is posted on the EPC website at www.epc.org/issuesofraceandjustice and on the EPC YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80.

August 12 webinar to explore racial justice/mercy ministry practices for staff, session, congregation

 

RacialMattersWebinarSession2PanelistsThe second in series of three video conference presentations on racial justice and mercy ministries is scheduled for Wednesday, August 12, at 4:00 p.m. (Eastern). The discussion will address the topic, “Specific Ministry Practices in Racial Justice and Mercy: Sessions, Staff, Congregation.”

The 90-minute forum is a follow-up to the EPC’s June 10 webinar, “Leading EPC Sessions and Congregations in Issues of Race and Justice: An Online Seminar on These Times and a Biblical Response.”

The webinar will be hosted by Case Thorp, Moderator of the EPC 39th General Assembly and Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

“I hope this series of presentations both encourages and helps equip our EPC Teaching Elders and Sessions to consider speaking for justice and equality, and against racism, injustice, and inequality,” Thorp said. “I also hope we all will work to arrest the origins of civil unrest—namely poverty, racial separation, immorality, and a lack of radical love.”

Panelists include:

Following 45 minutes of discussion led by the panelists, participants will spend 30 minutes in Breakout Room dialogue specific to church staff, session, or congregational contexts.

Breakout Room hosts include the three panelists and Thorp, plus EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah; Rufus Smith, Senior Pastor of Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.; and Dean Weaver, Lead Pastor of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in Allison Park, Pa.

The final installment of the series, “Evangelism via Justice and Mercy Ministries: Moving from Charity to Connection,” is scheduled for September 9.

For more information and to register, go to www.epc.org/issuesofraceandjustice.

EPC Benefit Resources, Inc., and Fidelity present online financial planning workshop for EPC church employees

 

2020FidelityManageUnexpectedEventsWebinarFlierEPC Benefit Resources, Inc., (BRI) has partnered with Fidelity Investments to provide free quarterly interactive financial planning webinars. The next web workshop, titled “Manage Unexpected Events and Expenses” is Tuesday, June 30, at 10:00 a.m. (Eastern). The webinar will cover topics including:

  • How to assess your spending and take control of your budget.
  • Considerations for taking money from your workplace retirement plan.
  • Ways Fidelity can support you.

“With so much change around us this year and its impact on our economic climate, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and wonder if you should take any action with your retirement savings,” said Bart Francescone, BRI Executive Director. “This webinar is designed to provide answers to important financial questions when the unexpected occurs.”

Francescone added that the webinar will offer opportunity for interactive Q-and-A on retirement planning topics. Although designed for participants in the EPC’s 403(b)(9) Retirement Plan, anyone interested is welcome to register.

To more information and to register, see www.epc.org/2020fidelitymanageunexpectedeventswebinar.

To learn more about the EPC’s 403(b)(9) Retirement Plan, see www.epc.org/benefits/retirement.

More than $73,000 donated to EPC churches through online giving provided by Office of the General Assembly

 

As churches began to suspend in-person worship services this spring as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, 32 EPC churches inaugurated an online giving option provided by the Office of the General Assembly. As of June 24, parishioners have made 381 donations through the EPC’s platform totaling $73,080.59.

OnlineGiving-JeffersonEllis

Jefferson Ellis

Jefferson Ellis, Pastor of Hanover Presbyterian Church in Clinton, Pa., said the church has received online contributions “almost every week since we put it on our website. We even have some folks giving from other parts of the country who had roots or family in our church. It has been a positive thing for our small congregation.”

Oak Island Presbyterian Church in Oak Island, N.C., reopened for in-person worship services on June 14. David Paxton, Ruling Elder and Finance Committee Chairman, said providing online giving in the months that they were not able to meet was very helpful.

“Many of our congregants are retired,” Paxton said. “During this difficult period, we have been blessed by contributions exceeding our expenses. Thank you for providing this service to us.”

OnlineGiving-GradyDavidson

Grady Davidson

Lookout Valley Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., has been holding drive-in services for several weeks, and the opportunity for people to give online has been “a great success.”

“Each Sunday there are a few people who make an offering which probably would not have been given without it,” said Pastor Grady Davidson. “Thank you so much.”

For many of these churches, the EPC’s platform—provided at no cost to churches—was their first time they offered online giving to their congregation.

“We have considered this in the past, but we were not motivated—primarily due to the size of our congregation,” said Bryan Little, Treasurer and Elder for Evangelical Presbyterian Stone Church in Caledonia, N.Y. “Online giving has allowed us to accept donations that would probably not be received otherwise. Members are pleased to have this option and have said the process is very easy.”

OnlineGiving-BrynMacPhail

Bryn MacPhail

Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas, noted that “the mechanisms for online giving are not as user-friendly” in the Bahamas.

“This extended period of not gathering in person has challenged us in a number of ways,” he said. “Even more challenging is trying to receive contributions in a foreign currency. Once again, the EPC has come through for us with a helpful remedy. We are so grateful for this practical help and the ongoing support we receive from our denominational office.”

Some of the 32 churches had offered online giving previously, but with mixed results.

OnlineGiving-Guinston“Guinston had previously offered online giving through a company specializing in this type of service,” said Arlina Yates, Treasurer for Guinston Presbyterian Church in Airville, Pa. “Setting it up was laborious and communication after setup was difficult, so we decided to discontinue our contract. Because of that experience, I was hesitant to take up the offer of the EPC online giving tool, but I have found working with the EPC to be a delightful experience. The setup was so easy that I thought I must have missed some steps. Since day one, communication has been prompt, helpful, and kind. You’ve made a difference. Give yourselves a pat on the back, you deserve it and much more!”

Pat Coelho, EPC Chief Financial Officer, said the program will continue as long as it is needed.

“I know a big obstacle for many churches is trying to figure out how to choose an online giving solution and deploy it well,” Coelho said. “It feels good to be able to help like this.”

He noted that all donations are forwarded directly to the church each week.

“The Office of the General Assembly has not kept any of these funds,” Coelho added.

Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah noted that many churches faced unprecedented financial pressures as shelter-in-place orders became commonplace.

“When the shutdown started in March, none of us knew how long we would be unable to hold public worship services,” he said. “I recall many thinking we would be back by Easter, but of course that did not happen. I am thankful that we have been able to provide this financial lifeline for our churches, many of which are among our smallest congregations.”

Churches that requested the service received a page on the EPC website that included the form to make a secure donation, said Brian Smith, EPC Director of Communications.

“They can add a ‘Donate’ button to their website that links to this page,” he said. “For churches that do not have a website, they can share the address of the page on the EPC site with their congregants in all the usual ways they keep their attendees informed.”

EPC churches interested in more information about using the denomination’s online giving platform are encouraged to contact Smith at brian.smith@epc.org.

Small Church Workshop recordings available

 

SmallChurchWorkshopRecordingsIn May and June, the EPC Smaller Church Network presented a four-part series of webinars, “The Ordinary Church in Extraordinary Times.” Each week’s presentation focused on a key challenge that leaders of smaller churches faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how these could become an opportunity for greater ministry impact.

Recordings are available at www.epc.org/smallchurchworkshop. Also included are handouts, notes, and other materials.

Speakers were Zach Eswine, Lead Pastor of Riverside Church in Webster Groves, Mo.; Josh Modrzynski, Pastor of Riceville Community Church in Asheville, N.C.; Doug Walker, Pastor of River City Church in DeBary, Fla.; and Roy Yanke, Executive Director of PIR Ministries and a Ruling Elder for Grace Chapel EPC in Farmington Hills, Mich.

Yanke noted that the inspiration for the workshop was the forced cancellation of the EPC’s 2020 Leadership Institute.

“We thought it could be useful to explore and share what many of us in small—what I call ‘ordinary’—churches are learning about ourselves and our churches during this unprecedented time,” Yanke said.

Topics include:

  • A Pastoral Approach to Reconnecting
  • The Life of the Church—Inside and Out!
  • Facing the Financial impact
  • The Tech Challenge—Its Use, Purpose, and Value for the Future

The recordings also are posted on the EPC YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80.

‘Leading EPC Sessions and Congregations in Issues of Race and Justice’ webinar recording available

 

On June 10, a diverse panel of EPC Teaching Elders and other leaders presented a 60-minute webinar, “Leading EPC Sessions and Congregations in Issues of Race and Justice: An Online Seminar on These Times and a Biblical Response.” The recording of the presentation is available below.

The webinar was hosted by Case Thorp, Moderator of the 39th General Assembly and Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. Panelists were:

The recording also is posted on the EPC website at www.epc.org/issuesofraceandjustice and on the EPC YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80.

Lamentos y oraciones sugeridas para el 8 de junio Día de Lamento, Ayuno y Oración disponible en español

 

June10LamentosOracionesUna lista propuesta de Lamentos y Oraciones para el Día del Lamento, el Ayuno y la Oración del EPC el 8 de junio está disponible en español en www.epc.org/june8lamentprayerfasting. La traducción es gentilmente proporcionada por nuestras congregaciones EPC en Puerto Rico.

 

Suggested Laments and Prayers for June 8 Day of Lament, Fasting, and Prayer available in Spanish

A proposed list of Laments and Prayers for the EPC’s Day of Lament, Fasting, and Prayer on June 8 is available in Spanish at www.epc.org/june8lamentprayerfasting. The translation is graciously provided by our EPC congregations in Puerto Rico.

June 10 webinar to explore biblical, congregational response to racial injustice

 

June10WebinarPanelistsOn Wednesday, June 10, at 4:00 p.m. EDT, a racially diverse panel of EPC Teaching Elders and other leaders will present a 60-minute webinar, “Leading EPC Sessions and Congregations in Issues of Race and Justice: An Online Seminar on These Times and a Biblical Response.”

The webinar will be hosted by Case Thorp, Moderator of the EPC 39th General Assembly and Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

“Several EPC Teaching Elders of color and the Co-Chairmen of the EPC’s Revelation 7:9 Task Force will discuss racial injustices, congregational leadership, and a Reformed and biblical response,” Thorp said. “Our panelists will discuss these timely topics, and there will opportunity for question-and-answer.”

Panelists include:

For more information and to register, go to www.epc.org/june10webinar.

Resources available on EPC website for June 8 Day of Lament, Fasting, and Prayer

 

June8DayOfLamentFastingPrayerA message from Tom Werner, Moderator of the 38th General Assembly, calling for June 8, 2020, as a Day of Lament, Fasting, and Prayer:

Recent events surrounding the wrongful deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and George Floyd in Minnesota demonstrate the persistence of severe racial injustices in the United States. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church laments the turmoil our nation is suffering as a result of these and other injustices, and the hurt—property loss, injury, and death—that is visited on those who are responsible by their actions and those who are not responsible but who are hurt as a consequence of sin. In times of national crisis and tragedy, the EPC turns to God and His Word for direction and encouragement.

Genesis 1:27 declares God created man in His own image. As bearers of God’s image, all people share in divine dignity and are equal before Him. Racism is an abomination to God. It distorts, diminishes, defames, and destroys those whom God in His goodness created in His image.

The idea or ideology that one race is superior to another is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ. God’s love in Jesus Christ casts out the fear that generates hatred (1 John 4:18). Christ’s work on the cross has torn down the dividing wall of hostility and hatred so that we are no longer enemies of God and no longer enemies of one another (Ephesians 2:14-18). A key calling of the church of Jesus Christ is the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-20). The church looks forward to the day when believers “from every nation, tribe, people, and language” will join as one and celebrate the redeeming work of Jesus Christ together (Revelation 7:9-10).

Because of the clear testimony of God’s Word, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church unambiguously declares that racism in any form is an abomination to the God who created all races and is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church condemns racism and calls to repentance all individuals, groups, and structures that advocate it.

In response, the National Leadership Team has called all members of our churches to a Day of Lament, Fasting, and Prayer on Monday, June 8, 2020.

A proposed list of Laments and Prayers to lift to the Lord on June 8 is available at www.epc.org/june8lamentfastingprayer.

Resources for reopening churches available on EPC website

 

ReopeningResourcesWith many jurisdictions around the country loosening shelter-in-place restrictions, the EPC Office of the General Assembly has curated a variety of resources on how and when churches can begin to open their doors for public worship and other ministries. The materials offer guidelines and suggestions for churches seeking to safely welcome worshippers back into their facilities. Sources include EPC partner ministries and other reputable organizations.

“It is very likely that our pre-lockdown church experience will not be what we experience going forward,” said Jeff Jeremiah, Stated Clerk. “I hope our churches and leaders benefit from the guidelines and suggestions as they look to safely welcome worshippers back into their facilities.”

Included are checklists, guidance, and other helps from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ChurchLeaders.com, the Family Research Council, The Gospel Coalition, the National Association of Evangelicals, Smart Church Solutions, Vanderbloemen Search Group, and others.

The resources are available at www.epc.org/reopeningchurches.

EPC Smaller Church Network to present series of live webinars for the “ordinary” church practitioner

 

SmallChurchWorkshopOn four consecutive Thursdays beginning May 21, the EPC Smaller Church Network will present “The Ordinary Church in Extraordinary Times” in a series of 90-minute webinars. The webinars begin at 7:00 p.m. EDT, and there is no cost to register.

“More than 80 percent of churches in America today have an average worship attendance of fewer than 200 people,” said Roy Yanke, who is coordinating the webinars. He serves as Executive Director of PIR Ministries and is a Ruling Elder for Grace Chapel EPC in Farmington Hills, Mich. “When this year’s Leadership Institute had to be canceled, we thought it could be useful to explore and share what many of us in small—what I call ‘ordinary’—churches are learning about ourselves and our churches during this unprecedented time.”

Other speakers are Zack Eswine, Lead Pastor of Riverside Church in Webster Groves, Mo.; Josh Modrzynski, Pastor of Riceville Community Church in Asheville, N.C.; and Doug Walker, Pastor of River City Church in DeBary, Fla.

Yanke said the content of the series will address the significance of the small church.

“Each of the 90-minute webinars will focus on a key challenge faced by leaders of smaller churches, and how each could become an opportunity for greater ministry impact,” he said.

Topics include:

  • A Pastoral Approach to Re-connecting (May 21)
  • The Life of the Church—Inside and Out! (May 28)
  • Facing the Financial Impact (June 4)
  • The Tech Challenge—Its Use, Purpose, and Value for the Future (June 11)

“We will examine the spiritual, emotional, and financial impact of the pandemic on our people, on us as leaders, and the teaching opportunities this presents,” Yanke noted. “We also will address such questions as ‘Has the value of meeting physically become more apparent?’ ‘Where have we seen opportunities beyond our walls to impact our communities?’ and ‘Has our sense of doing important and significant work increased?’”

Each of the four sessions will conclude with a time for Q&A.

For more information and to register, see www.epc.org/smallchurchworkshop.

SmallChurchWorkshopSpeakers

Small Business Administration clarifies participation of faith-based organizations in Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program

 

SBA-FaithBasedFAQ20200403On April 4, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) clarified that all faith-based organizations are eligible to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL) without restrictions based on their religious identity or activities. These organizations must meet the eligibility criteria outlined in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act.

Click here to download this information in printable, PDF format as provided by the SBA.

1. Are faith-based organizations, including houses of worship, eligible to receive SBA loans under the PPP and EIDL programs?

Yes, and we additionally clarify that faith-based organizations are eligible to receive SBA loans regardless of whether they provide secular social services. That is, no otherwise eligible organization will be disqualified from receiving a loan because of the religious nature, religious identity, or religious speech of the organization. The requirements in certain SBA regulations—13 C.F.R. §§ 120.110(k) and 123.301(g)—impermissibly exclude some religious entities. Because those regulations bar the participation of a class of potential recipients based solely on their religious status, SBA will decline to enforce these subsections and will propose amendments to conform those regulations to the Constitution. Although 13 C.F.R. § 120.110(a) states that nonprofit entities are ineligible for SBA business loans (which includes the PPP program), the CARES Act explicitly makes nonprofit entities eligible for the PPP program and it does so without regard to whether nonprofit entities provide secular social services.

2. Are there any limitations on how faith-based organizations can use the PPP and EIDL loan money they receive?

Only the same limitations that apply to all other recipients of these loans (such as that loan forgiveness will cover non-payroll costs only to a maximum of 25% of the total loan to a recipient). The PPP and EIDL loan programs are neutral, generally applicable loan programs that provide support for nonprofit organizations without regard to whether they are religious or secular. The CARES Act has provided those program funds as part of the efforts to respond to the economic dislocation threatened by the COVID-19 public health emergency. Under these circumstances, the Establishment Clause does not place any additional restrictions on how faith-based organizations may use the loan proceeds received through either the PPP or the EIDL loan program. See, e.g., Religious Restrictions on Capital Financing for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, 43 Op. O.L.C. , *7–15 (Aug. 15, 2019); Authority of FEMA to Provide Disaster Assistance to Seattle Hebrew Academy, 26 Op. O.L.C. 114, 122–32 (2002). In addition, the CARES Act does not impose unique burdens or limitations on faith-based organizations. In particular, loans under the program can be used to pay the salaries of ministers and other staff engaged in the religious mission of institutions.

3. How will churches qualify if have not been informed of tax-exempt status by the IRS? Do organizations have to request and receive tax exempt status or just meet the requirements of 501(c)(3) status to be eligible?

Churches (including temples, mosques, synagogues, and other houses of worship), integrated auxiliaries of churches, and conventions or associations of churches qualify for PPP and EIDL loans as long as they meet the requirements of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and all other PPP and EIDL requirements. Such organizations are not required to apply to the IRS to receive tax-exempt status. See 26 U.S.C. § 508(c)(1)(A).

4. Will my organization be sacrificing its autonomy or its First Amendment or statutory rights if it requests and receives a loan?

No. Receipt of a loan through any SBA program does not (1) limit the authority of religious organizations to define the standards, responsibilities, and duties of membership; (2) limit the freedom of religious organizations to select individuals to perform work connected to that organization’s religious exercise; nor (3) constitute waiver of any rights under federal law, including rights protecting religious autonomy and exercise under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000b et seq., Section 702 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1(a), or the First Amendment.

Simply put, a faith-based organization that receives a loan will retain its independence, autonomy, right of expression, religious character, and authority over its governance, and no faith-based organization will be excluded from receiving funding because leadership with, membership in, or employment by that organization is limited to persons who share its religious faith and practice.

5. What legal requirements will be imposed on my organization as a result of our receipt of this federal financial assistance? Will those requirements cease to apply when the loan is either repaid in full or forgiven?

Receipt of a loan through any SBA program constitutes Federal financial assistance and carries with it the application of certain nondiscrimination obligations. Any legal obligations that you incur through your receipt of this loan are not permanent, and once the loan is paid or forgiven, those nondiscrimination obligations will no longer apply.

Consistent with certain federal nondiscrimination laws, SBA regulations provide that the recipient may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, age, or national origin with regard to goods, services, or accommodations offered. 13 C.F.R. § 113.3(a). But SBA regulations also make clear that these nondiscrimination requirements do not limit a faith-based entity’s autonomy with respect to membership or employment decisions connected to its religious exercise. 13 CFR § 113.3-1(h). And as discussed in Question 4, SBA recognizes the various protections for religious freedom enshrined in the Constitution and federal law that are not altered or waived by receipt of Federal financial assistance.

SBA therefore clarifies that its regulations apply with respect to goods, services, or accommodations offered generally to the public by recipients of these loans, but not to a faith- based organization’s ministry activities within its own faith community. For example, SBA’s regulations will require a faith-based organization that operates a restaurant or thrift store open to the public to serve the public without regard to the protected traits listed above. But SBA’s regulations do not apply to limit a faith-based organization’s ability to distribute food or clothing exclusively to its own members or co-religionists. Indeed, SBA will not apply its nondiscrimination regulations in a way that imposes substantial burdens on the religious exercise of faith-based loan recipients, such as by applying those regulations to the performance of church ordinances, sacraments, or religious practices, unless such application is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest. Congress enacted the CARES Act to afford swift and sweeping stopgap relief to Americans who might otherwise lose their jobs or businesses because of the economic hardships wrought by the response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, and SBA has a compelling interest in fulfilling that mandate to provide assistance broadly.

6. Is my faith-based organization disqualified from any SBA loan programs because it is affiliated with other faith-based organizations, such as a local diocese?

Not necessarily. Under SBA’s regulations, an affiliation may arise among entities in various ways, including from common ownership, common management, or identity of interest. 13 C.F.R. §§ 121.103 and 121.301. These regulations are applicable to applicants for PPP loans. (They also apply to the EIDL program when determining certain loan terms, although aggregating the number of employees of affiliated organizations does not affect eligibility for EIDL loans.) Some faith-based organizations likely would qualify as “affiliated” with other entities under the applicable affiliation rules. Entities that are affiliated according to SBA’s affiliation rules must add up their employee numbers in determining whether they have 500 or fewer employees.

But regulations must be applied consistent with constitutional and statutory religious freedom protections. If the connection between your organization and another entity that would constitute an affiliation is based on a religious teaching or belief or is otherwise a part of the exercise of religion, your organization qualifies for an exemption from the affiliation rules. For example, if your faith-based organization affiliates with another organization because of your organization’s religious beliefs about church authority or internal constitution, or because the legal, financial, or other structural relationships between your organization and other organizations reflect an expression of such beliefs, your organization would qualify for the exemption. If, however, your faith-based organization is affiliated with other organizations solely for non-religious reasons, such as administrative convenience, then your organization would be subject to the affiliation rules. SBA will not assess, and will not permit participating lenders to assess, the reasonableness of the faith-based organization’s good-faith determination that this exception applies.

7. Does my faith-based organization need to apply for this exemption or include any documentation of its religious beliefs or practices to fall within this affiliation exemption?

No specific process or detailed filing is necessary to claim the benefit of this exemption. If you believe that your organization qualifies for this exemption to the affiliation rules, you should submit with your loan application a separate sheet stating as much. That sheet may be identified as Addendum A, and no further listing of the other organizations with which your organization is affiliated, or description of the relationship to those organizations, is required. You are not required to describe your religious beliefs.

A sample “Addendum” is at the end this document, but you may choose to write your own. Your statement can be very simple.

8. How do I know where my organization fits in SBA’s size standards table? Should I use the table to determine whether my organization is a small business that is eligible to participate in the PPP program?

SBA’s size standards can be found at 13 CFR § 121.201. Under the CARES Act, a non-profit organization qualifies as small, and is eligible for assistance, if (1) it has no more than 500 employees or (2) the NAICS code associated with its primary industry has a higher employee- based size standard. Some industries—including “religious organizations”—are currently listed in the size standards table with a monetary cap on annual receipts rather than an employee-based size standards cap. For nonprofit organizations whose primary industry is listed with a monetary cap on annual receipts, the size standards table therefore cannot be used to determine eligibility for the PPP program. Faith-based nonprofit organizations that do not fall under a primary industry that is listed with an employee-based size standard must have 500 employees or fewer to be considered small.

ADDENDUM

The Applicant claims an exemption from all SBA affiliation rules applicable to Paycheck Protection Program loan eligibility because the Applicant has made a reasonable, good faith determination that the Applicant qualifies for a religious exemption under 13 C.F.R. 121.103(b)(10), which says that “[t]he relationship of a faith-based organization to another organization is not considered an affiliation with the other organization…if the relationship is based on a religious teaching or belief or otherwise constitutes a part of the exercise of religion.”

CARES Act provides benefits for churches during coronavirus crisis

 

CaresActCapitolOn March 27, President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The legislation provides many benefits to individuals and churches. The purpose of this article is to provide information solely about how EPC churches may apply for federally guaranteed loans during the COVID-19 crisis. A subsequent article will address individual benefits.

“Please note that this is our best understanding of the CARES Act on March 30,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “The implementation of this program hasn’t been finalized yet, so we will continue to monitor developments related to the CARES Act as they occur and provide updates as quickly as possible.”

Q: How can my church benefit from the CARES Act?

A: The CARES Act allows for any 501(c)(3) organization with 500 or fewer employees that has been substantially affected by COVID-19 to borrow under the Small Business Administration (SBA) 7(a) program—the Paycheck Protection Program Loan. The EPC is a 501(c)(3) organization, which means all EPC churches enjoy this status.

Q: Why are EPC churches eligible for this loan program?

A: The purpose of these loans is to help small businesses to keep their workers employed and compensated through the COVID-19 crisis. This program incentivizes employers to keep their employees instead of laying them off and shutting down their businesses.

Q: When will the SBA begin taking applications for Paycheck Protection Program loans?

A: On March 29, Larry Kudlow, Director of the United States National Economic Council, announced that the SBA would begin taking applications on Friday, April 3. This date may change given the fluidity of the impact of COVID-19.

Q: What is the duration of the Paycheck Protection Program?

A: The Paycheck Protection Program covers the period beginning February 15, 2020 and ending on June 30, 2020 (the “Covered Period”).

Q: What is the loan amount a church may apply for?

A: That amount is determined by the church’s payroll and related employee expenses for the period February 15 through June 30, 2020.

Q: How much can a church or ministry borrow?

A: The amount that may be borrowed is the total average monthly payroll costs for the preceding 12 months (March 2019 through February 2020), multiplied by a factor of 2.5. For example, if the average payroll costs for the preceding twelve months were $20,000, the maximum amount of the loan would be $20,000 times 2.5 for a total of $50,000. The maximum amount available for a Payroll Protection Loan is $10,000,000.

Q: What costs are considered payroll costs?

A: Salary or wages, payments of a cash tip, vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave, health benefits, retirement benefits, and state and local taxes.

Q: Is there a salary maximum that the loan can cover?

A: Yes. Salary expenses above $100,000 per employee are not eligible for consideration as payroll costs. Loan proceeds may not be used to pay salaries above $100,000 per employee.

Q: Is the pastor’s housing allowance included in the computation of payroll costs?

A: The SBA needs to issue guidance on how housing allowance will factor into the payroll cost calculations.

Q: Are there any other ways in which this loan may be used?

A: The loan proceeds may also be used to pay mortgage interest (not principal) payments, rent payments, utilities, or interest on other loans outstanding at the time of the pandemic. As stated above, the total amount of the loan can be up to 2.5 times the average monthly payroll costs for the one-year period preceding the date of the loan. However, the only amount eligible for forgiveness is the total spent during the eight-week period beginning on the date of the loan on payroll costs including benefits (except for staff with salaries over $100,000), mortgage interest payments (not principal), rent, and utilities.

Q: How will the church need to document how its Paycheck Protection Program loan is used?

A: The church is required to make a “good faith certification” that the loan is necessary due to economic conditions caused by COVID-19. The church will need to demonstrate that the loan was used to retain employees, maintain payroll, and pay rent and utilities.

Q: How soon must the church, ministry, or pastor repay the loan?

A: A Paycheck Protection Program loan may include a term of up to 10 years from the date of application.

Q: What is the interest rate for a Paycheck Protection Program loan?

A: The maximum interest rate for this loan is 4 percent per year.

Q: May payments under the loan be deferred?

A: Yes, for a period not less than six months but not to exceed more than one year from the date of the loan.

Q: May all or part of the Paycheck Protection Program loan be forgiven?

A: Yes, the program is designed to encourage employers to retain employees and loan forgiveness is a key feature of these loans. A church under a covered loan can have all or a portion of the principal of the loan forgiven in an amount equal to payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent, or utility costs during the eight-week period following the origination of the loan. The forgiven amount, however, may be reduced based on a formula that compares the ministry’s employment in prior pre-COVID periods with the number of employees and each employee’s wage or salary in the eight-week period following the origination of the loan.

Q: How does my church apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan?

A: Churches will apply for this loan through an approved SBA lender, which includes most local banks.

Q: What can the church do immediately to prepare to apply for a loan?

  • Confirm the church’s bank is an approved SBA lender. If it is, inform it that the church wants to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan ASAP. Ask the bank to provide the church with loan document documentation requirements. The bank will assist the church in completing the application.
  • Take whatever action is required for the church to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan (Session and/or congregational approval). Depending on local social distancing or meeting limitation regulations, this meeting may need to be virtual.
  • Ensure the church’s 2019 financial statements are complete and first quarter 2020 financial statements are prepared ASAP.

 

Information is gleaned with appreciation from Batts, Morrison, Wales & Lee (the audit firm of the EPC), the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), Horizons Stewardship, and Baptist Press of the Southern Baptist Convention, which utilized a Q&A approach in its report.

Text-based smartphone app for primary care physician visits extended to all EPC benefit plan participants

 

98point6Effective immediately, access to 98point6, the newest benefit provided by EPC Benefit Resources, Inc., has been extended to all EPC benefit plan participants. 98point6 is a text-based primary care app for smartphones and tablets. This new benefit launched on March 14.

“Anyone enrolled in any of our plans can take advantage of this low-cost, high-value tool,” said Bart Francescone, BRI’s Executive Director. “This includes people in our dental, vision, life insurance, and disability programs—even if they are not in one of our medical plans. All they have to do is download the app and register using the name listed on their insurance card from any of our plans. No registration or membership fee is required.”

Through 98point6, a U.S.-based, board-certified physician is available by text 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is provided with no co-pay for participants in the Platinum, Gold, and Silver PPO Medical/Prescription Plans, and only a $5 co-pay for participants in all other benefit plans.

“This is a great resource for people who are forced to shelter in place and thus not able to get to a physician,” Francescone added. “It’s fast, easy, secure, and one of the most cost-effective ways out there to have personal communication with a physician.”

For more information about 98point6, see www.98point6.com/how-it-works. To register, see the one-minute video at www. youtu.be/TSu0XKj5CVg.

For more information about the EPC benefit plans, see www.epc.org/benefits or contact benefits@epc.org.

Responding to coronavirus: EPC collates resources to assess situation as churches consider canceling worship services

 

CoronavirusResponseAs the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread in North America, EPC Stated Clerk Clerk Jeff Jeremiah said churches should avail themselves to the most current information and monitor how local authorities are dealing with the unfolding situation.

“I am grateful for the way EPC leaders are using their networks and social media to exchange information as they respond to COVID-19,” Jeremiah said. “We know that local conditions vary widely, so we encourage our pastors and church leaders to follow the guidance of the Center for Disease Control and the actions taken by their state and/or local governments.”

In some cases, a church’s decision to cancel worship services or provide an online worship experience only has been made for them by local authorities.

“The mayor of San Francisco asked that non-essential large gatherings not take place,” Jeremiah noted, “and the Governor of Kentucky has requested that churches not hold worship services this weekend.”

Numerous organizations and governmental agencies have made information and other helpful resources available. These include:

Jeremiah reported that the EPC’s permanent committee meetings scheduled for April at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando will conduct their business virtually in online video conferences. These include the National Leadership Team, the Next Generation Ministries Council, and the World Outreach Committee.

In addition, Jeremiah responded to a request from the Presbytery of the Southeast to hold its spring meeting virtually rather than as an in-person gathering.

“I wrote a provisional opinion that gives EPC presbyteries the ability to provide for virtual presence and participation of commissioners at their spring meetings,” Jeremiah said. “This gives our presbytery leaders the freedom to conduct their business in whatever way they feel is best for their safety and peace of mind.”

Jeremiah emphasized that preparations for the 40th General Assembly are proceeding as normal.

“At this point, we are not planning on postponing or canceling GA,” he said. “But if that changes, we will use every means at our disposal to keep the EPC informed quickly. The Hope Church team is watching the situation too, and they will be prepared.”