Category Archives: Resources

Seminary programs benefit EPC students preparing for ministry


Partnerships between the EPC and two evangelical seminaries offer significant financial savings for those pursuing formal theological education.

MAPThe EPC’s Mentored Apprenticeship Program (MAP), de­vel­oped in collaboration with Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, makes eight specific ministry courses available online at half the normal cost of tuition. These courses—dis­cipleship, ethics, leadership, pastoral care/counseling, ministry as mission, apologetics, preaching, and evangelism—may be taken while at­tending any other seminary and are all transferrable according to Association of Theo­logical Schools (ATS) rules.

The EPC’s new requirements for ordination to the office of Teaching Elder, approved by the 36th General Assembly in response to changing trends in theological education nationwide now require the completion of these eight courses.

RTSIn addition to MAP courses through Gordon-Conwell, the Andrew Jumper Scholarship is available for EPC-affiliated students at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS). The scholarship is a full-tuition award for an incoming, residential Master of Divinity (MDiv) student at any RTS campus, and is named for the EPC “Founding Father” and longtime pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Mo.

Candidates for the Jumper Scholarship should be members in good standing of an EPC church, under care of an EPC presbytery, and must demonstrate future commitment to the EPC. The deadline for application is March 15 for entry into the MDiv program in the following summer or fall.

Brian Gault, RTS Director of Financial Aid, said the scholarship exists because of the generosity of donors who care for the preparation of future pastors in the EPC, adding that additional donations to the scholarship fund directly support students.

“As the fund grows, we can support more students,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if future EPC ministers never had to pay for tuition to attend RTS?”

Kent Mathews, Pastor of the EPC’s Grace Community Fellowship in Ottawa, Kan., serves as the Director of MAP. He noted that the online MAP courses not only involve the same types of readings, videos, and assignments encountered in a traditional seminary course, they also involve a mentored relationship with a local pastor or other ministry leader, as well as in-the-field ministry project for each course.

“Research demonstrates that the top three things seminary students currently wish of their education are reduced tuition, a relation­ship with a mentor, and the opportunity to gain practical experience in the subjects they are studying” he said.

“The MAP course projects help students gain that practical ministry experience in their local context, and because they are offered at half the normal cost of tuition, it is literally like receiving a $7500 scholarship.”

Mathews added that a student completing at least six of the eight MAP courses will earn a Certificate of Completion from Gordon-Conwell. He emphasized that a student does not need to be a pursuing a master’s degree—or even have a bachelor’s degree—to take the courses, making it an ideal training vehicle for even non-ordained church or parachurch staff who want to improve their skills and knowledge.

Gordon-Conwell operates campuses in Hamilton, Mass; Boston, Mass.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Jacksonville, Fla. (Registration for MAP courses is through the Charlotte campus.) For more information, contact Mathews at kentmathews@sbcglobal.net or 785-418-1635.

Reformed Theological Seminary offers the MDiv degree at its campuses in Jackson, Miss., Orlando, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Atlanta, Ga.; Washington, D.C.; Dallas, Texas; and Houston, Texas. For more information about the Jumper Scholarship, contact Gault at bgault@rts.edu.

Executive Pastor/Church Administrator Roundtable features church leadership expert Mike Bonem


XPRoundtableAt the first of two EPC Executive Pastor/Church Administrator Roundtable workshops held this fall, noted church leadership coach and consultant Mike Bonem discussed the joys and challenges of the “second chair” role. He defined a Second Chair Leader as “a person in a subordinate role whose influence with others adds value throughout the organization.”

Bonem earned an MBA from Harvard University, is a longtime business executive, and later served 11 years as Executive Pastor for a large church in Houston, Texas. He is author of Leading from the Second Chair, Thriving in the Second Chair, In Pursuit of Great and Godly Leadership, and Leading Congregational Change.

The roundtable, now in its fifth year, is a two-day workshop for EPC executive pastors, church administrators, and others in senior ministry (but second-chair) leadership positions.

Phil VanValkenburg, EPC Chief Operating Officer, hosts the roundtable each year.

“We want our church leaders to know that they have peers who face many of the same issues as they do in their ministries,” VanValkenburg said. “As we continue to focus on effective biblical leadership as one of our strategic initiatives, by being ‘better together’ we glean from each other’s experience and each of their churches gets great benefit.”

Twenty EPC church leaders participated in the workshop October 26-27 in Denver, Colorado. Participants discussed their specific ministry victories and challenges, shared best practices on a variety of topics related to church administration, and networked on such issues as technology systems, personnel, vision and strategy, finance, and many others.

The workshop is a resource of the Office of the General Assembly. The second roundtable takes place November 16-17 in Orlando.

Bart Francescone named Executive Director of EPC Benefit Resources, Inc.


BartFrancescone

Bart Francescone

Following a nationwide search, Bart Francescone of Cream Ridge, N.J., has been named Executive Director of EPC Benefit Resources, Inc. (BRI). He fills a vacancy created when the BRI Board of Directors elected to relocate operations to the EPC Office of the General Assembly in Orlando, Fla. Current Director of Benefits Don Voyles declined an offer to move to Orlando, and completes his work with the EPC on October 31.

“Don has served the EPC with distinction for almost four years,” said Phil VanValkenburg, EPC Chief Operating Officer. “Largely through his efforts and expertise, EPC Benefits is in a much better place than it was in 2013. We look forward to Bart building on the great foundation Don has set for us.”

Francescone comes to the EPC from Heartland Fidelity Insurance Co. of Washington, D.C., where he served as Chief Operating Officer. He previously was Executive Vice President for Benecard Services (Clifton N.J.; Orlando, Fla.; and Mechanicsburg, Va.). Earlier in his career he managed an entrepreneurial program at Princeton University; worked in business development and venture management; and was a staff accountant with a CPA firm.

“I very much look forward to serving the EPC,” Francescone said. “I hope to put everyone at ease regarding their healthcare needs and retirement plans, and enable all to more fully focus on their ministerial callings.”

He has more than 20 years of experience with companies that provide health benefit plan administration services, benefit consulting, and insurance protection to employer and union health plans. He holds insurance producer licenses in health, life, property, and casualty in 45 states. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

Francescone is an active member of Allentown Presbyterian Church in Allentown, N.J., where he has served as an adult education teacher, confirmation instructor, small group leader, youth leader, prayer leader, and church treasurer. He also has served as a substitute teacher and member of the Finance Committee at Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville, N.J. He has served as a Young Life volunteer leader and committee member, and volunteers in local youth and recovery programs as well as in food, shelter, and medical care organizations.

He and his wife, Lisa, have been married 29 years and have three adult children: Alex, Liz, and Holly. Lisa has served as a special education teacher in the Upper Freehold (N.J.) Regional School District for 10 years.

Open Enrollment for EPC Benefits begins November 1


BRIlogo-96dpiRGBOpen Enrollment for EPC Benefits is November 1 through November 22. Coverages and changes are effective January 1, 2018. Benefits participants have three options during Open Enrollment:

  • Individuals enrolling in EPC benefits for the first time must complete the Benefits Enrollment Form and have a church officer sign and submit the form to the contact information on the form.
  • Current participants in EPC benefits who do not need (or want) to make changes to their benefits selections for 2018 do not need do anything, except pay the January 2018 invoice.
  • Participants who need or want to make changes to their benefit selections for 2018 must complete a new Benefits Enrollment Form with all requested information, including the desired changes. This form must be signed by a church officer and submitted to the contact information on the form.

Changes for 2018 include new premium rates for the Medical, Prescription Drug, and Life and Long-Term Disability (LTD) bundled premiums rates. Other changes include a new hearing aid program and a revised delivery method for maintenance drugs.

For more information, see the Benefits 2018 Open Enrollment page at www.epc.org/benefits/2018openenrollment or contact Diane Pray in the EPC Benefits office at 734-838-6942 or benefits@epc.org. Participants in the EPC Benefits plans may contact their church administrator and/or pastor for information on specific benefit plans offered by their church.

Call to Prayer and Fasting to mark one year of Andrew Brunson imprisonment


AndrewBrunsonPrayerGuideOn October 7, EPC teaching elder Andrew Brunson will have been imprisoned in Turkey for one year. To mark the date, the denomination is issuing a Call to Prayer and Fasting for the weekend of October 7-8.

“We are asking everyone in the EPC to consider fasting and praying for Andrew on Saturday, October 7,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Also, we ask that our churches pray for Andrew and Norine during their worship services on Sunday, October 8.”

To help facilitate a corporate prayer, a bulletin insert is available in printable pdf format on the EPC website that includes Scripture prayers, as well as a specific prayer for the Brunson family. The bulletin insert—which is available in two sizes—was developed by Christ Community Church in Montreat, N.C. (the Brunsons’ home church) and the EPC Communications Department.

Brunson and his wife, Norine, have lived in Turkey since 1993. At the time of his arrest, he was serving as pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church in the coastal city of Izmir. He faces charges of espionage, acquiring secret political and military information, attempting to destroy constitutional order and overthrowing the Turkish parliament, and membership in an armed terroristic organization.

General Assembly adopts Position Paper on Human Sexuality


GA2017PositionPaperHumanSexualityCommissioners to the 37th General Assembly adopted the Preliminary Position Paper on Human Sexuality as the EPC’s official Position Paper on Human Sexuality, effective at the close of the Assembly on June 23. The paper replaces the Position Paper on Homosexuality and Position Paper on the Sanctity of Marriage.

The 35th General Assembly, meeting in Orlando in 2015, approved the formation of an interim committee to edit the homosexuality paper, which had been adopted in 1986 and revised in 1994 and 2014. While the EPC’s position on the issue had not changed, the 2015 Assembly recommended that language in the paper be updated to reflect how that position is expressed in response to changing cultural trends.

Mike Moses, Moderator of the 2015 Assembly, appointed the interim committee, which was chaired by Sandy Willson, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Central South.

Following comments and feedback from all EPC Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders to its first draft in early 2016, the interim committee presented the Proposed Position Paper on Human Sexuality to the 36th General Assembly in June 2016 at Ward Church in Northville, Mich. That Assembly approved the proposed paper, changing its status from “Proposed” to “Preliminary Position Paper.” As a Preliminary Position Paper, it was then sent to all EPC churches and presbyteries for review in anticipation of being presented for approval to this year’s Assembly.

A Position Paper expresses the mind of the General Assembly of the EPC on a subject of compelling interest. It is a definitive but not an exhaustive statement, and is not to be regarded as binding on the conscience of churches or individuals.

Click here to download the Position Paper on Human Sexuality.

#epc2017ga

Preliminary Position Paper and Pastoral Letter highlight May Jeremiah Journal


In the May edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah provides an update on the Preliminary Position Paper on Human Sexuality, which will be presented for approval as an official EPC Position Paper at the 37th General Assembly in June, and the Pastoral Letter on Ministering to the Church and the World on Issues Pertaining to Human Sexuality, the writing of which was approved by the 36th General Assembly.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80. Each month’s update also is posted to EPConnection and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

For a transcript of this month’s edition in printable pdf format, click here.