Category Archives: Social Issues

Church Pivot podcast launch features Tim Keller

 

The first episode of Case Thorp’s “Church Pivot” podcast features the Moderator of the 39th General Assembly talking with renowned theologian, author, and pastor Tim Keller. In their discussion, Thorp and Keller examine how the American evangelical church can thrive in an increasingly antagonistic culture.

Click below to listen. The 37-minute recording also is available on the EPC’s Podbean channel, or search “Evangelical Presbyterian Church” on Spotify or iTunes.


Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, which he led for more than 28 years. He currently is the Chairman and Co-founder of Redeemer City to City, which plants new churches in New York and other cities around the world, as well as publishes resources for ministry in urban environments. Keller’s books, including The Reason for God and The Prodigal God, have sold more than 2 million copies and been translated into 25 languages.

Thorp is a Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. He serves as Senior Associate Pastor of Evangelism for First Presbyterian Church in Orlando.

“Church Pivot” is a series of articles and audio podcasts in which Thorp focuses on issues of pivoting toward a robust future of ministry, spiritual growth, adult conversion, and more.

Theology Committee tackles GA-assigned tasks

 

TheologyCommittee201909The EPC Theology Committee met at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando on September 11-12 to address two items assigned to it by the 39th General Assembly.

First. the committee discussed a recommendation from the National Leadership Team to study a decision by the Michigan chapter of Bethany Christian Services (BCS) in light of the EPC’s Position Papers on Abortion and Human Sexuality. In April 2019, the agency acceded to a state government requirement and agreed to place children for adoption in the homes of same-sex couples.

“Bethany has been an EPC ‘Approved Agency’ since 1989 and provides adoption, foster care, and pregnancy support,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Yet the Michigan chapter’s decision places strongly-held EPC positions on abortion and human sexuality in tension, if not conflict. It is appropriate for the Theology Committee to research this matter and present its findings to the 40th General Assembly.”

The second recommendation the committee reviewed was to study how the EPC can be more sensitive to the needs of the disabled.

The committee will report on both of these topics, and make recommendations as appropriate, to the 40th General Assembly, to be held in June 2020 at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.

Members of the Theology Committee are Zach Hopkins (Chairman), Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; Fred Flinn, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Central South; John Moody, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains; Ron DiNunzio, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the East; Gordon Miller, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of Mid-Atlantic; and Ryan Mowen, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies.

Unlike other permanent committees that meet regularly, the Theology Committee only meets to receive and study such theological matters as may be referred to it by the General Assembly and to return to the General Assembly its opinions and requested papers or documents, as stated in the EPC’s Rules for Assembly 10.1G.

Global evangelicals tackle 21st century issues

 

ThorpPivotArtby Case Thorp
Moderator of the 39th General Assembly

JAKARTA, INDONESIA—The World Reformed Fellowship, a global association of evangelical Reformed Christians, met in Jakarta in August for its quadrennial General Assembly. This four-day gathering of 68 denominations and more than 162 affiliate organizations from 25 countries includes worship, workshops, and excursions to area ministry projects. The chosen location is no accident, both for being in the world’s largest Muslim democracy and as home to one of the largest Reformed churches in the world—the Messiah Cathedral founded by evangelist Stephen Tong.

CaseThorp

CaseThorp

EPC Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri and I attended the gathering. What struck me, as a first-time attendee, were the topics of conversation and the diminishing emphasis of those past concerns that seemed to rob all of our imaginations. This is not to say that the old concerns were not important, but rather they served more as distractions from those things that our congregants were dealing with in their day-to-day lives. I heard nary a word on Roman Catholicism, immorality, or threats to biblical authority. The progressive mainline Protestant denominations from which these church bodies originated are a distant afterthought for these leaders.

However, like a breath of fresh air, the speakers focused on the current and future concerns of our times: the global refugee crisis, the decline of Western civilization, the rise of Islam, the challenges technology presents, political instability in various places worldwide, the development of leadership, the health of our institutions, and more.  These emphases demonstrate a maturity and confidence for the evangelical Reformed church to strive forward as change agents.

The desire is not just to speak of these things in the theoretical, but also seek to figure out what sustainable solutions might look like. We toured a ministry that serves refugees, which is operated by the Lippo Group’s James Riady, the billionaire convicted in the 1996 Clinton campaign scandal prior to his conversion to Christianity. When 1,400 Afghans, Somalis, Iranians, and Iraqis became stuck in Indonesia on their way to Australia, Riady stepped up to meet the need. Within two weeks, he had a community center set up to educate the children and assist with healthcare through one of his hospitals, free of charge.

Besides Riady’s moving work, conference conversations wrestled with the tension between love and order: how do you grieve for the horrific human suffering while at the same time lobbying leaders to create laws, systems, and strategies to stem the flow of people groups? The status quo is not acceptable or sustainable for these leaders, who have many questions and no easy answers.

The decline of the West is not only on the lips of the Scots and Americans, but certainly our Asian, African, and Latin counterparts. The rise of China, the perceived American political instability, and the sexual and gender revolution occurring around us alarm and puzzle many. China’s dominance and aggression is much more acutely felt here, and American political discourse is all the more silly when seen from abroad. A fundamental example of Western decline is the abandonment societies are taking with concern to personhood.

The halls of the World Reformed Fellowship nervously echo with debate of a newly emerging anthropology. What makes a person a person? What is permeable or constant for a person illustrates the disparity between a Christian idea of a human and a postmodern view being embraced socially and ensconced legally.

Christian theology, upon which the Western tradition bases its ideas of human rights, democracy, and contractual arrangements, teaches a human to be divinely created, made in the image of God, marred by sin leading to bad choices, redeemable by faith in Jesus, and charged to share the love of Christ with others in word and deed. The Western embrace of abortion, same-sex marriage, transgender rights, and euthanasia, not to mention to bubbling frontier of genetic engineering, tells us there is no consensus of what a person is and what is best for them. Social and political domination, sometimes to the point of violence, is necessary to advocate one group’s vision for humanity over another. How evangelicals will teach their own contra-social anthropology to their people, and then present it as a better alternative to the community, is a great challenge requiring further thought and strategy. But there seems to me to be a glaring need for us to “pivot” and do just that.

One speaker, a Hong Kong pastor and theology professor, told of the role of Christians in the ongoing street protests in his city as he struggled to balance the role of violence for the followers of Jesus, and the place of pursuing justice at the risk of social disorder. He echoed his own personal conclusion about his role with the protests, a statement that embodied much of the tenor of the World Reformed Fellowship. He said, “We have to be with our sheep. And our sheep are out there.”

The debates of the last century, which form a comfortable stereotype for others about evangelicals, are fully behind us, and we look now to be with our sheep, and be out there.

Case Thorp is a Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. He serves as Senior Associate Pastor of Evangelism for First Presbyterian Church in Orlando.

Podcast features Revelation 7:9 Task Force members discussing diversity in the church

 

Four members of the EPC’s Revelation 7:9 Task Force discussed diversity in the local church on the August 9 episode of The E.A.R. (Evangelical and Reformed) Podcast. Their discussion, “The Beauty of the Local Church through Diversity,” closed the E.A.R. Podcast’s second season, entitled “The Beauty of the Local Church.”

Click the play button to listen:

 

The podcast is hosted by Task Force member Brandon Queen, Ruling Elder at First Presbyterian Church in Thibodaux, La., in the Presbytery of the Gulf South. Appearing with Queen were Teaching Elders Soon Pak, Tim Russell, and Rufus Smith. Pak serves as Pastor of Discipleship for Ward Church in Northville, Mich.; Russell serves as Assistant Pastor to Middle Adults for Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.; Smith is Senior Pastor of Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.

The E.A.R. Podcast is available on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Podbean, RadioPublic, Spotify, and Stitcher.

Church, Pivot!

 

ThorpPivotArtby Case Thorp
Moderator of the 39th General Assembly

Michael Jordan, I am not. Yet my stocky frame came into its own during middle school basketball. While I wasn’t the one leading in the number of baskets scored, setting the standard in layups, or scoring on average more than four points a season (yes, a season, not a game), my pivot was something to behold. I could take the ball, swing my hips, and redirect the ball in a new direction with my mean pivot. All the skinny boys who weren’t slammed to the floor by my moves—and my hips—were in awe at such skill. I got a nickname from my feats of athletic prowess: The Enforcer.

I find this move, the pivot, an analogy for today’s church.

CaseThorp

Case Thorp

As Presbyterian Christians, we instinctively appreciate our past and recognize the movement that Reformed Christianity was in Europe, the Americas, and beyond. In theory—and from theological conviction—as Reformed Christians we seek to continue the reform begun in Christ’s Church in the glory days of Calvin and others.

Yet the danger of focusing upon our past is that we focus so much on where we’ve been that we can grow lethargic about our future as a church and where the Holy Spirit is leading us.

I see the church as needing to pivot as does a basketball player, who keeps one foot planted while being free to move the other as the situation in front of him or her unfolds. The church today needs to keep one foot firmly grounded in Scripture and our confession, and yet pivot in our methodologies in order to make the pass or attempt the shot. We must push harder on the work of reforming due to the cultural decay around us.

With a smart pivot, our shot toward the goal can result in flourishing Reformed churches for the 21st century that have a robust mission, a clear note of praise for the Father, and sightings of the Kingdom of God that abound.

Over my term serving the Evangelical Presbyterian Church as Moderator, my aim is to advance a conversation. This conversation occurs between us all: church planters, solo pastors, ruling elders, and stated clerks. It is the conversation that seeks honesty and realism about the state of today’s church, and likewise a focus on methodological changes that will lead to the future to which Christ calls us.

Besides traveling to be with many of you, I will be creating a series of blog posts and podcasts focused on issues of pivoting toward a rich and robust future of ministry, spiritual growth, adult conversion, and more. And so I begin this journey by sharing my opening remarks upon investiture as Moderator.

My intent with these remarks made at Cherry Creek in June was to present to the church and her leaders some past challenges to inspire us for present ministry threats, and then illustrate some of those headwinds. For cultural headwinds are nothing compared to the Spirit of God who fills our sails.

Remarks delivered on June 19, 2019, at the 39th General Assembly of the EPC held at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo.:

In September of 1866, my great-great grandfather—the Reverend Charles Thorp—left Noke, Oxfordshire, England, to serve as a missionary, first in Canada, then in the frontiers of America. The challenges and obstacles during his ministry were great, yet the records indicate he never lost his zeal for the gospel or Christ’s church.

Charles lost the companionship of his beloved older brother, who took off to pursue the Australian gold rush of 1851—never to be heard from again. Charles found his oldest child and namesake, at the age of 3, dead in the home’s cistern, which someone tragically had left open. Years later, and four more children later, Charles lost his first wife to death.

Despite these dreadful setbacks, Charles raised a total of ten children, remarried a parishioner four months after conducting her father’s funeral, built three church buildings and a school on the wooded frontiers of Jacksonport, Wisc.; Tampa, Fla., and Mansfield, La. All this time, records show that his highest salary was $800 a year. He got two days of vacation after Christmas, and two Sundays away from his church for mission work. Described in letters as the “indefatigable missionary,” Charles never let a challenge get in the way of the gospel.

115 years later (and just 38 years ago), Bart Hess and Andy Jumper locked arms with Ed Davis, George Scotchmer, and Jim Van Dyke and launched out on their own journey. They dared to explore a frontier where Christ’s church could be both Reformed and evangelical.

They had to minster and creatively lead the church through the issues of their day:

The 20th century rise of evangelicalism;
The impact of the long awaited civil rights movement on society;
The explosion of the church in the global south;
Progressive theology undermining the authority of Scripture and uniqueness of the gospel; and
Social revolutions in America for women and human sexuality;

Our founding fathers, even some here in this room today, began this experiment in theology, polity, church culture, and missional effectiveness that we inherit.

If you were present 38 years ago at the first General Assembly of the EPC, would you please now stand.

Friends, we have our challenges.

The Greatest Generation increasingly join the great General Assembly in glory. Baby Boomers retire at the rate of 10,000 a day, and corporations are preparing for three out of four top executives and management leaders to be gone in the next five to seven years. Gen-Xers and Millennials find themselves taking the reigns of leadership presented with both missional challenges and evangelistic opportunity. Such as:

Adult conversions have bottomed out for us, and we recognize the paltry discipleship we’ve offered our people the past 50 years;
Post-modernism has redefined the meaning of a man, a woman, a child, even the in-utero child, such that a Christian anthropology seems like a foreign, political threat to our neighbors;
Many churches in America today give us Presbyterians a run for our money reaching the masses while perpetuating the false gospel of prosperity, starry-eyed pastors seeking fame, and worship-tainment dislocated from her historic moorings; and
We are only beginning to taste and see the impact of technology and a connected world on our own politics, economics, interpersonal relations, and ministry.

The challenges are great; the horizon darkens.

And yet, we are here. We are here.

We are here because we know our God is sovereign. Amen? Amen.

We are here because we know the gospel of Jesus Christ works, brings salvation, change, and restoration. Amen? Amen.

We are here because we know that the Bible tells our story, the story of our God, and the story of God’s mission to the world!

We are here because we know the words of our confession to be true: “The primary and highest purpose of human beings is to glorify God and to enjoy Him completely forever.”

We are here because we know our mission as Reformed, Evangelical, Missional, and Presbyterian is the best expression of church as illustrated in Scripture.

Oh, we have challenges, but if we didn’t we’d already be in the New Jerusalem beholding the beatific vision.

As Moderator, I stand with you; here. I pledge to serve you well and with humility. I pledge to face the horizons ahead of us arm in arm because with the Holy Spirit as the wind in your sails, Christ’s church will shine.

Case Thorp is a Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. He serves as Senior Associate Pastor of Evangelism for First Presbyterian Church in Orlando.

Revelation 7:9 Task Force evaluate “listening tour” input

 

Revelation79TaskForce201904At its second in-person meeting of 2019, the EPC’s Revelation 7:9 Task Force evaluated input and feedback received during its “listening tour” over the past seven months. Input came from a variety of sources, including an online survey of EPC pastors and individuals and organizations outside the EPC.

The group is tasked with studying how the EPC can better become a denomination that fulfills the great commandment and the great commission, and faithfully embraces and serves its neighbors from every nation, tribe, people, and language. (Revelation 7:9). The group met at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando, April 23-24.

The Task Force is co-chaired by TE Dean Weaver, Chair of the National Leadership Team, and TE Rufus Smith, Senior Pastor of Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn. Members are TE Tom Clymer, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Marc de Jeu, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; TE David Dwight, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Enid Flores, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; Phyllis Le Peau, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Soon Pak, Presbytery of the Midwest; Beth Paz, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; Brandon Queen, Presbytery of the Gulf South; TE Tim Russell, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Tom Werner, Presbytery of Mid-America; and Ted Winters, Presbytery of Mid-America.

Federal court rules minister’s housing allowance constitutional

 

HousingAllowanceRulingA three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled unanimously on March 15 that the housing allowance tax exemption for ministers is constitutional. The decision reversed a 2017 opinion by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb. Crabb ruled that the exemption provides an unconstitutional benefit to religious individuals, thereby violating the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit that led to the 2017 decision was brought by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The group was challenging a federal law passed in 1954, under which a “minister of the gospel” is exempt from income tax on compensation that is designated part of a housing allowance. The FFRF—which has fought against the housing allowance provision for more than 10 years—argued that the law discriminates against secular employees.

“I am thankful that with the Seventh Circuit’s decision, this matter is settled—at least for now,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “I am confident that the FFRF and other atheist groups are not going to give up their fight easily, so we will continue to monitor the situation and keep our churches and ministers informed.”

Crabb also had ruled in 2013 that the housing allowance was unconstitutional—a decision that was overturned by the Seventh Circuit in November 2014. At the time, the appeals court stated that they did not rule on the “issue of the constitutionality of the parsonage exemption,” leading to the case being refiled under a different legal tactic.

In their most recent ruling, the judges declared that the 1954 law “falls into the play between the joints of the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause: neither commanded by the former, nor proscribed by the latter” and therefore neither endorses nor inhibits religion, and does not cause excessive government entanglement. The judges also noted that Congress has been providing federal tax exemptions for religious organizations as far back as 1802.

Writing for the panel, Judge Michael Brennan said that the primary effect of the housing allowance “is not to advance religion on behalf of the government, but to allow churches to advance religion, which is their very purpose. Providing a tax exemption does not connote sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement” of the government in religious activity.

EPC issues statement on abortion legislation

 

StatementOnAbortionLawsThe Evangelical Presbyterian Church has issued a formal statement in response to recent legislative action at the state level regarding abortion. The statement begins with the words, “In light of recent legislation at the state level regarding abortion, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church continues to strongly and unequivocally affirm the dignity and value of every human life—born and unborn.”

“I am very pleased to affirm Scripture’s very clear message that abortion is nothing other than the taking of an innocent life,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “At the same time, as Christians we are called to love and support those who have experienced the physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds that result from a terminated pregnancy—whatever the reason.”

The full statement is as follows:

In light of recent legislation at the state level regarding abortion, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church continues to strongly and unequivocally affirm the dignity and value of every human life—born and unborn.

The EPC’s Position Paper on Abortion states that the Bible does not distinguish between prenatal and postnatal life. It attributes human personhood to the unborn child. This extends to the unborn child ex utero as no less a human being than the child in the mother’s womb.

Since abortion was legalized in the United States in 1973, more than 61 million Americans have been denied the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This concept is such a fundamental principle that it appears in the very first sentence of the Declaration of Independence, written almost 250 years ago.

Yet even more fundamental is the truth of Scripture, which was written more than 2,000 years ago and very clearly teaches that life begins at conception. To wit:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV).

“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139:15 NIV).

“Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name” (Isaiah 49:1 NIV).

“for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born” (Luke 1:15 NIV).

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41 NIV).

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church grieves over the murder of more than 61 million unborn children who were made in the image of God. We also stand in strong opposition to the legal and political decisions that have led to this tragedy. At the same time, we will continue to offer a loving and supportive community to those who have experienced physical, emotional, or spiritual wounds as a result of undergoing an abortion (or placing a child for adoption), and support those groups, parachurch ministries, and sponsoring agencies that offer viable alternatives to abortion.

Click here to download the statement in printable, PDF format.

 

Revelation 7:9 Task Force continues “listening tour”

 

Revelation79JanuaryMeetingMembers of the EPC’s Revelation 7:9 Task Force continue to study how the EPC can better become a denomination that faithfully embraces and serves its neighbors from every nation, tribe, people, and language as described Revelation 7:9. The group met at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando, February 5-6.

Continuing its focus on “input” during its first year, the group spent a significant portion of its meeting in discussions with individuals outside the EPC. These include Léonce Crump, Pastor of the multicultural Renovation Church in Atlanta, Ga.; Michael Chen, National Director of Training and Cross-Cultural Ministry for the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO); and Michael Thornhill, CCO Associate Director of Cross-Cultural Ministry and Recruiting. The CCO is a strategic partner of the EPC.

“The hard and heavy work of listening—and listening well—is helped considerably by the support of friends and partners like Pastor Léonce and the CCO,” said Dean Weaver, Pastor of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in suburban Pittsburgh, Pa. “I know I speak on behalf of the entire Revelation 7:9 team when I ask everyone in the EPC to please keep us in your prayers as we continue this important work.”

The Task Force is co-chaired by Weaver and TE Rufus Smith, Presbytery of the West. Members are TE Tom Clymer, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Marc de Jeu, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; TE David Dwight, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Enid Flores, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; Phyllis Le Peau, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Soon Pak, Presbytery of the Midwest; Beth Paz, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; Brandon Queen, Presbytery of the Gulf South; TE Tim Russell, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Tom Werner, Presbytery of Mid-America; and Ted Winters, Presbytery of Mid-America.

 

 

Revelation 7:9 Task Force begins work

 

Revelation79TaskForce

Members of the EPC Revelation 7:9 Task Force met at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando, November 13-14. The group was appointed by Moderator Tom Werner (standing) in response to a recommendation approved by the 38th General Assembly “to study how the EPC can better become a denomination that faithfully embraces and serves its neighbors from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9).”

In its first face-to-face meeting, the group discussed the scope of its work, reviewed preliminary results of an online survey sent to EPC pastors in October, and explored a variety of opportunities and potential challenges that could inform their work over the next two years.

“I am excited about the work of the Task Force,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Their first year can be summed up in one word: Input. They are not working in a vacuum, but seek to learn about our churches and communities from pastors and leaders in the EPC, as well as glean from the experiences of other denominations and organizations that have navigated these same waters in recent years.”

The Task Force is co-chaired by TE Rufus Smith, Presbytery of the West; and TE Dean Weaver, Presbytery of the Alleghenies. Members are TE Tom Clymer, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Marc de Jeu, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; TE David Dwight, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Enid Flores, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; Phyllis Le Peau, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Soon Pak, Presbytery of the Midwest; Beth Paz, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; Brandon Queen, Presbytery of the Gulf South; TE Tim Russell, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Tom Werner, Presbytery of Mid-America; and Ted Winters, Presbytery of Mid-America.

First Presbyterian Church (Orlando, Fla.) ministry to homeless sees results, garners recognition

 

Lead Homelessness, a national initiative formed to fight the causes and effects of homelessness in the United States, has named David Swanson, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, one of the “11 Most Important Leaders Needed to Solve Homelessness in Orlando.” Others named to the list include Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer; Linda Gonzalez, Vice President of Social Responsibility for the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association (NBA); and Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

In a video presentation produced by Lead Homelessness, Swanson said that in his 13 years as pastor at the downtown Orlando church, “the primary need I have faced, since day one, has been how to deal with the countless numbers of homeless people that have been on our steps, that are in our church on Sunday mornings, that are coming seeking money, shelter, and all the different needs that they have. It has been a constant challenge.”

Under his leadership, First Presbyterian Church has spent $1.5 million serving the homeless population of Central Florida. However, he emphasized that while those efforts helped people, they did not address the systemic issues that caused homelessness. In a partnership with the Central Florida Regional Commission on Homelessness and the Lead Homelessness initiative, efforts are now focused on securing permanent supportive housing, in addition to meeting felt needs.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, noted that homelessness in the United States is a ministry opportunity for every city-center church, and many suburban and rural congregations as well.

“The emphasis that First Orlando is involved with in helping secure housing for the homeless is having a major impact in a major city,” he said. “What this church is doing can be a real model for all our EPC city-center churches.”

Swanson emphasized that ministry to the homeless, while not always easy, can have long-term significance in many ways.

“One of the Church’s most effective witnesses is the manner in which she serves the larger community,” he said. “Being actively engaged with community leaders, civil servants, non-profit leaders, and elected officials builds positive relationships while also addressing larger social issues. It is often a winsome and positive way to intrepret the gospel to a city.  This has been the case for us as it has engaged us with the city of Orlando in the area of homelessness.”

Hope Church Memphis featured in The Gospel Coalition

 

HopeChurchTGCThe Gospel Coalition’s lead story on November 2, “How the Country’s Largest White Presbyterian Church Became Multiethnic,” tells the story of Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn. Planted in 1988 in a predominately white suburban area, within 20 years the congregation was the largest in Memphis—but with less than 1 percent of its 7,000 attendees African American.

The EPC’s largest congregation is now more than 20 percent African American, including the senior pastor, Rufus Smith.

Hope Church will host the 38th EPC General Assembly in June 2018.

Click here for the full story.

The Gospel Coalition is a network of evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition, and was founded by Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, and D.A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill.

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.

First Orlando’s Case Thorp pens Wall Street Journal op-ed on Keller/Princeton flap

 

Case Thorp, Senior Associate Pastor of the EPC’s First Presbyterian Church of Orlando and an alumnus of Princeton Theological Seminary, has written an op-ed article published in the Wall Street Journal on March 23. Thorp’s piece addresses the recent controversy surrounding the seminary’s retraction of its annual Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness. Earlier this year, the mainline seminary announced that it would present the award to Keller, but rescinded the honor on March 22 in response to protests by individuals who do not support the PCA (of which Keller is a member)’s stance on female and LGBTQ clergy.

The article on the Wall Street Journal is behind a paywall, but you can click here to read it on Thorp’s blog at www.casethorp.com.

ThorpWSJ

Congressional leaders release letter requesting Andrew Brunson’s freedom

 

senateletterrelease

The Foreign Affairs committees of the United States House and Senate issued a press release on February 16 calling for the immediate release of EPC teaching Elder Andrew Brunson. The press release urging Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to grant Brunson’s freedom was signed by 78 members of Congress and includes both Republicans and Democrats.

https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/press-release/congressional-leaders-seek-release-american-pastor-unjustly-detained-turkey/

Brunson was detained in October 2016 and falsely charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization” in December. He has been held for more than four months despite the charging documents presenting no evidence against him.