Category Archives: Social Issues

Merry Christmas from Jeff Jeremiah and the EPC staff

 

In the December edition of The Jeremiah Journal, Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah brings a Merry Christmas message on behalf of Moderator Scott Griffin, the National Leadership Team, and the entire staff of the Office of the 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 EPNews and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Imprisoned EPC pastor formally charged in Turkey

 
Andrew Brunson

Andrew Brunson

Andrew Brunson has been charged in Turkey with membership in an armed terrorist organization and sent to prison by the officiating judge. Brunson, an EPC teaching elder and member of the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic, had been held without charge in a detention center in Turkey since October 7. He was interrogated without notice on December 9 and imprisoned.

The Brunson family has retained the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which is active in defending persecuted Christians around the globe, as their legal counsel and leaders of the public campaign for Andrew’s release.

In a statement, ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow said Brunson is “facing grave danger in a Turkish prison where he is being held simply because of his Christian beliefs,” adding that if convicted, he could face many years in prison based on extremely serious—but false—charges.

At the time of Brunson’s detention in October, his activities were considered by the Turkish government to be “against national security.” However, no other reason was given for Andrew’s incarceration and no formal charges had been filed against him.

As of December 8, he had been held without charges for 63 days. In more than two months of detention, Andrew has been permitted only two U.S. consular visits.

The U.S. State Department, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and other U.S. government officials have been working with EPC leaders to gain Brunson’s release.

The Brunson family issued a statement December 14 in which they thanked those working to secure Andrew’s freedom. “We will not rest until Andrew is free,” they said. “We’re grateful for the support of the ACLJ and others who are working to demand that Turkey release Andrew without delay.”

The Brunsons have lived in Turkey since 1993, where he has been the pastor of two churches. At the time of his detention, the Brunsons had been trying for five months to renew their resident visas but had not received any response.

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church firmly believes that Andrew Brunson’s detention is unfounded. The Brunsons have absolutely no connection to any armed terrorist organization in the country where he has lived peacefully for more than 20 years and where they raised their three children.

Andrew’s daughter, Jacqueline, who attends college in North Carolina, said the family is shocked by the charges against him and urged the Turkish government to release him immediately.

“It is both troubling and disturbing that my father, who has called Turkey home for the last 23 years, is imprisoned without cause,” she said. “I grew up in Turkey and saw firsthand how much he loves Turkey and the Turkish people. He has exhibited nothing but love, mercy, and grace during his time there. The best Christmas present our family could receive this year is the release of my father.”

Pastoral Letter interim committee appointed

 

 

SandyWillson

Sandy Willson

In June, the 36th General Assembly approved a motion calling for the Moderator to appoint an interim committee to draft a pastoral letter on “Ministering to the Church and World on Issues Pertaining to Human Sexuality.” The committee will make its report to the 38th General Assembly in 2018.

Teaching Elder Sandy Willson, Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn., will serve as chair of the Interim Committee on Drafting a Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality. Willson chaired the Interim Committee on Position Paper Revision that wrote the Position Paper on Human Sexuality. Moderator Scott Griffin commended his leadership and asked him to lead the new committee as well.

Other committee members are RE John Graham (Presbytery of the Southeast), RE Rick Schatz (Midwest), RE Annie Rose (Rivers and Lakes), RE Scott Griffin (Pacific), TE Mike Glodo (Florida), TE Adam Barr (Midwest), and TE Sharon Beekmann (West). Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah will serve as staff resource.

The committee will begin its work on September 12 when it holds its first meeting in Memphis.

EPC signs religious liberty statement

 

JeffJeremiahby Jeff Jeremiah
EPC Stated Clerk

Can you imagine a state punishing a Christian school for upholding traditional Christian teachings? That is what could happen if the California Senate passes Bill No. 1146 (SB 1146).

The proposed legislation would reduce the number of California colleges and universities that can claim exemptions from federal Title IX anti-discrimination law—applying the exemption only to seminaries and schools of divinity. This means that Christian colleges could face a loss of accreditation status with the state of California, resulting in their students’ inability to qualify for state and federal grants and loans.

SB 1146 has been called a “real test” as to whether a state legislature (and most likely the court system) is going to impose the U.S. Supreme Court-imposed orthodoxy concerning sexual orientation and marriage.

This bill is a direct challenge to long-standing exceptions for claims of religious free exercise. If passed, it would change the legal landscape for religious adherents both individually and collectively. Not only is SB 1146 disastrous for religious post-secondary education in California, it also sets a dangerous precedent for other states.

For these reasons, the EPC signed on to a “Multi-faith Statement to Protect Religious Higher Education,” which was released on August 9 by Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (the text of this statement is below). As of August 9, more than 140 signatories from across the religious and political spectrum had signed, including presidents or administrators from more than 50 colleges and seminaries.

David Tyra, member of the EPC Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) and a Ruling Elder for Centerpoint Community Church in Roseville, Calif., is providing legal counsel for some of the religious institutions that would be affected by this statute. Please pray for David as he represents these colleges and universities in this politically charged situation.

A vote in the Appropriations Committee as to whether SB 1146 will come to the floor of the California Assembly will take place on August 11. We will keep you informed as this situation continues to develop.

Thank you for praying once again for God to be glorified in the face of continual secular government overreach.

“Multi-faith Statement on the Protection of Religious Higher Education”

The California Assembly has proposed legislation that is harmful to the free exercise of religion in higher education. In particular, the legislation disadvantages low-income minority students who want an education at private religious colleges. Though it purports to eliminate discrimination, Senate Bill 1146 results in its own form of discrimination by stigmatizing and coercively punishing religious beliefs that disagree on contested matters related to human sexuality. If SB 1146 were to pass, it would deny students’ ability to participate in state grant programs—programs that exist to help low-income students, and which are overwhelmingly used by racial minorities—at schools that are found in violation of the bill. Moreover, it would severely restrict the ability of religious education institutions to set expectations of belief and conduct that align with the institution’s religious tenets. While we do not all agree on religious matters, we all agree that the government has no place in discriminating against poor religious minorities or in pitting a religious education institution’s faith-based identity against its American identity. This legislation puts into principle that majoritarian beliefs are more deserving of legal protection, and that minority viewpoints are deserving of government harassment. Legislation of this nature threatens the integrity not only of religious institutions, but of any viewpoint wishing to exercise basic American freedoms, not least of which is the freedom of conscience.

We, the undersigned, do not necessarily agree with one another’s religious views, but we agree on the necessity of the liberty to exercise these views. At the root of the American experiment is the idea that conscience and religious conviction come before the demands of the state. Some of us disagree with the sexual ethics of orthodox Jews, Christians, and Muslims giving rise to this legislation, but we are unified in our resistance to the government setting up its own system of orthodoxy. As the American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin once said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” No less is this true than on matters of religious liberty. Where the state can encroach on one religion’s free exercise, it can just as easily trample on any other religion’s free exercise. We therefore join in solidarity across religious lines to speak against Senate Bill 1146.

We call on the California Assembly to abandon Senate Bill 1146. To ensure the future of the free exercise of religion in higher education in California and across America, we respectfully call on the supporters of Senate Bill 1146 to immediately withdraw their support of this bill, with the commitment to disavow similar intrusions in the future. Opposition to this bill is not grounded in the protection of religious liberty only, nor for the special pleading of one religion in particular, but for the protection of American society and American democracy. Such protection requires a civil society welcoming of religious diversity.

The future of a free America requires the full participation of religion in public life. Religious higher education cultivates both the mind and the soul. Senate Bill 1146 endangers the integrity of religious education institutions and discourages them from acting according to their conscience for fear of government retribution. As Americans with a rich legacy of freedoms afforded to us by the laws of nature and of nature’s God, and enshrined in the Constitution, we can do better. As we renew our commitment to religious pluralism in the public square, we should embrace debate, welcome dissent, and encourage civility as we work together for the sake of the common good and of a country we are all unreservedly blessed to call our home.

Click here for the list of signatories to the statement.

July 10 slated as “Prayer Together Sunday”

 

PrayTogether

In April, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) designated Sunday, July 10, as a day for evangelical churches across the United States to unite in prayer for our country.

For all that has happened in our country and world in the last 30 days, it’s especially appropriate and urgent for us to respond to this call.

The NAE represents approximately 48 million evangelical Christians in the US, and the EPC has been a denominational member since 1982. Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Lead Pastor/Stated Clerk, serves on the NAE Board of Directors.

Click here for more information, or go to www.nae.net/praytogether.

U.S. declares ISIS actions genocide

 

JeffJeremiahJeff Jeremiah

In Responding to the persecution of Christians – we will not ‘Sing a Little Louder’ I asked you to set aside time in your worship services on March 12-13 to pray for Christians suffering for their faith in ISIS-held territory. I also asked you to consider praying that the U.S. State Department will report to Congress that the horrors these brothers and sisters endure is, in fact, genocide.

Thank you for your prayers and praise the Lord! Today, Secretary of State John Kerry reported to Congress that the ISIS treatment of Yazidis, Christians, and Shiite Muslims is genocide. Earlier this week in a unanimous vote, the House of Representatives passed a resolution similar to Kerry’s statement.

This is a major step forward in what we hope will be concerted action to relieve the suffering of these people. In the meantime, please continue to pray for those who are being persecuted—and in far too many cases, martyred—for no other reason than their faith.

Click here for more on today’s declaration.

Responding to the persecution of Christians—we will not “Sing a Little Louder”

 

JeffJeremiahby Jeff Jeremiah

“Global Movement” is one of the four strategic initiatives in the EPC as we move from “transfer to transformation” growth. It includes the continued outstanding ministry of our World Outreach department led by Phil Linton. It also includes exploring potential partnerships with denominations and groups in the global church in which the synergy from the partnership could produce Kingdom growth we couldn’t imagine doing on our own. Moderator Mike Moses led a group of EPC leaders to Mexico City earlier this month to meet with leadership of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico. A report of that trip will be released soon.

ISISA third aspect of Global Movement is the reality that brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world are suffering persecution and martyrdom for their faith. Who can forget the video of the beheading of the 21 Coptic Christians on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in February 2015? Did you know that only 20 of those young men were Christians when they were brought to beach for their execution? The twenty-first was a Muslim. When he observed the testimony and faith of his friends, he confessed Jesus as his Savior and Lord and subsequently was martyred for his faith.

In the last several months, the suffering of Christians and other religious minorities in ISIS-held territory in Syria and Iraq has made headlines. The Assyrian Christian community there, once 1.3 million strong, now is estimated at no more than 300,000.

NReligious rights advocate Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom for the Hudson Institute, has written, “The last Christians to pray in the language spoken by Jesus are being deliberately targeted for extinction. Christians have been executed by the thousands. Many of their clergy have been assassinated and their churches and ancient monasteries demolished or desecrated.”

What can we do? As we continue to remember our suffering brothers and sisters to the Lord, we also can advocate for them by encouraging our government to acknowledge that this persecution of Christians is genocide. The US State Department is required by law to make a report with an evaluation to Congress of “the persecution of, including attacks against, Christians and people of other religions in the Middle East, and determine whether such attacks constitute genocide.” The deadline for this report to the Congress is March 17.

Will you set aside time in your worship services on Saturday and Sunday, March 12-13, to pray for Christians suffering for their faith in ISIS-held territory, and also pray that the State Department will report to Congress that the horrors they endure is genocide?

Additionally, you can email Secretary of State John Kerry by clicking the “Contact Us Request Form” on the U.S. Secretary of State website at http://contact-us.state.gov/cgi. Without a genocide declaration by the world’s leading nations, the international community will continue to do little as Christians and other religious minorities in this region suffer.

Genocide is defined in international law in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

In November, Cindy and I enjoyed an informative and challenging trip to Israel. One of the topics addressed on the trip was religious persecution in the region. While there, we viewed the powerful and convicting “Sing a Little Louder” video. I urge you to invest less than 12 minutes at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofcs9Y7qL4s. The video highlights the response of Christians of another era when confronted with the persecution and destruction of a religious minority. Your response may be to wonder what you would have done then, but let’s be certain about our response for our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ who face suffering simply for their faith today.

Demonstrating the EPC at its best

 

by Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk

The time is right to give you all a “shout out.”

We are in the midst of the thirty-day response period to the draft of the Position Paper on Human Sexuality produced by the Position Paper Review Interim Committee. Two EPC groups deserve praise and thanks.

SandyWillson

Sandy Willson

First is the Interim Committee. Led by Sandy Willson, the committee set an aggressive schedule for itself when it first met last summer. To ensure there was time for EPC leaders to read and respond—and for the committee to carefully consider input from across the denomination—it set January 15 as their deadline for the completion of the draft. When the response period concludes on February 15, they then will have plenty of time to review and consider revisions to the Paper. Imagine how difficult it would be to consider your responses if they had distributed the draft on April 15? Or May 15? The Interim Committee worked very hard this fall to ensure all of us would have the opportunity to provide input.

Second is all of you who are responding. I’ve met with two EPC leadership groups that have discussed the Paper. In each meeting, it was obvious that everyone in the room cared about the stance we take. In addition, everyone appreciated the task the Interim Committee had taken on and the work they had done. These groups presented thoughtful concerns, corrections, and additions to the draft—sometimes with a lack of agreement. Yet throughout these conversations, all were shown courtesy and respect. My take-away from each meeting was, “We’re in this together and we’ll figure it out together.” Beyond these meetings, I’ve seen the same attitude and behavior on display in emails and social media, all seeking to gather support for various responses to the Paper.

There is no doubt that we all have the same goal in this project: a Position Paper that best represents the EPC on this topic. I am very thankful for that, and am equally as thankful for how the process has played out so far. That merits a “shout out” to everyone involved. Great job!

Position Paper Review Committee begins work on EPC sexuality statement

 

This year’s General Assembly in Orlando authorized the formation of a special committee to edit the EPC Position Paper on Homosexuality. The committee—appointed by Moderator Mike Moses—has the stated goal of a preliminary Position Paper on Human Sexuality, which will include the sanctity of marriage, homosexuality, and other relevant issues.

“The direction is to keep the same orthodox, biblical positions on such important matters, while updating the presentation and content,” said Moses, Pastor of Lake Forest Church in Huntersville, N.C. “God’s positive design for human sexuality will be the overwhelming emphasis of our work.”

The committee held its first meeting at Lake Forest Church on August 4. When finished, the new Position Paper will state that human sexuality finds its appropriate expression only within the context of marriage between one man and one woman for life—thereby ruling out all other sexual activity.

Sandy Willson, Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, is the committee chair.

“It is a pleasure to serve with such a highly qualified group of church leaders,” Willson said.  “We would greatly appreciate the prayers of our fellow elders as we continue our work this fall and discuss how we as a denomination can lovingly communicate our views of biblical sexuality to a world that desperately needs ‘the truth in love.’”

A first draft is scheduled for completion by January 1, 2016, with comments and suggestions solicited from all EPC Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders during January. All feedback will be considered and a final draft should be released in April 2016. Further discussion and a potential vote for adoption is scheduled for the 36th General Assembly in June 2016 at Ward Church in Northville, Mich.

In the meantime, the current Position Paper on the Sanctity of Marriage is available in pdf format at www.epc.org/positionpapers and the current Position Paper on Homosexuality is available on request by emailing Brian Smith, EPC Director of Communications, at brian.smith@epc.org.

Members of the committee are:

  • TE Sandy Willson, Pastor, Second Presbyterian Church, Memphis, Tenn. (Chair)
  • TE Sharon Beekmann, Cherry Hills Community Church, Denver, Colo.
  • TE Bart Garrett, Pastor, Christ Church East Bay, Berkley, Calif.
  • TE Mike Glodo, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, Reformed Seminary, Orlando, Fla.
  • RE Don Graham, M.D., RiverOaks EPC, Winston-Salem, N.C.
  • TE Doug Resler, Pastor, Parker EPC, Parker, Colo.
  • TE Case Thorp, Senior Associate Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Orlando, Fla.
  • TE Mike Moses, Pastor, Lake Forest Church, Huntersville, N.C. (Advisor)
  • TE Ed McCallum, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk (Advisor)

EPC statement on Supreme Court marriage ruling

 

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church grieves today’s ruling of the Supreme Court, which illustrates the continued disregard for the biblical, traditional, Judeo-Christian values upon which the foundation of our nation was established. As a church, we continue to rest our faith in the sovereign God and the authority of His Holy Word. We pray faithfully for our nation and our leaders as so commanded by Scripture.

We bear no malice toward those with a same-sex attraction; in fact, we love them with the love of Christ. However, as a church we must adhere to the biblical definition of marriage, rather than a cultural one.

We recognize that civil governments adopt policies that do not align with biblical values. However, those policies must never require that people of faith abandon the clear teaching of Scripture, forfeit the right to proclaim those truths, or change their beliefs or practices.

EPC statement on Charleston shooting

 

We join in mourning with our brothers and sisters from the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., as well as the greater AME family around the world. Our hearts are broken over the tragic loss of nine brothers and sisters in Christ on Wednesday night.

We earnestly pray that the Lord of all comfort and peace will be powerfully present in your lives in this time of grief and loss.

This senseless violence reminds us how much this world needs the love of Jesus Christ, and we therefore pray for the perpetrator who was so obviously under the control of the evil one.

EPC joins NAE amicus brief in Supreme Court same-sex marriage appeal

 

The EPC, in partnership with the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), has joined an amicus curiae brief filed with the Supreme Court of the United States in support of the biblical definition of marriage. The Supreme Court will hold a hearing on appeals related to the culturally divisive issue beginning April 28, 2015.

Supporters of “marriage equality” will argue that according to the Fourteenth Amendment, the right of marriage should be extended to homosexuals. In addition, they will argue that those who oppose homosexual marriage on religious grounds do so out of “animus” (hatred).

The NAE brief presents three contrasting positions:

  • Traditional marriage is central to the faith, personal identity, and way of life of millions of religious Americans;
  • Voiding marriage laws for reasons of animus would harm religious liberty and distort constitutional law; and
  • Mandating same-sex marriage on other grounds will generate conflicts with religious liberty.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said the ruling “could determine whether and how we will enjoy the freedom to preach and teach biblical truth in the years to come.” The Supreme Court will likely announce its ruling in late June.

As a member of the NAE, the EPC was invited to join the brief. The EPC Amicus Review Team reviewed and unanimously recommended participation to the Committee on Administration (COA), which gave its approval on March 30.

“I’m pleased we are part of this,” said Dale Schaeffer, COA member and Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of Mid-America. “It’s important.”

Carl Esbeck, University of Missouri law school professor and member of the EPC congregation The Crossing in Columbia, Mo., was instrumental in developing the brief. “Carl did an outstanding job leading the team that drafted the NAE amicus,” Jeremiah said.

The EPC Amicus Review Team consists of Jim Rimmel and John Graham, both former General Assembly Moderators, and Kent Talbert, current member of the Board of Benefits. “These three attorneys did invaluable service for us as the Amicus Review Team,” Jeremiah added.

Signatories represent more than 50 million Americans from a variety of faith traditions. In addition to the NAE and EPC, others include the Christian Legal Society; Fellowship of Evangelical Churches; Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod; Assemblies of God; Christian and Missionary Alliance; Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.); Evangelical Congregational Church; Free Methodist Church–USA; and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

An amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief is filed by an individual or group who is not a party to a particular court case, but who believes that the decision may affect its interest.

Click here to download the full 57-page brief in pdf format.

EPC reaffirms biblical definition of marriage

 

Due to the most recent pronouncement of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to redefine marriage, we in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church reaffirm our position on Christian marriage. We hold to the biblical standard of marriage, which is that it is a formal and sacred covenant between one man and one woman for life.

Further, to clarify our relationship among the diverse Presbyterian denominations, the EPC is a completely independent, separate, and unrelated denomination from the PC(USA) and shares no mutual identity, missions, or holdings.

Our unquestionable commitment to this biblical definition of marriage is undergirded by our belief that God ordained marriage for a number of purposes. These include His glory; intimate human companionship and mutual assistance; bearing, nurturing, and training of children; promoting societal stability; and affirming the proper context for human sexuality.

The EPC is firmly rooted in the Reformed tradition and orthodox theology. We believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the infallible Word of God, the final authority on all issues to which it speaks. Therefore, our attitudes and behaviors are to be judged in the light of the Bible, rather than the Bible being reinterpreted, modified, or overturned by current cultural trends.

The PC(USA) announcement comes after its General Assembly and a majority of its presbyteries approved an amendment to their Book of Order. That amendment changes the definition of marriage to “a unique relationship between two people, traditionally a man and a woman” and permits its ministers to officiate same-sex unions in its churches.

We grieve for our brothers and sisters in the PC(USA) who have chosen to submit to culture rather than to abide by God’s Word. We stand with numerous other evangelical, conservative, and traditional Christians from many branches of the Christian faith tree in our belief in biblical marriage.

Court of Appeals upholds ministers housing allowance

 

by Brian Smith, EPC Director of Communications

On November 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit struck down a decision by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb that the minister’s’ tax-exempt housing allowance is unconstitutional. Crabb had ruled in 2013 that granting such a benefit to clergy that is not available to everyone creates an establishment of religion, which the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits.

In overturning the lower court’s ruling, the three-judge panel stated that the original plaintiffs—the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF)—did not have legal standing to file the initial suit since an organization’s leaders cannot be parties in a suit that causes them no material harm. However, the Appeals Court stated that they did not rule on the “issue of the constitutionality of the parsonage exemption,” so the matter may return.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, applauded the Appeals Court ruling. “In our increasingly secular culture where government overreach is rampant, I am grateful to the Lord for this victory,” he said.

The EPC, in partnership with more than 30 other denominations through The Church Alliance, filed an amicus curiae brief with the Court of Appealsin April. Click here for the Church Alliance report of the Federal Court ruling, including a copy of the court’s opinion.

EPC Joins With Others In “Standing Together for Religious Freedom”

 

July 31. 2013

= = = UPDATE July 31, 2013 = = =

Stated Clerk Jeffrey Jeremiah quoted in “The Catholic World Report” article “In Their Own Words” – http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/2468/in_their_own_words.aspx#.UfkNcaw8nhd

= = = July 9, 2013 = = =

Stated Clerk Jeffrey Jeremiah, on behalf of the EPC and the endorsement of our Committee On Administration, signed an open letter to all Americans regarding the encroachment on religious freedoms that occur under the Health Care Mandate of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (“Obamacare”). The letter was presented to the public at the National Press Club by representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to sign ‘Standing Together for Religious Freedom’ for the EPC,” said Jeremiah. “However, I’m very sad to be put in a position where we have to take a stand for the protection of religious liberty.”

The final paragraph of the open letter states, “Therefore, we call upon HHS [ed; The Department of Health and Human Services] to, at a minimum, expand conscience protections under the mandate to cover any organization or individual that has religious or moral objections to covering, providing or enabling access to the mandated drugs and services. Further, because HHS claims to be acting on authority granted it by Congress, we ask Congress to consider how it might present such offenses from occurring in the future. Any policy that falls short of affirming full religious freedom protection for all Americans is unacceptable.”

You can read the full text of the letter by clicking this link.

EPC and the Boy Scouts of America

 

When will the EPC speak out in support of the Boy Scouts?  The General Assembly Office has received numerous telephone calls and emails asking this question the past few weeks.  The answer: “At this point in time, the EPC cannot speak out on this issue.”

Many of us came from a denomination whose national office regularly made pronouncements about countless social, economic and political issues.  The EPC has taken a restrained approach to allowing our national office make such statements on behalf of the membership of the denomination.  The Office of the General Assembly (the national office) of the EPC only makes pronouncements when instructed to by the General Assembly, which meets each June,* typically in response to an overture from a Presbytery.  If a Presbytery wants to overture the General Assembly asking that we speak to this issue, they may certainly do so.  EPC churches and presbyteries are free to take a position on an issue such as the Boy Scouts of America and communicate that position as they deem appropriate.

*With Committee on Administration (COA) approval, the Office may make statements that are consistent with and are directly applicable to positions the EPC has taken in the past (for example, with COA approval, the national office may make statements that are consistent with our Position Paper on Abortion).

= = = Update 13 Feb 2013 = = =

Dear Jeff,

I commend you for your restraint: in your capacity as Stated Clerk,  you can only speak as directed by the General Assembly.

However, it will be too late for the General Assembly to act effectively because the decision will be made at the Boy Scouts of America’s National meeting in May, and if Christians want to do something, time is of the essence.

Individual congregations who sponsor Scouting units have a lot of clout with National BSA; so do parents of registered Scouts and registered leaders.  I was able to watch the private telecast from the National leadership this past Wednesday, and I can assure you that people are making a huge difference already because the decision was postponed.

In February 5, 2013, the board of our twenty parish BSA council aa unanimously adopted the following statement: “The Louisiana Purchase Council of the Boy Scouts of America fully supports the current membership standards of the Boy Scouts of America.  Those standards express the ideals of Scouting as enunciated in the Scout Oath and Scout Law.  We urge the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America to preserve those membership standards.”

If we keep it up, I believe that we can stop the push being made by a small number of people who want to see BSA admit avowed homosexuals as Scoutmasters.  Here is a link to what the Louisiana Purchase Council has put out on the matter: http://www.louisianapurchasecouncil.org/newsfeed/letter-to-the-scouting-family/8935.

Also, below is a copy of a letter that I sent to the National Key Three: the Chief Scout Executive, National President, and National Commissioner.

God bless you,

Bob

 

January 31, 2013

Mr. C. Wayne Brock
5105 Forest Hill Drive
Flower Mound, TX 75028-3164

Dear Mr. Brock:

I am writing to urge you to do what you can to preserve the current policy of the Boy Scouts of America regarding keeping avowed homosexuals from being put in leadership over boys.  As a pastor I have worked in a kind and gentle way with people who struggle with same-sex attraction.  We welcome such people in our congregation, and none of them would ever say that they were mistreated by us.  However, when it comes to avowed homosexual men being put into adult leadership, particularly in leadership over young men, we must hold the line.

Our congregation has sponsored Scout units for many years, and I am not sure that I could sell this change in policy to our members.  I also think about the words of Jesus of Nazareth: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:4-6).

My prayers are with you, Mr. Brock.

Sincerely Yours,

Robert Benn Vincent, Sr.
Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Churcrh
Father of two Eagle Scouts
Past Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 119S
coutmaster of Troop 1604 at the 1997 Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree
Past President of the Attakapas Council of the Boy Scouts of America
Past Commissioner of the Attakapas Council of the Boy Scouts of America
Current Vice-President of Relationships of the Louisiana Purchase Council
Vigil Member of the Order of the Arrow Silver Beaver