Category Archives: Uncategorized

Jim Van Dyke, EPC “Father of the Church” and 3rd GA Moderator, dies at 89


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Jim and Rosemary Van Dyke

Dr. James Frazier “Jim” Van Dyke, Moderator of the 1983 General Assembly, died January 17 in his longtime home of Rome, Ga. He was 89. He was involved in the founding of the EPC and in 1992 was named one of five “Fathers of the Church.”

A native of Jewel Ridge, Va., Van Dyke was ordained in the Presbyterian Church U.S. (PCUS) in 1954 and served churches in Virginia and Florida before accepting the call to First Presbyterian Church of Rome, Ga., in 1974. He led the church into the EPC in 1982, and retired in 1992 following the longest pastorate in that congregation’s history.

Prior to his service as Moderator he was Stated Clerk of the EPC’s then-Presbytery of the South. He served a member of numerous boards, including King College (now University) in Bristol, Tenn; Thornwell Children’s Home in Clinton, S.C.; Montreat College in Montreat, N.C.; and Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C. He also served on the Ministerial Advisory Board of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Miss., and many local charity and service organizations in Rome, including the Rotary Club, Red Cross, Salvation Army, and United Way. He also was a member of the 7th District Congressional Advisory Committee under Rep. Larry McDonald, who represented Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 until 1983.

Van Dyke was a graduate of King College in Bristol, Tenn. He earned a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Va., and a Master of Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J. He also was awarded a Doctor of Divinity from King College.

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Rosemary; daughter Miriam Van Dyke of Tucker, Ga.; son Joel Van Dyke of Greenville, S.C.; son and daughter-in-law John and Lisa Van Dyke of Norfolk, Va.; and six grandchildren.

A memorial worship service will be held at First Presbyterian Church in Rome, Ga., on January 20.

Click here for a full memorial notice.

Paul Heidebrecht, 2006 Moderator, dies at 67


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Paul Heidebrecht

Rev. Dr. Paul Heidebrecht, Moderator of the 26th General Assembly and current Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes, died at home in West Chicago, Ill., on January 2. He was 67.

A native of Winnipeg, Canada, he was raised in a Mennonite immigrant family and graduated from the University of Winnipeg. He also earned a Master’s Degree from Wheaton Graduate School and a PhD from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.

He served as Associate Pastor for the EPC’s Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Warrenville, Ill., from 1990-2001. He later was Executive Director for Christian Leaders for Africa, and beginning in 2012 served as Pastor of Calgary Community Reformed Church in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He became the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes on January 25, 2016.

Heidebrecht authored several books and periodicals, and was a contributing editor to the Africa Study Bible.

He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Priscilla; daughter Kecia Heidebrecht of Chicago; son and daughter-in-law Caleb and Elisabeth Heidebrecht of Brooklyn, N.Y.; son and daughter-in-law Andrew and Katina Heidebrecht of Salt Lake City, Utah; and four grandchildren: Jeremiah, Eliza, Mark, and Christopher Lucas. He also is survived by eight siblings and many nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held on Saturday, January 6, from 10:00–11:45 a.m. at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, with a memorial service at 12:00 p.m. Memorial gifts may be directed to Immanuel Presbyterian Church.

Click here for a full memorial notice and to sign the guest book.

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.

EPC Chaplain Endorser uses Christmas display to benefit local food bank


MarkInglesChristmasDisplay2017For the fourth consecutive year, EPC Chaplain Endorser Mark Ingles has leveraged his home Christmas display to benefit the Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado. In 2016, he collected approximately 650 pounds of canned and dry goods from people who stopped in front of his house in Colorado Springs, Colo., to view the display. His goal this year is 1,000 pounds.

“It’s an opportunity to give back to the community,” Ingles said. “More than just the beauty of seeing the display and adding that to people’s season of Christmas; it’s a tangible way of being able to have people drop off food. They’re giving to an incredibly wonderful cause.”

KOAA News 5 in Colorado Springs—the region’s highest-rated newscast—broadcast a 2-minute feature on Ingles’ efforts on December 12. The station posted a separate, 3-minute followup story on their Facebook page on December 16, in which Ingles shared that he was already halfway to the donation goal.

Click here to view the December 12 story.

Click here to view the December 16 feature.

December Jeremiah Journal brings Christmas greetings


In the December edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah brings Christmas greetings on behalf of 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 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 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.”

Support EPC World Outreach on Giving Tuesday


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The EPC and its missions arm, World Outreach, has joined the global social media initiative, #GivingTuesday, that seeks to counteract the consumerism of Black Friday and  Cyber Monday with a celebration of giving.

“World Outreach desires to be an organization that gives some of our most precious resources—the members of our EPC churches—to the least-reached and unengaged places of the world for the expansion of the Church and the glory of God,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “On this day that emphasizes online charitable giving, we follow the path set before us from our Heavenly Father, who loved the world so much that He gave His only Son for it.”

Click here to participate in #GivingTuesday with your support of World Outreach global workers or special projects.