Category Archives: Uncategorized

Redeemer Presbyterian Church (Erie, Pa.) launches ministry relationship in Monterrey, Mexico

 

Through the EPC’s fraternal relationship with the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico (INPM), Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Erie, Pa., has formed a ministry relationship with Iglesia Nacional Presbiteriana El Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd National Presbyterian Church) in Monterrey, Mexico. The northeastern Mexican city of more than 4.5 million residents is about 200 miles west of Brownsville, Texas.

The seeds of the relationship were planted in November 2018, when Redeemer Pastor Douglas Kortyna and his wife, Sara, were visiting Monterrey.

“We wanted to worship with fellow Presbyterians while we were down there visiting family,” Douglas said. “We found El Buen Pastor and connected with their pastor, David Cruz.”

RedeemerPresMonterrey

From left, Douglas Kortyna (Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Erie, Pa.), David Cruz (Pastor of Iglesia Nacional Presbiteriana El Buen Pastor in Monterrey, Mexico), and Jim Moelk (retired Presbyterian pastor from Erie, Pa.). 

Through their new-found friendship with Cruz, the Kortynas began a dialogue about potential future mission trips to Mexico. After discussing a variety of possible ministry opportunities, the pastors agreed that the best fit for a first mission trip would be theological education.

“It is a universal truth that Presbyterians throughout the world love their theological education!” Douglas exclaimed.

In November 2019, the Kortynas and a retired Presbyterian pastor from the Erie area, Jim Moelk, and his wife, Jaye, traveled to Monterrey and taught on a variety of topics.

“I taught on trinitarian worship and Reformed sacraments,” Douglas said. “Jim taught through the pastoral epistles with special attention to ‘guarding your conscience,’ while Sara taught the woman’s group at El Buen Pastor on the topic of trinitarian prayer.”

In addition, the group from Redeemer learned how their Mexican counterparts were engaged in church planting.

“The church has started what they call ‘five in five,’” Douglas said. “They are working toward planting five churches within a five-year time period.”

Cruz led the Pennsylvania contigent on tours of three of the Monterrey congregation’s five current church plants.

“We were blown away,” Douglas said. “What church plants five churches in five years? Yet every time El Buen Pastor hits a certain threshold of members, they plant a church, commission the team they establish, and commit to supporting them financially.”

He explained that the El Buen Pastor congregation has “a Kingdom focus and is not interested in just building up one congregation. I couldn’t help but think we should host pastors from Mexico to help teach future EPC church planters some of their strategies!”

Kortyna hopes the November trip is just the start of a fruitful partnership.

“We would love to host a team from El Buen Pastor,” he said. “There is much to learn from our Mexican brothers and sisters in Christ while mutually serving one another, and I firmly believe we should participate with them in the missional work of church planting in Monterrey. Anyone interested in joining us is welcome to contact me at pastor_kortyna@rpcerie.org.”

Two Minute Topics video series continues with child protection policies

 

In the second episode of the EPC’s video series, “Two Minute Topics,” Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri emphasizes the importance of child protection policies and introduces a variety of helpful resources for helping churches protect the children they serve. The resources are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/churchprotection.

“Two Minute Topics” are short, informative videos that address questions that the Office of the General Assembly frequently receives.

The videos are available at www.epc.org/news/twominutetopics, as well on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80.

Church Pivot podcast features Richard Mouw

 
RichardMouw

Richard Mouw

The second episode of Case Thorp’s “Church Pivot” podcast features the Moderator of the 39th General Assembly talking with Dr. Richard Mouw, President Emeritus and Professor of Faith and Public Life at Fuller Theological Seminary. Mouw currently teaches courses on Christian Worldview and Contemporary Culture, and Perspectives on Christ and Culture.

In their discussion, Thorp and Mouw explore the topics of civility, gentleness, and respect—and how those qualities relate to the past, present, and future of the American evangelical church.

Click below to listen. The 42-minute recording also is available on the EPC’s Podbean channel, or search “Evangelical Presbyterian Church” on Spotify or iTunes.


Mouw served as President of Fuller Theological Seminary from 1993–2013. He has been an editor of the Reformed Journal and has served on many editorial boards, including Books and Culture. He is the author of more than 20 books, including The God Who CommandsThe Smell of SawdustHe Shines in All That’s FairCulture and Common GraceUncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil WorldThe Challenges of Cultural DiscipleshipTalking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals, and Adventures in Evangelical Civility: A Lifelong Quest for Common Ground.

Mouw served for many years as a panelist in the online forum “On Faith” offered by the Washington Post. In 2007, Princeton Theological Seminary awarded him the Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life. Mouw also served for six years as co-chair of the official Reformed-Catholic Dialogue, and is a leader in interfaith theological conversations—particularly with Mormons and Jewish groups.

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.

November Jeremiah Journal explains EPC budget allocation

 

In the November 2019 edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah explains how Per Member Asking contributions are put to work in the EPC.

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.

Caldwell (Idaho) EPC celebrates new home, personal revitalization

 
Caldwell-Worship

Caldwell Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s new property is a formerly neglected recreation center the congregation purchased from the local Roman Catholic diocese in 2019.

On November 22, Caldwell Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Caldwell, Idaho, will hold a dedication and celebration service for its new building. The church had been renting a series of locations since joining the EPC in 2013, and purchased a former Roman Catholic property earlier this year. Yet the celebration is about much more than a building—it is a celebration of God’s faithfulness, truth, and power for personal spiritual revitalization.

When the Presbyterian Church in Caldwell, Idaho, began to discuss leaving the mainline denomination in 2012, Scott and Connie Hoover weren’t quite sure what to believe. They had been members of the congregation for more than 40 years and as a result had deep relationships in both the church and the community. Yet they knew there were rumblings among many in the church about their denomination.

“When the issues started coming out, I was on Session,” Connie said. “In the first meeting where we addressed the concerns, I agreed more with my friends who were in favor of gay ordination and that kind of thing. I was on that side of the issue, and others were on the other side.”

For his part, Scott was concerned about what he thought were the mainline denomination’s “unbiblical political stances.”

“I was wondering, ‘do I really want to belong to the Presbyterian church?’” he said. “But when the issue of same-sex ordination came up, I started reading the Bible more and realized I was as much a cultural Christian as I was a believer all these years.”

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Scott and Connie Hoover

Connie noted that her walk with Christ to that point largely mirrored that of her husband’s.

“I was an active church participant, but I wouldn’t say I had a deep walk with Christ,” she confessed. The Hoovers realized that the decision facing the congregation was bringing Scott and her to a personal turning point.

“Through that whole situation I realized that the basic issue was the truth of the Bible, and some of my opinions had to change to line up with biblical truth,” she said. “I remember praying that this decision had to be made by His will and His Word, not the opinions of me and my friends.”

The Hoovers—and the Session—soon realized that the congregation needed to leave its denomination. The transition to a new home would not be easy.

“The more we as a Session prayed that we would align with biblical truth, the more we were criticized,” Connie recalled. “And the more we were criticized, the more I relied on Him and strengthened my relationship with Him. And I was not alone—God drew a lot of us to Him.”

When the congregation cast its vote, 75 percent chose to depart and join the EPC. The 25 percent who voted against the disaffiliation left and began meeting elsewhere. However, they soon filed a lawsuit to gain possession of the church property they had vacated. After more than a year in the courts, followed by a negotiated settlement, the EPC congregation left the property and began renting space from the local Seventh-Day Adventist church.

“I can’t say enough about how gracious the Adventists were,” Connie noted. “And the rent we paid them helped them pay off some debt, so it was good for everyone. They were so kind and encouraging to us, even across some pretty substantial theological divisions.”

Aaron Beaty was the pastor during the congregation’s transition to the EPC.

“I witnessed nothing short of the miraculous work the Holy Spirit in uniting what had previously been a congregation of varied convictions and backgrounds,” said Beaty, who now serves as pastor of Peace Memorial EPC in Klamath Falls, Ore. “The unity was in the Word, the Spirit, and the Body. Ultimately this unity in Christ was expressed when the fellowship chose to turn the building and $300,000 of investments over to their former denomination instead of engaging in a lengthy court battle and appeals process. For a congregation that was deeply rooted in that place, the move demonstrated the work God’s Spirit had done in them.”

Later, the congregation began renting the neglected gym and educational annex of a church property owned by the local Roman Catholic diocese. With the approval of their landlords, members of the congregation began gutting and renovating. They held their first services in the facility in early 2017.

“The Catholic ladies who saw how we fixed it up started crying at how good it looked, and that was still going to be used as a church,” Scott said.

“The Lord activated the gifts of many of our members,” Beaty recalled. “The congregation came together and spent five to six nights a week transforming a musty, run-down education hall into a fresh, roomy worship center with fellowship, office, and classroom space.”

Caldwell EPC ultimately negotiated with the diocese to purchase the property.

“I remember praying, ‘God, this is a great place to preach the Word and minister to the world,’” Beaty recalled. “God said to me, ‘Not for you.’ While shocking, I didn’t take it as a rebuke but as an assurance—that my pastorate had come to an end and God had prepared another for their next stage.”

Following Beaty’s departure to Peace Memorial EPC in 2017, Ehud Garcia served as Transitional Pastor for Caldwell EPC until Dave Moody was installed as pastor in April 2017.

“Ehud and his wife, Neiva, were significant in the life of the church,” Moody said. “For nearly two years he faithfully preached God’s Word, helped the church set up a pastoral search committee, and walked with the congregation through the decision to purchase the building.”

Through the entire process, the congregation came to understand that the church is not bricks and mortar.

“Due to God’s leading them through difficult and refining times,” Moody said, “they understand the church is the people, not the building, and He has brought them here for a revitalized faithfulness to Jesus and His mission.”

Scott Hoover agreed.

“What opened our eyes through the whole thing was that the building really wasn’t important,” he said. “It’s a tool, but it’s not the church. It’s simply a place to expand out from. The whole experience also showed me that I had to understand what the Bible says and I needed to align myself with it. It pushed me to think about what I believed, and to read the Bible—which I really hadn’t done since I was a kid.”

Thanksgiving offering to support World Outreach women’s retreat

 

2019ThanksgivingOfferingThe 2019 EPC Thanksgiving Offering has been designated for the 2019 World Outreach (WO) retreat for WO Direct female global workers. The “Reflect, Connect & Envision” retreat will be hosted by WO Member Care Directors Chris and Debbie Gibson from April 2-6, 2020, in Budapest, Hungary.

“This gathering is designed for our missionary women who are sent through World Outreach to come together for renewal, revitalization, and refreshment,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “Most of our global workers who serve with our co-op partners have annual conferences and retreats put on by their agencies. Our workers sent directly by World Outreach only have this type of event every three years at our Family Gathering.”

Linton added that the 2020 retreat is an effort “to help our ladies on the front lines to feel loved and recharge their batteries. Our 15 WO Direct women have expressed a desire to form relationships with their counterparts who share many of the same ministry, family, parenting, and team issues,” he said.

“The theme of the event, Reflect, Connect & Envision’ will include a variety of activities, all designed to Reflect on who God is, Connect with other women in similar situations, and Envision how God wants to lead—both personally and within ministry,” Linton noted.

The financial goal for the 2019 Thanksgiving Offering is $18,000. The cost per global worker to attend is approximately $1,200 and includes airfare, ground transportation, and meals.

Secure online donations to the Thanksgiving Offering can be made at www.epc.org/donate/thanksgivingoffering. Individuals also can utilize text-to-give by texting “epcthanksgivingoffering” to 50155 from any smart device. Donors who prefer to send a check should put “Thanksgiving Offering (041)” on the memo line and send to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
Attn: Finance Office
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

For help with donations, contact Catherine Rutter, World Outreach Finance Assistant, at catherine.r@epcwo.org or 407-930-4473.

For more information about the retreat, email chris.g@epcwo.org or call 501-413-0054.

The annual Thanksgiving Offering supports a project approved by the General Assembly each June, alternating between World Outreach and Church Planting/Revitalization.

EPC church planter’s retreat: five takeaways

 

CaseThorpChurchPivotby Case Thorp
Moderator of the 39th General Assembly

Escaping the swamp of Florida’s heat and humidity is always a welcomed occasion. Such was just a side benefit of joining the EPC Church Planter’s Retreat in Colorado Springs in October. Little did I know how on-fire our church planting leadership and planters are! My time with them moved me and inspired me, and I’m excited to share five key insights—and their implications for our broader denomination.

1. Tom Ricks is the bomb

The retreat struck the perfect tone: rich worship, challenging content, available counselors, amazing fellowship, and one-off meetings with coaches, experts, patrons, and participants. This was made possible because of the vision and leadership of Tom Ricks, leader of the EPC’s Church Planting Team. Tom is the full-time pastor of Greentree Community Church in suburban St. Louis, and brings to this role decades of church planting and coaching experience.

The planters and their spouses enjoyed a lovely stay at a nice resort—a special blessing that church planters on lean budgets rarely experience. In addition, Tom discovered that renting a nearby (and large!) home through AirBnB was less expensive than hosting two evening dinners in the hotel banquet room, so that’s what he did. The home set a relaxing tone for fellowship, feasting, and friendship-making that sent everyone home with full hearts.

Tom balances casting of vision, setting of tone and table for engagement, and networking through the greater EPC family to see that every church takes at least one of three roles: Parent, Partner, or Patron of church planting. Which one are you?

2. Almost majority minority

It was thrilling to see about 30 percent of our church planters are either African-American or Hispanic. A diverse worship team led our worship times.

As our Revelation 7:9 Task Force calls the EPC to consider how we reach the neighborhoods immediately around our churches, our church planters are leading the way in helping the EPC reflect “every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

EPC church planters are going to communities with resources, and with no resources. Wow!

3. Socialize before you memorialize

At my home church, we are going through a significant process of realigning our ministry model for missional effectiveness. One of our consultants used a great phrase that we repeat often: “Socialize before you memorialize.” His point was this: before you launch some big marketing campaign, restructure your Session or staff organization chart, or endorse some major ministry initiative, socialize things first. See how and where people naturally congregate, lead, live, and breath. Then, as you see the healthier way a community or individual naturally lives out the kingdom of God, memorialize it in architecture, imagery, new staff design, or more.

The church planters are a society of friends, co-laborers, champions, and band of brothers (and sisters!) where the action is happening. As a non-church planter—but a huge champion—I stand on the outside but want to be on the inside where God is doing big things.

4. Networking works

Did you know we have nine church-planting networks already up and running in the EPC? Presbytery-wide church planting work has its pros and cons. In the meantime, presbyteries have endorsed these metro-area networks of mostly (but not exclusively) EPC churches to tackle the task of church replication in their city. Check out www.epc.org/churchplanting and learn more about these networks and their contributions to the EPC church planting effort.

5. More, more, more

ChurchPlantersRetreat

Mike Moses led a session for pastors of churches that want to multiply through church planting.

New to the retreat this year was a workshop solely for senior pastors who want to take their church from no action to becoming a parent, partner, or patron of church planting. I loved meeting these pastors who have a passion to bring a church-planting vision to their flock!

Mike Moses, Lead Pastor of the Lake Forest family of churches in the Charlotte, N.C., area, taught the workshop and helped these pastors consider the opportunities, costs, pitfalls, and issues with doing church planting well.

Finally, here are two statistics that are worthy of our consideration:

  1. A church that plants another church within the first five years of its founding is statistically likely to double in size themselves.
  2. Churches that plant other churches increase in their worship attendance and missions giving more than those that don’t.

The question then becomes: Why isn’t your church planting a daughter church?

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.

EPC Benefits Open Enrollment set for November 1-30

 

2020OpenEnrollmentFBO.jpgNovember is Open Enrollment month for EPC Benefit Resources, Inc., (BRI), which presents an opportunity for churches to enroll or make changes to benefit plan coverages provided to eligible employees. In addition, the Open Enrollment period introduces the EPC’s 2020 Benefit Plan offerings, plan changes, and premium rates. All changes made during Open Enrollment will be effective January 1, 2020.

  • Eligible individuals can be enrolled in the EPC Benefit Plans for the first time.
  • Changes can be made to an eligible individuals benefit selections for 2020.
  • Churches can enroll in EPC Benefit Plans for the first time.
  • Churches can change their Plan offerings for 2020.

New for 2020 are enhancements to the current Disability and Life Insurance offerings, as well as a new provider for the Dental Plan.

  • Short-Term Disability. Long-Term Disability (LTD) insurance can be augmented with Short-Term Disability insurance, which will pay a percentage of an employee’s salary for up to 90 days (beginning as soon as the 8th day after the date of a disability), after which LTD payments take effect.
  • Supplemental Life Insurance. Participants covered under the EPC’s existing Life Insurance benefit can purchase additional coverage up to $150,000 (in increments of $10,000), and also can purchase coverage for their spouse and dependents. Adding additional Life Insurance coverage will not require a physical exam or medical screening questions if existing participants add the coverage during Open Enrollment.

“These two options are voluntary,” said Bart Francescone, BRI Executive Director. “Churches can choose to offer them to their staff and have the premiums paid by the church, or by the employee through payroll deductions.”

Delta Dental is the new plan administrator for the EPC’s Dental Plan, replacing Principal. Current dental benefit participants will be automatically transferred to Delta with coverage effective January 1, 2020. Francescone said Delta offers “a much larger network of dentists, additional coverages, and lower out-of-pocket expenses to the participant.”

He also noted that the EPC benefit plans are available to all full-time (30 hours or more per week) employees of EPC churches, as well as Chaplains, ministers serving out-of-bounds, and various other categories.

“Anyone new to the EPC—or interested in enrolling in one of our benefit programs for the first time—should reach out to whoever handles benefits at their church regarding their interests,” he said.

Francescone explained that Open Enrollment is a “passive process” for current participants, meaning those already enrolled in the EPC benefit plans will automatically retain their 2019 benefit elections unless they choose a new plan or decline an existing coverage for 2020.

For more information about 2020 benefit offerings, see www.epc.org/benefits/2020openenrollment, or contact the EPC Benefits Administration Office at 877-578-8707 or EPC@cdsadmin.com.

Noted church leadership expert Mike Bonem headlines annual Executive Pastor/Church Administrator gathering

 

XPGatheringAt the first of two EPC Executive Pastor/Church Administrator workshops, noted church leadership coach and consultant Mike Bonem discussed the topic “Managing change for revitalization.” The event was held October 24-25 in Denver, Colo.

In his presentation, Bonem described the challenges of change, models for change, and some of the unique dynamics of being in a second chair through change in a church.

“Change is kind of like being in a sports car on a two-lane road in the mountains,” he told the group. “It can be incredibly fun to drive, but it can be terrifying to be a passenger. Second-chair leaders have the best—and worst—of both. And the members of your congregation most often feel like they are in the passenger seat. So leading change is hard, that’s all there is to it.”

Regarding the challenge of change, Bonem noted that people desire stability and predictability, but change often equals chaos, threatens comfort and power, and can imply that “we’ve done something wrong.” He added that these factors apply to any organization, not just the church, but change in the church is more difficult because churches are dependent on volunteers and rich in tradition.

“Churches are also often resistant (or unaccustomed) to feedback, and may have weak or informal governance structures,” he said. “We also have history—the past is always present—and many times people will put a theological overlay on that history.”

As a model of change, Bonem described the “Congregational Transformation Model” that formed the basis for his book, Leading Congregational Change.

“As church leaders, we often focus on vision and how we get there, but that’s just one piece of a much larger process,” he said. “We are never going to be done with change in the church, so what we want to do is create and reinforce momentum through alignment.”

He noted that the challenges in change management “are less about the changes we want to make, but more about the pieces around it—things like communication and having the right people involved,” he said, emphasizing that change always produces some kind of conflict.

“Not all conflict is bad,” Bonem said. “It can be life-giving, as we see so many times in Acts. But conflict without spiritual and relational vitality can be life-threatening. When decisions in the church—particularly contentious ones—start to become like the decisions in Washington or whatever your state capitol is, it makes me wonder about its spiritual and relational vitality.”

Regarding the dynamics of the second-chair role in change management, Bonem addressed a variety of factors, including being aligned with the senior pastor, helping manage the pace of change, taking the pulse of the staff and congregation, paying attention to process, and several others.

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

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

Sixteen EPC church leaders attended the workshop. In addition to discussing recent challenges and opportunities in their ministry settings—particularly related to change—participants shared best practices on a variety of topics related to church administration and operations, and networked on such issues as technology systems, personnel, outreach efforts, vision and strategy, finance, and more.

The workshop is a resource of the Office of the General Assembly. The second roundtable, which also features Bonem and has the same format as the October 24-25 event, takes place November 7-8 in Orlando. For more information, see www.epc.org/xpadmingathering.

1981 General Assembly recordings featuring D. James Kennedy, Francis Schaeffer now available

 

Recordings of the inaugural EPC General Assembly worship service speakers are now available in both audio and video formats. The speakers for the first Assembly were D. James Kennedy, Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and renowned theologian and author Francis Schaeffer. Kennedy spoke on “God’s Purpose for His Church.” Schaeffer’s message was titled “To be God’s Church in the Midst of the 20th Century Confusion.”

Videos of the messages are available below, and also on the EPC website at www.epc.org/ga1981 and in the “1st General Assembly” playlist on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80.

Audio versions in podcast format are available on the EPC’s Podbean channel, or search “Evangelical Presbyterian Church” on Spotify or iTunes.

“We’ve had a number of people ask if a recording of Francis Schaeffer’s talk existed,” said Brian Smith, EPC Director of Communications. “I was afraid that if we had one, it had gotten lost in the Office of the General Assembly’s relocation to Orlando in 2016. In God’s providence, we found the original videotapes in one of the very last boxes we unpacked in our storage room this summer. We are very pleased to make these recordings available at long last.”

The 1981 Assembly was held September 22-23, 1981, at Ward Presbyterian Church in Livonia, Mich.

The recordings include the featured speakers’ introductions. Kennedy was welcomed by Bartlett Hess, longtime Pastor of Ward Presbyterian Church. Schaeffer was introduced by A. George Scotchmer. Hess (1910-1999) and Scotchmer (1916-1993) were later honored as two of five EPC “Fathers of the Church.”

World Outreach Committee reviews ongoing work, interviews candidates for future ministry

 

WorldOutreachCommitteeMeeting201910At its fall 2019 meeting, the EPC World Outreach (WO) Committee discussed a variety of topics related to policy and finance, heard reports on several ministry projects, and interviewed several candidates for potential future appointment as global workers.

The committee met October 17-18 at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando.

Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach, noted the importance of spending time on administrative matters.

“We have to continually review our policies and procedures to ensure that we are providing the best possible support for our global workers out there on the front lines,” Linton said. “I am grateful that the members of the committee take that responsibility seriously.”

Among those items were amendments to the World Outreach Manual concerning vehicles and transportation, housing, excess support, and administrative fees. The committee also discussed issues related to approved agencies and heard reports on ministry projects in Kazakhstan and Indonesia.

“It’s exciting to know that God is working in and through EPC World Outreach,” Linton noted. “The disappointing part is that because of where so many of our people are serving, we have to be so careful in our reporting so we don’t jeopardize their safety.”

Members of the World Outreach Committee are Kevin Cauley, Chairman, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; Brad Buescher, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains; Rick Dietzman Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; Phyllis Ellsworth, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Midwest; Susan Lear, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains; Johnny Long, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the West; David Miller, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; Patrick Tucker, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Gulf South; and David Van Valkenburg, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the West.

A turnaround story: Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church

 

ChapelHillASpencer Hutchins is 33 now, but he was three years old when he first met Mark Toone, Senior Pastor of Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church in Gig Harbor, Wash. Hutchins grew up in the church, and now he’s helping to lead it as chair of the elder board.

“It says a great deal about Mark that he trusts me, a child of the church he knew as a toddler, with this position of authority,” Hutchins says. “At Chapel Hill, we are blessed with a senior pastor who both leads and follows. He acts with humility and respect for our church governance. Our pastor takes very seriously the burden of responsibility on him but knows he does not carry it alone.”

Toone’s humility and his close relationship with church elders (and the rest of the congregation) have been on full display the past year and a half or so, as the church has doubled down on reversing a 14-year-old trend of declining membership. In March 2018, the church hired Tony Morgan of The Unstuck Group to help them rearticulate their ministry and realign their structures.

“It was a point of existential crisis for me,” Toone says. “I reached the point where I felt we either had to find a way, by God’s grace, to turn this around, or I needed to take early retirement and see if someone else could do something. I had 30 years of accumulated chips, and I decided I would push all of them onto the table. Hard decisions that might wound me could kill my successor, but I wanted to do everything I could to prepare Chapel Hill for a future even greater than its past.”

Because Toone had so much relational equity with church members, he was able to implement some risky changes.

ChapelHillB

Associate Pastor Ellis White (left) and Ruling Elder David Derr administer the sacrament of baptism at Chapel Hill’s annual outdoor “Harbor Baptisms” service each summer.

“We began thinking about worship services as our front door rather than our living room, which changed the way we planned, aimed, talked, decorated, and followed up,” Toone says.

Perhaps that was most obvious in a simple but important decision that turned out to be symbolic of all the sacrificial change (and resulting growth) the church has seen in the past year: closing the balcony during all services. Prior to that, many people preferred to worship from the balcony, leaving the main floor feeling uncomfortably empty for visitors. That decision, Toone says, not only set off the most grumbling, but it coincided with a positive turnaround in attendance.

“I’ve never had more complaints about a single issue in my 30 years of ministry than we did over closing the stupid balcony,” Toone says. “Frankly, the more it went on, the more I was determined we wouldn’t open that balcony if it killed me, because I felt like there was a spiritual issue at play. It became almost a parable of the journey of change we were engaged in, where we were calling on people to sacrifice comfort and preference for the sake of the greater good of the body and of those who had yet to walk through our doors.”

Focusing on the unchurched was a huge shift for Chapel Hill.

“Our mission statement had to do with presenting everyone mature in Christ, and, in a sense, we had accomplished that,” Toone says. “But in the process, we had begun to close the door to the outsider. So we became more intentional about our worship services not just being a training time for seasoned veterans but really a welcoming, open front door for [newcomers].”

That not only meant introducing a contemporary service in addition to the long-standing traditional one, but also having a much clearer discipleship plan in place for new believers.

“Instead of weekends just being about putting together a great worship service, we were far more intentional about equipping our members to invite their friends,” Associate Pastor Ellis White says, “and then creating an experience for those people that’s engaging, where they feel welcomed, where they have the opportunity to profess faith, and where they can then be baptized and make a concrete next step in their faith.”

Above all of these things, though, the greatest catalyst for growth has been the Holy Spirit, Hutchins says.

“We do not seek increased attendance as an end in and of itself,” he says. “We desire to grow, both in numbers and in faith, as an expression of the vibrancy of the Holy Spirit in and among us.”

Toone echoes that sentiment.

“I love the fact that the Lord has seen fit to entrust more people to us,” Toone says. “This is a movement of the Spirit.”

 

Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church was named to the “Outreach 100” list for 2019 of the fastest-growing churches in the United States. Article reprinted courtesy of Outreach magazine. ©2019 Outreach Inc. Photos courtesy of Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church.

www.OutreachMagazine.com

https://outreachmagazine.com/ideas/church-profiles/45842-a-turnaround-story-chapel-hill-presbyterian-church.html

Andrew Brunson offers U.S. Senate prayer on anniversary of release

 

Andrew Brunson delivered the opening prayer for the United States Senate in Washington, D.C., on October 15. The EPC Teaching Elder’s prayer commemorated the one-year anniversary of his release from prison in Turkey and return to the United States.

“I pray that you grant to the Senators of the United States the spirit of wisdom, the fear of the Lord, and the courage to act by the counsel of the Lord in all matters, great and small,” Brunson said during his one-and-a-half-minute invocation.

A North Carolina native, Brunson prayed at the invitation of Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and thanked the Senators for their efforts in helping secure his release.

“Before I pray I want to thank the Senate,” he said. “I’m standing here today because so many of you fought for me, and I’m deeply grateful. In a time of many divides you were unified in fighting for my release. Thank you.”

Arrested in October 2016, Brunson was held for two years on roundly disputed charges of membership in an armed terrorist organization. He was convicted on October 12, 2018, following testimony on the fourth hearing of his trial. The judge imposed a sentence of approximately three years, but granted a release on the equivalent of time served.

Freeport and Nassau, Bahamas: on the ground one month after Hurricane Dorian

 

by Jerry Iamurri
EPC Assistant Stated Clerk

“This is the worst natural disaster in the history of the Bahamas—please don’t forget us.”

Sarah was not the only person in Freeport who asked me that. But she represents thousands of people who know that the news cycle is short, and that the media coverage that galvanized a wave of relief support since Hurricane Dorian ravaged the northern Bahamian islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco inevitably moves on to other things.

About a month after the storm, Mike DeHaven and I touched down in Freeport after a short Bahamasair flight from Nassau.

The airport terminal was completely destroyed. Baggage handling equipment, seats, and security screening conveyor belts were strewn around the broken walls of the terminal building. A bus waiting on the tarmac drove us a couple of miles to a tent in the parking lot of a strip mall. During the bus ride, we met some nurses from Samaritan’s Purse. They were there to staff a field hospital that had been set up behind Freeport’s main hospital—which was knocked out of service.

Ken Lane, Pastor of the EPC’s Lucaya Presbyterian Church in Freeport, met us at the bus.

We toured some of the areas of Grand Bahama most affected by the hurricane, and saw piles of destroyed furniture and debris in front of every home. Broken utility poles and downed power lines blocked some of the streets, and the smell of brush fires lingered in the air. Ocean water from storm surge had killed much of the grass and foliage, and that dry brush had recently caught fire. Flames came dangerously close to Lucaya’s food distribution ministry, which had previously flooded. Despite the hardships, they have provided thousands of pounds of food, cleaning supplies, and military style, freeze-dried MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat).

We also visited a non-governmental organization (NGO) that was distributing 22,000 meals per day, and had served about half a million meals total since the storm hit. That was only one of two such NGOs we saw in Freeport.

After the tour, Ken took us to meet some of the elders and members of the Lucaya congregation. Sarah is one of these faithful church members, and she is a long-time volunteer in the children’s ministry.

For several hours we listened to them describe their homes being flooded, the floors moving with the ocean waves, their apartments swaying with the hurricane winds, and their fear that they would be overcome by the storm. They showed us videos of waves crashing over balconies and into the second-floor windows of their homes. They talked of their prayers, their faith in the Lord to deliver them, God’s generous kindness, and His blessings on their lives and families. Though many had the thousand-yard stare common to those suffering from the effects of PTSD, they are amazed that the storm spared their church building and are hoping that electricity can be restored soon to the many homes that remain without power.

The Grand Bahama Children’s Home in Freeport has been closed. While the structure itself is sound, the contents are a total loss—including the possessions of its 32 resident children, who range in age from a few months to 14 years old. They were evacuated in the middle of the night during the storm, and now have been temporarily relocated to the Ranfurly Homes for Children in Nassau. These children’s homes have a connection to our churches in Lucaya and Nassau. Additionally, a large group of toddler-aged children were moved from Grand Bahama to the Children’s Emergency Hostel in Nassau.

And we were told that they share Sarah’s concern that people will begin to forget about them after the news media has stopped running stories on the Bahamas.

After spending the night in Freeport, Chrishon Ducker (Associate Pastor of the EPC’s St. Andrews Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau) took us to visit the areas of Nassau that have tried to absorb the influx of those evacuated from Abaco, which included the devastated town of Marsh Harbor. Some of these evacuees are living in the St. Andrews building.

“Abaco recovery still remains a military operation,” he told us. “The British Army just left, the Bahamian Defense Force, the Trinidad and Tobago Army, as well as the Jamaican Army are still patrolling the area around Marsh Harbor and providing for immediate needs.”

Gabe Swing, Pastor of the EPC’s Kirk of the Pines in Marsh Harbor, is visiting displaced members of that congregation who have evacuated to Florida. Swing is an Associate Pastor of St. Andrew’s, responsible for serving the mission post in Marsh Harbor that is Kirk of the Pines.

“Bahamas recovery is going to be a long-term process,” Bryn MacPhail, Pastor of St. Andrews, told us. “We will need help for a minimum of several years, and the clock hasn’t even started yet. We’re still assessing the damage.”

While a full recovery in some areas is likely several years away, there are many, many short-term needs that EPC churches can help meet through continued financial contributions to the EPC’s Emergency Relief Fund. In Freeport, Ken told me that by next summer they expect to be able to host short-term mission teams of moderately skilled individuals, especially those with skills in the building trades.

Marsh Harbor will probably not be ready for mission trip teams that soon, but we encourage our EPC “prayer warriors” to pray for Bryn, Gabe, Ken, and their church leaders as they continue to seek discernment about how they can help with the rebuilding of Marsh Harbour. And please continue to pray for Sarah and the thousands of Bahamians like her.

If you are considering a mission trip or have skill in the building trades, please let us know at info@epc.org. Mike DeHaven coordinated our trip, and also led mission teams to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. He is working with our churches in the Bahamas to help put together future mission trips to help with the recovery effort.

Giving Culture Study Committee begins GA-appointed work

 

GivingCultureStudyCommittee201910Members of the Giving Culture Study Committee held their initial meeting at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando, October 8-9. The group was appointed by Moderator Case Thorp in response to a recommendation approved by the 39th General Assembly to address how to improve the long-term culture of giving to the EPC.

In its first face-to-face meeting, the group discussed the scope of its work, reviewed recent giving trends to the EPC Office of the General Assembly, and addressed a variety of issues that will inform and affect recommendations it may make to future General Assemblies.

The committee’s work is based on trends that indicate a weakening level of support for EPC Per Member Asking (PMA). While PMA realization approached a historic high of 74 percent relative to the full PMA level of $23 in 2018, approximately one-third of EPC churches do not contribute to PMA, or give very little.

“This committee will wrestle with the question of ‘What does it mean to be connected to the EPC?,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Is it theological, ecclesial, collegial, branding, collaborative, or something else? The answer is what defines the EPC giving culture.”

Members of the Giving Culture Study Committee are Jane Cooper (Chair), Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Gulf South; Bob Coleman, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the West; Jamie Cupshalk, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the East; Scott McKee, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Midwest; Bruce Novkov, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Southeast; and Gina Stewart, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest. Jeremiah, Thorp, and Mike Gibson, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains and Chairman of the National Leadership Team Finance Committee, serve as ex officio members.

Commissioners to 39th General Assembly approve interim committees, amendments to Rules for Assembly

 

GA2019ThemeArt-WebBannerIn business actions at the EPC’s 39th General Assembly, commissioners approved 33 recommendations, including the formation of two interim committees, amendments to the Rules for Assembly, and amendments to the Book of Government. The Assembly was held June 18-21 at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in suburban Denver, Colo.

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Brad Strait is the Senior Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo., which hosted the 39th General Assembly.

Commissioners also welcomed nine new churches to the EPC since the 38th Assembly adjourned; elected Case Thorp, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean, as Moderator; and elected Glenn Meyers, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies and the Caribbean, as Moderator-Elect. Meyers serves as Commissioned Pastor of Ardara Presbyterian Church in Ardara, Pa.

More than 1,000 registered commissioners and guests attended the Assembly, including 399 Teaching Elders and 282 Ruling Elders who submitted voting credentials.

Interim Committees

At the 38th General Assembly in 2018, Jeff Jeremiah was elected to a fifth three-year term as Stated Clerk—at which time he announced he would step down in June 2021. The search committee, appointed by outgoing Moderator Tom Werner, has a representative from each of the EPC’s 14 presbyteries. The Chairman is Teaching Elder Bill Dudley, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Southeast and Moderator of the EPC’s 33rd General Assembly.

“The search team’s goal is to have my successor named by next year’s GA,” Jeremiah said. “That will allow for a period of overlap and as seamless a transition as possible.”

In addition to Dudley, the members are Ritchey Cable, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Mid-America; Chris Danusiar, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; Michael Davis, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Central South; Nancy Duff, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; Scott Griffin, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest and Moderator of the 36th General Assembly; Marc Huebl, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the West; Laurie Johnston, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains; Victor Jones, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Gulf South; Bob LeSuer, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies; Rosemary Lukens, representing the National Leadership Team; David Mennel, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Midwest; José Rodriguez, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the East; Allen Roes, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic and Moderator of the 28th General Assembly; and Luder Whitlock, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

The second interim committee is a Giving Culture Study Committee, which is tasked with studying—and ultimately to make recommendations on—how to best address the long-term culture of support for the EPC. The National Leadership Team (NLT) made the recommendation.

“To be clear, funding for the national level of the EPC is not in a crisis position,” Jeremiah noted. “This committee will help us ensure that we do not get into one.”

In its written report to the Assembly, the NLT noted that roughly half of the EPC’s member churches give 90 percent or more of their calculated PMA, but one-third “give very little or nothing.”

“EPC churches generally are in accord on biblical and missional matters, cohesive on connectional structures, and share much cultural harmony, but seem not to be united in sharing financially what is required to carry out the EPC mission and vision,” the NLT wrote. “A fundamental question facing the EPC as a movement of churches is: ‘What does it mean to be connected to the EPC?’”

Members of the committee are Bob Coleman, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the West; Jane Cooper, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Gulf South; Jamie Cupshalk, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the East; Scott McKee, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Midwest; Bruce Novkov, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Southeast; and Gina Stewart, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest. Mike Gibson, Chairman of the NLT Finance Committee and a Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains, is an ex officio member.

Rules for Assembly

The National Leadership Team recommended an amendment to Section 15-1 of Rules for Assembly, which is the “organizing document” for the EPC. Rules stipulates the operation of the General Assembly, as well as the committee structure and work of the Assembly between annual meetings. Section 15-1 required two-thirds of enrolled commissioners vote to approve any recommendation that would amend or suspend Rules. In its written report to the Assembly, the NLT proposed amending the requirement to a two-thirds vote of commissioners “present” (rather than enrolled).

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The Assembly approved a change to the process for amending the EPC’s Rules for Assembly.

Jeremiah provided a recent example of the rationale behind the recommendation.

“In 2018, we could not act on several recommendations—including ones that would increase the size of both our Chaplains Work and Care Committee and Presbytery Review Committee. As the EPC has grown, the work load for these groups has increased, so we needed to increase the manpower to carry that load. However, when those items came up on the docket last year, we did not have two-thirds of our total enrollment present so we could not act on them.”

Following an amendment to the motion from the floor of the Assembly to increase the percentage of commissioners present voting in the affirmative from two-thirds to three-fourths, the recommendation was approved.

Book of Government

The Assembly approved two items that now become Descending Overtures, because they are amendments to the EPC’s Book of Government.

The first amendment added language that “Co-pastor is not a recognized calling in a local church. Except as otherwise provided in the Book of Government, the Pastor of the church shall be the Moderator of Session” to section 9-5A.1.

“The Book of Government states that the only constitutionally recognized roles for Teaching Elders in the EPC are Pastor, Associate Pastor, and Assistant Pastor,” Jeremiah explained. “This recommendation seeks to add clarity.”

The second was an overture from the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest concerning the ordination process for candidates coming under care of a presbytery. The overture specified that in addition to stating the reason he or she is requesting ordination as a Teaching Elder as part of the public examination, the candidate should express his or her motive for seeking ordination by an EPC presbytery.

As Descending Overtures, these two items now go to the presbyteries’ fall and winter meetings for discussion and vote. Presbyteries may debate the substance of a Descending Overture, but not make amendments. To be presented at the 40th General Assembly as Ascending Overtures for discussion and vote, 11 of the 14 presbyteries must approve the overtures.

Budget and Special Projects

Commissioners approved a Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20—July 2019 through June 2020) budget for EPC operating expenses of $2,651,995. This represents a decrease in projected spending of $16,716 from the FY2019 budget.

The FY2020 budget includes $426,717 in direct funding of the four strategic priorities—$56,000 for Transformation (Church Revitalization); $200,000 for Multiplication (Church Planting); $122,050 for Effective Biblical Leadership; and $48,667 for Global Movement. In addition, 20 percent of Per Member Asking (PMA) contributions to the EPC support Global Movement in the form of funding the overall ministry of World Outreach. Funding for the strategic initiatives was added to the EPC operating budget in the FY18 budget; since their 2014 inception they had been funded through undesignated cash reserves.

The Assembly also approved a variety of Special Projects for FY20, which are supported outside of PMA but would be fully funded if each EPC church contributed an additional $3.53 per member above the PMA target of $23 per member.

In other administration-related business, commissioners approved a recommendation that ordained ministers drawing retirement income from the EPC 403(b)(9) Defined Contribution Retirement Plan be allowed to designate up to 100 percent of their retirement income for housing allowance.

National Leadership Team

The Assembly approved an amendment to Rules that revised and updated the functions of the National Leadership Team, as well as clarifying its relationship with the General Assembly. The action added to Rules section X.10-1A.3 that the NLT (subject to General Assembly review, approval, and the Book of Order) has the “primary responsibility to seek the mind of Christ for our denomination and to express this in a mission statement that states who God has called the EPC to be.” Additional functions added under the amendment include “development of vision and strategies that express what God is calling the EPC to do to carry out the mission statement; assess the execution of the mission, vision, and strategies on behalf of the General Assembly; and encourage EPC presbyteries and local churches to participate in implementing the mission, vision, and strategies.”

The action also amended Rules to clarify that the NLT serves as Directors of the corporation “for the purposes of compliance with the laws of the state in which the EPC is incorporated and in accord with EPC by-laws.”

In specifying its relationship to the General Assembly, an Explanatory Statement was added to Rules section X.10-1A. This statement clarifies that the NLT “is not a court of the denomination, nor a commission of the General Assembly, but a committee of the denomination, with authority derived from the Book of Order. The NLT is therefore responsible to the General Assembly and carries out its work under the authority of the General Assembly by proactively making recommendations to the General Assembly and exercising authority to carry out those recommendations as approved by the General Assembly.”

Next Generation Ministries Council

Commissioners approved a recommendation to define the duties of the Next Generation Ministries Council in Rules X.10-1F.2.a as “to encourage and support Next Generation Ministry Leaders Workers (paid and/or volunteer) by promoting and providing training events, resources, mentoring and networking opportunities. The Committee will also coordinate the allocation of scholarship funds to provide financial assistance to individuals wishing to participate in relevant conferences and events.”

In addition, a recommendation was approved that would encourage each presbytery to create Next Generation Networks for children, youth, and college workers (paid and/or volunteer) in collaboration with the Next Generation Ministries Council. The action encourages presbyteries to provide time and opportunity for Next Generation Ministries network workers to give announcements and promote events and/or opportunities to collaborate. These networks would include ordained and non-ordained workers.

Permanent Judicial Commission

Commissioners approved two recommendations from the Permanent Judicial Commission regarding the Presbytery of the East and First Korean Presbyterian Church of Virginia (FKPCV) in Annandale, Va.

The church was dissolved by motion at the Presbytery of the East’s April 26-27 Stated Meeting, to become effective May 15. Several officers of the church subsequently filed complaints with the PJC related to the presbytery action. The PJC recommended that those complaints be dismissed since the complainants failed to file “a prompt written dissent or protest to the decision” of the presbytery as stated in the EPC’s Book of Discipline, section 14-2B.2.

In addition, the Assembly ratified a decision by the PJC that disciplinary charges brought against the officers of FKPCV by the presbytery remain the jurisdiction of the Presbytery of the East, and not in the jurisdiction of the PJC since the Commission is not “the proper court of original jurisdiction” as defined in Book of Discipline section 4-1.

Theology Committee

Two actions by the Assembly were referred to the permanent Theology Committee upon their approval by commissioners.

The first action was 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,” Jeremiah said. “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 also came to the Assembly from the National Leadership Team. The action assigned the Theology Committee the task to study how the EPC can be more sensitive to the needs of the disabled.

In its written report to the Assembly, the NLT highlighted two documents written by Michelle Munger, Peninsula Director for the Faith Inclusion Network of Hampton Roads in Norfolk, Va., and a speaker at the 2019 Leadership Institute.

Munger’s resources “call attention to the need and opportunity to ensure that disabled individuals are recognized and included in the life and ministry of the EPC,” the NLT wrote in its rationale for the recommendation. “‘Sacraments and the Disabled’ encourages the EPC to look at how we view and minister to those who are disabled. ‘Book of Order notes for disability concerns’ looks at places in our Constitution where we could intentionally be more inclusive of the disabled.” The recommendation noted that these materials would serve as a starting point for the Theology Committee’s work.

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 its opinions and requested papers or documents to the Assembly, as stated in Rules section 10.1G.

Committee and Board Members

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RE Glenn Meyers, Commissioned Pastor of Ardara Presbyterian Church in the Presbytery of the Alleghenies, was elected as Moderator-elect.

In addition to the election of Thorp as Moderator and Meyers as Moderator-elect, the Assembly elected the following individuals to fill vacancies on the EPC’s permanent committees and boards as others complete their terms of service (TE denotes Teaching Elder. RE denotes Ruling Elder. * denotes second term.):

Benefit Resources, Inc., Board of Directors: RE Michael Bush*, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; RE Jim Lewien, Presbytery of the West; RE Sandy Siegfried, Presbytery of the Great Plains. Ron Horgan (RE, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic) was elected as Chairman.

Chaplains Work and Care Committee: RE Bruce Alexander*, Presbytery of the East; TE Timothy Foster*, Presbytery of the Central South; TE Glen Holman, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Jennifer Prechter, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; TE Brad Yorton, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest. In addition, TE Mark Ingles (Presbytery of the West) was re-elected to another three-year term as Chaplain Endorser.

Fraternal Relations Committee: RE Jerry Harmon*, Presbytery of the Central South; TE Joe Pallikkathayil, Presbytery of Mid-America; TE Alan Trafford, Presbytery of the Gulf South.

Generosity Resources Committee: TE Jeff Porter, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic.

Ministerial Vocation Committee: TE Fred Lian, Presbytery of the West; RE Frank Rotella*, Presbytery of the East.

National Leadership Team: RE Gerry Arnold, Presbytery of the Gulf South; RE Chris Danusiar*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; RE Brian Evans, Presbytery of the Midwest; TE Brett Garretson, Presbytery of the West; RE Duke Lineberry, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Dave Strunk, Presbytery of the Southeast; TE Luder Whitlock*, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

Next Generation Ministries Council: Jen Burkholder*, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; Martha Daniel*, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; Ivan Moore, Presbytery of the Alleghenies.

Nominating Committee: RE John Adamson*, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Brian Altmyer*, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; RE Henry Beck, Presbytery of the Gulf South; RE Jan Bole*, Presbytery of the West; RE Jeff Chadwick, Presbytery of the Southeast; TE Bill Dudley, Presbytery of the Southeast; RE Alan Smith*, Presbytery of the East. In addition, Alan Conrow (TE, Presbytery of the Midwest) was elected as Chairman.

Permanent Judicial Commission: TE George Dakin*, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; TE Neil Ellison*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Don Harms, Presbytery of the Midwest.

Presbytery Review Committee: TE George King, Presbytery of the Gulf South; TE Gary O’Keefe, Presbytery of the Midwest.

Theology Committee: RE Gordon Miller, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE John Moody*, Presbytery of the Great Plains.

Women’s Resource Council: Kathy Clymer, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Rebecca Duvall, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; Kathleen Marcy*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; Kim Sinclair*, Presbytery of the Midwest.

World Outreach Committee: RE Susan Lear, Presbytery of the Great Plains; RE Johnny Long, Presbytery of the West; David Van Valkenburg, Presbytery of the West.

In other committee-related action, commissioners approved increasing the size of the Chaplains Work and Care Committee from six to nine members, the National Leadership Team from 13 to 16 members, and the Presbytery Review Committee from four to six members. In addition, the number of ex-officio members on the Fraternal Relations Committee was reduced from four to two—keeping the Stated Clerk and Moderator, and removing the immediate past Moderator and the Moderator-elect.

The Assembly also approved recommendations to delete the permanent Church Planting and Revitalization Committee (CPRC) from Rules, and divide the GA Standing Committee for Church Planting and Revitalization into two separate bodies to better address the differing emphases of the two strategic priorities. With the strategic priorities of multiplication and transformation now included in the EPC operating budget, the CPRC believed its existence was no longer necessary and recommended it be disbanded.

Finally, commissioners approved a recommendation regarding the makeup of the Nominating Committee. The decision amended Rules Section XI.11-1-3 from “There shall be at least two more Ruling Elder than Teaching Elder members” to “Ordinarily, there should be at least two more Ruling Elder than Teaching Elder members.” The recommendation also removed the restriction of members who serve all or part of one three-year term being ineligible for re-election for one year.

Other business items

Several other business items were unanimously approved without discussion. Those items were:

  • Maintaining the EPC’s relationship with the Presbyterian Church of Ghana through both bodies’ membership in the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
  • Continuing the Fraternal Relations Committee’s dialogue with leaders of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland about a formal fraternal relationship.
  • Approving Third Millennium Ministries as an approved agency. Based in Casselberry, Fla., the ministry’s vision is “Biblical Education. For the World. For Free.” They provide masters-level print, audio, online, DVD, and satellite radio and television broadcasts for Christian leaders worldwide at no cost to the participant. The ministry is accredited by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).
  • Approving SAT-7 as an approved Mission Agency of EPC’s World Outreach. Based in Easton, Md., SAT-7’s vision is “to provide the churches and Christians of the Middle East and North Africa an opportunity to witness to Jesus Christ through inspirational, informative, and educational television services.” The organization is accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), ECFA, Missio Nexus, and others.
  • Approving a recommendation from the Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) to reject an overture from the Presbytery of the East to amend the Book of Government. The presbytery proposed adding an additional Ruling Elder category to the definition of “Voting Members of Presbytery” in section 19-2A. By approving the PJC’s recommendation, the presbytery’s overture was not brought to the floor for consideration.
  • Approving the Minutes of the 38th General Assembly.
  • Approving the 2018-19 minutes of the 14 EPC presbyteries (with some minor exceptions requiring response to the permanent Presbytery Review Committee by December 31, 2019), as well as approving the responses from the presbyteries to exceptions issued by the 38th General Assembly.
  • Approving the 2018-19 minutes of the Fraternal Relations Committee, Ministerial Vocation Committee, National Leadership Team, Women’s Resource Council, and World Outreach Committee.
  • Accepting the invitation from Hope Presbyterian Church in Cordova, Tenn., to host the 40th General Assembly in June 2020.

As a matter of record, Descending Overture 18-A from the 38th General Assembly was not ratified by 11 of the 14 presbyteries, so it did not come to the 39th Assembly for action. That Overture proposed amending Book of Government 9-11 concerning the ministry of Commissioned Pastors. Only six presbyteries voted to approve the Overture during their winter meetings.

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Registered attendance at the 39th General Assembly was 1,020—including 399 Teaching Elders and 282 Ruling Elders who submitted voting credentials.