Category Archives: Uncategorized

General Assembly to consider new Presbyteries, Book of Government amendments, Approved Agency separation

 

Commissioners to the 41st General Assembly will vote on a variety of recommendations from the EPC’s permanent and interim committees and boards. The Assembly is June 22-25 at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn. The meeting is the EPC’s first “hybrid” General Assembly, in which Commissioners will participate both in-person and virtually.

“Since our hybrid format requires us to close registration on June 4 and not permit walk-up registrations or day passes at the Assembly, we wanted to announce ahead of time some of the business items that the Assembly will consider,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk.

Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

The Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic is overturing the Assembly to split into three presbyteries, effective January 1, 2022. With 117 churches, the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic is the EPC’s largest. Between 20 and 73 churches comprise each of the EPC’s other 13 presbyteries, and each of the new presbyteries would include a similar number of congregations.

Theology Committee

The Theology Committee is recommending that the Assembly withdraw approval of Bethany Christian Services (BCS) as an Approved Agency of the EPC. A Christian adoption and child services organization, BCS announced in March 2021 that they would change their national policy and begin placing children with same-sex couples.

“This recommendation is not set before the General Assembly lightly,” said Zach Hopkins, Theology Committee Chairman. “Our committee was asked to review the EPC’s relationship to BCS in light of our commitments to Scripture, the Westminster Standards, and our Constitution—especially as it is expressed in our Position Papers. When this matter was first brought to the attention of the General Assembly, the concern was focused on only one specific chapter of Bethany’s organization. However, within two years, Bethany has made the approval of same-sex adoption a matter of national policy. The EPC cannot in good conscience remain in partnership with an agency that does not align with the doctrine and practice of the historic Christian faith.”

Hopkins is a Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes, and serves as Pastor of Edgington Presbyterian Church in Taylor Ridge, Ill.

The Theology Committee also will present a motion to amend the EPC’s Book of Government regarding ministry to and inclusion of the disabled.

National Leadership Team

The National Leadership Team (NLT) is presenting a motion to name current Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah as Stated Clerk Emeritus upon his retirement at the conclusion of the Assembly.

Case Thorp, NLT Chairman, said the committee’s decision to honor Jeremiah with the title “was unanimous and easy.”

Other motions presented by the National Leadership Team are the EPC’s fiscal year 2022 administration budget and Special Projects, as well as an in-depth description of the role and purpose of the Office of the General Assembly.

Nominating Committee

The Nominating Committee is presenting Brad Strait, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the West, as its nominee for Moderator, and Rosemary Lukens, Ruling Elder in the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest as Moderator-elect. Strait serves as Senior Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in suburban Denver, Colo. Lukens is a Ruling Elder for Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church in Gig Harbor, Wash.

“I am thrilled that Rosemary accepted the Nominating Committee’s invitation to be presented as Moderator-elect,” said Dean Weaver, Stated Clerk-elect. “She has served with distinction on the National Leadership Team and will bring a wealth of leadership development experience to the role.”

Chaplains Work and Care Committee

The Chaplains Work and Care Committee (CWCC) will present a motion to amend sections of the Book of Government and Book of Worship that address Chaplains’ administering of the sacraments. The CWCC also will present for vote a revised Policy Statement on Chaplain Ministry to Same-Sex Couples and LGBTQ individuals.

Giving Culture Study Committee

The Giving Culture Study Committee will recommend that a proposed change in the EPC’s funding formula from Per Member Asking (PMA) to Percent of Budget (POB) be sent to all Presbyteries and churches for study. On Thursday afternoon, June 24, committee member Scott McKee will present the rationale behind the formula change. His presentation will be available to virtual participants and those viewing the live stream, and will take place concurrent with the Assembly’s Standing Committee meetings. McKee, a Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Midwest, serves as Senior Pastor of Ward Presbyterian Church in suburban Detroit.

In addition to the business items, Weaver will be installed as the EPC’s fourth Stated Clerk, and Gabriel de Guia introduced as the new Executive Director of EPC World Outreach.

The Commissioner’s Handbook includes each of the recommendations to the Assembly. The Handbook will be posted on the EPC website at www.epc.org/ga2021documents no later than June 1.

Registration for the 41st General Assembly ends on Friday, June 4, at 5:00 p.m. (Eastern). Online registration is available at www.epc.org/ga2021.

#epc2021ga

Second Presbyterian Church offers localized theological education through Memphis City Seminary

 

Carl Ellis, Provost’s Professor of Theology and Culture at Reformed Theological Seminary, teaches Minority Church History for Memphis City Seminary in February 2021 at Second Presbyterian Church.

Starting a new seminary during a pandemic would not appear to be a wise thing to do. But when the purpose and strategy of Memphis City Seminary (MCS) are taken into consideration, it makes total sense. A ministry of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, MCS launched in February 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping across the United States.

The organizers weren’t sure of the seminary’s immediate future at the time, recalled Taylor Tollison, MCS Director of Operations, who also serves as Domestic Outreach Coordinator for Second Presbyterian Church. Yet in looking back, he said the school’s flexible, local-oriented model—plus low tuition cost of $100 per credit hour—turned out to be “a great approach” during a time of restrictions on travel and in-person gatherings.

He explained that from the beginning, the seminary was designed to provide not only flexibility in academic preparation for ministry, but also a focus on “place-based” education. That means that MCS, training students for ministry in the urban landscape of Memphis, would ensure its students would gain an understanding of how their biblical and theological studies would be applied in their local context. Specifically, recent U.S. Census data shows that the Memphis metro area of more than 5 million is nearly 48 percent African American and only 43 percent non-Hispanic white.

Taylor Tollison

“MCS offers a distinct curriculum that is designed to prepare pastors for the Memphis context and the surrounding region,” Tollison said. “We want to learn from those voices in theological education that are often underrepresented by offering specific courses and requiring specialized reading.”

Tollison noted that a key value of MCS is that the seminary views its students as more than just “academic thinkers.”

“Our hope is that our students will receive a holistic and comprehensive theological education that equips them in four key areas: knowledge, character, skills and vision,” he said. “Our aim is not merely to transfer information to the mind, but to take part in the full-orbed formation of Christian leaders. We believe the demands of gospel ministry require the whole person to be equipped—not merely the mind.”

George Robertson

George Robertson, Senior Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church and MCS Academic Dean, said the school’s faculty are “pastoral scholars” who integrate education with practical ministry.

“We are making our experience and the best of biblical and theological scholarship available and affordable to Christ-centered leaders in Memphis,” he said.

Brian Lewis, Second Presbyterian Church’s Director of Domestic Outreach, serves as MSC’s Executive Director. He said the seminary is “well on its way” to providing affordable, high-level education for ministers who do not want to leave Memphis to receive their theological education.

Brian Lewis

“We are attracting bivocational workers and many people of color,” Lewis said. “We strive to be very multi-cultural, which mirrors our Memphis culture. We believe we will also steadily attract students regionally and nationally, because Memphis has world-wide appeal.”

Rufus Smith, Senior Pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Memphis and a member of MCS’ Board, said that he often promotes the seminary’s “affordability, accessibility, and action-oriented training for gospel ministry in churches, non-profits, and the marketplace.”

Tollison said MCS is officially “authorized” by the State of Tennessee—which legitimatizes it as a school of higher learning—and is pursing official accreditation through the Association for Biblical Higher Education and the Association of Reformed Theological Seminaries. He hopes MSC will receive full accreditation in three to five years.

The groundwork for MSC started in 2006 when Second Presbyterian Church began to envision what an urban seminary for Memphis might look like, with the ultimate goal to offer an entire Master of Divinity degree locally. From 2006 to 2009, a venue for offering seminary education was through the Memphis Center for Urban Studies initiative. In 2009, Second Presbyterian Church began hosting a Reformed Theological Seminary extension site.

Limitations Lead to Vision

For the next 10 years, Lewis and his wife, Joanne, directed the RTS extension. Students could begin their seminary degree in Memphis, but were only eligible for a Certificate of Biblical Studies (CBS) upon the completion of 29 hours. After 29 hours students could complete an MA degree online, or for other degrees were required to transfer to a degree-granting seminary location to complete their coursework.

To bridge this gap in local seminary education, MCS was launched in November 2019 as a degree-granting seminary for both Master of Arts in Biblical Studies and Master of Divinity degrees. Twenty degree-seeking RTS students joined 30 other students to bring the initial enrollment to 50.

Spring 2021 enrollment has grown to 60 students—35 men and 25 women—with 16 of those being minority students. Local churches represented by MCS students include Downtown Church, Fellowship Memphis, First Evangelical Church, Hope Church, Second Presbyterian Church, and The Avenue Community Church.

“One of the things I love most about my job,” said Joanne Lewis, MCS Director of Enrollment, “is to see students in our classroom who have dreamed, prayed, and waited for an opportunity to pursue their theological education but until now were unable to do so.”

Braden Tyler

Braden Tyler, a teacher and soccer coach at a private Christian school in inner-city Memphis, is one of those students.

“I am 31 years old and have wanted to do seminary ever since becoming a believer [while] in college,” Tyler said. “However, college debt, getting married, and having children kept me from pursuing this. All the seminaries that I wanted to attend were too expensive and not located in the city of Memphis. I could do online seminary, but it would be too expensive for me and it would be a lonely road.”

He noted that relocating to an in-resident seminary would require quitting his job, moving to a new city, and having his wife get a job in order for him to be a full-time student.

“Unsatisfactory options like this kept putting seminary on the back burner,” Tyler said. “Then along came MCS—an affordable, flexible, and local seminary that could give me the high quality, biblical education that I wanted. I could keep my job and keep my family in our city. Christians shouldn’t have to pay thousands upon thousands of dollars and have to leave the context of their city in order to get a seminary degree. I have talked to many people and it seems that seminaries like this could be the future for the church.”

He said that after he receives a degree from MSC, his goal is to continue his education by pursuing a PhD to teach in a seminary or become a pastor.

Denny Catalano

Denny Catalano, director of Campus Outreach in Memphis, said MSC is “a great complement” to his work.

“I chose Memphis City Seminary because I wanted to grow in my knowledge of God, in my character, and in my skills to more effectively reach the lost and shepherd my team,” he said. “We serve a very broad ethnic and cultural demographic, so I was looking for something that would give me a broad and thorough understanding of God and how He has worked throughout history among all nations. I count it a great privilege to be able to learn from some of the best scholars out there while being able to collaborate and learn alongside people ministering in a broad array of contexts.”

Bradley Morrow, Second Presbyterian Church’s Recreation Coordinator, said MSC makes a seminary education financially possible for him.

Bradley Morrow

“MCS has allowed me to gain a sound theological education that is affordable and allows me to work a full-time job where I am able to apply what I am learning in class to my ministry in the city,” he said. “MCS is equipping me to read, study, and teach the Scriptures in a way that reveals Jesus and proclaims the gospel as good news to every ZIP code in the city.”

Tyler agreed, adding that is it is a “big advantage” taking seminary classes alongside people from the city where you live.

“This is very unifying for a city and for churches,” Tyler said. “The next spiritual leaders of the community are people who have been trained in the same seminary and are friends with each other. This seminary can provide classes that fit the needs of Memphis and can better train leaders to impact this city.”

For more information on Memphis City Seminary, see www.memphiscityseminary.org

by Tim Yarbrough
EPConnection correspondent

General Assembly World Outreach gatherings celebrate Phil Linton, commission new global workers, introduce new Executive Director

 

EPC World Outreach is sponsoring a variety of gatherings at the 41st General Assembly, June 22-25 at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.

On Tuesday, June 22, longtime World Outreach global worker Mike Kuhn will lead “The Israel of God” as part of this year’s Leadership Institute.

As ongoing tensions have flared into military conflict in recent days between Israel and the Palestinians, the territorial and political dispute is just one of many challenges facing the missional outreach of the church to the Muslim world. Kuhn’s presentation will discuss the identity of Israel in the biblical narrative (apart from contemporary political considerations), examine God’s purposes for His covenant people as revealed in Scripture, and seek wisdom as to how Christ’s church should respond with compassion and justice to both Israelis and Arabs.

Kuhn serves as Missional Theology Specialist for World Outreach’s International Theological Education Network (ITEN). He spent more than 28 years in Morocco, Egypt, and Lebanon, where he served as Professor of Biblical Theology and Discipleship at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut from 2012-2018.

Tuesday evening banquet

Josh Hanson, Senior Pastor of Gateway Church in Findlay, Ohio, is the speaker for this year’s World Outreach banquet. His topic is “Unexpected Kingdom.”

Attendees will have opportunity to celebrate Phil and Janet Linton as part of the evening’s program. He is retiring as Director of World Outreach following the 41st General Assembly. In addition, he is preaching at the Wednesday afternoon worship service prior to the Assembly’s first business session.

Wednesday evening dinner

The Global Worker Presentations Dinner on Wednesday, June 23, from 5:00-6:30 p.m. provides opportunity to hear World Outreach global workers describe how God is using and blessing their work among those people groups of the world that have little to no access to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Global worker commissioning

On Thursday, June 24, World Outreach will commission its newest global workers during the evening worship service. The speaker for the service is D.A. Carson, Emeritus Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill.

Networking Lunches

On Wednesday, June 23, on-site participants can meet the new Executive Director of World Outreach, Gabriel de Guia, and his wife, Rachel. He is the unanimous choice of the nine-member search committee to succeed Linton, and previously served 26 years with Cru in a variety of capacities.

On Thursday, June 24, the 2021 class of global workers will discuss the ministry God has called them to and share their hearts for the Kingdom of God. These workers will be commissioned in the Thursday evening worship service.

All on-site attendees are invited to participate in these World Outreach gatherings, but registration is required for the Tuesday evening banquet as space is limited. The worship services on Wednesday and Thursday will be live-streamed and available to virtual participants of the hybrid Assembly. Other gatherings are limited to on-site Commissioners and guests.

For complete details about World Outreach activities at the 41st General Assembly, see www.epc.org/ga2021worldoutreachevents.

For more information about the 41st General Assembly, including registration, daily schedules, and more, see www.epc.org/ga2021. For details about the World Outreach Banquet, contact Cassie Shultz at cassie.s@epcwo.org or 407-930-4313.

#epc2021ga

April 2021 EPC budget report: PMA support continues strong, now outpacing 2019 level

 

Contributions to Per Member Asking (PMA) received by the Office of the General Assembly in fiscal year 2021 (FY21) through April 30 total $2,034,971. April PMA support was $224,546.

The total is $312,346 (18.1 percent) more than the $1,722,625 FY21 PMA support projection to fund the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations.

With the strong continued support, PMA contributions through ten months of FY21 (which runs from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021) are $10,357 above the $2,024,614 contributed over the same period in FY20. In addition, April PMA support of $224,546 brought the 12-month rolling average for monthly PMA contributions to $200,186. The rolling average has now increased for two consecutive months, and for the first time since September is at the same level as FY20.

“Two months ago, I expressed concern that the negative trend in our monthly rolling average might indicate an unfavorable longer-term trend,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “I praise the Lord for this amazing reversal over the past eight weeks. I am very thankful for the generosity of our churches, and for their commitment to the EPC.”

Of the $2,034,971 received, $406,994 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $4,745,074 in designated gifts were received through April 30. This total was $282,697 (5.6 percent) lower than the $5,027,771 in designated gifts received in the same period in FY20. As noted in previous monthly reports, the discrepancy is largely attributed to significant donations to the Emergency Relief Fund following Hurricane Dorian’s devastation in the Bahamas and North Carolina in September 2019, and several large anonymous gifts designated for church planting efforts.

Of the total, $4,632,323 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $112,751 was designated for EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings.

These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to WO global workers or other projects.

2021 Leadership Institute features Ligon Duncan, George Robertson, Rufus Smith, practical training workshops

 

Ligon Duncan, George Robertson, and Rufus Smith are the keynote speakers for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s sixth annual Leadership Institute. The Institute is a strategic component of the EPC’s 41st General Assembly, to be held June 22-25 at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.

Each of the plenary speakers will address a topic related to this year’s General Assembly theme, “God Will Restore.” The theme is based on God’s promise in Joel 2:25 that He “will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten … You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you … ”

Duncan, Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Miss., will address “Combating Biblical Anemia: Scripture, Discipleship, Worship, and Preaching” on Tuesday, June 22. His presentation will be available via live stream on the EPC website.

On Wednesday morning, June 23, Robertson will discuss “Soul Care for Pastors.” He serves as Senior Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, host church for the Assembly.

On Wednesday afternoon, Smith will speak about “Kindness that Leads to Reconciliation.” He serves as Senior Pastor of Hope Church in Memphis. Both Wednesday sessions will be available via live stream and include time for Q-and-A.

Four ministry-specific leadership development gatherings will be available for in-person Assembly attendees.

  • Chaplains Workshop, featuring Mike Berry, General Counsel for First Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas, and Mark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser. Berry will lead sessions on “Why Religious Freedom Matters and What Our Nation’s Founders Intended” and “Threats to Religious Freedom and What We Can Do to Protect It.”
  • Creating Church Planting Networks and Partnerships, led by Tom Ricks, Lead Pastor of Greentree Community Church in Kirkwood, Mo., and Chairman of the EPC Church Planting Team.
  • Transitional Pastor Training, led by Bob Stauffer, Church Development Coordinator for the Presbytery of the Alleghenies.
  • The Israel of God, a discussion of the identity of Israel in the biblical narrative—apart from contemporary political considerations—in which God’s purposes for His covenant people as revealed in Scripture will be examined, as well as thoughts on how Christ’s church should respond with compassion and justice to both Israelis and Arabs. The seminar will be led by Mike Kuhn, Missional Theology Specialist for EPC World Outreach’s International Theological Education Network.

Each of these workshops is open to anyone attending the 41st General Assembly in person.

See www.epc.org/ga2021leadershipinstitute for more information on the Leadership Institute, including full seminar descriptions, times, and speaker bios.

See www.epc.org/ga2021 for more information about the 41st General Assembly, including a full schedule, links to online registration, and more.

#epc2021ga

March 2021 EPC budget report: PMA support continues above projection

 

Contributions to Per Member Asking (PMA) received by the Office of the General Assembly in fiscal year 2021 (FY21) through March 31 total $1,810,425. March PMA support was $400,603.

The total is $261,927 (16.9 percent) more than the $1,548,498 FY21 PMA support projection to fund the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations.

PMA support at the three-quarter mark of FY21 (which runs from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021) is $51,856 (2.8 percent) behind the $1,862,281 contributed over the same period in FY20, and only 3 percent lower than the original FY21 PMA projection—which was later reduced by 17 percent and approved by the 40th General Assembly in September 2020 as the “Bare Bones Plus budget.”

“I think I’ve said this every month now, but I am very thankful for the PMA support that our churches provide,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “I am especially grateful that God has blessed our churches in such a way that they can continue to contribute so generously to the EPC over the past year.”

Of the $1,810,425 received, $362,085 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $4,195,783 in designated gifts were received through March 31. This total was $272,555 (6.5 percent) lower than the $4,468,338 in designated gifts received in the same period in FY20. Jeremiah noted that the difference can be attributed to more than $350,000 in donations to the Emergency Relief Fund in fall 2019 following Hurricane Dorian, and a December 2019 gift of $250,000 for church planting.

“Giving to specific projects outside of those two funds is up more than $360,000 this year over the previous year,” Jeremiah said. “I am grateful for this level of generosity in such extraordinary times.”

Designated gifts include support for World Outreach global workers and projects, and contributions to EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings.

Of the total, $4,088,595 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $107,188 was designated for EPC projects. These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to WO global workers or other projects.

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk models Revelation 7:9 with local outreach efforts

 

A beacon of hope and light sits on the top of a hill in Nassau, Bahamas. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk is a church with a rich history and tradition. It was established in 1810 to bring the rites and traditions of the Church of Scotland to Scottish immigrants—some of whom were “loyalists” banished to the Bahamas following the American Revolution nearly 30 years earlier. But the picturesque, inviting structure houses a congregation that looks very different today than it once did.

“When I arrived at the church in 2010,” said Pastor Bryn MacPhail, “There were about 40 persons attending worship and only two or three children.” He added that the congregation was predominantly white in a country where 90 percent of the population is Black.

“I really believed our church should reflect the diversity of the community around us,” he noted. “I found an orphanage nearby called Ranfurly Home for Children and started volunteering there once a week so I could build a relationship with them.”

Bryn MacPhail

MacPhail also discovered that the church bordered the poorest and most crime-ridden neighborhood in the city, known as Bain and Grant’s Town. He began volunteering in a local community center, the Urban Renewal Center, and soon was bringing others from the church with him to play sports, provide tutoring, and take kids to lunch.

“It took a while for people to warm up to us,” MacPhail recalled. “But we kept going, week after week. That went on for a couple of years. Eventually the director of the center told me that most of these kids did not go to church. She suggested that maybe we could find a way to get them there.”

So St. Andrew’s hired a bus and driver, which cost $60 a week. They began driving around the neighborhoods of the inner city, inviting kids to come to church. In the first year and a half, they averaged two to four kids per week on the bus.

Their persistence paid off—eventually the bus filled up with kids from the city, and a second bus was added to bring youth from the Ranfurly Home. On any given Sunday, as many as 50-60 children and youth came for Sunday worship.

MacPhail soon realized that the influx of young people was more than the church could handle, so he asked a local missionary, Bob Mastin, to become the church’s ministry partner. In addition, a St. Andrew’s deacon who had served as Assistant Commissioner of Police stepped in as the point person to help with logistics and to make local connections.

Luncheons for area residents are just one of many ways St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk blesses its neighbors in Nassau.

Mastin, who serves with Bahamas Youth Network, already had a strong rapport with the youth and ran a parallel ministry in Nassau. He had moved to the island in 2017 after several years of visiting on short-term mission trips. As a coach and teacher, his love for youth and passion for sports were natural connection points for helping him relate to inner-city kids.

“My heart is in working with underprivileged kids,” Mastin said. “When I arrived, I was the only white guy in my neighborhood. One day I was out canvassing the streets when the police pulled me over and asked for my ID. They thought I was lost and warned me that I was in a dangerous area. I told them that this is where God had called me and my wife, and we were here to stay because we wanted to help the community in whatever way we could.”

Mastin agreed to partner with St. Andrews while maintaining his commitment to Bahamas Youth Network—which keeps him busy visiting local high schools, coaching soccer, and teaching family life classes.

“We’re all doing this together, and it really is making a huge difference and having an impact,” Mastin noted. “I recently had lunch with two guys who I have built a relationship with. One of them is schizophrenic and has been in the mental hospital 12 times trying to kick a drug habit. He told me that since I came down and brought the gospel, he has found meaning and purpose for his life. I told him that it’s not me, it’s the Lord. And he said, ‘But you are the vessel God used in my life.’”

The partnership between Mastin and St. Andrew’s is bearing fruit in the form of a Thursday night discipleship group with eight boys between the ages of 12 and 18, which started in January.

“We’re studying a curriculum that invites them to talk about painful moments in their lives,” MacPhail said. “One 14-year-old boy shared about how on his sixth birthday he watched the police come and arrest his Dad and take him away. The stories we hear are horrific.”

St. Andrew’s has a long-standing partnership with McDonald’s to provide backpacks and school supplies to children in several neighborhoods near the church in downtown Nassau. The backpacks were filled with books, pens, pencils, and other supplies. Children who received the backpacks attend the St. Andrew’s Sunday School and Big Harvest Community Sunday School.

Mastin believes that growing up in a tough environment has made them more resilient.

“They really are great kids,” he said. “You can see that they are hungry for something different, and they are growing in their faith and seeking after the Lord.”

A few of the youth have chosen to be baptized, and some of them serve on St. Andrew’s audio/visual team.

“I can’t wait to watch their stories unfold,” MacPhail said. “We told them that we will invest in them every week, and our hope is that they will grow in their faith and become deacons and leaders in the church someday. We even promised them that if any one of them feels called to be a pastor we will help with their education.”

The group already has an inspiring role model who is one of their own—Jude Vilma.

“Jude was born in Nassau and grew up in a Haitian Creole community on the island of Abaco, about 100 miles north of here),” MacPhail said. “Through a variety of influences he graduated from high school, received a scholarship to work with Bahamas Youth Network, and started attending college.”

It was around that time that Vilma—who currently is studying at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando—met MacPhail and got connected with St. Andrew’s.

“God called me to full-time ministry, and I served as a Youth Coordinator with the Bahamas Youth Network and also a pastoral intern with St. Andrew’s Kirk,” Vilma noted. “This partnership enabled me to serve in the church and work with this community organization that is big on discipleship. I was also eager to take theology classes online because of my love for God’s Word and for learning.”

Jude Vilma

MacPhail said his dream is that Vilma will one day return to the Bahamas and become the Senior Pastor at St. Andrew’s.

“God’s been gracious to me and has blessed this ministry, but a white foreigner can only do so much,” said MacPhail, who hails from Canada. “Most of our inner-city kids are from a Haitian background, and many of the adults do not even speak English. I believe the church would absolutely explode in size if Jude took over. He can speak to them in a way that I can’t.”

Vilma said that he plans to return to the Bahamas once he has completed his education and as the Lord leads.

“My hope for the church in the Bahamas,” he said, “is that there would be more pastors and leaders who proclaim sound doctrine, that there would be unity among believers, and that Christianity would be seen as a lifestyle—not just a religion or something you do on a Sunday.”

Until Vilma’s hope is realized, MacPhail said St. Andrew’s will continue to faithfully serve their neighbors in Bain and Grant’s Town, even though the pandemic has not made it easy. He said they have been unable to visit the orphanage in 13 months, and they started operating a food pantry out of MacPhail’s office just to try and meet all the needs. He reported that in the past year alone they distributed more than $50,000 worth of food.

“People occasionally ask me what the secret is, and how we have been able to succeed in the face of adversity,” MacPhail said. “I tell them one thing: Just keep showing up.”

by Kiki Schleiff Cherry
EPConnection correspondent

Jeff Jeremiah: Easter means living hope

 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade!” (1 Peter 1:3-4)

This great passage declares a number of significant and life-changing truths that we celebrate each day, but especially on Easter Sunday. One of the most prominent and precious is the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ.

Can there be a greater contrast between the world’s view of hope and the Christian’s hope? The world’s view can be summed up well in the little boy’s statement, “Hope is wishing for something you know isn’t going to happen.” You can hope for something to happen in the future, but it’s ultimately futile because you can’t control what happens in the future. Hoping is no more than wishful thinking. The testimony of God’s Word is that hope isn’t wishing. Hope is a certainty, a fact that God has promised and will fulfill. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday is the event in human history—the certain, factual basis of our hope as Christians.

Here’s another distinctive about our hope. It’s alive. What does that mean? The opposite of living hope would be dead hope, and that calls to mind a similar phrase: dead faith. In James 2:26, the Apostle writes “faith without works is dead.” Dead faith has no effect, no power, no influence. Living faith—and, by analogy, living hope—has power and influence. In short, it impacts your life. This living hope makes a difference in our lives today in at least three ways.

First, hope that lives gives you courage to face the challenges and trials of life. We’ve certainly faced enough of them in the past year! You need not cower in fear, for you know at the end Jesus is victorious over the greatest enemy to life. In Him, you will be too. If He’s solved the problem of death, you can be sure He’s taken care of all the other problems, difficulties, and trials we face. In John 16:33 Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world!”

Second, hope that lives gives you confidence because you know who’s in control. The resurrected Christ is not only alive at this moment—He’s alive in power and glory! The sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords is in control of creation, in control of human history, and yes, in control of your life. Because of what He did for you on the Cross, in love—giving His life for you—you can know that He’s personally, positively, and passionately committed to you. You can be confident because you know His purpose for you is good, for He declares, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Third, hope that lives in your life gives you comfort in the face of death. You’re freed from the fear of death, because you know that as Jesus conquered death, so too shall you. And that victory will usher us into an eternal life that is glorious, where in the presence of God Himself you’ll enjoy praise and peace, love and joy. There will be no more pain, no more tears, no more sorrow, no more death. This is the living hope that can be yours because the tomb is empty, because Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead!

There is a reason why hope is described in Hebrews 6:19 as “an anchor for the soul…both sure and steadfast.” Because Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, ours is a hope that is certain, ours is a hope that is alive, ours is a hope that is a difference-maker as we live as followers of Jesus Christ.

Jeff Jeremiah has served as Stated Clerk of the EPC since 2006.

March Jeremiah Journal outlines 2021 Leadership Institute adjustments

 

In the March 2021 edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah describes some additional scheduling changes for the upcoming 41st General Assembly since last month’s edition in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s Assembly is scheduled for June 22-25, 2021, at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/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.

Two Minute Topics video series continues with IRS non-profit organization group exemption changes

 

In the latest installment of the EPC’s video series, “Two Minute Topics,” Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri discusses two steps EPC churches must take in order to comply with recent changes to the Internal Revenue Service’s non-profit organization group exemption.

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

 

January 2021 EPC budget report: PMA support 6 percent above projection, slightly behind 2019 pace

 

Contributions to Per Member Asking (PMA) received by the Office of the General Assembly in fiscal year 2021 (FY21) through January 31 total $1,409,822.

The total is $190,581 (15.6 percent) more than the $1,219,241 FY21 PMA support projection to fund the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations.

PMA support in the first seven months of FY21 (which runs from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021) is $61,312 (4 percent) behind the $1,471,134 contributed over the same period in FY20, and roughly the same percentage lower than the original FY21 PMA projection—which was reduced by 17 percent and approved by the 40th General Assembly in September 2020 as the “Bare Bones Plus budget.” In addition, January PMA support of $174,936 lowers the 12-month rolling average for monthly PMA contributions to $195,210—approximately 3 percent less than the rolling average as of January 31, 2020.

“I am very grateful that as we turned the calendar from 2020 to 2021 our churches continue their commitment to the EPC through Per Member Asking,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “God gets the glory that PMA contributions have remained strong. At the same time, we made some drastic cuts to this year’s budget that are not sustainable for the long-term. So even though we are ahead of our projections, I hope our churches continue to commit to PMA.”

Of the $1,409,822 received, $281,964 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $3,386,153 in designated gifts were received through January 31. This total was $235,107 (6.5 percent) lower than the $3,621,260 in designated gifts received in the same period in FY20.

Designated gifts include support for World Outreach global workers and projects, and contributions to EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings.

Of the total, $3,314,830 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $71,323 was designated for EPC projects. These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to WO global workers or other projects.

Leadership development the topic of February 24 installment of Church Revitalization Workshop

 

The EPC’s 2020-2021 virtual Church Revitalization Workshop continues on Wednesday, February 24, with a discussion of how to develop a leadership pipeline for the church officer nomination and training process.

Facilitators of the workshop include John Mabray, Associate Pastor for Covenant Presbyterian Church in Monroe, La.; Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas; Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo.; and Mike Wright, Pastor of Littleton Christian Church in Littleton, Colo.

The workshop will be held from 4:00-6:00 p.m. (Eastern). There is no cost to register, and the workshops are open to both Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders. For more information and to register, see www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop.

Puerto Rico churches gather for virtual prayer summit

 

On January 21, the Sessions of the EPC’s three churches in Puerto Rico gathered virtually for a time of prayer and thanksgiving. Nearly 30 individuals participated in the video conference.

The congregations are Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster (Westminster Presbyterian Church) in Bayamón, Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangélica Mayagüez (Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Mayagüez), and Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangélica en Añasco (Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Añasco). All are members of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

The group, which included pastors Juan Rivera (Bayamón), Abraham Montes (Añasco), and Ariel Toro (Mayagüez) convened the prayer time to give thanks for the blessings received during 2020, and pray in the same spirit for the church, its projects, the sick, Puerto Rico, and the United States. Enid Flores, Ruling Elder for Westminster Presbyterian Church and current Moderator of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean also participated.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to pray together, using the best tool that we have in our hands to entrust our life, our projects, and serve the island of Puerto Rico,” Enid said. “To God and God alone be the glory!

________________________

Comenzando el año 2021 las tres iglesias del Presbiterio de la Florida y el Caribe de la EPC ubicadas en Puerto Rico que son la Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster (IPW), la Iglesia Presbiteriana en Mayaguez (IPEM) y la Iglesia Presbiteriana de Añasco (IPEA) se unieron, en un solo espíritu, en un tiempo de oración para la gloria de nuestro Señor.

Los tres Consistorios, con sus pastores, Pastor Juan Rivera, Pastor Abraham Montes y Pastor Ariel Toro lideraron el tiempo de oración con el fin de dar gracias por las bendiciones recibidas durante el 2020 y orar juntos en un mismo espíritu, por la iglesia, sus proyectos, los enfermos, Puerto Rico y los Estados Unidos en los momentos que estamos viviendo.  Los acompañó como invitada la Moderadora del Presbiterio de Florida y el Caribe, la Anc. Enid D. Flores.

Damos gracias por la oportunidad de orar juntos, utilizando la mejor herramienta que tenemos en nuestras manos para encomendar nuestra vida, nuestros proyectos, y con ello servirle a la isla. ¡A Dios y solo a Dios sea la gloria!

Session 3 recording of Church Revitalization Workshop now available

 

The recording of “The Revitalization of the Session,” session 3 of the 2020-2021 Church Revitalization Workshop, is now available. The workshop is being held via video conference on the fourth Wednesday of each month through May 2021.

The presentation was hosted by Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo. Panelists were:

The recording also is posted on the EPC website at www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop, where registrations for future installments is available, and on the EPC YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80. Audio podcasts of each workshop session are available on the EPC podcast channel and iTunes.

World Outreach prayer directory available for pre-order

 

Orders are now being accepted for the EPC World Outreach prayer directory.

Commitment to global movement through missions is one of four strategic priorities for the EPC. One way each of our congregations can engage in this is by supporting our global workers financially and through prayer. The spiral-bound directory is designed for desktop display and includes a comprehensive list of all EPC global workers and their prayer needs. The directory offers opportunity to get to know the EPC’s global workers and their ministries, region of service, and ways you can pray for them.

To pre-order, go to www.epcwo.org/prayerdirectory. The deadline to order is February 3, 2021.

41st General Assembly planning continues

 

The GA Core Team from the Office of the General Assembly met with leaders of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn., on January 26 to continue planning for the 41st General Assembly. Second Presbyterian Church is hosting the Assembly June 22-25.

Members of the GA Core Team are Jeff Jeremiah, Stated Clerk; Dean Weaver, Stated Clerk-elect; Jerry Iamurri, Assistant Stated Clerk; Marti Brenner, Events Coordinator; and Brian Smith, Director of Communications. George Robertson is the Pastor at Second Presbyterian Church.

The theme of the Assembly is “God Will Restore,” referencing Joel 2:25-27. Online registration opens on April 1. For more information, see www.epc.org/ga2021.

January Jeremiah Journal describes changes at the Office of the General Assembly

 

In the January 2021 edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah Jeff discusses some major transitions taking place at 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/user/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.

Committee announces updates to World Outreach Executive Director search

 

The World Outreach Executive Director Search Committee has extended the deadline for applications to February 28. In addition, the requirement that the next Executive Director of World Outreach live in Orlando has been relaxed.

“We want to allow as much time as possible for interested individuals to complete the application materials,” said Rob Liddon, chairman of the nine-member search committee. “Also, the committee recognizes—and the National Leadership Team affirms—that while local residency to the office is strongly preferred, a leader with the experience and qualifications we are seeking for the role may well have strategic contacts, networks, and other relationships that a relocation may weaken. In short, by making these two adjustments to the search process we believe we are removing two potential stumbling blocks that may prevent us hearing from the best—and God’s preferred—candidate for this critical position.”

World Outreach is the international missions arm of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Phil Linton, who has served as Director of World Outreach since 2014, is retiring at the June 2021 conclusion of his current three-year term.

Through World Outreach, the EPC and its more than 630 Christ-centered congregations seek to extend God’s Kingdom by making disciples of all nations by commissioning and sending workers, as well as partnering with like-minded mission organizations around the world. The Executive Director of World Outreach will be on the forefront of building on a strong tradition of global partnerships, as well as leading change and guiding mission impact.

For more information, including application materials and the position description, see www.epc.org/woexecutivedirectorsearch.

EPC Chaplain Endorser leverages Christmas lights display for local food bank

 

For the seventh consecutive year, EPC Chaplain Endorser Mark Ingles has used his home Christmas lights display to benefit the Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado.

On December 2, Fox21News in Colorado Springs publicized the effort with a “Cans for Christmas” feature.

Ingles’ efforts to help local families has grown significantly—in his first year of collecting non-perishable food in 2014, 165 pounds were dropped off. By 2018, the haul was nearly 1,650 pounds and last year he collected 2,200 pounds.

 

December Jeremiah Journal offers message of hope for Christmas

 

In the December 2020 edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah brings a brief message of hope for Christmas and for the coming year.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/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.

Indiana pastors brave 30-degree chill to serve drive-through communion

 

With assistance from Ruling Elder Ruth Wood (right), Joyce Harris (left), Lead Pastor of First Evangelical Presbyterian Chuch in Kokomo, Ind., served the Lord’s Supper to church members Dick and Myra Sanburn.

The adage “cold hands, warm heart” rings true for Joyce Harris, Lead Pastor of First Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Kokomo, Ind. On December 6, Harris and Associate Pastor Jerry Van Auken weathered 30-degree temperatures to serve an outdoor, drive-in Lord’s Supper members of the central Indiana congregation.

“Our gloves were not the warm type—bummer—but they were health approved,” Harris quipped.

She said that those who viewed the 9:30 a.m. worship service online were invited to drive to the church campus for the communion service. For 30 minutes “non-stop,” she and Van Auken served the elements and prayed with each car.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be so encouraged in ministry by doing drive-by communion,” Harris said. “Members were warm in their cars, and we were masked and gloved. After a brief acknowledgement of the sermon content and partaking of the elements, we prayed with each one.”

Harris said it was “a highlight of my day” for so many people to come.

“At one point we had four cars waiting. We took our time with each one because this is their time to connect with their pastors. They are the ones who feel isolated and vulnerable, and this is a way they are willing to come to us to share in the table.”

Jane Roes, wife of 28th Moderator Allen Roes, dies at 76

 

Jane and Allen Roes

Jane Choplin Roes, wife of 28th General Assembly Moderator Allen Roes, died on November 24. She was 76.

The Roes lived in Huntersville, N.C., where they are longtime members of Lake Forest Church.

Survivors include her husband, Allen; daughter, Gina Roes of Huntersville; son and daughter-in-law; Courtney and Krista Roes of Kandern, Germany; grandson, Alex; sister, Sara Brady; and sister-in-law, Bonnie Choplin.

A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, December 1, at 6:30 p.m., at Lake Forest Church. To watch the live stream, send condolences, or make a memorial gift, see www.roesgarden.com/JaneRoes.

Church Revitalization Workshop session 2 scheduled for November 25

 

The EPC’s 2020-2021 virtual Church Revitalization Workshop continues on Wednesday, November 25, with the topic, “Revitalization of the Pastor.” The discussion will focus on areas specific to the spiritual revitalization of the pastor and will include such topics as humility, repentance, preaching the gospel to yourself, sustaining revitalization over the long haul, and where to go when you need help.

Facilitators include Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas; Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo.; and Mike Wright, Pastor of Littleton Christian Church in Littleton, Colo.

The workshop will be held from 4:00-6:00 p.m. (Eastern). There is no cost to register, and the workshops are open to both Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders.

For more information and to register, see www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop. Those who registered prior to session 1 do not need to register for each month’s session.

November Jeremiah Journal highlights EPC church planting

 

In the November 2020 edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah offers some Thanksgiving thoughts and describes this year’s EPC Thanksgiving offering for church planting.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/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.

October 2020 EPC budget report: PMA contributions behind FY 2020, above 2021 budget projection

 

As of October 31, Per Member Asking (PMA) contributions received by the Office of the General Assembly during the first four months of fiscal year 2021 (FY21) total $780,906. The amount received is $2,242 less than the $783,148 received during the same period in fiscal year 2020. The EPC’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.

While PMA is slightly below last year’s pace, year-to-date contributions are 20.3 percent ($132,090) above the YTD $648,816 “Bare Bones Plus” budget approved by the 40th General Assembly to support the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations.

“We reduced the budget by 17 percent in light of what we expected to be difficult economic conditions for our churches,” said Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah. “Yet our congregations continue to show how much they value the connectionalism so central to who we are. I am so grateful for their generosity. And because of the continued strong support, the National Leadership Team is beginning to discuss increasing some strategic line items in the budget as the Assembly authorized them to do should giving exceed expectations.”

The 12-month rolling average for monthly PMA contributions is now $199,278—approximately 1 percent less than the rolling average as of October 31, 2020. PMA support in October 2020 was $219,640.

Of the $780,906 received, $156,181 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $1,788,430 in designated gifts were received through October 31. This total was $85,640 (4.5 percent) lower than the $1,874,070 in designated gifts received in the same period in fiscal year 2020. Jeremiah noted that if more than $276,000 donated to the Emergency Relief Fund following 2019’s Hurricane Dorian is not considered, giving to designated funds is up more than $187,000 (11.7 percent).

Designated gifts include support for World Outreach global workers and projects, and contributions to EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings.

Of the total, $1,768,514 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $19,916 was designated for EPC projects. These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to WO global workers or other projects.