Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Ministry paths converge in Orlando for Bahamas, Pennsylvania ordination candidates

 

FROM THERE; GOING THERE: Carrie and Barrett Hendrickson (left) greeted Jude and Keitra Vilma after a recent worship service at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. Jude grew up in Marsh Harbor and now serves as a pastoral resident at FPCO. The Hendricksons arrived in Marsh Harbor on November 4 to serve with the EPC’s Kirk of the Pines under the auspices of the Caribbean Youth Network.

What do Pittsburgh, Orlando, and Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas have in common? For two EPC ordination candidates and their families, Orlando is the middle link in a chain that stretches more than 1,000 miles across two countries.

On September 3, Jude and Keitra Vilma arrived in Orlando from Nassau, where he had served as a pastoral intern for St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk. He grew up in a Haitian Creole community in Marsh Harbor, has been a youth worker with the Bahamas Youth Network, and now is a pastoral resident at First Presbyterian Church in Orlando while pursuing a Master of Divinity degree from Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS).

Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, Barrett Hendrickson was in the process of transferring his status as Candidate Under Care from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies to the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. A May 2020 RTS graduate, he and his wife, Carrie, had joined the Caribbean Youth Network (CYN) to serve with EPC Teaching Elder Gabe Swing at the Kirk of the Pines in Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas. The church is a mission of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

The Hendricksons staged in Florida for several months while they waited for pandemic-related restrictions in the Bahamas to be lifted. On November 4, they arrived in Marsh Harbor, which was devastated by Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

“We are extremely excited to welcome the Hendrickson family to Abaco,” Swing said. “They will provide needed support for relief efforts and help us re-engage the community through outreach and worship opportunities.”

Hendrickson said that when he was young, one of the ways his youth pastor mentored him was through preforming manual labor, such as mowing the lawns of older church members.

“I wanted to be able to do that here,” he said. “Of course sharing Jesus and discipling people, but also by providing tangible, physical needs.”

Swing said conditions in Marsh Harbor continue to be “very difficult” for residents, with many still without adequate housing, electricity, and running water.

“The reconstruction moves at a snail’s pace, and many residents have to acquire drinking water from Water Mission distribution sites,” he said. “The pandemic has frustrated recovery efforts, and food security has become a major problem. Thousands of people are relying on free food distribution from the government and NGOs.”

In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, approximately $175,000 has been disbursed to Kirk of the Pines from the EPC Emergency Relief Fund.

Swing noted that “regular giving has all but vanished” since so many church members have been displaced to other islands in the Bahamas, as well as the U.S. He said the Emergency Relief Fund donations have been used to purchase a truck to distribute relief supplies; provide food and housing for several displaced families; assist with living expenses for he and his wife, Jan; and fund pastoral visits to members of the congregation.

‘Raising up the next generation of pastoral leaders’

While Orlando was a stopping point in the Hendrickson’s journey to the Bahamas, the Vilmas are adjusting to life at FPCO and RTS. He is the recipient of the Andrew Jumper Scholarship, which is named for one of the EPC’s founders and awarded by RTS to a full-time MDiv student who demonstrates “exemplary Christian character and potential for ministry.”

David Swanson, FPCO Senior Pastor, said the Vilmas are “settling into the FPCO family beautifully” as the congregation has resumed in-person worship.

“Our commitment is to take an active role in raising up the next generation of pastoral leaders with a special eye towards greater diversity,” he said. “The Vilmas are the perfect fit for a mutually beneficial partnership. Jude is already leading in worship and will be meeting with each member of the pastoral team on a regular basis as the meat of his pastoral residency program. He will be exposed to every dimension of church life, including finance and administration, with the goal of helping him be ready theologically and practically for a fruitful future pastorate.”

Vilma said that he did not expect to be awarded the Jumper Scholarship, and when he received the news he knew he and his wife would be moving to Florida.

“I knew I was coming to Orlando,” Vilma said. “First Pres was very generous to us coming here with their love and support, so it’s really great for us. I hope to continue to grow under David Swanson, Case Thorp, and the other pastors here, and eventually to serve within the EPC itself.”

FPCO has partnered with the EPC congregations in the Bahamas “in extremely meaningful ways,” said Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Kirk. “No individual congregation has contributed more to the health and progress of St. Andrew’s and Kirk of the Pines than First Pres Orlando.”

Hendrickson said Vilma is “our great success story” from CYN.

“When we came down last August before Hurricane Dorian hit to see the opportunity with Gabe and CYN, Jude walked us through Marsh Harbor and the Haitian neighborhood where he grew up,” he said. “So to connect with him and Keitra in Orlando was wonderful. To recognize how God raised him up here—and now bringing us to Abaco—it was like God was saying to us, ‘there is opportunity to raise up more.’ That’s our long-term goal: to raise Bahamian pastors.”

 

Church Revitalization Workshop recording available

 

On October 28, a panel of EPC pastors experienced in church revitalization kicked off the 2020-2021 Church Revitalization Workshop. The series of interactive videoconference workshops will continue on the fourth Wednesday of each month through May 2021 (except December). The recording of the first session is now available.

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.

When will you come back to worship?

 

by Peter Larson
Senior Pastor, Lebanon Presbyterian Church (Lebanon, Ohio)

“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalm 122:1).

When will you come back to worship?

Some of you are back already. Some are waiting for a vaccine. Some will not come back unless masks are required. Some will not come back until COVID-19 has ended completely.

When will you come back to worship? As your pastor, I can’t make that decision for you. It depends on your age, health, and personal level of safety and caution. If you are live-streaming worship that is okay—you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

However, my real concern is that some people may not come back at all. In general, if people are out of the church for a long time, they don’t come back. After six months, the “habit” of worship begins to fade. People feel disconnected and disengaged. In the wake of COVID-19, many experts predict a long-term shift in church attendance.

I am extremely grateful that our church has been able to live-stream worship. In many ways, it has helped us to stay connected with the Lord and with each other. I hear this especially from our homebound members. For all of us, the livestreaming technology has been a lifeline and a blessing.

The danger, however, is that technology will take the place of live worship. If I can worship in the comfort of my own home, why bother going to church? If I can get the same content on my tablet or television, isn’t that more efficient and convenient?

For many people, digital church is no different than working remotely or shopping online.

However, the church is the family of God. Worship is more than just content or a convenience—it is something we do together. At the heart of worship is our love for God and for each other. There are many things we can do remotely, but love is not one of them!

Imagine if I said to my wife, “Beth, instead of going on a date with you, we will connect on Zoom!” If I said that to Beth, she would begin to doubt my love for her. Why? Because if you love someone, you want to see and be with them. A Zoom call doesn’t cut it.

Right now, we are missing each other, and that is a good thing. If we stop missing each other, it means our love for God and for each other is growing cold. If we love each other, we long to be together.

When will you come back to worship? It may be weeks or months. In the meantime, I pray that technology will not take the place of relationships.

Your servant in Christ,

Peter

Originally published in the October 2020 “Chronicle” newsletter of Lebanon Presbyterian Church. Reprinted by permission.

St. Louis church plant celebrates local church status with installation of pastor, elders

 

Members of the Church Development Committee from the Presbytery of Mid-America pray over Central West End Church’s newly installed Ruling Elders, Pete Brown (kneeling, left) and Kerry Cheung on October 11. (photos courtesy of Central West End Church)

In 2016, Central West End Church (CWE) in St. Louis, Mo., planted itself at a literal dividing line in the city: one block south of Del Mar Boulevard. The Del Mar Divide, as it is known, is a dividing line of wealth, prosperity, race, and perspective. Pastor Eric Stiller views this stark contrast as an opportunity to see the city made new spiritually, socially, and culturally by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

CWE marked its own new beginning on October 11 as it celebrated “local church” status with Stiller’s installation as Pastor and the ordination of Kerry Cheung and Pete Brown as elders. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the service was live-streamed.

The Central West End neighborhood was identified in 2008 as a potential site for a church plant and is an eclectic area with a vibrant art, food, and cultural scene. This dynamic is what drew Stiller to St. Louis from New York City in 2005, when he entered Covenant Theological Seminary.

Eric Stiller

“I came to St. Louis with the passion to do whatever ministry I was going to do in a city,” he said.

Tom Ricks, who leads the EPC’s Church Planting Team, said the committee considers the needs of an area when deciding where to plant a church. He noted that the residents of Central West End are primarily unchurched, and most would consider themselves secular progressives. Ricks estimated that more than 90 percent never attend religious events.

“Why we got excited at the national level is that there just isn’t much of a Christian community in the Central West End, period—much less a Reformed Christian one that matches up with our EPC foundation and worldview,” he said.

When Stiller heard that the area was being considered, he became excited and began to earnestly pray about it. As this seed of excitement and passion continued to grow, he began to fall more and more in love with the location.

“God didn’t really call me to church planting. He called me to a neighborhood,” Stiller said. “It’s the place I feel most passionate about.”

He added that he loves that Central West End is such a secular place.

“I have always had an interest in apologetics and reaching out to people who at best would be indifferent to faith and at worst hostile to faith.”

Stiller understands this indifference firsthand. He describes himself as “not being concerned about God” for the first 30 years of his life and wrestling with the same doubts and “allergies” that people have today. In addition, he recalled noticing the “glaring” racial segregation in the city when he first arrived. Having been a jazz musician for many years, he had always been surrounded by African-Americans and their music and culture.

“When I prepare my sermons or have conversations with people, I am always imagining the inner skeptic asking questions,” he explained.

Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, Central West End Church held their worship services in the historic Mahler Ballroom.

CWE’s worship services are currently live-stream only, but in-person services have been held at the Mahler Ballroom, a local event space originally built as a dance studio in 1907. In addition to their worship service, the church offers community groups focused on “building friendships and community, growing faith, learning how to follow Jesus in every area of life, and supporting each other through prayer,” Stiller said.

The church hosts Alpha, a course designed for those who are curious about God. Alpha conversations delve into topics of spirituality from a biblical perspective, with no pressure to believe and no obligation to join the church. Stiller hopes that they can develop more resources for people interested in the integration of faith and work while reaching out to secular neighbors who might be interested in faith and spirituality.

Ricks believes that Stiller is the right guy for that spot.

“The EPC wants to apply the gospel to every area of life, and Eric just exudes this,” Ricks said. “God doesn’t make mistakes in his personnel choices.”

Church members helped renovate a gardening classroom at Washington Montessori Elementary School in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis.

As CWE began rooting itself in the community, Stiller and his team began a partnership with a local Montessori school as a means of engaging with their neighbors. Church members helped convert an outdoor space into a classroom with raised gardening beds, began tutoring students in math and reading, and renovated a teachers’ lounge. As the coronavirus pandemic struck a financial blow in the community, CWE raised more than $18,000 to help people associated with the school with rent, food, and supplies.

More than just physical assistance, however, Stiller said CWE seeks to fulfill the social aspect of their mission by seeking intentional and ongoing relationships with the school, the students, and their families. He emphasized that their mission is “a holistic one, not a false dichotomy that embraces spiritual work and evangelizing as opposed to social action and deeds of mercy and justice. God’s mission comprises all of this.”

For their part as Ruling Elders, Cheung and Brown see themselves as “shepherds and advocates” whom God has gifted in the areas of leadership and administration. Both are just as passionate as Stiller about the mission of the church to be a part of the renewing of the city spiritually, socially, and culturally.

Above all, CWE wants to follow Jesus as He makes all things new—especially across the dividing line.

by Kelli Lambert Gilbreath
EPConnection correspondent

Small N.C. church opens new building, embraces vision for the future

 

New Covenant EPC in Burgaw, N.C., held their first worship services in their permanent facility—a renovated former dance studio—on August 3. (photos courtesy of New Covenant EPC)

For born-again believers, there is no doubt of God’s providence in every aspect and detail of His creation—and that intricately includes His Church. That truth has vividly played out over the past several years for a small, southeastern North Carolina congregation.

New Covenant Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Burgaw, N.C., began in 1998 in the public library as a church plant of Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, about 20 miles to the south.

For its first few months, about 30 people from different denominations attended. A Methodist church in Burgaw then offered its facility on Sunday evening services, which provided space for Sunday School classes and a youth group. More moves followed, with the congregation eventually settling into retail space at a main intersection in Burgaw. At the time, they called themselves Crossroads Community Church.

In 2017 the congregation moved yet again to storefront space in the center of Burgaw, across from the county courthouse. The same year, Duke Lineberry, a Ruling Elder at Myrtle Grove EPC, accepted a call as visiting evangelist.

Duke Lineberry preaches to the New Covenant congregation on October 22, 2020.

While Lineberry admits not much outreach took place the first few years of his tenure, in March 2019 the church made a decision that has placed it “directly in line with His sovereign plan,” Lineberry said.

“We became aware of a small Mexican church that had lost their lease,” he explained. “We felt led to offer them our space for their services and to use opposite our schedule. As God so often does, we began to see some fundamental changes in our church, moving from complacency to a more focused purpose.”

In November 2019, New Covenant purchased a former dance studio and began converting it for church use. On August 2, 2020, the church held its first worship service in its new facility.

Lineberry noted that for the first time in its 22-year history, “our little church has its own premises. With our new location and resources, we believe He is preparing us to be the light in Burgaw.”

Mike and Joy Thurlow, who have attended since the church’s launch in 1998, agree that after many twists and turns along its journey, New Covenant is on a renewed path.

“There is really a new zeal after the move,” said Mike, who has served as an elder since the church started. “People are more excited. While we are still a small fellowship, we are seeing more people coming now since the relocation.”

Joy and Mike Thurlow

Joy said she has seen “God working in people’s lives” over the past several months.

“Broken people are coming into our church,” she said. “People are coming for healing—physical healing, spiritual healing, emotional healing.”

The church is starting to look into ways to better reach Burgaw’s youth, such as by teaching piano, keyboard, and guitar. The “fuel” for attracting young people comes from church member Keith White. He noted that creating an environment where youth can gather and be nurtured is an outgrowth of his experience growing up in a small Baptist congregation.

“We met every Saturday night my whole teenage years,” White said. “We would get together and have some kind of activity or play a game, have a little bit of music, and then a fellow a few years older than me preached for a little bit. I learned more in those six years than any other guidance. If it wasn’t for that six years I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. That guidance sustained me through a whole lot of life.”

He added that sees “a whole lot of young people running around Burgaw. I ask the kids what they do on weekends and they say, ‘I don’t know; nothing.’ So I say, ‘Let’s build the church up with some young people.”

Moving is an adventure

Lineberry said relocating to the new building hasn’t been without its challenges.

“The building was built in 1992 as a dance studio, and virtually every little girl in Burgaw took lessons there,” he said. “Unfortunately, the building sat unused for almost a decade before we purchased it.”

He noted that the building needed a new roof; structural repairs to the walls and floors; and a variety of upgrades to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Much of the renovation work was performed by volunteers, such as constructing interior walls to separate the entrance from the seating area.

“We purchased and installed carpet, painted the walls from its former hot pink to a warm white, and put up a temporary wall to separate the entrance from the sanctuary area,” Lineberry said, adding that they also removed some trees to make room for parking.

“All of the design, planning, and permitting was done by our leadership, and the work was done by a combination of member volunteer efforts, contract labor, and one member in particular who we paid a much-discounted rate to perform the majority of the carpentry work, rehabilitating the structure, building handicap ramps, and the like.”

As a practicing trial attorney in Wilmington, Lineberry said his time serving the Burgaw congregation as its pastor is not permanent—partially because New Covenant now has a permanent facility.

“The leadership is sincerely seeking the Lord on hiring an ordained pastor,” he said. “I’ve been asked to stand again for Session at Myrtle Grove, and the leadership at New Covenant is supportive. At this stage, I can’t see leaving New Covenant any time soon, as I know the Lord placed me there for His purposes. I plan on remaining there to support and assist the pastor the Lord has for this special little family of God in Burgaw.”

Looking back to his arrival at New Covenant in 2017, Lineberry said he was concerned then about the church’s future.

“My fear was that she would simply spend up her money and eventually close the doors,” he reflected. “Thanks be to God, a remnant handful of people have been faithful to stay, pray, and serve. Now, it seems as if New Covenant is on the cusp of something new for herself and the Burgaw community.”

Instead of being tucked in a retail space between Food Lion and Subway, the church is now on the main road into Burgaw, across from the Pender Co. Department of Social Services and down the street from many local government service offices.

Lineberry sees the church as strategically poised to minister to the sizable Spanish-speaking population in the community.

“We need only look directly across the street at DSS for innumerable mission opportunities,” Lineberry said. “The Mexican church came to us and we obeyed, and as a result God made a way for New Covenant that she’s never had before. Our prayer now is for the Lord to point us in the direction He wants us to go. With the current heart of the church, I expect we will respond rightly.”

Lineberry noted that New Covenant is not a wealthy congregation, but it is a faithful one.

“Our seniors are retirees, and our younger families struggle with hourly wages and expenses. Many others are self-employed and hurting financially from COVID. But the Lord has provided, and we anticipate that He will continue to provide for us,” Lineberry said. “We will continue to be open to any outreach the Lord will show us.”

by Tim Yarbrough
EPConnection correspondent

40th General Assembly worship service recordings available

 

Video recordings of the 40th General Assembly worship service messages are now available. The speakers are Case Thorp, Moderator of the 39th General Assembly, and Carolyn Poteet, Lead Pastor of Mt. Lebanon Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pa.

The messages are available below, on the EPC website at www.epc.org/ga2020recordings, and on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80 in the “40th General Assembly” playlist. Audio recordings of the messages are available in podcast form on Spotify and iTunes—search for “Evangelical Presbyterian Church.”

Thorp preached from 2 Kings 25:1-10 and Revelation 21:1-7. Poteet preached from 2 Corinthians 2:12-17 and Mark 8:31-17.

#epc2020ga

40th General Assembly elects Dean Weaver as fourth Stated Clerk, approves reduced 2021 budget, ratifies amendments to Book of Government

 

Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri (left) monitors the written report of the Permanent Judicial Commission as Chair Yvonne Chapman presents the Commission’s report to the Assembly. The EPC’s 40th General Assembly was conducted via video conference from the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando. (photo credit: Jeff Guetzloe)

Commissioners to the EPC’s 40th General Assembly elected Presbytery of the Alleghenies Teaching Elder Dean Weaver as the denomination’s fourth Stated Clerk, adopted a fiscal year 2021 (FY21) budget of $2.3 million, and approved 36 other recommendations from the EPC’s permanent and interim committees, commissions, and boards. The Assembly was held September 17-18 via video conference from the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando.

Commissioners also elected Glenn Meyers as Moderator and Brad Strait as Moderator-Elect. Meyers serves as Ruling Elder and Commissioned Pastor of Ardara United Presbyterian Church in Ardara, Pa., in the Presbytery of the Alleghenies. Strait serves as Senior Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo., in the Presbytery of the West.

More than 800 individuals registered for the Assembly, including 388 Teaching Elders and 416 Ruling Elders who submitted voting credentials.

“For the first time in my 14 years as Stated Clerk—and possibly in the history of the EPC—we had more Ruling Elder commissioners than Teaching Elders this year,” said Jeff Jeremiah. “When the EPC started in 1981, the founders wanted our General Assemblies to have strong Ruling Elder representation. I am grateful that our virtual format allowed for so many Ruling Elders to participate.”

Fourth EPC Stated Clerk elected

Dean Weaver, Lead Pastor of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in Allison Park, Pa., was elected as the EPC’s fourth Stated Clerk. He will be installed at the 41st General Assembly in June 2021. Weaver currently serves as Co-chairman of the EPC’s Revelation 7:9 Task Force and was the Moderator of the 37th General Assembly.

Bill Dudley, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Southeast and Chairman of the Stated Clerk Search Committee, said Weaver has “a devotion to the church” and “has demonstrated what sacrificial leadership looks like” over the years.

“He is a man with a mission for God on his mind in every aspect in the life of the Church,” Dudley said.

Upon his election, Weaver said he was “greatly humbled that you would entrust such a stewardship to me to be the fourth elected Stated Clerk of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, following in the footsteps of Ed Davis, Mike Glodo, and Jeff Jeremiah. I walk in the footsteps of giants and am the inheritor of that legacy for which I am deeply grateful. I am profoundly dependent on you for your prayers, your support, and your love.”

He expressed belief that that the EPC’s best days are still ahead.

“Jeff has led us through unprecedented times with incredible courage and great faith and stamina,” Weaver said. “I am proud to be his friend, and quite frankly a little overwhelmed to follow him. But at the same time, I honestly believe that God is going to lead us through the wilderness wanderings of the coronavirus pandemic into a promised land. I am confident that this Kingdom that cannot be shaken, that God has called us to together, that God is going to do exceedingly abundantly more than you and I could ever ask or imagine.”

The Assembly also approved Weaver’s terms of call, which go into effect on January 1, 2021.

Budget and Special Projects approved

Commissioners approved a Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21—July 2020 through June 2021) budget for EPC operating expenses of $2,361,047. This represents a 17 percent decrease in projected spending from the FY20 budget.

Tom Werner, Chairman of the National Leadership Team (NLT) and Ruling Elder for Greentree Community Church in Kirkwood, Mo., said the reduced budget was a reflection of the difficulties faced by churches in projecting future offering receipts.

“In light of the fact that giving is uncertain this year, we have tried to budget based on our per-member askings and additional giving from churches to maintain a ‘bare bones’ budget but without cutting essentials,” Werner said.

Ruling Elder Rob Liddon, Chairman of the NLT Finance Committee and Moderator of the 30th General Assembly, noted that the primary area of reduction from the FY20 budget was in travel expenses.

“We were able to reduce travel expenses because we are doing more Zoom meetings,” Liddon said. “We believe this budget meets the current realities of what is needed with what we believe would be the reality of the incoming revenues.”

The FY21 budget includes $254,000 in direct funding of the four strategic priorities—$140,000 for Multiplication (Church Planting); $30,000 for Transformation (Church Revitalization); $41,000 for Global Movement; and $43,000 for Effective Biblical Leadership. 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. From their inception in 2014 through FY18 they had been funded through undesignated cash reserves.

In a separate action, commissioners authorized the NLT to increase funding of targeted line items in the budget should FY21 revenue exceed projected spending. These increases would be focused on strategic ministry opportunities.

“In the age of COVID, this is just a logical follow-up to the approval of a bare-bones budget,” Werner said. “If giving is robust, if the heavens open, if COVID goes away, and churches are able to give generously, then we would like as an NLT to have the authority to pursue ministry opportunities above and beyond what the bare-bones budget permits.”

The Assembly also approved a variety of Special Projects for FY21, which are supported outside of PMA but would be fully funded if each EPC church contributed an additional $6.02 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.

Ron Horgan, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic and Chairman of the Benefit Resources, Inc., Board of Directors, said the approved recommendation “protects us in the event that there should be any attempt to have our housing allowance income declared as taxable.”

Book of Government amendments ratified

The Assembly ratified two Descending Overtures, which thereby amend the EPC’s Book of Government.

The first amendment addresses the examination of candidates for ordination. Added to Book of Government 11-2C is language that presbyteries should consider the candidate’s motivation to not only be an ordained Teaching Elder, but also be a part of the EPC.

The second adds language making explicit that “the office of co-pastor is not a constitutionally recognized calling in a local church” to Book of Government 9-5A.1. This amendment clarifies the position the EPC has held since 1985. The fifth General Assembly sustained a Permanent Judicial Commission opinion that year stating that “the office of co-pastor as being non-existent” and the only recognized offices for Teaching Elders in a local church are that of Pastor, Associate Pastor, and Assistant Pastor.

Interim committees extended

Commissioners approved extensions for the Giving Culture Study Committee (GCSC) and the Revelation 7:9 Task Force. The Giving Culture Study Committee was approved to continue through the 41st General Assembly (2021), while the Revelation 7:9 Task Force will maintain its work through the 42nd General Assembly (2022).

The Revelation 7:9 Task Force was approved by the 38th General Assembly in 2018 and appointed by 38th GA Moderator Tom Werner. The group spent its first year primarily listening within the denomination and provided an interim report of its findings to the 39th General Assembly. As stated in the NLT’s written report to the 40th General Assembly, the Task Force’s goal is “the presentation of S.M.A.R.T. (Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time-sensitive) recommendations, accompanied by resources and templates for EPC congregations to become more ethnically, age, and economically Revelation 7:9 mosaic communities.”

Commissioners also approved distributing the Revelation 7:9 Task Force written report to all EPC presbyteries, churches, and pastors.

The GCSC was approved by the 39th General Assembly and appointed by 39th GA Moderator Case Thorp. The committee’s charge is to address how to improve the long-term culture of giving to the EPC. Related to the GCSC’s work, commissioners approved four additional recommendations:

  • For the Generosity Resources Committee to develop resources to aid congregations in enriching their financial collection practices to include the latest methods of giving and financial stewardship.
  • For the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) to develop a plan to educate presbyteries and sessions as to the purpose and role of the OGA.
  • For the Ministerial Vocation Committee, in conjunction with the NLT, to develop strategies to aid those church leaders acutely suffering from after-effects of their prior denominational affiliations and practices.
  • For the Theology Committee, with assistance from the Ministerial Vocation Committee, to define the terms “connectional” and “connectionalism” as understood by the EPC.

Provisional opinions ratified

Commissioners sustained three provisional opinions from the Stated Clerk that were issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. The Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) recommended that all three opinions be upheld.

The first opinion was issued by Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah on March 11. Jeremiah stated that a presbytery with sufficient technology to ensure that every participant is able to hear and/or see, vote, and participate in a virtual meeting is permitted to hold their stated and/or called presbytery meetings virtually.

The second opinion was delivered on April 2. As with a presbytery meeting, Jeremiah wrote that a session or congregation with sufficient technology is permitted to hold a virtual meeting.

Jeremiah issued the third opinion on June 22, in which he ruled that the administration of the Lord’s Supper during a virtual worship service is temporarily permissible under the Constitution.

In additional judicial matters, commissioners approved a PJC-amended overture from the Presbytery of the Gulf South. That overture asked the Assembly to amend Book of Government G-13, “The Ordination and/or Installation of Officers.” The intent of the overture was to resolve potential confusion in the roles of Ruling Elder and Deacon. The goal was accomplished by adding phrases that clarify the office of Ruling Elder or Deacon as distinct from that of Teaching Elder; that Ruling Elders and Deacons report to their Session rather than to a presbytery; that congregants submit only to Teaching/Ruling Elders; and that congregants pledge to fulfill the terms of the call and make provision for the Teaching Elder.

Commissioners also ratified the PJC’s rulings on two separate disciplinary matters in which the respective Complaints were dismissed, and another ruling in which the appeal of an earlier ruling was dismissed.

Committee and Board Members elected

In addition to electing Meyers as Moderator and Strait 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 Will Barnes, Presbytery of the Midwest; TE Erik Ohman*, Presbytery of the West; Randy Shaneyfelt*, Presbytery of the Great Plains, who was elected as Chairman.

Chaplains Work and Care Committee: TE Marty Carpenter, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; TE Scott Rash, Presbytery of the Great Plains; TE Brad Yorton*, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest.

Generosity Resources Committee: RE Bobby Cobbs*, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; RE Ted Hailes*, Presbytery of the Central South.

Ministerial Vocation Committee: RE Richard Gash, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; TE Doug Resler, Presbytery of the West.

National Leadership Team: RE Earla Bethel, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; RE Frank Carter*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Victor Jones, Presbytery of the Gulf South; TE Patrick King, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; RE Rosemary Lukens*, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; TE Dave Strunk*, Presbytery of the Southeast.

Next Generation Ministries Council: TE Michael Davis, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Enid Flores*, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; TE Andrew Koesters*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Becky Shultz*, Presbytery of the West.

Nominating Committee: RE Marian Bradshaw*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Alan Conrow*, Presbytery of the Midwest; TE Wayne Hardy*, Presbytery of the Great Plains; TE Juan Rivera, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. In addition, Susan Humphreys (RE, Presbytery of Mid-America) was elected as Chairman.

Permanent Judicial Commission: RE Yvonne Chapman*, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Jeff Hollingsworth, Presbytery of the Southeast; RE Ken Roberts*, Presbytery of the West.

Presbytery Review Committee: RE Ron Bengelink, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; RE Jane Bodden, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; RE Ray Kinat, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; TE Jason Steele, Presbytery of the Midwest.

Theology Committee: RE Fred Flinn*, Presbytery of the Central South; TE Zach Hopkins*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Cameron Shaffer, Presbytery of the Midwest.

World Outreach Committee: TE Whitney Alexander, Presbytery of the Gulf South; RE David Miller*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; RE Wes Peterson, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Porter Waring, Presbytery of the Central South.

In other committee-related action, commissioners approved a recommendation from the Women’s Resource Council (WRC) to disband as a permanent committee of the EPC and have presbyteries facilitate women’s ministries in local churches.

Sharon Beekman, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the West and Chairman of the WRC, noted that the WRC was approved by the 36th General Assembly with the purpose of supporting and equipping women in local EPC churches. She reported that in the last four years, the WRC has made available and promoted a variety of vetted resources posted on the EPC website, a blog for aspiring writers, and a Facebook group for women in the EPC.

“Unfortunately, EPC women have not utilized these resources,” she said. “The traffic is very low, so the NLT and the WRC concluded that women’s ministry is best conducted at the local church and the presbytery level. They have a better understanding of what the needs of women are, and of the culture of the various presbyteries.”

Beekmann said funds contributed through EPC Special Projects in previous years as “Per Woman Asking” and held in WRC-designated funds at the Office of the General Assembly would be dispersed to the presbyteries for women’s ministries in local churches. She said they currently have a balance of approximately $60,000.

EPC Endorsement Policy revised

Commissioners approved revisions to the EPC Endorsement Policy as written and recommended by the Theology Committee. The policy, originally adopted in 2002, serves as the denomination’s guidelines for entering into partnerships and official relationships with ministry organizations outside the EPC.

Zach Hopkins, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes and Chairman of the Theology Committee, said the committee’s purposes were “to bring it back into the operational conscience of the Assembly” and “updating it for the sake of effectiveness and constitutional clarity.”

Other business items approved

Commissioners approved a variety of other business items presented by the EPC’s Fraternal Relations, World Outreach, and Presbytery Review committees. Those items were:

  • Extending and updating the EPC’s 20-year fraternal relationship with the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, with a renewed focus on church planting.
  • Approving The Outreach Foundation as an approved agency. Based in Franklin, Tenn., the ministry’s stated priorities are to help the Church live out its missional calling; build the capacity of the global church, especially where the church is vulnerable or growing rapidly; and transform lives through mission involvement.
  • Approving PAK7 as an approved agency. The ministry’s mission is “to serve Pakistani Christians in their witness to Jesus Christ and the gospel through exceptional television programming.” PAK7 has a presence in Pakistan, the U.K., and the U.S., with American offices in Greenville, S.C.
  • Approving Frontier Fellowship as an approved agency. Frontier Fellowship was founded by noted missiologist Ralph Winter in 1981 as Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship and is “committed to mobilizing Presbyterian churches for frontier mission and reaching the least-reached for Christ.” The ministry is based in Richfield, Minn.
  • Approving Avant Ministries as an approved cooperative agency. The mission of the organization is to “glorify God by helping others enjoy His presence through planting and developing new churches in the unreached areas of the world.” Formerly known as Gospel Missionary Union, the Kansas City-based ministry is one of the oldest missionary sending agencies in English-speaking North America.
  • Adopting the Minutes of the 39th General Assembly.
  • Approving the 2019-20 minutes of the 14 EPC presbyteries (with some minor exceptions requiring response to the Presbytery Review Committee by December 31, 2020)
  • Approving the responses from the presbyteries to exceptions issued by the 39th General Assembly.
  • Accepting the invitation from Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn., to host the 41st General Assembly in June 2021.

The Chaplains Work and Care Committee, Generosity Resources Committee, Ministerial Vocation Committee, and Next Generation Ministries Council did not present any recommendations to the 40th General Assembly.

In closing the Assembly, Meyers thanked commissioners for participating in “the most distinctive General Assembly in this most unusual 40th year of the EPC.”

“In it, we’ve witnessed the glory of the ‘Always’ God,” Meyers said. “Always present. Always faithful. Always leading His Church—His people—triumphantly in the Great Commission ministry. Always leading us triumphantly to the new heaven and the new earth and our eternal future. We depart declaring our faith and our confidence, our hope and our joy, for what the Lord Jesus has for us in this challenging time.”

#epc2020ga

Louisiana, Texas brace for Hurricane Delta as EPC churches continue cleanup effort from Hurricane Laura

 

Blue tarps on homes in Lake Charles, La., indicate the extent of damage left by Hurricane Laura as Hurricane Delta takes aim at the region. (photo credit: Erik Stratton, KPEL965.com)

As Hurricane Delta bears down on the northern Gulf Coast, volunteers from numerous EPC churches expect to ramp up their ongoing recovery efforts since Hurricane Laura swept through southwest Louisiana in late August. Delta is expected to strengthen by the time it makes landfall on October 9.

Members of First Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge, La., and First Presbyterian Church in Ocean Springs, Miss., have traveled to the heaviest-hit areas in the weeks since the category 4 storm made landfall August 27, causing extensive damage in Lake Charles and the surrounding area. Additional damage from Delta could further complicate what is a serious situation, according to relief effort leaders for the EPC’s Presbytery of the Gulf South.

Whitney Alexander

Whitney Alexander, Associate Pastor of Missions for First Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge, said recovery efforts have focused largely on removing debris from wind damage and flooding. Alexander and Kory Duncan, Associate Pastor of Missions at First Presbyterian Church in Ocean Springs, are coordinating EPC relief efforts in the region.

“The wind damage was unbelievable,” Alexander said. “More than 50 percent of trees have been knocked over or damaged for the entire western side of Louisiana. Thousands of power lines were snapped or leaning over, with 80,000-plus roofs in these three communities damaged or destroyed. In some cases, the entire home has been leveled by trees falling.”

He noted that relief efforts were underway quickly after the storm moved out of the area. Members of First Presbyterian Church in Vicksburg, Miss., joined the teams from Baton Rouge and Ocean Springs with chainsaws and other tools in Alexandria, La., on September 4 and 5. The groups removed limbs from homes of members of Grace Presbyterian Church in Alexandria—approximately 100 miles north-northeast of Lake Charles and the nearest EPC congregation to Laura’s path of destruction. The following weekend, another group of 15 volunteers continued debris cleanup work in Alexandria.

Teams from Baton Rouge have continued to work in Lake Charles on Wednesdays and Saturdays, sawing downed trees and moving the debris to the curb.

“I just returned from my 12th trip,” Alexander said.

Kory Duncan (left) and volunteers from First Presbyterian Church in Ocean Springs, Miss., drove four hours to Alexandria, La., to help cleanup efforts following Hurricane Laura. (photo credit: Kory Duncan)

Duncan said students from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge joined the church teams to help clear debris in Alexandria.

“When trees fall in your yard, your insurance will cover it to get it off your house or to get it off your driveway or to get it off of any outbuildings, but the stuff that’s just lying in your yard, it’s on you,” Duncan said. “We spent an entire day working with a 90-year-old man. He was working when we got there and was working when we left—the whole time on one tree that had fallen that was probably 40 inches in diameter. We helped him—and we helped him a lot—but he still had more to do when we left.”

Alexander said he is praying there are no more injuries or property damage with Hurricane Delta.

“People are desperate,” he said. “My job is to continue loving people—that’s what I do. I’m going to continue to go to Lake Charles for a long time. We don’t need resources. We just need prayers. The supplies will be tripled and quadrupled. I’ll be there until next March, that’s how bad it is.”

He added that the 80,000 damaged and destroyed homes in the region will be rebuilt, but it will likely take several years.

“My heart hurts for those people,” Alexander said. “We’ve been through this in 2005, 2008, and 2016. Baton Rouge has been through it. I know how hard it is for these people. Gratefully, the Lord has spared us in Baton Rouge this time.”

He said his prayer for Hurricane Delta—the 25th named hurricane of the Atlantic season—is that “somehow the Holy Spirit and His mighty strength can dissipate that storm from 100 mph to like 50 when it gets on land. We know it is going to hit somebody, but we don’t want it to slam in as the last one did. The last one just annihilated everything.”

Duncan said his prayer is for more EPC churches to organize together or with other groups to train and prepare in advance to respond to future disasters.

“Thank goodness for organizations here and for the church,” Alexander said. “Without the church, I promise you they wouldn’t be this far in recovery efforts.”

by Tim Yarbrough
EPConnection correspondent

Dean Weaver elected fourth EPC Stated Clerk

 

Dean Weaver (right), Lead Pastor of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in suburban Pittsburgh, speaks to the 40th General Assembly via video conference following his election as the EPC’s fourth Stated Clerk on September 17. At left is Glenn Meyers, Moderator of the 40th General Assembly. (photo credit: Jeff Guetzloe)

Commissioners to the EPC’s 40th General Assembly elected Dean Weaver, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Alleghenies, as the denomination’s fourth Stated Clerk. He currently serves as Lead Pastor of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in Allison Park, Pa., and was the Moderator of the 37th General Assembly. Weaver will be installed at the 41st General Assembly in June 2021.

Bill Dudley, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Southeast and Chairman of the Stated Clerk Search Committee, said Weaver has “a devotion to the church” and “has demonstrated what sacrificial leadership looks like” over the years.

“He is a man with a mission for God on his mind in every aspect in the life of the Church,” Dudley said. “He is that one who has taken the blend of being young enough to see visions—still—and yet he is also one who, like an experienced older man of wisdom, can still now dream dreams.”

Upon his election, Weaver said he was deeply honored and “greatly humbled that you would entrust such a stewardship to me to be the fourth elected Stated Clerk of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, following Ed Davis, Mike Glodo, and Jeff Jeremiah. I walk in the footsteps of giants; shoes the likes of which I could never hope to fill. I am the inheritor of that legacy for which I am deeply grateful, and am profoundly dependent upon you for your prayers, your support, and your love.”

Weaver noted that the 40th General Assembly has been “a surreal Assembly in so many ways, and this moment perhaps the most surreal for me in 34 years of ministry. It is overwhelming.”

He said he believes that the EPC’s best days are still ahead, echoing Dudley’s comments of dreams and vision.

“One of those dreams and visions is of a promised land that God yet has for us,” Weaver said. “Our best days are not behind us. Jeff has led us through unprecedented times with incredible courage and great faith and stamina. I am proud to be his friend, and quite frankly a little overwhelmed to follow him. But at the same time, I honestly believe that God is going to lead us through the wilderness wanderings of the coronavirus pandemic into a promised land—a time for us to inherit a Kingdom that cannot be shaken.”

Though he acknowledged the tension between contemporary culture and “measuring all by the Scripture—the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God,” Weaver declared that the EPC will faithfully go forward.

“Pray for your ‘Levitical leaders’—our beloved men and women who serve the Lord in ministry,” he said. “Pray that they would have the fortitude and the courage to step out with the presence of God and go into that place that God has for them. It may be overwhelming, but it is the place of promise.”

Weaver noted that “the way we have understood church over these last number of years” may be different going forward.

“That may mean we have to walk around the walls of the great city and blow our trumpets and do other things that seem to make virtually no sense,” he said. “Yet I am confident that this Kingdom that cannot be shaken, that God has called us to together, that God is going to do exceedingly abundantly more than you and I could ever ask or imagine.”

He added that he believes “the way before us is not going to be easy.”

“But I am even more confident that our God is so very good. He leads us, and He has been—and will be—faithful. I am honored to serve you in this way, and ask you to pray for me, for Beth, and for our family as we seek to serve the Lord through the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.”

He and his wife, Beth, have been married for 32 years and have seven children (three natural born and four adopted—two from Sierra Leone, one from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and one in the U.S.) and two grandchildren.

Weaver holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Religion from Grove City College; a Master of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary; and Master of Theology and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

The Stated Clerk Search Committee was appointed by the 39th General Assembly and consisted of fifteen members representing each of the EPC’s 14 presbyteries, plus one member of the National Leadership Team.

Jeremiah has served as the denomination’s Stated Clerk since 2006. When re-elected to a fifth three-year term in 2018, he announced that it would be his final term and he would step down in June 2021.

Glenn Meyers elected Moderator of 40th General Assembly

 

Glenn Meyers (left) receives the Moderator’s cross, stole, and questions of investiture from Dean Weaver, Lead Pastor of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in Allison Park, Pa. (photo credit: Jeff Guetzloe)

Glenn Meyers, Ruling Elder and Commissioned Pastor of Ardara United Presbyterian Church in Ardara, Pa., was elected Moderator of the EPC’s 40th General Assembly on September 17.

In his opening remarks, Meyers said he was “honored to be sitting in this seat today— honored by my Father and honored by all of you to have been be given the privilege and the responsibility of moderating this historic 40th General Assembly of our beloved Evangelical Presbyterian Church.”

He emphasized that the “all true honor for this day is due His Holy Name. Praise the Lord. I am also humbled by the thought of the 40-year history of our denomination and of the many faithful men and women, who in their loving service to God and to one another, have delivered us to this moment. I am thankful for them.”

Meyers recognized a number of faith and life experiences that would contribute to his service in the office, including being a smaller church leader, a Ruling Elder, a Commissioned Pastor, and a person of color.

“Eighty percent our EPC churches are small churches of less than 200 members,” he said. “I am blessed to be shepherding one of those small churches in the village of Ardara in western Pennsylvania—the church that helped to raise me and form my faith.”

He also noted that he brings the perspective of a Ruling Elder serving the Ardara congregation as Commissioned Pastor.

“The EPC has intentionally prioritized the voices of our Ruling Elders,” he said. “And our denomination acknowledges the uniqueness of each person’s call to the gospel ministry and supports leaders to facilitate the work of the Holy Spirit through them. Therefore, we commission pastors.”

Meyers reminded the Assembly that the EPC values diversity, but its core value is the power of the gospel.

“Consistent with the picture given to us by God in Revelation 7:9, we long to reflect the richness of God’s Kingdom,” he said. “I am a black man—a person of color in the leadership of the EPC—and I bring that unique perspective to this calling as Moderator. However, most importantly the Evangelical Presbyterian Church acknowledges the power of the gospel and the redeeming love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In this way I am not unique here. I am a sinner saved by grace. This is the perspective I would like to most powerfully represent among you.”

In his biography as presented in the Nominating Committee report to the 40th General Assembly, Meyers noted that Ardara church went from nearly closing to a now-vital gospel ministry.

“God has done a great work among us,” he wrote. “I am grateful to the pastors, elders, deacons, and church family members who have held the church in trust for future generations while seeking the will of God in the present. We intend to do the same.”

A graduate of Norwin Senior High School in in North Huntingdon, Pa., Meyers studied Organizational Behavior at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa. He also attended Reformed Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Prior to becoming a Commissioned Pastor, Glenn spent more than 20 years as a Habilitation Therapist and the owner/operator of Habilis Learning Consultants.

“My work with and for adults and children with developmental delays and mental health challenges has been a blessing of profound preparation,” he said.

He and his wife, Heather, have six children and seven—and counting—grandchildren. He noted that all of their children, who range in age from 13 to 31, have professed faith in Christ and are currently working out their salvation and their individual callings.

Meyers also has served as manager of the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, performed as an actor, and worked as a children’s librarian. He is an Eagle Scout and has toured with a choir through Europe. He enjoys travel, new food experiences, music, the theater, and art.

“God wastes no experiences,” he said. “I am blessed to be part of a church and family in which my very faithful God has begun a good work. With every new opportunity presented by the hand of God, my deepest desire is to honor Him. I am very blessed to be asked to serve Christ’s Church to the Glory of my Father.”

New Hope EPC (Fort Myers, Fla.) volunteers live Matthew 25:36 for juvenile detention center despite COVID restrictions

 

New Hope Presbyterian Church members (from left) Cathy Fox, Helen Clapp, Eleanor Blitzer, Candy Engleman, and Gin Fisher) outside the Southwest Florida Juvenile Detention Center in Fort Myers, Fla.

“Do you wanna go to jail with me today?” Not your typical question. Then again, Candy Engleman is not your typical church lady. She is a member of the “Juvie Jail” ministry of New Hope Presbyterian Church (EPC) in Fort Myers, Fla., and her mission is to glorify God while sharing the gospel with the girls who are residents of a juvenile detention center.

The Juvie Jail ministry, as it is informally called, began in 2009 as part of a larger ministry for teenage girls. Every Monday afternoon, a group of volunteers from New Hope arrives at the Southwest Florida Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Fort Myers with homemade cookies, lemonade, Bible lessons, and love. The volunteers spend an hour and a half each week with the girls. They share snacks, play games, read the Bible, teach a lesson on a Bible verse or story, take prayer requests, and lead the girls in prayer. And they hug, too. Big circle hugs.

The girls are not required to participate, but Monday has become a highly anticipated day in the center for everyone. Frelicia Davis, Facility Training Coordinator for the Center, explains how important the ministry is in the lives of the girls.

“These kids go through their crises during the week, but on Mondays they light up and this helps them calm down,” Davis said. “They know these ladies are coming with their hearts—not just coming to be coming.”

Typically, a girl is housed in the facility for three weeks awaiting her appearance in court.  During their first week, Davis says the girls are hesitant to participate because they want to “save face.” In the second week, the girls begin to open up and interact more within the group. By the third week, they begin praying and reaching out with questions and prayer requests. Some of these girls have never seen a Bible or started a prayer, but on Mondays they impatiently wait for the ladies from New Hope to arrive.

“We call them our ‘Jesus Christ Golden Girls!’” Davis exclaimed. “Everyone loves them. The girls love them. The staff loves them. These ladies have hearts of gold. Rain or shine, holidays…giving these girls hope.”

Ann Anderson has been involved since 2012, and noted that jail ministry is not always easy.

“You have to love the Lord,” she said. “These girls are needy, and some don’t know anything about God. Some are curious. We have to share God’s Word with them.”

Engleman agrees. While she jokes about asking people if they want to come to jail with her, the joking stops there.

“It is a blessing to be in this ministry,” she said. “It is a privilege for us to be able to do this and we want people who want to come and receive the blessing that it is.”

Permanent volunteers have to go through a detailed vetting process that includes fingerprinting and background checks. Engleman appreciates the requirements, because she only wants volunteers who are serious about serving.

“We see these girls as daughters, granddaughters, and nieces,” she explained. “We are terribly aware that we are sinners too, and so we are shoulder-to-shoulder with them and not standing in judgment.”

For privacy reasons, the volunteers are only given the girls’ first names. They also never know what offense a girl has committed. Some girls are repeat offenders. Some are runaways. Most come from dysfunctional families or foster homes. One girl was a repeat offender because being in the system was better than the alternative. A few of the girls have children of their own, despite their young ages. Sometimes their families don’t want them back. Drugs and alcohol are common threads woven into their stories. Sometimes a girl goes right back to a pimp upon release.

Engleman said the inability to follow up with girls after their release is the ministry’s only downside.

“Our job is to deliver the gospel,” she said. “Beyond that, God has not given us the okay to follow through with the girls. We share the gospel and we share our love. That is all we have been told by God to do at this point.”

The detention center leadership fully supports the ladies’ work.

“We have the utmost respect for this group, and for the church itself,” Davis said. “The love from the church—the entire church—is represented in this ministry.”

The girls aren’t the only ones being ministered to. The guards share prayer requests, ask for Bibles, grab cookies, and sometimes stay for the Bible lesson.

“Sometimes we do plays, like a Christmas pageant, and the guards take part,” Anderson noted. “They play the Wise Men or the shepherds. We try to make it fun for everyone. God is a joyful God and we want everyone to see this.”

Visitation restrictions are in place currently due to COVID-19, so the ladies have not been able to meet with the girls face-to-face. But they have not stopped going. Every week the ladies collect items and take them to the lobby to be delivered to the girls. Devotionals, word search books, adult coloring pages, and felt tip markers are passed along by the guards. The most important item the girls receive is a prayer request card. All of these cards are collected by the ministry and a volunteer sends out a visit report to more than 100 people who pray over each request every week.

Eddie Spencer, New Hope’s Senior Pastor, said the pandemic has barely slowed the ladies down.

“They cannot see the girls or fully enter the facility, but continue to visit each week to drop off discipleship lessons and sit together in the car and pray for the young women,” he said.

One of New Hope’s core values is living out the gospel by “reaching out to hurt and marginalized people.” The Juvie Jail Ministry demonstrates this by extending grace to all who live and work at the detention center. Engleman gives all the credit to God.

“God has allowed us to continue our ministry at the center despite COVID,” she said. “God is reaching out to many people there and we are privileged to be a part of His work.”

Even if it means going to jail.

by Kelli Lambert Gilbreath
EPConnection correspondent

#epc2020ga the official 40th General Assembly hashtag

 

The 40th General Assembly is fully virtual, but you can still add your voice to the proceedings by including the hashtag #epc2020ga on your social media posts. Connect your message with others on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms.

If you are not a registered Commissioner, you can watch the live stream and monitor the social media feed at the same time at www.epc.org/ga2020livestream.

Join the conversation!

#epc2020ga

Getting to know you: Beth Weaver, wife of EPC Stated Clerk nominee Dean Weaver

 

WeaverFamilyA

The Weaver family, pictured at Christmas. Bottom row, from left: daughter Hannah, daughter Sarah, Beth, daughter Isatu, granddaughter Nora (daughter of Hannah), daughter Rachel. Back row, from left: son Jacob, son Isaac, Dean/Santa, son Tommy, son-in-law John Gourley (husband of Hannah), son-in-law Evan Gourley (husband of Rachel). Not pictured: granddaughters Caroline and Leah.

Part 2 of 2

Dean Weaver, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Alleghenies, is the Stated Clerk Search Committee’s nominee to succeed Jeff Jeremiah as EPC Stated Clerk. He will be presented at the EPC’s 40th General Assembly for confirmation. Weaver serves as Lead Pastor of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in Allison Park, Pa., and was Moderator of the EPC’s 37th General Assembly.

He and his wife, Beth, have been married for 32 years. She took time in August to talk about their family and her life walking side-by-side with her husband.

WeaverFamilyB

Beth and Dean at Caesarea Maritima on the shores of the Mediterranean in Israel, 2015.

EPConnection: How did you two meet?

Beth: Dean and I met in my junior year of college; he was my campus minister. I was a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania studying Home Economics and Early Childhood Development. He showed up on my doorstep one day as a new campus minister with CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach), wanting to meet the students involved with the ministry at his partner church, Graystone Presbyterian Church. I was one of four students who were a part of the leadership team at the time.

Dean was a recent graduate of Grove City College and fresh from the CCO summer training program. We had a brief conversation on my front steps where he introduced himself and mentioned that he hoped I would be a part of the campus ministry program that fall and bring friends. I don’t remember much about the conversation, but when I shut the door I said to my roommate at the time, “I’m going to marry him!” It was not so obvious to Dean right away! It took a few years for him to come around to it, but that’s another longer story!

WeaverFamilyE

Beth (Mimi) with son-in-law John, daughter Hannah, and granddaughters Caroline and Nora.

EPConnection: Tell me about your family.

Beth: We are incredibly blessed to be the parents of seven amazing children. We have three biological children, (oldest to youngest) Hannah, Jacob, and Rachel; and four adopted children, Tommy, Isaac, Sarah, and Isatu. They range in age from 30 to 22.

Hannah and Rachel are married to John and Evan, respectively, who also happen to be brothers. Hannah and John are parents to our three delightful granddaughters, Nora (4), Caroline (2), and Leah (4 months old).

As a side note, we have two pups, Blaze and Saffie, and three grandpups, Maggie, Bella, and Karamel. We love them too, and they are family members!

EPConnection: Talk about the process that led to adopting multiple international children.

WeaverFamilyI

Isaac, Isatu, Beth, and Dean in the siblings’ homeland of Sierra Leone, West Africa.

Beth: As mentioned, four of our children are adopted, and three are international adoptions. Our first adopted daughter, Sarah, came following a mission trip Dean had taken to an island in the Caribbean called St. Vincent. Up to that point, adoption had not been in our minds except for maybe someday down the road. Our biological children were 9, 7, and 5. We had our hands pretty full already! But God had started us down a path.

Our family verse has been Psalm 68:6, “God sets the lonely in families.” Over the years God has brought a number of children to stay in our home for periods of time. Most came and went for various reasons, but God had a plan to add more children who would become our own. Isaac and Isatu, who are biological siblings, came to us at the conclusion of the Blood Diamond war in Sierra Leone during a very desperate time in that country. After their adoptions, God led us to further ministry in Sierra Leone which we continue to be involved with today.

WeaverFamilyL

Tommy’s adoption was finalized in 2018 when he was 24.

The last addition to our family was a domestic adoption of our son Tommy, who interestingly, legally became our son as an adult. He has made up for lost time, living at home for the last year and has blended into the multiethnic mix of our family beautifully.

EPConnection: Is it true what they say about pastor’s kids?

Beth: In a word, yes! But to be fair, the life of a pastor’s kid is not an easy one. All the hours at church, waiting for mom and dad to finish talking with people or finish the many, many activities that are part of a ministry family’s life. We wanted our children to have more positive than negative experiences at church and with the body of Christ, so many of their best friends were kids in families from our churches who we got close to. So they got to see the real Weaver family, both parents and kids!

We always wanted to be sure that our children did not feel pressure to be or behave a certain way because of being the children of the pastor. That wasn’t always easy or perfect, but we hope that it has encouraged them to grow into who God means for them to be and to flourish in a relationship with Him. One thing is for sure, church was a second home to our children all during their growing-up years!

WeaverFamilyF

Granddaughters Nora (4), Caroline (2), and Leah (4 months).

EPConnection: What has been your ministry in the local church?

Beth: I have loved being involved in many different areas of ministry throughout the years, usually related to children’s ministry. I’ve been a volunteer at our church’s summer camp program, Summer Surge, for most of the years we have been here. In recent years my joy has been teaching the 2- and 3-year-old class, and volunteering in the 1-year-old and infant nursery when needed.

EPConnection: What has been the most fulfilling part of being a pastor’s wife?

WeaverFamilyK

Daughter Rachel married Evan Gourley in August 2016. She currently teaches high school English in Philadelphia, Pa. He attends Princeton Theological Seminary and serves in campus ministry with the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO), a ministry partner of the EPC.

Beth: This might be the most thought-provoking question of all! Being a pastor’s wife is deeply fulfilling in many ways that come to mind, but if I had to pin it down to a specific thing it would have to be seeing the glorious work of God’s Kingdom happening right before my eyes all around the world as it is lived out in His Church, by His people. It has been an incredible honor to be a part of that work, and to support Dean as he has led the churches we have served over the years.

EPConnection: How have you managed the inevitable criticisms directed toward Dean (don’t all pastors face criticism at some point?)?

Beth: Yes, all pastors face criticism at some point, usually many times over the years! It goes with the territory of being a pastor and anyone in ministry will face it. It should not come as a big surprise, but at times it cuts quite deeply. Actually, I sometimes get more upset than Dean does at criticism of him, and I am very quick to be at his defense. But once I get over that part, the first step is really to check ourselves and where we are, and seek the Lord for wisdom. If there is really a correction coming from the Lord that Dean should hear, we both will seek that together. We desire to be totally in the middle of God’s will and God’s call.

WeaverFamilyH

Beth with granddaughter Nora.

Over the years we have worked together to develop discernment that leads us in the right direction, not only for our family but also in ministry. I trust that process, led by God and His Spirit, and have learned to listen to that above and beyond criticisms. But it is definitely my least favorite part of ministry!

EPConnection: What are you most excited about for the next season of life, say over the next 3-5-7 years?

Beth: I am excited to be part of Dean’s new calling and the direction that will take us in. For the next three years I see a time of growth and change for our family. Maybe more additions in grandkids and spouses? Certainly, the joys and challenges of growing into a family with adult children and our last “at home” kids leaving the nest.

I work for the non-profit organization, EduNations, that we started with several other families who had adopted children in Sierra Leone. We have been part of building 16 schools there, and also blessed to see churches grow in the villages we serve. I see that continuing as my work, and as I have for many years you’ll find me at the EduNations table at General Assembly.

I’m excited to travel with Dean and get to know the body of Christ that is the EPC as a whole. I also anticipate seeing the glorious work of God’s Kingdom happening right before my eyes all around the world, lived out in His Church, by His people. I know it will continue to be an incredible honor to be a part of that work and to support Dean and be part of that with him.

EPConnection: Thank you, Beth, for taking time to help the EPC get to know you a little bit.

WeaverFamilyN

The beach has long been a favorite vacation spot for the Weaver family.

Commissioner’s Handbook, committee reports available for 40th General Assembly

 

GA40CommissionersHandbookThe 40th General Assembly Commissioner’s Handbook and reports from the EPC’s permanent and interim committees to the Assembly are now available for download in PDF format at www.epc.org/ga2020documents. The Handbook is available in its entirety as well by individual sections.

The Assembly will be held September 17-18. The EPC’s first all-virtual GA convenes at 11:30 a.m. (Eastern) each of the two days from the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando.

“I think our Commissioners will appreciate that this year’s Handbook has been reduced to 49 pages—down from 99 last year,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “We wanted to make it as easy as possible to follow the proceedings, and this year’s Handbook has only 18 pages of action items. I hope every Commissioner takes some time between now and the Assembly to familiarize themselves with the business items we will act on.”

Jeremiah noted that because the 40th General Assembly is fully virtual with no on-site activities, the GA app will not be deployed this year.

“While the app has all the action items, committee reports, and other documents Commissioners will need, these files are on our website,” Jeremiah said. “Also, much of the app is designed to help people find their way to the various meetings, lunches, and other activities of a ‘normal’ General Assembly. Since those are on hold this year, we decided to put the app on hold this year also. Everything a Commissioner—or an observer watching the live stream—will need is on the GA documents page of the website.”

In addition to the GA Documents page of the website, all permanent and committee reports for the 2019-2020 ministry year are available at www.epc.org/committees/reports.

#epc2020ga