Category Archives: Uncategorized

Global evangelicals tackle 21st century issues

 

ThorpPivotArtby Case Thorp
Moderator of the 39th General Assembly

JAKARTA, INDONESIA—The World Reformed Fellowship, a global association of evangelical Reformed Christians, met in Jakarta in August for its quadrennial General Assembly. This four-day gathering of 68 denominations and more than 162 affiliate organizations from 25 countries includes worship, workshops, and excursions to area ministry projects. The chosen location is no accident, both for being in the world’s largest Muslim democracy and as home to one of the largest Reformed churches in the world—the Messiah Cathedral founded by evangelist Stephen Tong.

CaseThorp

CaseThorp

EPC Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri and I attended the gathering. What struck me, as a first-time attendee, were the topics of conversation and the diminishing emphasis of those past concerns that seemed to rob all of our imaginations. This is not to say that the old concerns were not important, but rather they served more as distractions from those things that our congregants were dealing with in their day-to-day lives. I heard nary a word on Roman Catholicism, immorality, or threats to biblical authority. The progressive mainline Protestant denominations from which these church bodies originated are a distant afterthought for these leaders.

However, like a breath of fresh air, the speakers focused on the current and future concerns of our times: the global refugee crisis, the decline of Western civilization, the rise of Islam, the challenges technology presents, political instability in various places worldwide, the development of leadership, the health of our institutions, and more.  These emphases demonstrate a maturity and confidence for the evangelical Reformed church to strive forward as change agents.

The desire is not just to speak of these things in the theoretical, but also seek to figure out what sustainable solutions might look like. We toured a ministry that serves refugees, which is operated by the Lippo Group’s James Riady, the billionaire convicted in the 1996 Clinton campaign scandal prior to his conversion to Christianity. When 1,400 Afghans, Somalis, Iranians, and Iraqis became stuck in Indonesia on their way to Australia, Riady stepped up to meet the need. Within two weeks, he had a community center set up to educate the children and assist with healthcare through one of his hospitals, free of charge.

Besides Riady’s moving work, conference conversations wrestled with the tension between love and order: how do you grieve for the horrific human suffering while at the same time lobbying leaders to create laws, systems, and strategies to stem the flow of people groups? The status quo is not acceptable or sustainable for these leaders, who have many questions and no easy answers.

The decline of the West is not only on the lips of the Scots and Americans, but certainly our Asian, African, and Latin counterparts. The rise of China, the perceived American political instability, and the sexual and gender revolution occurring around us alarm and puzzle many. China’s dominance and aggression is much more acutely felt here, and American political discourse is all the more silly when seen from abroad. A fundamental example of Western decline is the abandonment societies are taking with concern to personhood.

The halls of the World Reformed Fellowship nervously echo with debate of a newly emerging anthropology. What makes a person a person? What is permeable or constant for a person illustrates the disparity between a Christian idea of a human and a postmodern view being embraced socially and ensconced legally.

Christian theology, upon which the Western tradition bases its ideas of human rights, democracy, and contractual arrangements, teaches a human to be divinely created, made in the image of God, marred by sin leading to bad choices, redeemable by faith in Jesus, and charged to share the love of Christ with others in word and deed. The Western embrace of abortion, same-sex marriage, transgender rights, and euthanasia, not to mention to bubbling frontier of genetic engineering, tells us there is no consensus of what a person is and what is best for them. Social and political domination, sometimes to the point of violence, is necessary to advocate one group’s vision for humanity over another. How evangelicals will teach their own contra-social anthropology to their people, and then present it as a better alternative to the community, is a great challenge requiring further thought and strategy. But there seems to me to be a glaring need for us to “pivot” and do just that.

One speaker, a Hong Kong pastor and theology professor, told of the role of Christians in the ongoing street protests in his city as he struggled to balance the role of violence for the followers of Jesus, and the place of pursuing justice at the risk of social disorder. He echoed his own personal conclusion about his role with the protests, a statement that embodied much of the tenor of the World Reformed Fellowship. He said, “We have to be with our sheep. And our sheep are out there.”

The debates of the last century, which form a comfortable stereotype for others about evangelicals, are fully behind us, and we look now to be with our sheep, and be out there.

Case Thorp is a Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. He serves as Senior Associate Pastor of Evangelism for First Presbyterian Church in Orlando.

September Jeremiah Journal recaps 39th General Assembly

 

In the September 2019 edition of the Jeremiah Journal, Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah recaps the 39th General Assembly, held June 18-21 at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in suburban Denver, Colorado.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80. Each month’s update also is posted to EPConnection and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

For a transcript of this month’s edition in printable pdf format, click here.

Relief funds sought for Hurricane Dorian relief

 

HurricaneDorianEmergencyReliefIn response to devastation wrought on the northern Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian, and in anticipation of potential further effects of the storm, the EPC is seeking donations to its Emergency Relief Fund.

“While Puerto Rico was only grazed by the storm and our church in Nassau fared well, it is sadly a very different story for our church at Marsh Harbor, Abaco—Kirk of the Pines, led by Gabe Swing,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Dorian made landfall there with record winds in excess of 180 mph, accompanied by a tremendous storm surge. We are still awaiting reports from church leaders and members, but news reports and social media show devastating damage.”

A third EPC congregation in the Bahamas, Lucaya Presbyterian Church, is located in suburban Freeport on the island of Grand Bahama. As of late afternoon on September 2, Dorian had largely stalled with its center located about 25 miles northeast of Freeport. Damage is expected “to be severe” in that community, Jeremiah said.

Click here to donate to the Emergency Relief Fund, or go to www.epc.org/donate/emergencyrelief.

Contributions are tax-deductible, and any donations that exceed directly related disbursements will be held for future emergency relief needs.

St. Andrew’s Kirk partners with Nassau McDonald’s in school supplies outreach

 
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In partnership with St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in the EPC’s Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean, McDonald’s in Nassau, Bahamas, donated more than 600 backpacks for children in Nassau. (photo courtesy of The Nassau Guardian)

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas, has partnered with McDonald’s for the past nine years to provide backpacks and school supplies to children in several neighborhoods near the church in downtown Nassau.

“One of my favorite traditions at St. Andrew’s Kirk is our back-to-school initiative in Bain and Grant’s Town,” said Bryn MacPhail, Pastor of St. Andrew’s. “We have deep affection for, and genuine interest in, the children of this community. We aspire to show our neighbors the love of Christ, and we are grateful for the opportunity that this event presents for us to demonstrate this.”

The backpacks were filled with books, pens, pencils, and other materials. Children who received the backpacks attend the St. Andrew’s Sunday School and Big Harvest Community Sunday School.

Earla Bethel, St. Andrew’s Clerk of Session, is the president of DanBrad Limited, the parent company of McDonald’s in Nassau.

“When a carpenter heads out to a job he usually always has his hammer, tape measure, and square,” Bethel said. “It is equally important that our children in the communities we serve are not disadvantaged by their socioeconomic status, but placed on equal footing through these donations. McDonald’s is very proud to assist the students of Big Harvest and St. Andrew’s Kirk as they both provide a framework for establishing spiritual values and mentorship and focus on education through after-school programs and tutoring. We look forward to each and every child achieving success in the upcoming school year.”

“It’s a tremendous blessing,” said John Ferguson, Big Harvest Sunday School’s superintendent and Nassau’s retired assistant commissioner of police. “It augers well not only for the community, but it allows us to enhance what we’re doing in the inner city through this donation to assist the underprivileged and at-risk youth. We are very grateful for Ms. Bethel and DanBrad Limited, and we appreciate what they’ve done and what they’re doing and we appreciate them including Big Harvest in this gracious donation.”

Commonwealth Bank in Nassau joined the McDonald’s-St. Andrew’s partnership this year, earmarking 150 of the 10,000 backpacks it distributes annually to the cause.

Stated Clerk Search Committee begins work

 

StatedClerkSearchCommittee201908The Stated Clerk Search Committee held its first in-person meeting August 27-29 at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando.

The committee was appointed by 38th General Assembly Moderator Tom Werner and announced to the 39th General Assembly in June. Their purpose is to identify the successor to Jeff Jeremiah, who has served as EPC Stated Clerk since 2006. Upon his election to a fifth three-year term at the 38th General Assembly in 2018, Jeremiah announced his plans to depart from the role in June 2021.

The goal is for the next Stated Clerk to be elected by the 40th General Assembly.

“I speak for the entire committee when I ask the EPC for its collective prayers as we seek the mind of Christ in this incredibly important work,” said Teaching Elder Bill Dudley, Search Committee Chairman. He currently serves as Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Southeast, and was the Moderator of the 33rd General Assembly. “Our Lord Jesus Christ has used Jeff Jeremiah in amazing ways as the EPC has grown tremendously under his leadership. God will use our next Stated Clerk to lead us into the future He has for the EPC, so we deeply desire for God to speak clearly to us.”

The committee is comprised of eight Teaching Elders and seven Ruling Elders, with an individual from each of the EPC’s 14 presbyteries and one official representative from the National Leadership Team.

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

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Members of the Stated Clerk Search Committee are (left to right) Victor Jones, Ritchey Cable, Scott Griffin, Allen Roes, David Mennel, Laurie Johnston, Nancy Duff, Marc Huebl, Michael Davis,  Rosemary Lukens, Luder Whitlock, Bob LeSuer, Bill Dudley (Chairman), José Rodriguez, and Chris Danusiar.

World Outreach Evaluation Team convenes first meeting

 
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Members of the World Outreach Evaluation Team are (left to right) Rob Liddon, Jerry Iamurri, Alan Johnson, Brad Gill, Brian Tweedie, Betsy Rumer, Johnny Long, and Kevin Cauley.  

In its report to the 39th General Assembly, the EPC National Leadership Team (NLT) announced the formation of a World Outreach Evaluation Team in response to Phil Linton’s retirement in June 2021. Linton has served as Director of World Outreach since 2014. The Evaluation Team held its first meeting August 27-28 at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando, with the goal of filing its report in time for the NLT to form the World Outreach Director Search Committee by the 40th General Assembly.

“Anticipating that the search for Phil’s successor will begin in earnest after the 2020 General Assembly, the NLT concluded that the next ten to twelve months would be an excellent opportunity to review and evaluate the ministries and work of World Outreach,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “This is not a search committee, but their work will help set the table for the task that a search committee will undertake in 2020 and 2021.”

Rob Liddon, Ruling Elder for Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn., and Moderator of the 30th General Assembly, is serving as chairman. Other members are Kevin Cauley, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; Brad Gill, Ruling Elder from Presbytery of the Midwest; Alan Johnson, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the West; Johnny Long, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the West; Betsy Rumer, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies; and Brian Tweedie, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Midwest. Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri is serving the committee as staff resource from the Office of the General Assembly.

Cauley and Long are members of the permanent World Outreach Committee; Johnson and Rumer are former members of the World Outreach Committee, with Rumer serving as Chairman in 2017-2018. Liddon also serves on the National Leadership Team.

Presbytery Moderators hold annual meeting

 

PresbyteryModerators201908At their annual meeting, Moderators and Moderators-elect from the EPC’s 14 presbyteries developed proposals for Leadership Institute workshop topics, ministry resource distribution strategies, and requirements for churches to adopt child protection policies.

The group met August 22-23 at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando, Fla.

Other items addressed in the meeting included reports from several presbyteries of growth in their church planting initiatives, as well as annual retreats for Teaching Elders that were well-received by the pastors in their presbyteries.

Among topics of concern was a discussion regarding the pipeline of younger Teaching Elders. Several individuals expressed unease about the number of qualified pastors who would be available to fill pulpits that are expected to be vacated in the coming years as pastors reach retirement age. In response, Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri reported that the Office of the General Assembly has processed 33 ordination examination requests for Teaching Elder candidates so far this year, and is on pace to have completed 50 by the end of the year.

Current Moderators who attended were Mike Gillett, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; Palmer Griffin, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Southeast; Randall Leonard, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains; George Salnave, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; Mike Wright, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of West; and Roy Yanke, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Midwest.

Moderators-elect who attended were Josh Brown, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies; Jim Conners, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; John Dorr, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the East; Bryant Harris, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Southeast; Joyce Harris, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Midwest; George Hertensteiner, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains; Mac MacGowan, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Central South; Bill Reisenweaver, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; and Rich Swedberg, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the West.

National Leadership Team welcomes new members, looks to future

 

NLT201908In its August meeting, the EPC’s National Leadership Team (NLT) convened its 2019-2020 year by welcoming five new members, reviewing the EPC’s mission and vision, and looking to possible futures for the denomination. The meeting was held August 20-21 at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo., and is one of four in-person gatherings each year.

The 39th General Assembly approved an update to the composition and functions of the NLT, and much of the agenda for the meeting reflected the newly defined responsibilities:

  • Seek the mind of Christ for the EPC and to express this in a mission statement that states who God has called the EPC to be.
  • Development of vision and strategies that express what God is calling the EPC to do to carry out the mission statement.
  • Assess the execution of the mission, vision, and strategies on behalf of the General Assembly.
  • Encourage EPC presbyteries and local churches to participate in implementing the mission, vision, and strategies.

“With the Assembly’s action in June, the NLT is now formally charged with leadership and strategic ‘looking out to the horizon’ and how we could be prepared for that—both the opportunities and the potential challenges,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “I am thankful for the members of the committee and how seriously they take the collective responsibility to seek the mind of Christ for the EPC.”

The 39th General Assembly also approved increasing the roster of the NLT to twelve elected members. New to the committee are Gerry Arnold, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Gulf South; Brian Evans, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Midwest; Brett Garretson, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the West; Duke Lineberry, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; and Dave Strunk, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Southeast.

Other members are Tom Werner (Chairman), Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of Mid-America; Chris Danusiar, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; Nancy Duff, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; Phil Fanara, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the East; Michael Gibson, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains; Rob Liddon, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Central South; Rosemary Lukens, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; Luder Whitlock, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; Case Thorp (Moderator of the 39th General Assembly), Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; Glenn Meyers (Moderator-elect), Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies; and Jeremiah, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest.

The next meeting of the NLT is scheduled for November 5-6.

City of Hamtramck, Mich., thanks World Outreach Summer Mission Jam participants

 

SummerMissionJam2019HamtramckIn a July 11 post on its Facebook page, the City of Hamtramck, Mich., thanked EPC World Outreach for holding its Summer Mission Jam in the southeastern Michigan city.

“Thank you for making Hamtramck a destination again this year for your Team Summer Jam!,” the post reads. “We enjoy working with you on keeping our city ‘Klean’ and beautiful!”

Surrounded by the city of Detroit, Hamtramck has a significant Bangladeshi, Yemeni, and Bengali population. The city made national news in 2015 when residents elected the first Muslim-majority city council in the country.

“We are thankful for our relationships with the people and leaders of Hamtramck,” said Phil Linton, World Outreach Director. “Our Summer Mission Jam provides an opportunity for high school students to make Muslim friends and talk with them about Jesus without traveling halfway around the world. Hamtramck is a great setting for our students to ‘find somewhere different to love your neighbor,’ as we like to say.”

Students from three EPC churches took part in this year’s event, held July 8-13. Participants spent the afternoon each day serving Hamtramck residents by picking up trash, cleaning yards, and leading outreach games and activities in a local park. In the evenings, students and leaders gathered for worship services in which they were challenged to reimagine the cost of following Christ.

Will, a rising 11th grader from Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church in Signal Mountain, Tenn., said his favorite part of the experience was “the opportunity to show God’s love to the people around us and just to be able to serve.”

The 2020 Summer Mission Jam is scheduled for July 20-25 in Fremont, Calif. For more information, see www.epcwo.org/summermissionjam.

Podcast features Revelation 7:9 Task Force members discussing diversity in the church

 

Four members of the EPC’s Revelation 7:9 Task Force discussed diversity in the local church on the August 9 episode of The E.A.R. (Evangelical and Reformed) Podcast. Their discussion, “The Beauty of the Local Church through Diversity,” closed the E.A.R. Podcast’s second season, entitled “The Beauty of the Local Church.”

Click the play button to listen:

 

The podcast is hosted by Task Force member Brandon Queen, Ruling Elder at First Presbyterian Church in Thibodaux, La., in the Presbytery of the Gulf South. Appearing with Queen were Teaching Elders Soon Pak, Tim Russell, and Rufus Smith. Pak serves as Pastor of Discipleship for Ward Church in Northville, Mich.; Russell serves as Assistant Pastor to Middle Adults for Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.; Smith is Senior Pastor of Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.

The E.A.R. Podcast is available on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Podbean, RadioPublic, Spotify, and Stitcher.

EPC represented at World Reformed Fellowship 2019 General Assembly

 
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TE Rob Norris, Teaching Pastor for Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md., opens the World Reformed Fellowship’s 2019 General Assembly in Jakarta, Indonesia, on August 10.   

Rob Norris, Teaching Pastor for the EPC’s Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md., served as Moderator of the World Reformed Fellowship’s 2019 General Assembly. Todd Smedley, Senior Pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church, served the event as Recording Clerk. Also in attendance were Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri and Case Thorp, Moderator of the EPC’s 39th General Assembly.

The WRF’s quadrennial meeting was held at the headquarters of the Reformed Evangelical Church of Indonesia in Jakarta, August 8-12.

The general theme for the Assembly was “Storming Seas: Key Challenges Facing the Global Reformed Church Today.” For more information, see www.wrf.global.

WRF-ThorpIamurri

Case Thorp (left), Moderator of the EPC’s 39th General Assembly, and Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk, also attended the WRF’s quadrennial gathering.

Church, Pivot!

 

ThorpPivotArtby Case Thorp
Moderator of the 39th General Assembly

Michael Jordan, I am not. Yet my stocky frame came into its own during middle school basketball. While I wasn’t the one leading in the number of baskets scored, setting the standard in layups, or scoring on average more than four points a season (yes, a season, not a game), my pivot was something to behold. I could take the ball, swing my hips, and redirect the ball in a new direction with my mean pivot. All the skinny boys who weren’t slammed to the floor by my moves—and my hips—were in awe at such skill. I got a nickname from my feats of athletic prowess: The Enforcer.

I find this move, the pivot, an analogy for today’s church.

CaseThorp

Case Thorp

As Presbyterian Christians, we instinctively appreciate our past and recognize the movement that Reformed Christianity was in Europe, the Americas, and beyond. In theory—and from theological conviction—as Reformed Christians we seek to continue the reform begun in Christ’s Church in the glory days of Calvin and others.

Yet the danger of focusing upon our past is that we focus so much on where we’ve been that we can grow lethargic about our future as a church and where the Holy Spirit is leading us.

I see the church as needing to pivot as does a basketball player, who keeps one foot planted while being free to move the other as the situation in front of him or her unfolds. The church today needs to keep one foot firmly grounded in Scripture and our confession, and yet pivot in our methodologies in order to make the pass or attempt the shot. We must push harder on the work of reforming due to the cultural decay around us.

With a smart pivot, our shot toward the goal can result in flourishing Reformed churches for the 21st century that have a robust mission, a clear note of praise for the Father, and sightings of the Kingdom of God that abound.

Over my term serving the Evangelical Presbyterian Church as Moderator, my aim is to advance a conversation. This conversation occurs between us all: church planters, solo pastors, ruling elders, and stated clerks. It is the conversation that seeks honesty and realism about the state of today’s church, and likewise a focus on methodological changes that will lead to the future to which Christ calls us.

Besides traveling to be with many of you, I will be creating a series of blog posts and podcasts focused on issues of pivoting toward a rich and robust future of ministry, spiritual growth, adult conversion, and more. And so I begin this journey by sharing my opening remarks upon investiture as Moderator.

My intent with these remarks made at Cherry Creek in June was to present to the church and her leaders some past challenges to inspire us for present ministry threats, and then illustrate some of those headwinds. For cultural headwinds are nothing compared to the Spirit of God who fills our sails.

Remarks delivered on June 19, 2019, at the 39th General Assembly of the EPC held at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo.:

In September of 1866, my great-great grandfather—the Reverend Charles Thorp—left Noke, Oxfordshire, England, to serve as a missionary, first in Canada, then in the frontiers of America. The challenges and obstacles during his ministry were great, yet the records indicate he never lost his zeal for the gospel or Christ’s church.

Charles lost the companionship of his beloved older brother, who took off to pursue the Australian gold rush of 1851—never to be heard from again. Charles found his oldest child and namesake, at the age of 3, dead in the home’s cistern, which someone tragically had left open. Years later, and four more children later, Charles lost his first wife to death.

Despite these dreadful setbacks, Charles raised a total of ten children, remarried a parishioner four months after conducting her father’s funeral, built three church buildings and a school on the wooded frontiers of Jacksonport, Wisc.; Tampa, Fla., and Mansfield, La. All this time, records show that his highest salary was $800 a year. He got two days of vacation after Christmas, and two Sundays away from his church for mission work. Described in letters as the “indefatigable missionary,” Charles never let a challenge get in the way of the gospel.

115 years later (and just 38 years ago), Bart Hess and Andy Jumper locked arms with Ed Davis, George Scotchmer, and Jim Van Dyke and launched out on their own journey. They dared to explore a frontier where Christ’s church could be both Reformed and evangelical.

They had to minster and creatively lead the church through the issues of their day:

The 20th century rise of evangelicalism;
The impact of the long awaited civil rights movement on society;
The explosion of the church in the global south;
Progressive theology undermining the authority of Scripture and uniqueness of the gospel; and
Social revolutions in America for women and human sexuality;

Our founding fathers, even some here in this room today, began this experiment in theology, polity, church culture, and missional effectiveness that we inherit.

If you were present 38 years ago at the first General Assembly of the EPC, would you please now stand.

Friends, we have our challenges.

The Greatest Generation increasingly join the great General Assembly in glory. Baby Boomers retire at the rate of 10,000 a day, and corporations are preparing for three out of four top executives and management leaders to be gone in the next five to seven years. Gen-Xers and Millennials find themselves taking the reigns of leadership presented with both missional challenges and evangelistic opportunity. Such as:

Adult conversions have bottomed out for us, and we recognize the paltry discipleship we’ve offered our people the past 50 years;
Post-modernism has redefined the meaning of a man, a woman, a child, even the in-utero child, such that a Christian anthropology seems like a foreign, political threat to our neighbors;
Many churches in America today give us Presbyterians a run for our money reaching the masses while perpetuating the false gospel of prosperity, starry-eyed pastors seeking fame, and worship-tainment dislocated from her historic moorings; and
We are only beginning to taste and see the impact of technology and a connected world on our own politics, economics, interpersonal relations, and ministry.

The challenges are great; the horizon darkens.

And yet, we are here. We are here.

We are here because we know our God is sovereign. Amen? Amen.

We are here because we know the gospel of Jesus Christ works, brings salvation, change, and restoration. Amen? Amen.

We are here because we know that the Bible tells our story, the story of our God, and the story of God’s mission to the world!

We are here because we know the words of our confession to be true: “The primary and highest purpose of human beings is to glorify God and to enjoy Him completely forever.”

We are here because we know our mission as Reformed, Evangelical, Missional, and Presbyterian is the best expression of church as illustrated in Scripture.

Oh, we have challenges, but if we didn’t we’d already be in the New Jerusalem beholding the beatific vision.

As Moderator, I stand with you; here. I pledge to serve you well and with humility. I pledge to face the horizons ahead of us arm in arm because with the Holy Spirit as the wind in your sails, Christ’s church will shine.

Case Thorp is a Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. He serves as Senior Associate Pastor of Evangelism for First Presbyterian Church in Orlando.

Two Minute Topics video series to answer frequently asked questions

 

The EPC Office of the General Assembly has launched a new video series, “Two Minute Topics.” The short, informative videos will address questions that the Office of the Stated Clerk frequently receives.

“We believe these videos will be useful tools for our leaders and others,” said Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk. “With many people asking us the same questions, we realized that answering those inquiries on video would be a good resource.”

In the first video in the series, Iamurri discusses the Candidates Educational Equivalency Program (CEEP). The CEEP is designed to help non-traditional candidates for ministry satisfy the educational requirements for ordination as a Teaching Elder in the EPC.

The videos are available at www.epc.org/news/twominutetopics, as well on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80. Additional topics will be covered in the coming weeks and months.

2019 Leadership Institute, 39th General Assembly worship service recordings available

 

GA2019VideosVideo recordings of the 39th General Assembly are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/ga2019recordings. Included are the Leadership Institute plenary sessions, worship service speakers, and several permanent committee verbal reports.

The videos feature Andrew and Norine Brunson; Doug Webster; Brad Strait, Lead Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church (the Assembly host church); Léonce Crump Jr., Senior Pastor of Renovation Church in Atlanta, Ga.; Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk; Mark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser; Tom Ricks, Chairman of the EPC Church Planting Team; and more.

In addition, audio recordings of most of the Leadership Institute breakout sessions and select Networking Lunches are available.

New for 2019 is that these Leadership Institute sessions and Networking Lunch recordings also are available in podcast form on Spotify and iTunes—search for “Evangelical Presbyterian Church.”

“I hear from more than a few people each year that they have a hard time deciding which seminar to attend because there are so many quality, relevant topics,” Jeremiah said. “We tried to address that this year by making the sessions available in podcast form for the first time. So for those who could not get to Denver for the event, they can get this training on their smartphone or other device.”

The videos also are available on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80 in the “39th General Assembly” playlist.

#epc2019ga

Richard Alberta dies at 71

 
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Richard Alberta, 1947-2019

Richard Jeffrey Alberta, longtime pastor of Cornerstone Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brighton, Mich., died July 29 following a heart attack. He was 71.

Alberta was Pastor of Cornerstone EPC from 1992 until his retirement in December 2018. He also served as chaplain at the Woodland Village assisted living community in Brighton, where he provided comfort and companionship to its residents.

Under Alberta’s leadership, Cornerstone grew from about 350 members to more than 2,000, and hosted the 23rd (2003) and 29th (2009) EPC General Assemblies. He previously served as Associate Pastor for Ward Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Livonia, Mich., from 1988 to 1992. He also served churches in Oklahoma, New York, and Massachusetts during his 40-year ministry career.

Born in Passaic, N.J., he was the fourth of five children to Frank Alberta, a Sicilian immigrant and restauranteur, and Betty Tillack. While playing football for Mahwah High School in Mahwah, N.J., he met a spunky cheerleader named Donna Pastor.

Following an honorable discharge from the United States Marine Corps, Alberta studied finance, pre-law, and political science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. He and Donna, who was also attending Rutgers, married in 1969 and graduated in 1970. Yet he was an avowed atheist, having abandoned Christianity in the 1960s in response to Vietnam War and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.

By 1977, he was enjoying a successful career, a happy marriage, and their first son (born that year). In a 2018 interview, Alberta said that at the time, he was struggling with depression and anxiety, but agreed to attend a church service with his niece where he found unexpected comfort in the gospel message.

Both he and Donna accepted Christ in the succeeding months, and he sensed a call to become a minister to strengthen and support the faith of others. They soon moved to Massachusetts, where he received a Master of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1982. He later earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pa.

He is survived by his wife, Donna; son Christopher; son and daughter-in-law Jonathan and Kristi; son and daughter-in-law Brian and Stephanie; son and daughter-in-law Tim and Sweta; 11 grandchildren; a sister, Betty Lynn; and three brothers: Frank, Ted, and Jack.

A memorial service will be held on August 2 at Cornerstone EPC in Brighton. At the family’s request, memorial donations can be made to the Livingston County Right to Life or the Pregnancy Help Clinic in Brighton.

Click here for a full memorial notice.

 

Nine churches join EPC, three church plants become local churches in 2018–2019

 

A total of 12 churches joined the Evangelical Presbyterian Church as local churches in the reporting period of May 31, 2018, through June 1, 2019. Of the nine new congregations, eight transferred from the Presbyterian Church (USA). One was previously an independent Presbyterian church. In addition, four church plants attained local church status.

These newest members of the EPC family of churches are:

Antioch Presbyterian Church (Jacksonville, N.C.)
Pastor currently vacant
www.antiochpresbyterian.weebly.com
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

Church of the Redeemer (Maryville, Tenn.)
Dave Strunk, Pastor
www.churchotr.com
Presbytery of the Southeast

Deerfield EPC (Bridgeton, N.J.)
Kenneth Larter, Pastor
www.deerfieldpres.org
Presbytery of the East

First Presbyterian Church (Martinsburg, W.Va.)
Rufus Burton, Pastor
www.fpcmartinsbgwv.org
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

First Presbyterian Church of Stanton (Stanton, Ky.)
Lucas Waters, Pastor
www.fpcstanton.com
Presbytery of the Southeast

Grace Brevard EPC (Brevard, N.C.)
Brian Land, Pastor
www.gracebrevardchurch.org
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

Grove Presbyterian Church EPC (Dunn, N.C.)
Michael Weaver, Pastor
www.grovechurchofdunn.com
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

Langhorne Presbyterian Church (Langhorne, Pa.)
Bill Teague, Pastor
www.langhornepres.org
Presbytery of the East

Nación Santa (Haines City, Fla.)
Luis Quiñones, Pastor
www.nacionsantaflorida.com
Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean

New Albany EPC (New Albany, Ohio)
David Milroy, Pastor
www.newalbanypresbyterian.org
Presbytery of the Alleghenies

Stow Presbyterian Church (Stow, Ohio)
Bob Stanley, Pastor
www.stowpres.church
Presbytery of the Alleghenies

The Table (San Francisco, Calif.)
Troy Wilson, Pastor
www.thetablesf.com
Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest

Woodlands Presbyterian Church (Hot Springs Village, Ark.)
Randy Carstens, Pastor
www.woodlandschurchhsv.org
Presbytery of the Central South

#epc2019ga