In MSNBC interview, Senators Lankford, Shaheen discuss imprisonment of Andrew Brunson


In an interview on MCNBC’s “Morning Joe” program on May 24, Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) continued their call for punitive action against Turkey due to Andrew Brunson’s prolonged imprisonment. The EPC Teaching Elder has been held since October 2016 on charges of espionage and terrorism.

“He is basically being held hostage by (Turkish) President Erdoğan,” Shaheen said, “and this is a blatant attempt to blackmail the United States and we are not going to stand for it.”

TillisShaheenMSNBC

Lankford and Shaheen are pursuing targeted sanctions against Turkish officials, and are working with Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) on a bill to prevent the transfer of American fighter aircraft and technology to Turkey until the relationship between the two countries improves. In the 10-minute interview, they also discussed the future of U.S.-Turkey relations and Erdoğan’s oppressive tendencies.

Click here to watch the full interview.

GA Women’s Resources activities feature discipleship, connection opportunities


GA2018WRC

Speakers for the Women’s Resource Council gatherings include (from left), Sharon Beekmann, Mary Brown, Lana Roberts, Jacqueline Smith, Brent Stenberg, Leila Todd, and Karen Walls. 

The EPC Women’s Resource Council is hosting a variety of gatherings at the 38th General Assembly, June 19-22 at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.

“Connecting with the Marginalized” is the theme for the annual “TESS Talks” dinner on Wednesday, June 20. Speakers are Sharon Beekmann, Women’s Resource Council Chair; Jacqueline Smith, wife of Hope Church Senior Pastor Rufus Smith; and Karen Walls, Director of Hope Church’s Special Needs Ministry. Beekmann will discuss sexual abuse and harassment; Smith will examine Impacting Public Schools for Christ; and Walls’ topic is “Welcoming and Including People with Disabilities into the Family of God.” Each speaker’s 10-minute presentation will be followed by a 20-minute round-table discussion.

Modeled after the popular “Ted Talks,” TESS (Teaching, Encouragement, and Spiritual Sustenance) Talks offer practical discussions on topics of interest for women across the EPC.

“TESS Talks provide sisters in Christ the opportunity to consider and discuss topics that are relevant to churches today,” Beekmann said. “Plus, we have fun!”

Networking Lunches offer opportunities for fellowship and enrichment around a variety of relevant topics.

In “Connecting with God for Life” on Wednesday, Sharon Henderson will discuss growing in Christ as well as in spiritual disciplines. She is the wife of David Henderson, Pastor of Covenant EPC in West Lafayette, Ind.

On Thursday, Lana Roberts will host the annual lunch gathering for women Teaching Elders and candidates to connect, encourage, and pray for one another. Roberts has served on the pastoral staff of First Presbyterian Church in Fresno, Calif., for more than 10 years and is a member of the EPC Women’s Resource Council.

Also on Thursday, Brent Stenberg and Leila Todd of the Christian Psychological Center in Memphis will host a Networking Lunch for ministry spouses. In their topic, “Opportunities and Challenges,” Stenberg and Todd will focus on the unique challenges ministry spouses face, and on building resilience in order to thrive in the midst of the God-given opportunities and stressors of ministry life. All ministry spouses—male or female—are invited to attend.

On Thursday evening, the Women’s Ministry Dinner will feature Mary Brown as she discusses “Disciple Making: One Woman at a Time.” She will explore Jesus’ method of making disciples, including practical steps in disciple-making that beginners and mature Christians alike can use. Brown leads the Soul Healing Ministry, Women’s Ministry, support groups, and discipleship groups for Colonial Presbyterian Church in Kansas City and is a member of the EPC Women’s Resource Council.

“Mary’s passion for making disciples is contagious,” Beekmann said. “She will inspire us to proclaim the gospel and bring people into the body of Christ.”

For more information about the 38th General Assembly, including registration, daily schedules, and more, see www.epc.org/ga2018. For details about the ministries of the EPC Women’s Resource Council, see www.epc.org.org/thewell including an informational video featuring Mary Brown offering helpful tips and encouragement on mentoring new disciples of Christ.

GA2018Banner

World Outreach dinner to feature Bob Blincoe, honor Greg and Sally Livingstone


GA2018Banner

BobBlincoe

Bob Blincoe

Bob Blincoe, President of Frontiers USA, is the guest speaker for this year’s World Outreach banquet in conjunction with the 38th General Assembly. The dinner and program will be held on Tuesday, June 19, at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.

In addition, Greg and Sally Livingstone will be honored for their lifetime sharing the love of Christ with and in the Muslim world. The Livingstones helped start Operation Mobilization in the 1960s, directed the U.S. office of North Africa Mission in the 1970s, founded Frontiers in the 1980s, and now serve as EPC World Outreach Senior Advisors. Greg is the author of several books, including You’ve Got Libya: A Life Serving the Muslim World and The Muslim World: A Presbyterian Mandate.

GregSallyLivingstone

Greg and Sally Livingstone

Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach, said GA attendees “won’t want to miss hearing John Piper, George Verwer, and Bob Blincoe tell the story of how God has used an EPC couple to change the missional course of the global Church.” Piper and Verwer will appear via pre-recorded video.

The banquet also will feature reports from several EPC global workers, who will tell stories of how God is working among the various people groups they serve.

For more information about the 38th General Assembly, including registration, daily schedules, other World Outreach activities, and more, see www.epc.org/ga2018. For details about the World Outreach Dinner, contact Cassie Shultz, World Outreach Assistant, at cassie.s@epcwo.org or 407-930-4313.

May Jeremiah Journal announces special guest to 38th General Assembly, reviews business items


In the May edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah announces a special guest for the 2018 General Assembly, and reviews some business items scheduled to be taken up by Commissioners to the Assembly.

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

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

Sad, angry, resolute: thoughts from a Turkish courtroom


RichardWhite

Richard White, Pastor of Christ Community Church in Montreat, N.C., speaks to a reporter outside the Sakran Prison complex in Aliaga, Turkey, on May 7. White attended the second hearing of EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson’s trial. (photo credit: World Watch Monitor)

by Richard White, Pastor
Christ Community Church
Montreat, N.C.

Sad, angry, and resolute.

These are my states of mind as I wake after Andrew Brunson’s trial. After 10 hours in court, I am deeply saddened that the judge refused to allow Andrew’s request to return home and finish the trial under some form of house arrest. I’m sad at having to watch Norine be brave yet again for her husband and community. She is like Mary pouring her treasure out at Jesus’ feet. It’s her costly treasure of time, lost time with husband and children, her father’s death, and so much more. I’m also sad for the Turkish people and the blatant miscarriage of justice. This bleeds into my anger.

The judge allowed the most ludicrous witnesses to testify against Andrew. One young man, who had angrily left their church years ago, wanted to return to the church but was denied membership because he was such a troublemaker. He refused to repent. On the stand, this man admitted to creating a fake Facebook page in Andrew’s name and posting pro-terrorist items on it. The judge looked passed this and validated this man’s testimony of seeing terrorist flags in Andrew’s church. It was a total lie, but the judge said it carried weight. The judge not only led witnesses with his questions, but also linked all the witnesses at the end in an effort to maintain the case against Andrew. The most angering blow was at the end when the judge decimated Andrew’s witness defense list saying that most of his witnesses were also “suspects” and, therefore, could not testify on Andrew’s behalf. This, in effect, ties the hands of Andrew’s defense.

So, what to do with unresolved sadness and justified anger? This morning I am reflecting on 1 Peter 2:23—“When he was reviled he did not revile in return, when he suffered (unjustly) he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to Him who judges justly.” Also, Psalm 30:5— “Weeping endures for the night but joy comes in the morning.” And Romans 12:12—“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation and constant in prayer.”

God did answer many prayers. Andrew spoke with clarity, authority, and boldness in the Lord as he refuted many, many lies spoken against him. Norine remained strong and alert. I had asked the Lord to be able to get into the courtroom. We got in. I asked to be a visible encouragement to Andrew and to have five minutes to visit with him. Everyone assured me that it would be impossible. No clergy of any faith have visited prisoners during this state of emergency in Turkey. BUT…then there was a technical difficulty with the jumbotron screens and while all were distracted, Andrew turned around in his seat and looked back at us as we sat in the back of the court. Norine said that this was not allowed. But with the judges distracted with the screen, Andrew was able to lock eyes with Norine and me and Sam and several others. I was able to communicate love, prayers, and blessings. It was a sacred and joy-filled moment from the Lord. We all wept. This technological difficulty lasted five minutes. It happened again later so we got another opportunity for eye–to-eye, loving contact. When Andrew was escorted out of the courtroom I moved to a place closer to his exit door and yelled out, “We love you, brother. We will never forget you. The whole church is praying for you back home.”

Joy, sorrow, anger, and resolution.

I remain resolute in standing with and praying for Andrew. I know you do as well. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Remember those in prison as though with them.” So we must keep praying. God is working something much larger than we can see or understand right now. I assured Norine and Andrew (in a note I left for Andrew with the U.S. consular) that our church is praying for them, even at 2:00 a.m. in Graham Chapel.

Thank you for praying. This is the hard work God has for us. Romans 15:30 says, “I appeal to you brothers and sisters by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered.”

Senators Lankford, Tillis urge rethink of U.S.-Turkey relationship in wake of Andrew Brunson trial


TillisSenateMay10

Sen. Thom Tillis, speaking from the Senate floor on May 10: “We’re going to continue to work every day that (Andrew Brunson) is in prison to get him home.”

Speaking from the floor of the U.S. Senate on May 10, Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) offered harsh words for Turkey and a Turkish court for its handling of EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson’s trial.

In his 7-minute speech, Lankford said Turkey should follow the example of North Korea and release American hostages they’re holding.

LankfordSenateMay10

Sen. James Lankford speaking from the Senate floor on May 10: “Congress is not just going to sit back on this, and should not.”

“When Turkey—a NATO ally—is behind North Korea in how they are handling humanitarian issues, Turkey has moved to a very bad spot.”

He also discouraged Americans from doing business with or traveling to Turkey.

“If you’re doing business in Turkey, you cannot guarantee the safety of your employees any longer,” he said. “If you are traveling to Turkey, you cannot be guaranteed safety … they can sweep up anyone for any accusation and hold them for any length. That is not just theory—that is being proven by a pastor being held for a year and a half in Turkey with false charges.”

Tillis told his Senate colleagues that he would rather talk about “how we help Turkey take the fight to the terrorist organizations that are threatening their homeland” and “work more with Turkey to identify ISIS leaders, detain them, and make that region safer” but “now I am at a fork in the road.”

“Right now, I’ve only got one position to take,” Tillis said. “That is to put Turkey on notice for their bad actions as a NATO ally and for their bad actions towards American nationals in the country of Turkey.”

Tillis emphasized the need to discuss the future of the U.S.-Turkey relationship.

“Our relationship is with a nation that is, for the first time in NATO history, holding American hostages as a NATO ally,” he said. “I’ve got to take things in a different direction because it’s my responsibility as the Co-Chair of the Senate NATO Observer Group and as the Senator from a state who has a citizen in prison for 580 days.”

Click here to watch the 15-minute presentation from Tillis and Lankford to the Senate in Washington, D.C.

GA Wednesday evening program to feature popular comedian Michael Jr.


MichaelJr

Michael Jr.

Michael Jr., one of the most popular comedians in North America, will headline the Wednesday evening program at the 38th General Assembly on June 20 at Hope Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn. Befitting this year’s GA host church, Michael Jr. views laughter as the “tangible evidence of hope.” This perspective allows him to be as comfortable on late night television as he is in churches, juvenile halls, and homeless shelters.

“If I’m in a club,” he says, “my material has to be clean enough to work in a church. If I’m in a pulpit, it has to be funny enough to work in a club.”

Rufus Smith, Senior Pastor of Hope Church, says Michael Jr.—who has appeared at Hope several times—is “wholesomely funny, and his comedy has a purpose that goes way beyond laughing.”

“The repurposing of his comedy is why I have allowed him to actually preach the gospel message at all four of our weekend worship hours,” Smith said. “If you don’t both laugh at his comedy and leave with some conviction, I’ll reimburse three times your ticket price!”

Michael Jr. has performed on The Tonight Show; Comedy Central; The Late, Late Show; BET’s ComicView; Jimmy Kimmel Live; CNN; ComedyTV; as well as in the most prestigious comedy clubs across the nation, including The Improv; The Laugh Factory; The Comedy Store, and many more. He also is the author of a children’s book, The Parts We Play.

Click here for more information about the 38th General Assembly, including daily schedules, links to online registration, and more.

GA2018Banner