EPNews 2010 07/08
by Jeff Jeremiah
More than 800 members and friends of the EPC (with 399 commissioners) came to the 30th General Assembly, which met from June 23-26 at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colorado. The stated goals of the annual national meeting are 1) to worship God, 2) be equipped for ministry for Jesus Christ, 3) be inspired and challenged by our fellowship and the mission of the larger church, and 4) do the business of our church at the national level. As these goals were pursued, the following were highlights of this year’s meeting:
Dr. Richard Pratt, President of Third Millenium Ministries, preached at our Thursday morning and evening services. Outgoing Moderator Nate Atwood preached at the Moderator’s Communion service on Friday morning. Dr. Don Sweeting, former pastor of Cherry Creek and incoming President of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, addressed the Assembly at the Friday worship service. Rob Hock, pastor of Ephrata Community Church, Ephrata, Washington, preached on Saturday morning. On Wednesday evening, commissioners and their families were treated to a magnificent presentation of “Elijah” by the music department of Cherry Creek. (Click here to order DVD's and CD's of the messages and the "Elijah" presentation.)
“God’s People for God’s Mission – A Day with Reggie McNeal” enjoyed at attendance of over 430 participants. Reggie, the Missional Leadership Specialist for the Leadership Network, challenged his audience with thought-provoking messages that confirmed that he is one of American Christianity’s leading missional thinkers. Watch for an interview with Reggie McNeal in an upcoming EPNews.
RE Rob Liddon (Central South Presbytery) was elected Thursday morning to serve as the General Assembly Moderator. He did an outstanding job leading the Assembly, especially as it addressed sensitive issues that came to the floor. “What a gentleman!” was a comment made repeatedly about Rob. TE Doug Klein (West Presbytery) was nominated to serve as Moderator-elect on Saturday morning. Before he was elected, RE Stephen Hill of Faith EPC, Aurora, Colorado, where Doug serves as the Senior Pastor, gave the nominating speech.
Interim Committee on Women Teaching Elders
The work of the Interim Committee was addressed twice by the Assembly. On Thursday afternoon there was an “information only” session in which Co-chair Jim Dixon and committee member Don Fortson presented the report and took questions from the floor. (Co-chair Sandy Willson was not able to attend the meeting due to the death of his father-in-law). On Friday morning the Assembly addressed the committee’s five recommendations. With a revision to the fifth recommendation, all five passed. Discussion on the floor on Thursday and Friday was marked by respect, decorum and sensitivity to one another. Four of the recommendations are amendments to the Book of Order and will go to the presbyteries as "Descending Overtures" for approval. If approved by at least six of the EPC's eight presbyteries, the Descending Overtures will return to the 2011 General Assembly for ratification. Watch for a link to the text of the recommendations in an upcoming issue of the EPNews.
A high point of the Assembly came on Friday afternoon, when Azim Janbakiyev from the Reformed Church of Kazakhstan addressed the Assembly. He spoke about his conversion from Islam to Christianity and about the special challenges facing the churches we have helped to plant in his country. World Outreach Advancement Associate Greg Livingstone followed Azim’s testimony by introducing “Engage 2025,” a video addressing the call to plant churches in the midst of the 200 plus Muslim people groups throughout the world who currently have no exposure to the Gospel. Fraternal guests Rev. Tom Shoger (Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church) and Rev. Shane Sunn (Presbyterian Church of America) briefly addressed the Assembly on Thursday afternoon. Ric Cannada, Chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary brought greetings on Friday afternoon.
On Thursday night World Outreach missionaries* Mark and Jennifer, Krista, Christina and Rev. Don and Mrs. Pam Kearby were commissioned as a part of the worship service. Home Missionary Kevin Brown, Executive Director of Trinity Christian Community in New Orleans, Louisiana, was commissioned for a second three-year term at our Friday night worship service.
Friday morning’s session concluded with outgoing Moderator Nate Atwood having John and Ann Adamson come forward for a time of special recognition and appreciation. John, who has ministered tirelessly at Second Presbyterian in Memphis, Tennessee and in the Central South Presbytery, is rotating off the Committee on Administration. The twelfth Moderator of the Assembly, John served on the Committee On Administration from 1992-1994, 1996-2002 and 2004-2010.
Bart Hess Award
On Thursday morning National Outreach Committee Chair Ben Borsay presented the 2010 Bartlett Hess Award to Clayton Community Church in Clayton, California. After comments from former Associate Pastor Scott Downing and a video of Clayton’s ministry, Pastor Shawn Robinson accepted the award.
Women in Ministries
As a part of her report, Women In Ministry Director Jacky Gatliff presented a compelling video about sexual trafficking in the United States produced by Cornerstone EPC in Brighton, Michigan and spoke to the Women’s Faith Focus ministry making a difference in the face of this tragedy in Eastern Europe. She also announced that a Ministry Wives Retreat will take place in October 2011 at Glen Eyrie, Colorado.
Two proposals addressing presbytery boundaries came to this year’s Assembly. Due to the increase in the number of churches in the EPC, the Assembly approved a study group that will investigate the possibility of creating new presbyteries. This group, appointed by Moderator Rob Liddon, will report to the 2011 and 2012 General Assemblies. The leadership of Mid-America Presbytery also brought a request asking for a division of its presbytery. In response, the Assembly gave commission power to the Committee on Administration (COA) to consider approving the creation of two presbyteries in the current Mid-America Presbytery. The COA will work in conjunction with the Moderator-appointed study group and Mid-America leadership to accomplish this task.
*Names shortened due to service in sensitive areas.
by Jeff Jeremiah
After twelve years of ministry as the Senior Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church, Dr. Don Sweeting has taken a call to become the President of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Don was our keynote speaker at our Friday night worship service at General Assembly. In this second of a two-part interview, he offered these thoughts about the next phase of his ministry, as he moves from the local church to seminary.
How has your experience as a pastor prepared you for the presidency of RTS-Orlando?
In three ways. First, pastoring has given me a greater heart for the church and a deeper belief in the church, despite all her flaws. Seminaries are called to serve and bless the church. I think I can guide faculty to be more “aware” of what ministry prep calls for, and what the current cultural pressures and opportunities are like.
Second, I have had the privilege of pastoring small and large churches, new and established churches, as well as Presbyterian and non-denominational churches. This breadth of pastoral experience will help me serve students coming from many different backgrounds.
Third, I have learned the huge importance of mentoring younger pastors and leaders. This is more important than ever because of the brokenness of so many families. Young people crave community and desperately want relationships. They need models and mentors of all kinds to help them prepare for a future of ministry.
What drew you to be president of a seminary? Were you doing seminary-related work during your time as a pastor?
By gifting I am a pastor-teacher. Providentially, there have been two tracks in my life: a pastor track and an academic track. I have served as senior pastor of two churches for about 22 years. During that time I have also finished a PhD, served with John Stott Ministries in helping international students, served as a trustee on the board of Colorado Christian University, and taught church history at Denver Seminary. Not only that, but I grew up watching my dad who was both a pastor and an educator in his roles at Moody Church and Moody Bible Institute.
Why Reformed Theological Seminary?
I came to learn about Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) at the EPC General Assemblies. They always hosted breakfasts. Since I did not come out of an “officially reformed” background, I was curious about what a “reformed” seminary looked like and taught. As they explained their mission, values and ethos, it just resonated with me. I was drawn to their commitment to the Scriptures and the gospel (not all seminaries care about these essential things), their desire to be both reformed and missional, and the winsome way they tried to live this out. I came to believe that RTS is a great place for training future pastors and leaders for the global church of the twenty-first century.
If you had one wish for churches in preparing leaders what would it be?
In this economy, and in this critical hour for the church, it would be that churches intentionally put money aside to sponsor gifted students who are called to be pastors and leaders, so they do not leave seminary with a mountain of debt, and so they maintain close ties with the local church throughout their seminary experience, and feel blessed by the local church.
Why the blog? What led you to do this when your life is already complicated as a busy pastor?
I was encouraged to start blogging by the younger members of our church staff. This is a key means of communication for them. One way they learn about the world is through blogs, tweets, and text messages. Like it or not, that’s the way it is. Also, I like to write. If I had a second life, I might be an op-ed writer. Along with all this, I discovered that you can influence a lot more people through a blog than you can through the traditional church newsletter.
Like many pastors, I used to write a column for our printed church newsletter. In “going green,” our newsletter was replaced by an online letter. Blogging seemed to be a natural yet updated outlet for writing my newsletter column. By blogging, I can put my blog connection on our web site and in our newsletter. But it has far more circulation than my old printed columns.
Here's the unusual thing. It now reaches the original audience (our church), but it goes way beyond “our circles.” It is read by people at my current church, and at my former church, and at Reformed Theological Seminary. But it is also read by people that I went to high school with, extended family (some who are Christians, some who are not), neo-pagan friends, pastor in Africa, missionaries in Indonesia, and people I’ve never even heard of. Having such a diverse audience causes me to think about “how am I being heard by the outsider” when I write. This has made me think about both what I write and how I write. I am not just writing for church people, even though Christians are a primary audience. Outsiders are listening in. It is not unlike Sunday morning when I preach. All this means that I must write more missionally. It must be intelligible and credible to outsiders while not compromising the message.
Read Don’s blog lately? Don posts weekly on THE CHIEF END OF MAN, which can be found at http://donsweeting.wordpress.com/.
If you write a blog, have a video channel, or host a forum, please let us know so we can promote it in EPC Community. We want to help everyone in our denomination get access to the wisdom, experience, and creativity, you are sharing. Send the URL of your social media and the topic (if there is one) to the EPC Communications Manager, Dana Cadman: .