June 2012


We’ve been meeting all day, and dealing with a wide variety of mundane and internal issues, as well as doing a lot of praying and beginning with an inspiring service of Communion. This afternoon, we took the first action that the rest of the world would be interested in, and that’s to go on the record as opposed to the so-called “preventive care mandate,” i.e., the contraception mandate, in Obamacare.

Yours truly had the opportunity in the discussion to make the same point I’ve been making here for months, which is that this has nothing to do with contraception, but rather is about religious liberty. “It will not stop with contraception,” I said in my best rabble-rousing voice. “The EPC, as a self-insuring agency, will eventually be required to pay for abortion. We dare not let things get to that point.” Though one person spoke against it, it was nevertheless passed unanimously. The EPC now stands with our Catholic brethren in defying Leviathan.

Since Steve Salyards of GA Junkie mentioned them, I’ll also cover three other items. One is that we wrapped up the work of our two five-year transitional presbyteries. In the course of their work, well over 100 former PCUSA were given a safe haven while they sought the Lord’s will for their congregational future. The vast majority of them went on to join the EPC. The presbyteries have now been formally dissolved, and from this point forward all churches that desire to come into the EPC will be asked to seek to be received directly into a geographical presbytery.

A second has to do with confidentiality in ministerial salaries. We agreed with the proposed approach, which while it would continue the practice of having terms of call (including salary) a matter of presbyterial record, would bring some privacy to future changes in salaries, at least at the presbyterial level. A third has to do with possible changes in presbyterial boundaries and/or creation of a new presbytery. A new policy regarding the formation of presbyteries was adopted, but no new presbyteries are being formed at this time.

The EPC, my denomination, is having its annual national meeting this week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We meet for only three days of business, partially because we’re a smaller body (364 churches, approximately 125,000 members), partially because we have as a matter of policy a lot less overhead than the typical denomination. That being the case, we can get everything done in three days, while taking plenty of time for worship and fellowship.

We began this morning, mostly with reports, rules, and introductions of various kinds. The one thing we did that was particularly striking was to have read a list of those PCUSA congregations that have transferred to the EPC. It took a while, and was greeted with wild applause.

This afternoon, we took our first look at a proposed revision of our Book of Order, which has been under development for three years. The purposes of the revision are several: to update out-dated language, to clarify language that is not clear, to standardize a variety of terms and usages, etc. It was received, and will now be open for comment by all EPC members between now and the end of the year.

Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah, in his report, noted that five years ago, in June of 2007, the EPC had 182 churches, and has since doubled in the number of congregations that call it home. He also described a vision of his for the denomination to grow to 1000 churches. He had no specific plan or strategy, but described this as the future the Lord has for us, though he did say that the flood of transfers from PCUSA is bound to stop, and that most of this growth would come from church planting, both in the United States and around the world. This vision was enthusiastically received by the commissioners, who unanimously re-elected Jeremiah to a third three-year term as stated clerk.

More tomorrow.

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