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Presbyterian Church in Joplin Sees Growth Spurt in Third Year

(By Rich Brown, The Carthage Press, Missouri). Of the 19 Evangelical Presbyterian Churches in Missouri, the one closest to Carthage has found a children’s outreach that churches of many other denominations might admire.

New Creation Church of Joplin is in its third year of reaching out to children in elementary schools through a popular program called KidsQuest.

The program got underway five years ago as a missions outreach to children living near the church at 1831 S. Connor Ave. Then, in 2013, NCC partnered with local schools for a program that has seen much success..

When the final bell rings each Tuesday and Thursday at Joplin elementary schools, New Creation vans go into action. Volunteers visit nearly every Joplin school to pick up about 60 children a day and shuttle them to the church where they get help with their school work through volunteer tutors, as well as participate in crafts and Bible study.

Parents pick their children up at 5:30 p.m. at the church, which serves the youngsters dinner before they head home.

The entire KidsQuest program, including the meal, is free.

About 15 volunteers from Missouri Southern State University and Ozark Christian College are responsible for running the program, said Steven Rice, director of Joplin Promise, a mission arm of NCC that oversees KidsQuest.

“We really strive for the kids to find their natural gifts and talents,” said Rice, a graduate of OCC. “There are some kids who flourish in crafts and there are some kids who come because of tutoring, and they really need that extra help.”

Immediately after arriving at the church, the children have a snack and take time to socialize before getting involved in crafts, tutoring or studying the Bible.

In addition, every week fourth and fifth graders take what Rice calls life envisioning trips to local Christian-led businesses and organizations.

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Presbyterian Scholars Conference: What Happens When Mainliners Sit at Table with Split P’s?

(By Chuck Wiggins, The Presbyterian Outlook). “I often wonder what kind of shape the Presbyterian Church would be in today if the Orthodox Presbyterians, the PCA, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and ECO had not departed,” mused Joseph D. Small, former Presbyterian Church (USA.) Theology & Worship director.

Those particularly thought provoking words came during the recent Presbyterian Scholars Conference held October 18-19 at Wheaton College in Illinois.

A glimpse of that musing was evident as 30 scholars from various streams of the Presbyterian enterprise gathered to offer papers and exchange remarks on “the future of American Presbyterianism.”

From my perspective, the spirit and the tenor of the conference with scholars from the PC(USA), OPC, EPC, and ECO under one roof during both the lectures and at table during meals was — how shall I say it — downright genial.

Headlining a list of outstanding scholars besides Small, included Bradley Longfield of University of Dubuque Theological Seminary; OPC historian extraordinaire and Hillsdale College professor Darryl Hart; and George Marsden, distinguished professor from Notre Dame University and arguably the premier historian of American church history.

Perhaps the highlight of the conference was the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the publication of Longfield’s groundbreaking work, “The Presbyterian Controversy: Fundamentalists, Modernists & Moderates.” Longfield’s award-winning book has been widely regarded by Presbyterians of all theological stripes as an even-handed analysis of the fundamentalist-modernist controversies of the 1920s and 1930s and their aftermath. (In my opinion, previous historical narratives by mainline P’s have largely tended to dismiss departing conservatives as simplistic cranks; while the “split P’s” have approached their forbears uncritically with a kind of surreal, hagiographic reverence.)

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Christian University Openly Promotes Abortion Clinic Partnership

(By Jessilyn Justice, Charisma News.) Presbyterian-affiliated Whitworth University openly partners with the area’s Planned Parenthood, according to several reports.

The same students who are encouraged to be dedicated Christian scholars are also given the opportunity to work with the local abortion clinic.

“They are not equipping their graduates to be Christians and follow Christ,” Katie Lodjic of Students for Life of America tells One News Now.

In an editorial for the university’s newspaper, student James Silberman writes:

Whitworth referring pregnant women to Planned Parenthood is tantamount to referring them for an abortion. There are three pregnancy-specific services provided to pregnant women by Planned Parenthood, according to Planned Parenthood data reports: prenatal care, adoption referral and abortion. In 2014-2015, 94 percent of their pregnancy related services (323,999 out of 343,422) were abortions. The organization does everything they can to steer women toward abortion by giving each of their facilities an abortion quota according to former employees. …

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The Whitworthian editorial — Whitworth: Cut ties with Planned Parenthood

Whitworth University is a member institution of the Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

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What Are the Greatest Needs of ECO Churches?

(By Dana Allin, Synod Executive for ECO). In the last six months, I have tried to ascertain what are the greatest needs of ECO churches.  I have conducted informal and formal questioning around this subject with various pastors and congregational leaders.  I have compared their answers with my own observations from personal interactions.  While all of our congregations are different, there are some common themes that emerge within many of them.

19819_519214544784558_2022702232_n-700x0One of those recurring themes across some of our churches is the question, “We joined ECO (fill in a number) months ago.  What do we do now?”  What people are meaning by this question is that they have bought into the vision and ethos that is presented in ECO, but are unclear about their next steps to move forward into their new reality.  Sometimes the resource list that we provide can be overwhelming with numerous possibilities.  Several different people have approached me in separate conversations to indicate that it would be helpful if ECO had a brief process that took place over a few months time that a session could go through to help them on the next steps in their congregational journey.  The indication was that while congregations wouldn’t be required to engage in such a process, it could be highly encouraged and give our people a common language within the denomination.  It would also help sessions determine where they might need to place future energy to fulfill the mission that God has placed upon the heart of the congregation.  After this basic process, it would be easier for a congregation to determine what other resources offered by ECO or by others that could be helpful in fulfilling their vision for ministry and mission.

We have taken this great suggestion to heart and are creating a 4-session process called “Becoming a Flourishing Church”.  This process can be used with elders, deacons, staff or other lay leaders in your congregation.  It will be launched at our national gathering in January and will be available to every congregation through the Flourish website. Each session contains a 15-20 minute video that can be watched at or prior to a meeting.  The videos also have supplemental material and guides to facilitate discussions among leaders.

The premise of the process is that flourishing churches are led by flourishing leaders, who are themselves flourishing disciples.  The first session is an orientation to the ethos and culture of ECO and helps leaders to determine where their congregations are starting.

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PMA Committee Discusses De La Rosa’s Contract, Meeting in Puerto Rico and Amending Open Meeting Policy

(By Leslie Scanlon, The Presbyterian Outlook). The executive committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board is recommending that the full board renew Tony De La Rosa’s contract as interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Tony De La Rosa, PMAB

Tony De La Rosa

The executive committee took that action in the closed portion of a conference call meeting on Nov. 17, and announced its vote after the meeting had adjourned. The recommendation is that the board renew the contract “under the terms of the current agreement.”

De La Rosa, a lawyer and ruling elder, started work in December 2015 – with the board choosing him to fill the interim role after former executive director Linda Valentine resigned in July 2015.

Here’s more of what was discussed during the meeting:

March meeting in Puerto Rico

Both the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board and the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly will meet in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in March 2017 – a decision made to express support for Presbyterian churches and mission work there, and because hotel space was not available in Louisville when those groups plan to meet.

De La Rosa told the executive committee that “our goal is not to have us continually meet in a hotel the entire time we are there,” but to visit local Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations and ministry sites.

The executive committee will meet March 21 and the full board March 22-24.

If board members can either stay longer or arrive earlier and preach in local churches, “that would be a welcome and wonderful way to connect with Presbyterians who sometimes feel distant from national leadership,” De La Rosa said, and to “extend a word of grace in preaching the Word of God.”

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Trump Receives Standing Ovation from Churchgoers at PCUSA Church

(By Kevin Sheehan, The New York Post). Worshippers at a New Jersey church cheered Donald Trump on Sunday, telling the president-elect to “follow his heart.”

Trump arrived at Lamington Presbyterian Church in Bedminster Township for services at 10 a.m. and left to enthusiastic applause at 11:15 a.m.

The church is just two miles from The Donald’s Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, where the president-elect was set to interview cabinet candidates.

Congregant Jim Tiesi, 66, shook Trump’s hand and told him the nation has his back.

“I just told him that I hope he understands the country supports him and not to be distracted by the noise,” said Tiesei, likely one of the 47 percent voters who backed Trump. “He told me, `Thank you.’

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Dimmock Joins Outreach Foundation as Africa Mission Specialist

(Press Release from the Outreach Foundation.) The Outreach Foundation announced today that Frank Dimmock will join Outreach’s mission staff on January 1, 2017, as an Africa mission specialist. For thirty-five years Frank served the church in Africa as a Presbyterian Church (USA) mission co-worker, focusing on ministries of health and development. More broadly, his central interest is the welfare of children.  Since 2013, he has worked with Presbyterian World Mission as the global poverty alleviation catalyst, based in Louisville.

A native of North Carolina and graduate of North Carolina State University in pre-medicine, Frank has a master’s degree in public health and completed doctoral work in international public health and epidemiology from the Tulane University School of Public Health in New Orleans.  In 2010, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Davidson College for his long and effective service to the church.

Outreach Foundation, Frank Dimmock

Frank Dimmock

Rob Weingartner, Outreach’s Executive Director, observed, “Frank embodies all that is best about Presbyterians serving in God’s mission. His life is centered in Christ, he is committed to sharing the Good News, he is highly-educated and a recognized mission expert.  He loves building creative mission partnerships that respect and draw upon the richness of different cultures. And he has an unshakeable confidence in the power of God’s love to transform lives and communities.”

Frank and his wife, Nancy Miller Dimmock (daughter of retired Presbyterian mission coworkers David and Polly Miller) have eight children, six of whom are adopted. In addition to engaging in ministry in their home and raising their children, Nancy co-founded and coordinated the Ministry of Hope crisis nurseries in Southern Africa, a ministry serving abandoned and neglected infants and vulnerable children.

Frank, when serving as the World Mission Africa health liaison, also supported early childhood development centers in rural Ethiopia and a safe house for at-risk adolescent girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Drawing upon his decades of experience and deep relationships across the continent of Africa, Frank will build the capacity of church partners in Africa as he networks the Christian Health Associations in Africa and as he shares best practices with partners and congregations working with vulnerable children and families. A new dimension of Dimmock’s ministry is trauma healing, so critical in the African context, and he will be training local facilitators in healing the wounds of trauma. His work with U.S. congregations will provide opportunities for Presbyterians to participate in the deep faith and transformational work of the church in Africa.

The Outreach Foundation is a global mission ministry focused on engaging Presbyterians and global partners in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. Established in 1979, Outreach works with all major Presbyterian denominations to help congregations build long-term partnerships with the global church.  For more information on The Outreach Foundation, go to www.theoutreachfoundation.org.

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PCUSA Official Spreads Divisive Post-Election Discourse

(By Peter Johnson, Juicy Ecumenism.) The newly selected Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Rev. Dr. J Herbert Nelson II, recently released a statement about the presidential election entitled, “When Incivility Becomes the Norm.

Nelson characterized his missive as a “response to the violence on America’s streets after the election of Mr. Donald Trump as President–Elect of the United States of America.” One might think, upon reading this introduction, that the venerable Reverend Doctor would be making an appeal for peace and calm. After all, peaceful protests are a proud legacy of the church, while violence and riots are generally discouraged by Christians.

Unfortunately, Rev. Dr. Nelson failed to discourage the violent protests even once in his 2000+ word letter (replete with seven footnotes). Instead, he declared his hope that the protests would pave the way for a particular public policy agenda that he favors.

He concedes that “President-Elect Trump is our newly elected leader,” but also characterizes the election as undemocratic and rigged by corporate interests. He also exhorts churches to undermine a not-yet-formulated immigration policy of the President-elect by harboring deportees in their “basements.”

The only instances where Rev. Dr. Nelson explicitly mentions violence is when he links Trump to an imagined future violence: “pain, suffering, and yes, death, which will be wrought by the promised policies of the incoming administration.”

At the heart of the letter is Rev. Dr. Nelson’s vision for “coalition building and community organizing, [where] we have an opportunity to create a vision of shared prosperity, safety, dignity, and justice that is truly inclusive and compelling to a broad base.”

The irony is completely lost on the PCUSA leader that a church that fails to be compelling to its own congregants—as evidenced by the steady exodus from the denomination—is now dispensing advice on how to grow a winning constituent base in politics. The denomination is becoming a parody of itself.

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Will D.C. Presbyterian Churches Invite Donald Trump to Come Worship?

(By Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post.) Every four or eight years, after the nation goes through the ritual of picking a president, some of Washington’s churches go through another ritual — getting a president to pick them.

When Bill and Hillary Clinton came to town in 1993, preachers from Baptist (his denomination) and Methodist (hers) churches across town picked up their phones and their pens to invite the new first couple to their pews. After hearing from at least half a dozen congregations, the Clintons picked Foundry United Methodist Church on 16th Street NW, where they became active members.

George W. Bush, like Ronald Reagan before him, opted for the convenience of St. John’s Episcopal Church, just across from the White House. Ministers from numerous denominations tried to woo the Obamas, but the first family never picked one church, instead visiting many churches over the course of their eight years in the White House.

And now it’s time to ask: Will President Trump go to church in Washington?

It may not be likely. Trump has previously been affiliated with Presbyterian churches, and he identifies as a mainline Protestant, but he is not a regular churchgoer. …

… The response from most of these churches was essentially: Trump will be very welcome, if he thinks a church like this is his cup of tea.

  • Capitol Hill Presbyterian’s Rev. Scott Wilson: “Our doors are open to everyone to worship with us and listen to the words of Jesus on love and compassion. Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church is a welcoming and inclusive church, and our doors are always open to anyone who wishes to join us in our community exploring faith, joyfully sustained by the love of God, caring about each other, and the needs of a broken world.”
  • Fifteenth Street Presbyterian’s Rev. Robert Bell: “I think Mr Trump would be welcome at any Presbyterian Church USA in the city. I know he, like everyone is, would be welcome at ours. He doesn’t seem like the type of guy that finds the gospel challenging and meaningful or likes to rub elbows with a diverse group, not all [of whom] are materially successful. But God works in mysterious ways.”
  • Georgetown Presbyterian’s Rev. Camille Cook Murray: “We have not reached out to Donald Trump. Our congregation is a politically diverse church, unified by our common faith in Jesus Christ. … Our community is open and welcome to all so yes, if Donald felt called to join our church then he would be welcome.”
  • National Presbyterian’s Rev. David Renwick: “National Presbyterian has a long legacy of serving presidents, appointed officials, and elected officials on both sides of the aisle, as well as those who serve our nation in both military and civilian capacities. This is clearly a tradition we want to honor and carry forward — and therefore we warmly welcome our president-elect to join with us in worship. … With regard to membership — membership is open to any person who knows their need of a savior, who places their trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, and who commits to be faithful in worshiping and serving God together.”
  • New York Avenue Presbyterian’s Rev. Robert Gench: “We would, of course, invite the President-Elect to worship with us.  Our logo declares that we are a ‘just-seeking and inclusive church,’ so we welcome people from varied points of view, race, and sexual orientation.”

Bell and Gench said they would probably send Trump a letter to welcome him in writing.

To read the entire Washington Post article, click here.

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Breaking the 200 Barrier: Green Lake Presbyterian Church, Seattle

(By David Richmon, The Exchange.)

Our research shows that many churches struggle to get past an attendance barrier at around 200. I’ve been helping churches through this barrier for several years and I’ve been looking for a way to help more. There are no quick fixes, but there are very real solutions.

We will soon be launching some video resources on this, but wanted to take this time to give examples of actual stories of pastors who’ve seen their churches break that barrier (and beyond). This is an important issue—and I know many who feel stuck and stagnant, unable to grow past 200.

Our video resource will have 14 sessions (topics listed below) and will be transformative for many churches. To that end, I’m offering a couple of posts every week to highlight churches that have broken the 200 barrier in light of some of the topics in the course. I hope they are a great encouragement as you strive to do the same.

We will be running posts in this series every other day, so stay tuned for a lot of great stories. Today, we welcome David Richmon, who serves as Pastor of Green Lake Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Washington.

At the end of the post is an email address you can use to get more information and free resources on Breaking the 200 Barrier.

Here’s the story from David:

Green Lake Presbyterian Church is a 78-year-old congregation located just miles from Seattle’s downtown core. We have a great tradition of biblical preaching, foreign missions, and local church planting. Our current demographic is primarily young families, but we’ve experienced an increasing number of university students and singles, as well as a robust and mature group of empty nesters. Over the last decade we’ve had several seasons of growth. The first spurt led to a multi-site ministry and the eventual planting of two new congregations.

About five years ago we hit a point of stagnation. Numerically we steadily hovered around 160-180 on an average Sunday. Our lows were in the 130s and sometimes, if we had a perfect week—no vacations, no illnesses, etc.—we’d break 200.

Nothing was terribly wrong, but things weren’t great either. During this time, we recognized some unhealthy patterns both in our church’s culture, as well as in how we as a leadership team shepherded the body. We knew if we wanted to grow—numerically and spiritually—things had to change.

One of the first things we did was build an intentional and executable long term plan, or a mission plan as we’ve come to call it.

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