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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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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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Sarmiento Joins The Outreach Foundation Staff

Juan Sarmiento

Juan Sarmiento

Juan Sarmiento has been named Associate Director for Mission of The Outreach Foundation. He will officially begin his duties on November 1.

Since 1979, The Outreach Foundation has connected congregations and people in the United States with church partners around the world in Christ-centered evangelistic mission. Today, Outreach focuses on Presbyterian partners in places in the world where the church is growing and where it is facing opposition.

Sarmiento will join the Outreach team that focuses on building mission relationships that help global partners around the world train leaders, start new congregations, expand their outreach programs, and strengthen their ministries of compassion.

Rob Weingartner, Executive Director of The Outreach Foundation, observes, “Juan’s love for the Lord and commitment to evangelism are strong and clear. He is thoughtful and articulate, evangelical and Reformed, and will bring to Outreach a winsome ability to work across boundaries and bring people together in creative ways to bear witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ in word and deed.”

For the past two years, Sarmiento has worked as Evangelism Catalyst for Presbyterian World Mission. Prior to that, for six years, Sarmiento worked as director and chairman of the board for PM International, a mission agency that sends Latin Americans to serve in Muslim-majority contexts.

An ordained minister member of the Presbytery of San Fernando (CA), he served as a member of the Evangelism and Church Growth committee and moderator of the presbytery. He has served as a leader for English-, Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking congregations. Juan and his wife, Maricela, have a son, Jonathan.

Born in Venezuela, Sarmiento is a graduate of San Francisco Theological Seminary and has done doctoral studies at Columbia and Louisville seminaries as well as advanced studies in linguistics at California State University-Los Angeles and Islamic studies at the Fuller School of Intercultural Studies.

outreach-foundationThe Outreach Foundation engages Presbyterians and global partners in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. Because our ministry is Kingdom work, not denominational work, we work with PCUSA, EPC, ECO, Fellowship Community congregations and others. We help congregations build long-term partnerships with the global church that are mutually transformational. Every person, project and partnership we support is directly involved in sharing the Gospel in word and deed.

Our work depends entirely upon the involvement and financial support of mission minded individuals, congregations and organizations. We receive gifts in our office and disburse them directly to partners around the world. Established in 1979, The Outreach Foundation is independently governed by Board of Trustees, all of whom are pastors or officers in their respective congregations.

For additional information, contact Outreach at 615/778-8881 or info@theoutreachfoundation.org, or visit the web site at www.thoutreachfoundation.org
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81 Members Enroll in Huntington’s Christ Presbyterian Church

By David E. Malloy, The Herald-Dispatch (Huntington, WV).

eco-1More than 80 new members were enrolled Sunday at the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians, also called the Christ Presbyterian Church, which is conducting services at the B’Nai Shalom Temple on 10th Avenue.

A number of the members of the First Presbyterian Church in the Tri-State broke away from the church in a disagreement about the Presbyterian Church (USA) moving in a more liberal direction on issues including homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

“We are West Virginia’s first ECO Presbyterian Church,” said Patrick Hall, an Ashland resident who serves as an associate pastor at the new church. “We were a brand-new church with no place to meet.”

That issue was resolved earlier this summer when church members signed a one-year lease with B’Nai Shalom to use their building on Sundays. B’Nai Shalom holds its services on Saturdays.

“They welcomed us with open arms,” Hall said. “They’ve been so gracious.”

The church members added the word Christ in front of Presbyterian “because we want Christ to be the absolute center of what we believe,” said Hall, who was among those enrolled in the new church Sunday. “We started here in July.”

“We felt the most peaceful resolution was to leave,” Hall said. “We felt like we didn’t leave the denomination. We feel like the denomination left us.”

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ECO Reaches Milestone of 300th Member Church After Break From PCUSA

By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post.

ECOA conservative Presbyterian denomination formed in response to the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s increasing acceptance of homosexuality has reached the milestone of 300 member congregations.

“We are blessed to have each and every church and church member in our ECO family. As we grow, it is our prayer that we continue to be a movement that builds flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ,” the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians announced on Tuesday.

The congregations listed as the latest ECO members include: Tacoma Central Presbyterian Church of Tacoma, Washington; Lenoir Presbyterian Church of Lenoir, North Carolina; Waldensian Presbyterian Church of Monett, Missouri; First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, California; Calvary Presbyterian Church of Enfield, Connecticut; and First Presbyterian Church of Towanda, Pennsylvania.

The Rev. Rachel Stahle, pastor at FPC Towanda, told The Christian Post that her congregation voted 74-12 in favor of leaving PCUSA back in June and were officially dismissed from the Mainline denomination earlier this month.
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Meetings This Month on Athens Church’s Move to Leave Mainstream Presbyterians

By Lee Shearer, Online Athens. (Georgia)

central-pc-athens-gaAfter a months-long quiet period, an Athens church’s move to secede from its denomination could be headed toward resolution.

An administrative committee of the Northeast Georgia Presbytery scheduled two meetings this month with the congregation of Central Presbyterian Church, whose congregation earlier this year voted to leave the country’s mainstream Presbyterian denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA).

At the first meeting on Thursday, those who attended heard a presentation on the work of the denomination, followed by a survey which included the question of remaining with the PCUSA denomination or affiliating with the more conservative Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians, or ECO.

“The survey is non-binding and is meant to give the Administrative Commission a sense of the membership concerning the question of leaving the PCUSA denomination,” according to a notice on the Central Presbyterian website.

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In ECO: Now What?

By Dana Allin, the ECO blog.

ECOAt ECO’s national gathering in Newport Beach this past January, I led a breakout session called, “In ECO, Now What?”  This  question often gets asked in a variety of different ways.  I will get phone calls or e-mails stating that a congregation has been in ECO (usually for 6 months to a year) and the leaders want their congregation to live more fully into the values and vision that have been articulated. When I am asked these “now what?” questions, I tell congregations that they can do three things if they have not already been done.

Articulate the Vision

First, articulate the vision that God has for your congregation.  I think a clear and concrete visual picture of where God is calling your congregation in the future is extremely helpful and provides synergy and focus for the rest of the ministry.  However, even if your congregation has not created or formalized this type of vision, perhaps there are at least 1-2 general things that the leadership of the congregation knows they need to improve.  Perhaps they want to take steps in a missional direction, be more intergenerational, or move toward church planting.  Whatever it is, the congregation needs to be clear in their understanding of the general direction in which they are headed.

Congregation Assessment

Second, the congregation and leadership needs to assess where they are in relation to the articulated vision.  Where is the gap between where they are and where they are called to be?  A congregation might indicate that they want to be more intergenerational, then evaluate their ministries and approach and realize that their energy is counterproductive toward that future.

Determine Next Steps

Third, a congregation and it’s leadership need to understand what are the appropriate next steps to help them achieve the vision to which God has called them.

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Fast-Growing Conservative Presbyterian Denomination Is ‘Ready to Multiply,’ Says ECO Synod Exec.

By Michael Gryboski, The Christian Post.

ecoA conservative Presbyterian church formed in 2012 will soon be splitting one of their regional bodies, or presbyteries, into three entities in response to rapid growth.

The Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians is in the process of dividing up the Presbytery of the Northeast into three new regional bodies.

At present, the Presbytery of the Northeast encompasses the region of New England, stretching North to Maine, as far South as Delware and as far West as Eastern Pennslyvania, with Western Pennsylvania being the Presbytery of the Rivers of Life.

The Rev. Dana S. Allin, synod executive at ECO, told The Christian Post that the creation of the new presbyteries comes as part of their way of avoiding excessive bureaucracy.

“Our polity indicates that presbyteries should ordinarily be between 10-20 congregations. Smaller presbyteries are able to have more relational connection with one another and better able to respond to each other’s needs,” explained Allin.

“We also don’t want presbyteries to become bureaucratic and so smaller presbyteries are able to be leaner. The Northeast has 32 congregations so they are a presbytery that is ready to give birth and multiply.”

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PCUSA Claims Pennsylvania Mega-Church Vote to Leave Denomination Is Invalid

MICHAEL GRYBOSKI  of The Christian Post reports:

you can check in anytime but you can never leaveThe Presbyterian Church (USA) is continuing its legal battle against a Pennsylvania megachurch that voted overwhelmingly to leave the Mainline denomination over theological differences.

Last month, First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem voted to leave PC(USA) for the more conservative Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians.

FPC Bethlehem held the vote amidst legal action between it and the PC(USA) Presbytery of Lehigh over the congregation’s alleged refusal to respect the proper process for seeking dismissal from the denomination.

Jackson Eaton, an Allentown-based attorney representing Lehigh Presbytery, told The Christian Post on Monday that they do not recognize the vote as valid.

“The position of the Lehigh Presbytery is that the actions taken to separate First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem from the PC(USA) and to affiliate with ECO are invalid and ineffective,” said Eaton.

“The validity of the actions taken in the name of First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem will be determined by the court in a trial scheduled for this October.”

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Lehigh Presbytery Moves to Oust First Bethlehem’s Pastor, Marnie Crumpler

Governing body moves to oust First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem’s pastor, replace leadership

By Sarah Wojcik, The Morning Call.

Marnie Crumpler

Marnie Crumpler

A dispute over denominational identity has taken another divisive turn in Bethlehem, where the Lehigh Presbytery is canceling its contract with the new pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem and preparing to push aside church elders.

The latest developments in the dispute that has migrated to the courts comes as the congregation is poised to vote Sunday on whether to split from the Presbyterian Church (USA) without approval from the presbytery.

The move by the Lehigh Presbytery is just the kind of action that First Presbyterian leaders sought to ward off when they filed an injunction motion on June 10 that raised concerns that they would be subjected to a “hostile takeover.”

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Related article: PCUSA Presbytery Suing Megachurch to Keep It From Leaving Denomination

 

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