The Stated Clerk’s report to the 42nd General Assembly of his work during 2021-2022.
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TE, Presbytery of the Alleghenies
SUMMARY OF WORK
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel, from the first day until now.” —Philippians 1:3-5.
Reflecting on my first year as your Stated Clerk, my heart is filled with gratitude and overwhelmed by the goodness of the Lord. As Paul would continue to write, “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart … with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
I encourage you to read both our GA Moderator’s Report (Brad Strait) and the report from our National Leadership Team Chairman (Glenn Meyers) to get a fuller picture of the work of both the Office of the General Assembly, the Office of the Stated Clerk, and the larger EPC since our last General Assembly. I will not repeat the good and detailed news they shared, but rather would offer you my highlights of this past year and some leadership reflections.
The beginning of my service as your Stated Clerk overlapped with the conclusion of Jeff Jeremiah’s dedicated service to the EPC as our leader. To begin with, the opportunity to celebrate Jeff (and Cindy) well at last year’s GA was not only a gift to the Jeremiahs, but to the entire EPC—including me. It has been an honor to honor someone who has so sacrificially given of their time, talent, and love to our EPC family. What a beginning! After the General Assembly, there is some brief “downtime” in the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) in early July to rest and recover. Shortly after that time of restoration, we began together with meetings of our Church Planting Leadership Team, our National Leadership Team retreat, and a full schedule of Fall committee and team meetings to support and carry out the mission of the General Assembly. It has been a joy and a privilege to serve alongside these teams of dedicated and talented leaders from across our denomination. Their faith, strategic gifting, and humility has been an inspiring combination that together has created a culture of trust and leadership that is biblically grounded and courageous. Working specifically with our NLT, we oversaw the work of the GA throughout the year, living into and carrying out the vision and mission of our church. What a joy, honor, and privilege.
The other group of leaders with whom I work most closely is the staff in the OGA. Facilitating greater synergy between our staff and NLT has yielded greater communication, collaboration, and gospel fruitfulness over the last year. Our staff is dedicated, hardworking, and faithful to the mission the Lord has given to the EPC. It might surprise you to know that with all the changes during this year of transition at the OGA with departures, arrivals, and numerous re-alignments, the OGA staff remains lean and missional. In fact, we have virtually the same number of staff that we had eighteen years ago when we were merely one-third of our current number of congregations. You can be reassured that we have been very good stewards of the resources entrusted to us.
Perhaps the greatest highlight of this past year was the two Pastor and Spouse Retreats sponsored by the EPC’s Medical Benevolence Fund. The EPC provided a completely free retreat with deep spiritual content, great fellowship, dynamic worship, and tons of “free time” in two beautiful settings. One seasoned pastor stated that in all his years of ministry it was the best retreat he has ever experienced. To watch hurting pastors and spouses heal right before my eyes was renewing to my soul, and in my opinion, the best money the EPC could have invested this year!
Another encouragement (even a surprise) to me in my first year as Stated Clerk was our response to multiple disasters, both domestic and international. From Hurricane Ida in Louisiana to the wildfires in California and Colorado to the tornados in Tennessee and Kentucky to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, our EPC congregations stepped up and excelled in the “grace of giving.” In Louisiana, TEs Bill Crawford (Pastor of yoked congregations First Presbyterian Church of Thibodaux and First Presbyterian Church of Houma) and Whitney Alexander at First Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge) gave me a deep dive education in the relief, recovery, and rebuilding work of disaster relief. Watch for the video of Margret’s home being rebuilt (a widow and Clerk of Session at Thibodaux) when you are at GA. Amazing! The relief work for the Ukrainian people continues and will continue, but know that because you gave, we have donated dozens of bulletproof vests to pastors/chaplains (among other things) who are running into the worst places to help bring relief and the gospel. Your giving has made a difference!
Other items of note for this past year include the departure of my good friend and colleague Jerry Iamurri as our Assistant Stated Clerk; visiting eight of our fourteen Presbyteries to preach, share vision, get to know people, and answer lots of questions. I was privileged to lead the pastors’ retreat for the Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest, honor TE Bob Garment upon his retirement from serving as the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean after 30 years; preaching at multiple EPC congregations; participating in several pastoral installations; and perhaps most notably, starting the EPC’s first podcast, “In All Things.” So far, the podcast, in which I interview various EPC leaders and authors, is approaching 3,500 downloads—and growing.
Easily our greatest emphasis during this past year has been a renewed focus on our Strategic Priorities. The return of TE Bob Stauffer (he previously served as our National Outreach Director) as our National Director of Church Health and the addition of TE Michael Davis as our Chief Collaborative Officer, as well as the hiring of RE Gabriel de Guia as the new Executive Director of World Outreach, have enabled us to redouble our efforts to live into the EPC’s mission and vision expressed by participating in the Lord’s Global Movement, including Church Planting, Church Health, and Biblical Leadership development. The realization that all four Strategic Priorities (embedded in our vision statement) exist to actually enable the EPC to join in the Lord’s Great Commission (and it is the opening of our mission statement) was a catalytic realization. As a result, we are beginning to invest deeply in evangelism training using the newly adapted tool “The EPC’s Three Circles” from our National Church Health Team.
Looking ahead, you can expect to hear more about evangelism training, cultivating evangelistic cultures in our Presbyteries and congregations, as well as strategic alignment around our renewed focus on the Great Commission. We will continue to grow and implement Next Generation leadership, equip our congregations to reach out with the gospel to our neighbors within our one-, three- and five-mile radius, and begin to address the leadership issues related to both the “pipeline” and mobilization of our future pastors and global workers. Top of the list for the Fall will be a “Small Church Summit” where we gather and listen to the leaders of our smaller congregations to learn how we can best serve them and address their unique needs and concerns.
There is much gospel work to do and much more to say, but for now let me conclude by simply saying, “thank you.” I am grateful for the privilege of serving our General Assembly, Presbyteries, congregations, pastors, and leaders (and their families). It is truly the honor of my life. I look forward to visiting the rest of our Presbyteries in the next year, meeting more of our wonderful EPC family, and doing all that the Lord gives me strength to do in equipping the EPC to join in our Savior’s Great Commission.