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DISTINCTIVES

The EPC has a number of distinctives that set us apart from other Presbyterian and Reformed denominations.

WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH

The Westminster Confession of Faith has undergone a number of revisions since it was originally produced in 1647. We have adopted some of the important revisions that bring it up to date, as well as a modern-language version that has carefully maintained the integrity of the document while providing greater accessibility to 21st-century readers. The Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms are our singular confessional standard. We affirm that it contains the system of doctrine taught by the Bible.

THE ESSENTIALS

In addition to the Westminster Confession of Faith, we have developed “The Essentials of our Faith.” While we believe that all of our faith is important, some elements of that faith are absolutes. For example, it is essential that we agree on the meaning of the atoning death of Jesus on the cross. On the other hand, we do not believe it is essential to agree on the timing of Christ’s second coming. The EPC therefore has set forth these core beliefs of the Christian faith upon which there must be agreement, but permits latitude and (biblically based) differences of opinion on matters not considered essential to be a Christian.

RULING ELDERS

Part of the genius of Presbyterianism is the importance placed on the role of the Ruling Elder—the layperson—in the life of the church. When a denomination becomes clergy dominated, it becomes much easier to lose touch with the grassroots of the church. To maintain a good clergy/lay leader balance, the EPC provides for each church to send two Ruling Elders for each Teaching Elder (pastor) to meetings of the Presbytery and General Assembly. Also, the General Assembly Moderator alternates each year between a Ruling Elder and a pastor.

MISSION OF THE CHURCH

The EPC Constitution declares the “first duty” of the church is “to evangelize by extending the gospel both at home and abroad, leading others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” It makes clear that “good works” are not the gospel, but rather are the fruit of the gospel. The statement concludes, “the Church must never confuse its primary task of evangelism (the gospel) with the fruit of faith (good works).” This affirmation settles for us a dispute that has caused much division in our day—churches that are preoccupied with social change to the neglect of true spiritual change.

WOMEN IN ORDAINED OFFICE

The understanding of the role of women in the life of the church varies widely. For example, one Presbyterian denomination mandates that women be elected as pastors, ruling elders, and deacons. Another prohibits this. Yet equally sincere, Bible-believing Christians differ on this issue. In the EPC, the decision to elect women as pastors, ruling elders, and deacons is left to the discretion of the presbytery and congregation, respectively. We believe that under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, God’s people should be free to follow His leading.

RIGHTS IN PERPETUITY

We recognize that elements of our organization may change over time. However, there are certain features of our government that are unique, distinctive, and should never change. Among these are the rights of a local congregation to own and control its property and to elect its own officers. To ensure that these—and other—distinctives do not fall victim to time or circumstance, our Book of Government contains a section entitled, “Limitations in Perpetuity.” Here are identified certain rights held in perpetuity by Christians, both individually and in congregations. These rights must always be guaranteed by the Church. Additions to this section may be made, but nothing can be taken away.

CONGREGATIONAL RIGHTS

In addition to rights in perpetuity, we affirm the right of the local congregation to call its own pastor. This means that no pastor can be placed in a congregation without its consent. Also, a local congregation has the right to withdraw from the EPC with its property (though we hope that none would ever want to!).

VOLUNTARY GIVING

We do not have a “head tax” or “per-capita tax.” We do not believe that one court of the Church has the right to put a “tax” with obligation on another court. For example, a presbytery does not have the right to put a “tax” on a local congregation. The Presbytery or General Assembly asks for funds through the use of “Per Member Asking” (PMA), which is a voluntary contribution of the local congregation to fund the mission of the Church. Gifts may always be designated.

POSITION PAPERS

We are about the gospel, not politics, and therefore do not believe in taking political positions. However, we do believe the Church has an obligation to speak its mind on important issues. To do this, we develop Position Papers. Initially set forth as “preliminary,” a Paper is presented to the denomination for response and input. Then a committee studies it and makes a final recommendation to the General Assembly. The EPC has Position Papers on subjects such as abortion; the value of and respect for human life; human sexuality; divorce and remarriage; women in ordained office; the problem of suffering, death, and dying; and more.

Office of the General Assembly
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822
407-930-4239
407-930-4247 (fax)
info@epc.org

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