Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Joining the EPC

I’ve noted some interest (genuine and skeptical) in our process with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). As we told the congregation, we felt that the EPC is the best denominational match for our beliefs and desires. Since our disaffiliation, Wayne and I have been in regular contact with officials in the EPC.

The EPC is sending a small team of pastors to meet with our session next Monday, October 16. The purpose of that meeting will be to discuss our theological beliefs as well as how we view Presbyterian polity and the church. The team will also meet with Wayne and me, doing some preliminary examination prior to our formal examination to be admitted.

Wayne and I will be attending a meeting of the Midwest Presbytery of the EPC later this month. There we will be able to witness first-hand just how this denomination operates. A formal examination of both of us should follow this meeting between now and Christmas.

There may even be a question about Wayne and me entering the EPC as Reformed pastors. Since we disaffiliated from the PCUSA, our former denomination will not transfer us. In fact, the PCUSA and Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery do not even consider us to be ordained pastors at all. The EPC will have to decide how to receive us, possibly requiring a more strenuous examination.

The earliest that we could be admitted to the EPC, both as a church and as pastors, will be in January. It is possible that this will not take place until April. As in all denominations, there are processes in place through which we must go, decently and in order.

Jeff will have to go through an examination in slightly more depth than us, because he’s transferring in from a non-Reformed denomination. There will be no impediment to his becoming an EPC pastor, and I know that he will more than match their expectations of a pastor.

Dan and Sean both must be ordained before they are admitted into the denomination. This can be done by us as a congregation, since we currently are not a part of any denomination. Many denominations ordain pastors within a congregation and then accept them into the denomination.

We are preparing an ordination process for them similar to that which I and Wayne experienced. I was the chair of the Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery's Committee on Preparation for Ministry for a number of years, so I have significant experience in this. We will also involve our Kirk officers, along with pastors from some other churches, in this process. After we ordain them, both Dan and Sean will have to sit an examination similar to Jeff’s in order to be admitted to the EPC.

I look forward to entering this process, and I feel that we will be very satisfied being a part of the EPC.

Keep praying—keep the faith,


David said...

Tom: I'm an EPC church planter in Virginia, in the Presbytery of the East. I've been following the events at the Kirk from a distance, but wanted you to know that I and many others in the EPC are looking forward to your entry into our denomination. I will be praying for you and your staff in Tulsa, as well as for the EPC presbytery officials who are handling your transfer. I'll be looking forward to meeting you at our next General Assembly in Colorado!

David Fischler
Redeemer EPC
Lorton, VA

Reformed Catholic said...
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Reformed Catholic said...

Reformed Catholic said...

Tom, since you're going to be getting some additional background on the theological leanings and polity of the EPC, could you pass on what your findings are on the role of women as elders and ministers of the Word and Sacrement.

I suspect a few congregations would like to know about that.

Carolyn Nystrom said...

David: I have been an EPC elder since 1990. Our Book of Government under "Rights Reserved to a Particular Church" (7:1-7) lists "the right to elect its own officers." This includes the right to limit elders and/or deacons to one gender or to open these offices to both genders. Currently about 1/3 of EPC churches elect both genders to the office of elder. As for Teaching Elders, that right is held by each Presbytery, since the same page of rights says "The particular church has the right to call its own pastor(s), provided the Presbytery concurs by receiving such pastor(s) into its memberships. EPC currently has 2 women ordained as Teaching Elders--one a pastor and the other a retired hospital chaplain. Presbytery of the West currently has several women in the candidate process. Often during ordination exams, prospective Teaching Elders are asked their views on women in office (as well as the practice of charasmatic gifts) and asked to substantiate these views with biblical support. They are often then asked a follow-up question to the effect of "Can you cheerfully work along side people who differ with you on this subject?" I have served on national EPC committees for about 15 years, and Presbytery Committees for 5 or 6 years. Though always a minority in gender, I have always felt that my voice was heard and respected. Does this help?

Carolyn Nystrom, RE
Immanuel Presbyterian (EPC) Warrenville, IL