29 June 2009


One of the major concerns expressed by some presbyters was this: “By ‘becoming one,’ are we losing our vision of a new way of being the Church in favor of a traditional Presbyterian polity? Are we losing the networks that are part of our vision?”

As a result, in addition to BECOMING ONE, we considered a portion of the report of the EPC’s Committee On Administration. In looking forward, the COA described the EPC’s vision thusly:

God has called the Evangelical Presbyterian Church to wholeheartedly re-embrace the
Great Commission and become a denomination of Missional, Evangelical, Reformed and
Presbyterian churches.

As we read the report, we found that the COAs short term goals (for the next year) include committing the EPC to play a key role in the evangelization of the U.S. and the world for Jesus Christ; leading the EPC towards becoming a truly first class equipping, training, leadership development denomination by providing leadership in discerning, nurturing and promoting missional objectives at the national and Presbytery level in order to help, encourage and enable local churches to pursue this goal. In New Wineskins terminology, they look very much like a National Network.

Another goal is to provide assistance to the presbyteries as they offer encouragement, training
and other helps that the local congregations may be effective in such areas as evangelism, discipleship, leadership development, strategic planning, financial stewardship, officer training, missional orientation and other facets of effective Christian life and ministry. In other words, they want to help the presbyteries to become support networks.

At both the GA and the presbytery level, they seek to establish only those boards, agencies, committees, commissions, staff positions, institutions, and office structure necessary to meet the goals of the church. They also look to lead the EPC from a culture of “top-down” to a culture of “bottom-up” decision making in order to provide support for activities such as church planting which are initiated by the presbyteries and local congregations rather than the General Assembly. Additionally, they seek to move the mandate of the COA from its traditional management/control role to a serving and encouraging leadership role. All of these goals mirror the “polity” vision of the New Wineskins constitution.

They desire to “push down” activities historically directed out of the national office to
Presbyteries and provide or recommend appropriate means of equipping and encouraging presbyteries in their mission and to encourage Presbyteries to network effectively among themselves. Such networking at the local, presbytery and GA level are the heart of the New Wineskins view of polity.

At the same time, those of us who have been the leaders of the NWEPC for the past 18 months have come to recognize that the intentionally broad language of the New Wineskins constitution is sometimes insufficient to meet the needs of the presbytery in carrying out the responsibilities assigned to us. There is much in the already lean polity of the EPC that is good. For instance, our Ministry Committee has often looked to the Book of Government and the by-laws of various presbyteries for best practices.

One of the COA’s goals is a different way of stating the need for viable and vibrant ministry networks: It looks to

draw the General Assembly closer to the larger churches so that it encourages and expresses appreciation for their participation in helping Presbyteries,smaller churches, countless individual missionaries and church plants, and others and to promote vitality in smaller churches by promoting peer learning and providing or recommending the most appropriate means of equipping and encouraging leaders in small ministry contexts.

It also “encourages the establishment of networks such as the Urban Ministry Network and Small Church Leaders Network (Z. 4.10).”

Ultimately, as does the New Wineskins, the EPC believes these goals represent a commitment to transform the EPC structurally into a robust form of presbyterianism that will play a key role in the evangelism of the United States and the world for Jesus Christ.

The report goes on to say

Another way to describe our vision for the EPC is to describe what we hope to find as one examines our denomination five years from now. In 2014, anyone observing the EPC would find:

1. A General Assembly that oversees the work of the church by supporting the
Presbyteries as they support the local churches.

2. Presbyteries that offer helps to local churches in such areas as evangelism,
discipleship, training and other facets of Christian ministry.

3. The re-formation of the Great Commission in the form of the missional church
widely accepted and firmly established in priorities.

4. A re-formation of the church - in our practice, not our doctrine.

5. The entire church is now committed to North America and the whole world as
a mission field.

6. A church which cares about and is engaged in its community.

7. An exhibition of unity of spirit, purpose and direction.

8. A church whose meetings focus on ministry and evangelism, not just polity.

9. A church which is outwardly focused (not parochial) and inwardly strong
(work together).

10. A church which contends for the faith and holds on to the truth.

11. A church which collaborates in ministry and mission.

12. A church which accepts a culture of “fluidity” and which avoids the old “boxes”.

13. A church which promotes church revitalization so that churches and church
plants are helped when the situation requires.

14. A church which is financially solvent buoyed in part by a strong stewardship
program at all levels.

15. A church whose larger churches take a major role in the leadership of the
denomination at all levels.

16. Elected leaders who lead, not just administer; leaders who are proactive and
quick to respond to targets of opportunity.

17. A series of highly active and very effective support networks across the

18. Churches, pastors, and candidates under care who rate very highly the
processes that were used to admit them to a relationship within the EPC.

19. A church which has grown in numbers, not because it has sought growth as a
goal, but because it is working valiantly to evangelize and bring the Word of
God whenever there are un-churched and non-believers. (Emphasis added)

The COA’s vision, which, as can be seen, is substantially the same as the vision of the New Wineskins, is summed up by the COA as follows:

We believe that the vision we have for the future of this denomination rests heavily on our commitment to make sure these goals are realized. It will take nothing less than
our willingness at the national and Presbytery level to use our organization, our money
and our complete focus on serving the local church in order to help, encourage, and
enable them to pursue this vision.

At the end of our study in the New Wineskins presbytery meeting, I came away assured that our vision is safe within the EPC as we become one. As a ruling elder, I am particularly drawn to an EPC which looks to ruling elders who are called to ministry, rather than a denomination that marginalized and diminished the role of most ruling elders in favor of a clergy-dominated top-down denomination.

I remain confident that our amazing God has set us on the road to becoming His new thing.


Red_Cleric said...

Thanks for the post Mac. It makes me feel a better. I'd only heard a smattering of what had come out and it bothered me. Your context helps a great deal.


Rev Kim said...

Wow, focusing on evangelism, community inlvolvement, training elders, instead of fighting decades old battles? How refreshing! ;)

Seriously, thank you for this series of posts. It truly sound like God is at work in you and through you. It gives me much hope, and much to ponder. And thanks for your comment. I'm keeping it in my email, for those disheartening days that come every now and then.

Strode said...

Thanks again Mac!