The Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) voted unanimously to elect the Rev. Jeffrey Jeremiah to a third term as its stated clerk. In his remarks to the assembly, meeting this week at First Presbyterian Church, Baton Rouge, Jeremiah said that five years ago (2007) the EPC had 182 churches. Today, that number has literally doubled to 364.
The 61 churches that have joined the EPC since the 31st assembly last summer were read aloud and representatives received a laying on of hands and prayers.
When asked why the EPC has been so blessed to receive so many dynamic congregations Jeremiah said that the EPC is “clear” and “competent” particularly in relationship to “standards, doctrine and values” as a Presbyterian Reformed evangelical group of churches with a commitment to being intentionally missional.
But then Jeremiah asked “so what?” “Why is God growing and blessing and providing so abundantly for this body?” As he answered that question Jeremiah said that he realized two things. First, “as the needs of the EPC change, the office of the stated clerk” and by extension the functionality of how the GA serves the churches “must also change.” Second, he acknowledged that at some point “the influx of new churches will come to an end.”
Jeremiah’s second observation begs a question asked across all branches of the Presbyterian family: how many churches currently affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA) will seek to realign in the coming months and years? The Presbyterian Outlook recently reported that executive presbyters in the PCUSA know of 800 churches in the discernment or dismissal process. ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians says that 600 of those churches are headed their way. That would leave some 200 currently en route to the EPC. But those numbers do not include congregations for whom a proposed redefinition of marriage by the PCUSA would be the proverbial last straw.
Jeremiah ultimately envisions 1,000 churches in the EPC. According to his comments to the assembly, that number includes church planting through the EPC’s Engage 2025 international commitments and increased commitment to church planting in the U.S.
In a very candid disclosure to the assembly, Jeremiah shared that a couple of weeks ago he was asked by the leadership of a recently received congregation, “what’s the future of the EPC?” Jeremiah recalls, “I was not happy with my answers.” He continued, “That night I unloaded all this on a very dear and trusted friend … and when I finished, Luder Whitlock looked me in the eye and said, ‘the only question is this: how big is your God?'”
Putting his hand to his heart, Jeremiah said, “The answer I heard in here was ‘not very big.'” And then the stated clerk assured his people, “But then the Lord spoke into my heart, ‘That is enough of that!'”
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