A Break for Mrs. Freer!

After a busy and fruitful summer, we are giving our Children's Director, Mrs. Debbie Freer, a four week paid leave for some much needed rest and recuperation.  Our church is so thankful for Deb and all that she does for us and our children.

Additionally, many of you are aware that in the spring Deb was in an auto accident and had a significant concussion.  She has been and still is in a professionally monitored treatment program for her recovery.  Deb has continued to work while at the same time attempting to incorporate the directives of her providers. Sports Camp and VBS were grand again this year.  Sunday school and VBS took even more work than usual this year due to the curricula used.  We feel as a Session that we need to give Deb the opportunity to disengage as much as possible from her duties in order to aid her recovery.   So, starting Wednesday (8/16) Deb will begin a four week medical leave.  

During this time, we would ask that you would endeavor not to contact Deb with work related requests and try not to bring up these matters at church if you see her.  Pat Barnett will be overseeing Junior Church and David Rose will be overseeing Children's Sunday School.  Olivia Briscoe remains the contact for nursery and will also cover Beginner Bible Time.  Please contact these folks with questions in these areas. 

Please be praying for Deb during this season of leave, that it would be helpful in speeding her recovery and provide rest and refreshment.  Finally, if asked to help during this time please step forward.  You can know that your contribution to help is a tangible way of showing love and appreciation for Deb in this period. We want her to return to a healthy and robust ministry that has been well cared for during her leave. 


Welcoming Rev. Anthony Gorsuch

Our Session is pleased to announce that Rev. Anthony Gorsuch has accepted our offer to become an Assistant Pastor/Church Planting Resident with a Focus on Youth Ministry, Outreach and Assimilation.  He will begin on 1 September 2017.  

Our Covenant Homes Team will be meeting Anthony tonight to discuss ministry at 8:00PM via video conference.  Members of the Covenant Homes Team should have received and invitation from RE Bill Zinkand.

Anthony and his wife Remley have two beautiful children.  Anthony comes with significant work and life experience.  He has a great heart for evangelism and has a lot of experience in youth ministry as well. Anthony is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., Missions, cum laude) and has also been through our denomination's rigorous assessment for church planters.  My favorite reference on Anthony came from Dr. Guy Waters, who has ministered to us before as a Winter Conference Speaker: "Anthony is just a mountain of a man but it is mountain full of love.  He has a winning smile and just incredible love for people. I think he would do very well in the role that you are describing."  I think even in this photo we can get a glimpse of what Guy was talking about.

What was the process like?  For a 9/1 start date we did not have time to do a full posting for the job because you have to post it for at least 30 days to give time for folks to respond. We asked Mission to North America if they had a man clearly called and gifted who could serve on our staff for a shorter time as he was being readied by the Lord to plant a church.  With full knowledge of our needs, church and pastoral makeup they provided us with Anthony's information.  We also asked the PCA who had posted their resumes on file at the central office with an indication that they were willing to serve in youth ministry.  That generated seven men, of whom 2 made it through the first round.  That left us with three candidates including Anthony. All were very strong, but Anthony proved clearly the best fit.  

The Session as a whole made the commitment not to do anything if there was a lack of certainty as to whether it was the right man.  In other words, the Session wasn't acting hastily. We were ready to plug the hole with a transition team if necessary. I am so thankful for the hard work of David Rose, Bill Zinkand, Dennis Dietrich, Dwight Derby and Todd Metzler.  These men had lengthy, detailed interviews with the candidates and also made many calls to references.  This work was behind the scenes entirely, but it was an act of love for our youth and our church. 

What will Anthony do?  Anthony will serve 50-60% of his time in youth ministry.  The remaining balance of the time will be divided between outreach and assimilation.  And of course, there is overlap in these areas as well.  He will be the youth pastor, work with the outreach committee and help us do a better job at getting new people connected to EPC.    

What does it mean that Anthony is a Church Planting Resident? Church Planting Residents raise a portion of their compensation and are eligible for additional grant funds from Mission to North America.  In exchange, the church provides a context for the pastor to grow and develop in areas that are essential for a church planter to be successful.  The net result for the church is entirely positive.  The church gets a pastor who is highly motivated for ministry and will be committed for a significant season of ministry to the congregation, in this case to our youth especially.  Also, EPC will have the opportunity to invest in a man and a future church plant too.  Residencies are dynamic ways to participate in what God is doing to advance his kingdom.  At present, there is a target area for a new church in the Georgetown, DE area that a number of pastors in the presbytery believe Anthony is well suited to pursue.

I want to emphasize one thing especially.  Anthony is not coming to us as an intern.  He is not coming to us as a mere "stepping stone". That could easily be inferred but it is not so.  As an ordained minister to the gospel Anthony has a clear call to serve EPC and especially our youth and his heart will be fully in that ministry.  I met for white board sessions with our youth and with our covenant homes team. Anthony clearly hits the mark with regard to the broad wish lists that came from those discussions.  I am so pleased for our youth that they will have a man investing in them who desires to be on the front lines of evangelism and establishes new churches. The heart and gifts for that type of ministry naturally serve youth well.  Additionally, Anthony's success in ministry at EPC is integral to his being able to raise support for a new work and be finally approved to plant a church in our presbytery.  He is all in for ministry at EPC.      

Give a special word of thanks to our Ruling Elders on Session. It takes a lot of work behind the scenes to bring on new staff, and especially new pastoral staff.  We could not have brought on Rev. Post and Rev. Gorsuch without the full engagement, involvement and support of the elders, and that at a time during the summer when everyone else is of a mindset to take a break. And of course there were other matters before the Session too.

Above all, please join me in praising God for the way that he has provided for our church.  Who would have thought that within 30 days of Pastor Knott's departure God would provide us with two men, Rev. Don Post and Rev. Anthony Gorsuch, with clear gifts and callings right in the areas we need ministry?  The Lord provides for his people and for his ministry.  To God be the Glory.  Amen.

Pastor Harvey





Why We Sing the Psalms in Worship

Dr. Benjamin Harding, now Dean of the School of Music at Cairn University, penned this post on singing Psalms in Worship in July of 2014.  I re-post for your edification.

As we have been under the preaching of God’s Word in the book of Acts for some weeks now, we can see how integral the Psalms are to the theology, worship and spiritual sustenance of the Apostles and the early church. The Psalms are called upon to explain key aspects of the climax in redemptive history: Jesus Christ’s life and work. We have seen that the Psalms were heavily referenced in the first sermons of the Christian church and in the gatherings of God’s people.

Colossians 3:16 exhorts, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Much ink has been spent regarding what the terms “hymns” and “spiritual songs” mean. But, we see clearly the reference to “psalms.” We, Jesus Christ’s church, are commanded to sing Psalms for our Savior’s praise and for spiritual growth and sustenance.

The Psalms as a volume, most likely assembled by Ezra, have sustained the people of God as they sang them in exile; returning to the land; having a prominent place in the daily worship in the synagogue and the third Temple, in the early Christian church, in Patristic liturgy, and in the Offices and Hours of the church. For the Reformers, a recasting of the importance of the worship of God with the use of singing the Psalms clearly and with understanding was of utmost importance. The people of God were to sing the Word of God together in clear, precise and understandable words (in the common tongue) and melodies. 

John Calvin was one of those previously mentioned Reformers who saw the importance of singing the Psalms. In the Preface of the Genevan Psalter written by Calvin in 1543, you can see that Calvin was very interested in the idea that worship would be presented in a clear and understandable manner. Calvin’s Psalter, of course, was inspired by his exile in Strasbourg and coming into friendship with the Reformer, Martin Bucer and learning from his Psalter. Bucer, a theologian, asked excellent musicians to compose and arrange, singable melodies to the psalms.

Two key aspects in the use of Psalms in worship come to the forefront for me in the Preface of the Genevan Psalter. First, for Calvin the Psalms are clear in their presentation of Christian theology. In my view, the Psalms speak of almost every category in theology. The Psalms teach the language of faith; and by singing them, the people of God are sustained. Secondly for Calvin, the melodies to be sung must be easy enough for the congregation to sing and yet reflect well the topic being sung. Melodies must be refreshed and made new. They need to adorn the text being sung and then relate to the congregation who sings them.

We are going to be introducing some of the Psalms for singing in our worship services at Evangelical Presbyterian Church. This Summer, we will be introducing some of these settings to our congregation through our Summer Choir. Come, and join us! See the rehearsal schedule listed in the Grapevine, in the bulletin and below this blog post. This Fall we will continue to introduce several settings of the Psalms. You will find it refreshing that many musicians across the country are setting the Psalms musically once again to fresh melodies suited to the text. I known that there are many testimonies of how the Psalms have sustained us as the people of God at EP, and they have done so in my life as well. I look forward to singing and treasuring those Psalms with you all.

Are You a Consumer of People?

Consumerism is the mentality that justifies making choices about things, people and places based solely on my personal preference.  With regard to things, it leads to selfish materialism.  With regard to places, it leads to picking churches first according to personal preference and second according to biblical fidelity, integrity of mission and faithfulness.  With regard to people, it is choosing to love those people who meet our our felt needs. The sad truth is that consumerism has infected the way many of us regard the people that God has placed in our lives.  Our default tendency is to prefer the folks who bring pleasure, and despise those who bring challenges.  This heart disposition towards others carries over into the body of Christ.  This should not be.

It is essential to grasp that in the body of Christ there are no distinctions which can be a basis for division among us.  There are distinctions, but they cannot be a basis for division among us.  "There is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).  It's not God's will for us to parse ourselves out according to our natural distinctions and preferences.  As the body of Christ, we are one in Christ.

I've heard some Christians justify diving themselves from the body of Christ.  They say, "Well, God made me this way and, therefore, I am designed to flourish among a certain type of person."  God did make you the way he made you.  But your lack of patience with others whom He did not make like you is a result of sin.  The differences is the body of Christ are intended to make that body more full and rich (see 1st Cor 12), not more divided.

Whom are you not loving?  Whom has God placed in your life that you are regarding as an object of pleasure or displeasure, rather than as a brother or sister in Christ?  "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him" (1st John 5:1).  Everyone and everyone--these two words drive out consumerism with regard to whom we choose to love.  We cannot exclude ourselves from the obligation to love, nor can we deprive others of their status as brothers and sisters Christ.

Double Black Diamonds: Navigating the Slopes

In his helpful blog post “The Slippery Slope and the Jesus Box” Rev. Rick Phillips explains that there is indeed a slippery slope about which we must be concerned in theology.  I say indeed, because many will be aware that the slippery slope is typically considered a logical fallacy: one assumes that adoption of one position will lead to the adoption of another position, without showing causal relationship between the two.  However, if you can demonstrate a causal relationship then the argument becomes plausible. 

In theology, it does indeed seem to be the case there is a valid concern regarding a weak doctrine of Scripture as a plausible slippery slope.  So Phillips writes: “It is the unstoppable descent into liberalism and unbelief that begins when the authority of Scripture is compromised out of cultural accommodation. The slope is slippery because without the friction of an inerrant, divinely authoritative Bible, faithfully interpreted, there is nothing left to restrain the downward gravitational pull of the world's demands.” 

I would suggest that we label this type of slippery slope the Hermeneutical Slippery Slope.  The sin of our heart and the pressure of our culture place special tension upon those passages of Scripture that oppose them.  Jesus says, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). But that does not mean that the world, our flesh and the Devil won’t try.  As Phillips notes, in a culture hostile toward distinctions of roles based on gender, passages that restrict ordination to males will come under extreme pressure.  At the personal level, a person struggling deeply with sexual temptation may find special tension upon passages forbidding extra-marital sexual gratification.  When we are reading Scripture and feel this tension from without or from within we have three options before us:  

(1)   In faith, we can let Scripture push back against the culture and the sin of our hearts.  Under the power of the Holy Spirit the living and active Word of God will wage war against the sin of our flesh and sustain us against the pressure of the culture. 

(2)   In unbelief, we can reject the Scriptures entirely.  In some ways this is a position of integrity. Rather than twist the Scriptures, we own the reality that we know longer believe them.  It is ultimately foolish because we are rejecting the word of God, but it is an honest kind of foolish.

(3)   In self-deception, we could adopt hermeneutical strategies that allow us to yield to the flesh and the culture while attempting to hang on to our faith.  Unfortunately, there are a number of strategies to assist in this effort.  If one finds limits on women’s ministry in Ephesus too restrictive (1st Tim. 2), emphasize the local and historical context in that city when Paul was writing while downplaying the normative aspects of Paul’s argument which are intended to ground those restrictions in creation.  If clear prohibitions against homosexual sex are offensive, then look for local and historical reasons in Rome, Corinth or even throughout the Roman Empire that you may use to relativize what, on first reading, would appear to be normative for all people in every age.  

Option three above is a Hermeneutical Slippery Slope.  It is valid to regard it a slippery slope because one cannot use one hermeneutic for one set of hard texts without applying the same method to other hard texts.  So we observe the slip and the slide: a change in one’s view of women’s ordination precedes a change in one’s view on homosexuality. The hermeneutical strategies employed to arrive at those positions are very similar; indeed, in some cases identical.  The slippery slope does not always materialize, but if it does not it is against the force of logic not with the force of logic.  This slip and slide won’t stop at social issues either.  Miracles, the doctrine of the Trinity, and God’s holy demand for justice will all come under the scrutiny of the world, the flesh and the Devil.  Indeed, we must be on guard against the Hermeneutical Slippery Slope. 

But there is another type of slippery slope in theology and church life that is fallacious and spiritually dangerous.  It is akin to the way that the Pharisees read certain commandments, being sure to put a hedge around certain laws so as to not get even close to violating them.  We might call this slope the Slippery Slope of Fear. One may be tempted to react against a certain position for fear that it will lead to a more permissive position or action contrary to Scripture.  It is not the immediate position in question that is the concern, but fear of some future position that may come later. 

On the Slippery Slope of Fear, however, Scripture is still not being honored.  Rather than breaking the Scripture, the one slipping down the Slope of Fear seeks to add to Scripture.  Some comfortable distance is located between his actual practice and what Scripture allows or encourages.  For example, one may choose to object to the Session appointing godly women to assist the deacons in ministry to the congregation not because it is unauthorized or unbiblical (it is authorized in BCO 9-7), but for fear that it will lead to women being ordained to the office of deacon or elder.  “Won’t they just want to be deacons next, then elders?  Why get on that train?”

I have characterized this type of thinking to my own officers as the temptation to respond to error with its opposite.  It may feel right, but it is not right.  We don’t respond to error by its opposite.  When the culture goes left we don’t go right.  We go Biblical.  The Biblical response may be the natural opposite in some cases, but it is not always.  We must let Scripture guide us in responding to error or adopting policies and practices.  We should always endeavor not to add to God’s word by placing additional burdens on people that God has not made clear in Scripture.

Discerning the Slippery Slope of Fear can get a little more complicated, however. The reason is that for some people positions that are a matter or wisdom can become Slippery Slopes of Fear when made normative for all people.  A common example is the consumption of alcohol.  There are those who cannot consume alcohol because they know that they will be led down a destructive path of addiction.  For them that position is a wise one to take. But to restrict all people from consuming alcohol because Scripture forbids drunkenness is to go down the Slope of Fear that any consumption of alcohol will lead to drunkenness.  Ultimately when we fail to discern the difference between matters of wisdom for individuals and matter of law for all we end up in a place of legalism: forbidding what God allows.  That distorts the gospel and creates an unhealthy church culture too.

Next time you are in a theological or pastoral discussion of whether an issue or decision is a slippery slope try to discern whether it is a Hermeneutical Slippery Slope or a Slippery Slope of Fear.  In both cases the Scriptures are not given the clear and final word in matters of faith and practice.