Renewal
March 14, 2016, 3:34 PM

Introduction to ECO Polity

Building flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ
Introduction to ECO Polity
Here is a helpful guide to the major ecclesiastical, substantive, and philosophical characteristics of ECO polity:
1. Defined core theology and behavioral expectations – One of the main concerns for many individuals and con-gregations considering ECO is that the PC(USA) has not defined essential theology and behavior requirements and will not allow congregations and presbyteries to define these requirements either. In the theology section of the ECO constitution the behavioral and theological core is established and all officers must “receive, adopt, and be bound by” these essentials.
2. ECO is concerned with ecclesiastical matters and therefore property is not held in trust – There are a cou-ple of reasons for this. First, as we have seen, when property is held in trust it can be used as leverage against con-gregations wishing to maintain theological integrity. Secondly, when presbyteries have interests in property an in-ordinate amount of time can be spent in property management.
3. Voting is done in parity at all levels and only when people are connected with a local congregation. – ECO polity does not see mission and ministry happening primarily as a result of voting. When there is the need for vot-ing at the presbytery and synod councils, within each council there is a requirement for a 1-1 parity between elders and pastors. Only pastors connected to a local congregation are eligible to vote. A pastor in validated service or honorably retired will only vote if they are an “assistant pastor” connected to an ECO congregation. In this in-stance the “assistant pastor” would be equivalent to what the PC(USA) calls a “parish associate”.
4. Church is redefined. – ECO polity defines “church” wherever believers are gathered in the name of Jesus. Church can be lived out in small groups, accountability groups, ministry teams, house churches, and mission teams to name just a few.
5. Elders and deacons can be deployed for greater ministry – Because “church” is considered to be the gathering of believers in the name of Jesus in a variety of contexts it is appropriate for the sacraments to be administered in these contexts. Elders and deacons who have been properly trained can be authorized to celebrate the sacraments in various settings. Therefore, not only can communion be celebrated in these various expressions of church but, if someone comes to faith through these expressions of church, they can be baptized by the officers who are charged with shepherding these groups. Elders and deacons can also be commissioned by the presbytery to serve as the pastors of congregations and new church developments for the mission and ministry of the presbytery.
6. Emphasis on the role of members as covenant partners – ECO polity now names members as “covenant part-ners.” Congregations may choose to use different language if they wish, but this designation is designed to empha-size that individuals aren’t joining an organization. When they say yes to membership in ECO, individuals are cov-enanting with one another in God’s redemptive mission as expressed in, through, and beyond the congregation.
Building flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ
7. Greater local flexibility – There is much within the PC(USA) Book of Order that congregations may wish to con-tinue to affirm, but there will be significant flexibility in these areas. Here are a few examples:
 Deacons – Deacons may serve as part of a board or be commissioned on an annual basis. Since deacons do not have oversight within a congregation, a congregation may choose to continue to elect deacons in congrega-tional meetings or can choose to have the session appoint deacons.
 Elders – Elders in the PC(USA) serve three-year terms and can serve no more than two consecutive terms. Many ECO congregations may wish to continue this practice. But a congregation may choose to redesign their elder election and rotation. For example, they may wish to have elders serve only one 4 year term. In some cultures it is shameful for a person to be rotated off of the elders’ board. Congregations may wish to allow el-ders to serve an unlimited number of terms. The local ECO congregation continues to be governed by elders and the congregation must elect them, but their terms of service can have flexibility.
 Pastors – A few different categories of pastors are defined. For example, ECO polity has reinstated the office of assistant pastor, hired by the session rather than called by the congregation. This again allows for greater flexibility in pastoral leadership.
8. Presbyteries also have greater freedom – In ECO polity, the role of the presbytery is to support, encourage, and resource local congregations. ECO presbyteries are required to have three committees; the Committee on Ministry which can include oversight of candidates, a Permanent Judicial Commission, and a governing council which has the same role and responsibilities of most PC(USA) presbytery councils. Other committees and task forces may be formed as they are necessary for the mission of the presbytery. Presbyteries also have flexibility as they guide con-gregations in the call process. A typical PNC may be established or a congregation may allow the session to serve this function. However they are called, the congregation must ultimately elect installed pastors.
9. Missional Affinity Network – Missional Affinity Networks are networks of congregations in similar ministry set-tings and facing similar challenges and opportunities. These networks are outside the presbyteries. They could be comprised of congregations near universities or colleges, congregations in urban settings, multiethnic congrega-tions, those who are actively planting worshiping communities, congregations of various sizes, etc. These Missional Affinity Networks have no judicial authority but can be beneficial in a variety of important ways.
10. Accountability, support, and encouragement – ECO polity affirms that accountability between congregations is vitally important. Pastors should share with one another where they have seen God most visibly at work as well as what they are discerning as their part in God’s future mission. ECO pastors are expected to covenant to be ac-countable to one another, ensuring they are living balanced lives and being good stewards of the multiple responsi-bilities God has given them. Accountable relationships, called “peer reviews,” can take place within the presbytery or within the Missional Affinity Networks.
11. Flatter structure with an emphasis on God’s work within the local congregation – There are three layers to the ECO polity structure; session, presbytery and synod. Synod is the widest council in ECO. Each council is de-signed to have a significantly smaller staff with significantly smaller numbers of congregations comprising a presby-tery. The primary role of staff will be mission and ministry in local congregations, facilitating the multiplication of worshiping communities and expansion of the gospel.




July 5, 2015, 5:33 PM

Comparison - ECO, EPC

Evangelical Presbyterian Church's

Essentials of Our Faith I

All Scripture is self-attesting and being Truth, requires our unreserved sUbmJion in all areas of life. The infallible
Word of God, the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testa ments, is a complete and unified witness to God's
redemptive acts culminating in the incarnation of the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible, uniquely and
fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the supreme and final authority on all mattJrs on which it speaks. On this sure

foundation we affirm these additional Essentials of our faith:                                  \

We believe in one God, the sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in
three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To Him be all honor, glory and praise forever!

Jesus Christ, the living Word, became flesh through His miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit and His virgin
birth. He who is true God became true man united in one Person forever. He died on the cross a sacrifice for our
sins according to the Scriptures. On the third day He arose bodily from the deJd, ascended into heaven, where, at
the right hand of the Majesty on High, He now is our High Priest and Mediato/

The Holy Spirit has come to glorify Christ and to apply the saving work of Christ to our hearts. He convicts us of sin
and draws us to the Savior. Indwelling our hearts, He gives new life to us, empowers and imparts gifts to us for
service. He instructs and guides us into all truth, and seals us for the day of redemption.

Being estranged from God and condemned by our sinfulness, our salvation is holy dependent upon the work of
God's free grace. God credits His righteousness to those w 0 put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation,
thereby justifies them in His sight. Only such as are born of the Holy Spirit and receive Jesus Christ become children
of God and heirs of eternal life.

The true Church is composed of all persons who through saving faith in Jesus Christ and the sanctifying work of the
Holy Spirit are united together in the body of Christ. The Church finds her visib1le, yet imperfect, expression in local
congregations where the Word of God is preached in its purity and the sacraments are administered in their
integrity; where scriptural discipline is practiced, and where loving fellowship is maintained. For her perfecting, she
awaits the return of her Lord.

Jesus Christ will come again to the earth-personally, visibly, and bodily-to judge the living and the dead, and to
consummate history and the eternal plan of God. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus. "I (Rev. 22:20)

The Lord Jesus Christ commands all believers to proclaim t e Gospel throughout the world and to make disciples of
all nations. Obedience to the Great Commission requires total commitment to "Him who loved us and gave Himself
for us." He calls us to a life of self-denying love and service. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus
for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Eph. 2:10)

These Essentials are set forth in greater detail in the Westminster Confession of Faith.

 

The 19 key points of

Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterian's essential tenets

 

  1. The great purpose toward which each human life is drawn is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever

  2. We glorify God by recognizing and receiving His authoritative self-revelation, both in the infallible Scriptures of
    the Old and New Testaments and also in the incarnation of God the Son.

    3. With Christians everywhere, we worship the only true God -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- who is both one
    essence and three persons.

  3. Jesus Christ is both truly God and truly human.

  4. The divinity of the Son is in no way impaired, limited, or changed by His gracious act of assuming a human
    nature, and that His true humanity is in no way undermined by His continued divinity.

    6. The risen Jesus, who was sent from the Father, has now ascended to the Father in His resurrected body and
    remains truly human.

    7. The same Jesus Christ who is now ascended and who will one day return visibly in the body to judge the living
    and the dead.

  5. We are able to confess Jesus Christ as Lord and God only through the work of the Holy Spirit

  6. The present disordered state of the world, in which we and all things are subject to misery and to evil, is not
    God's doing, but is rather a result of humanity's free, sinful rebellion against God's will.

    10. No part of human life is untouched by sin. Our desires are no longer trustworthy guides to goodness, and what
    seems natural to us no longer corresponds to God's desig .

    11. In union with Christ through the power of the Spirit we are brought into right relation with the Father, who
    receives us as His adopted children. Jesus Christ is the only Way to this adoption, the sole path by which sinners
    become children of God,

    12. Having lost true freedom of will in the fall, we are incapable of turning toward God of our own volition. God
    chooses us for Himself in grace before the foundation of the world, not because of any merit on our part, but only
    because of His love and mercy.

    13. Through His regenerating and sanctifying work, the Holy Spirit grants us faith and enables holiness, so that we
    may be witnesses of God's gracious presence to those who are lost.

    14. In Christ, we are adopted into the family of God and find our new identity as brothers and sisters of one
    another, since we now share one Father

    15. Within the covenant community of the church, God's grace is extended through the preaching of the Word, the
    administration of the sacraments, and the faithful practice of mutual discipline.

    16. The ministries of the church reflect the three-fold office of Christ as prophet, priest and king - reflected in the
    church's ordered ministries of teaching elders, deacons, and ruling elders.

    17. Jesus teaches us that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our
    mind. There is no part of human life that is off limits to the sanctifying claims of God.

    18. Progress in holiness is an expected response of gratitude to the grace of God, which is initiated, sustained and
    fulfilled by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

    19. As we practice the discipline of regular self-examination and confession, we are especially guided by the Ten
    Commandments.

     

 




June 28, 2015, 3:45 PM

ECO Position on Supreme Court Decision

Dear ECO Friends, Within minutes of the Supreme Court's decision regarding same sex marriage, our e-mails and phones have been flooded with questions from our ECO congregations. While each question is uniquely worded, the questions can be summed up under two headings. First, and less frequently, is the question "What does ECO believe about same sex marriage?" Second, and more frequently asked, is, "What are the implications for our churches?" Before I answer both questions, let me start by saying that in ECO we generally try to stay out of politics. However, there are times when political decisions affect, or potentially affect, the way in which ECO operates. For example, there might be times when religious liberty is challenged. In order to protect the integrity of our ministry, ECO may need to proactively or reactively engage in a political conversation. The Supreme Court's decision on marriage has potential challenges, which is why we are responding to it. The first question regarding ECO's stance on sexuality has a very simple response. In ECO, we affirm that marriage is a gift from God between one man and one woman. We affirm that sexuality is also a gift, which is to be expressed within this covenant of marriage. Scripture, our Essential Tenets, and confessions all speak with one unified voice on the subject of marriage. The second question, regarding the implications for ECO churches, is more complicated. We are not yet sure about the ramifications of the Supreme Court decision. However, we have been in conversation during the last year about potential outcomes and necessary responses. We are grateful to be a part of a group of denominations that maintain the orthodox Christian faith and with whom we can process such questions. John Terech, ECO's Director of Operations, is taking the lead on coordinating with other denominations and networks. As information becomes available, it will be disseminated through your presbyteries. Let me take the opportunity to address a third question that could be out there. How do we respond now? I think the answer to this question is easy. Preach and live the gospel! Whenever church finds itself at odds with culture, we have the opportunity to thrive in new ways as we live out the gospel in a conflicted context. Let us be people who live the model of Jesus by being welcoming and transforming for all people, in all aspects of our lives. Each of us has places in our lives that need to come under the Lordship of Jesus and the transforming power of the Spirit. Can we be people that welcome and love one another wherever we are, and yet love one another enough to work for mutual transformation? I think we can, and I think that as we do, the gospel will flourish! Let's pray together to that end. Bless you all in your continued ministry, Dana Allin, Synod Executive