Licensed To Preach

At our recent presbytery meeting on February 20th, Jason Chen, Joe Helt, and Ben Sulser were each examined by Evangel Presbytery and granted a license to preach.

From left to right: Joe Helt, Ben Sulser, Jason Chen

Joe Helt

Joe is from northern Indiana, and he loves the flatland of the north. He met his wife, Sarah, in Warsaw, Indiana, and they were married in 2012. They have four children: Covenant, Amos, Mercy, and Joyful.

Joe pastored for a few years in northern Indiana before getting any formal pastoral training. That experience was good but hard. According to his own testimony: “it taught me that I needed to be trained!” He and Sarah attended some conferences at Trinity Reformed Church in Bloomington a few years back, and they fell in love with the church. In 2017, they moved to Bloomington so that Joe could study with the men at Trinity Reformed Pastors College (formerly Clearnote Pastors College). “It has proved to be one of the best decisions of our lives.”

Joe and Sarah do not have any definite plans for their future, and for now, they are happily serving at Trinity. But they trust that God will make it clear where and when He would have them serve in the future. They are excited for the work of Evangel and her churches.

Jason Chen

Jason is originally from San Francisco, California, and he came to Bloomington in 2005 to study violin performance at the Jacob’s School of Music at Indiana University. After completing his undergraduate, he enrolled in Trinity Reformed Pastors College, graduating in 2014. He married his wife, Chen, in December of 2018. Jason and Chen’s daughter, Jane, was born last October.

Jason is currently leading Kernel of Wheat Fellowship, the Chinese ministry of Trinity Reformed Church. He has been leading this ministry at Trinity Reformed Church since 2014. It is his hope that this ministry will grow into a thriving community of Chinese believers and be used to promote the Gospel to the Chinese community in Bloomington and overseas as students return to their homeland.

Ben Sulser

Ben Sulser grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but he spent 10 years in Tacoma, Washington after graduating high school. The Pastors College at Trinity Reformed Church brought him to Indiana about five years ago. He graduated from the program in 2019. He has enjoyed being involved in Trinity Reformed Church, from writing and recording podcasts with the media ministry to administrating the pastors conference to leading the college and career group. He hopes to serve in pastoral ministry within Evangel Presbytery.

Currently he works as a title searcher. He is husband to the lovely Megan.

Reformed Church Of The Holy Trinity Joins Evangel Presbytery

Guest post by pastor James Brown (Facebook), pastor at Reformed Church of the Holy Trinity in Camby, Indiana.

Reformed Church of the Holy Trinity was constituted on October 13th, 2013. One year later, the church began meeting in the former New Harmony Methodist Church in the middle of a cornfield in rural Morgan County just north of Martinsville, Indiana. Although primitive by today’s standards and outside our desired geographical location, the members of Reformed Church of the Holy Trinity made the old 1900 building their home for the next five years. In hindsight, these “wilderness” years afforded our small congregation to grow in their love and commitments to Christ and His Church relatively undisturbed.

Although the lack of accommodations and isolation was difficult, the biggest dilemma we faced was our lack of accountability and fellowship in a communion of churches. Most of our members had previously been associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, yet we knew there was no future for us there. But where could we go? The denominations were too liberal on primary issues and many associations too schismatic on secondary issues.

In October of 2015, we were introduced to the vision of what would become Evangel Presbytery. As soon as the vision became a reality in late 2018, we expressed our desire to be associated with this glorious work that was not only defending Reformed confessionalism of the past but also blazing the trail for contemporary confessionalism against present assaults. In addition to these important issues, another topic of urgency to us was freedom on baptism in relation to time and mode. You can read Evangel Presbytery’s position on baptism in chapter 16 of their Book of Church Order. You may also be interested in Reformed Church of the Holy Trinity’s explanation for joining a Presbytery as a Baptist church.

Finally, on October 3rd, 2019, we were graciously received into membership with Evangel Presbytery. We thank God for these churches and men who have been so patient and supportive during this process. It is a high honor to be included in this brotherhood.

About the same time we were admitted into Evangel Presbytery, we received a request to help another church in our area through a process of dissolution. In December of 2019, the dissolving church voted to transfer all their assets to Reformed Church of the Holy Trinity. On January 5th, 2020, we moved into our new location at 7542 East Landersdale Road in Camby, Indiana. During this process, the few remaining members of the dissolving church were transferred and received into the communion and care of Reformed Church of the Holy Trinity.

In the eyes of many, these have been the days of small things, but from where we stand it is glorious. God has been faithful to His remnant in a day of decay. May we be found faithful in the ministry we have been entrusted.

Trinity Presbyterian Church Joins Evangel Presbytery

Guest post by Andrew Dionne, senior pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina. (Facebook, Twitter)

Trinity Presbyterian Church initially met on the north side of Spartanburg, SC in the early 1970s. In August 1972, Walnut Grove Presbyterian Church merged with Trinity Presbyterian Church. Her denominational home became the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES). On the first Sunday of September 1978, Trinity dedicated its present building on the west side of Spartanburg County. In August of 1982, Trinity was received into the Presbyterian Church in American (PCA) when the PCA officially “joined and received” the RPCES.

On May 5, 2019, after several trying years in Calvary Presbytery of the PCA, Trinity voted to leave the denomination and affiliate with Evangel Presbytery. In congregational meetings leading up to our departure from the PCA, the case for leaving the denomination was outlined, argued, and ultimately affirmed by the congregation. The PCA, it was argued, was significantly and irreparably compromised both in doctrine and practice.

Concerning the doctrinal degeneration of the PCA, there was widespread affirmation of the social gospel and a sophisticated embracing of the “celibate gay Christian” movement. Concerning the practical drift of the PCA, the polity of the PCA became more and more hierarchical, going against the basic principles of Presbyterianism. Over the course of her history, the PCA had increasingly resisted the practice of church discipline. That rejection of one of the three marks of the church was evident in every level of the courts of the church (sessions, presbyteries, and general assembly). Lest you think we are lobbing stones without having had any skin in the game, the details of our battle within the PCA against liberalism is documented on Warhorn Media’s website.

Perhaps the most discouraging element of our final days in the PCA was the unwillingness of the conservatives in the denomination to fight those pastors and elders who were promoting the sin of effeminacy. When the conservatives waved the white flag and determined that the differences they had with men who rejected Scripture were merely “differing perspectives” of “teammates and friends,” the end of our affiliation with the PCA became a positive necessity.

It is with joy that Trinity Presbyterian Church has affiliated with Evangel Presbytery. Our hope and prayer is that Evangel Presbytery will serve as a simple source of accountability and encouragement. We have no desire to see Evangel become a national denomination with influence. We’ve already seen how that desire corrupts men and institutions. May God bless our efforts.

What’s the story behind Evangel Presbytery?

Another Protestant denomination?

That’s a common question we get from those looking on from the outside and wanting to know more about Evangel, and it’s not a bad question. After all, over two-thirds of the adults in the United States identify as Christians, and slightly less than half identify as Protestant. That many Protestants – roughly 150 million – must represent a huge number of churches. Surely our churches can find a denomination or association worth affiliating with, right?

Well, it’s complicated. If you’re reading these words, you probably recognize that the United States has been turning away from its Protestant roots for many generations now. Of those 150 million who identify as Christian, many millions deny basic Christian truths like, “Jesus is God” or “the Bible is the Word of God.”

Narrowing things down a bit further, roughly a quarter of the United States adult population are Evangelical Protestants. And then, when you narrow it down to Evangelical Protestant churches that are either reformed or presbyterian, that percentage shrinks to around 1% of the adult population, or roughly three million people.1

Three million people is still a lot of people, and, sadly, they do represent a large number of different denominations and associations that have a long history of division. And so the question remains: why another denomination?

If you take the time to read our commitments page (and I hope you do), you’ll see that we are Westminsterian in our theology – which is to say, reformed and evangelical – and presbyterian in polity. This is pretty standard stuff in our theological neck of the woods, and if we had left it at that, our churches may very well have been able to join another denomination. That leads us to what sets us apart…

So do you baptize babies or not?

Normally, particular churches and denominations with our same theological commitments declare themselves to hold to either the credo-baptist or the paedo-baptist position on baptism. That is to say, some of them think it’s good and proper to baptize the infants of Christian parents (such as the Presbyterian Church in America or the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church), while others believe that a person should be baptized when he can make a personal and credible profession of faith (such as the Southern Baptist Convention). In either kind of church, leniency on this point is sometimes permitted for church membership but never, or very rarely, for church officers. But as we specify in our BCO, churches who join Evangel Presbytery may declare in their bylaws that their officers “must be exclusively credo-baptist, exclusively paedobaptist, or may be comprised of both.”

So while there have been separate credo-baptist and paedo-baptist churches for centuries, there are few examples in church history of churches who accept both positions simultaneously, and very few denominations today who do so. Our congregations have many friends on both sides of the debate, but there simply weren’t very many willing to officially associate with us given our long-standing commitment to freedom on the time and mode of baptism. We did carefully consider the few that exist, but decided that our differences in other areas – whether cultural or theological – were too significant to set aside. And so here we are.

Aren’t you just being schismatic?

In a word, no.

Evangel Presbytery grew organically out of the brotherhood of like-minded churches. We share theological commitments and cultural commitments, and we love one another. We’re committed to the three marks of the church: pure preaching of the Word, the proper administration of the sacraments, and the conscientious exercise of church discipline. What’s schismatic about that?

On top of that, we feel that our open-handed position on baptism is good for our churches and a challenge to long-standing factions in the reformed church which grieve the Lord. That’s the very opposite of being schismatic!

In future posts, we hope to write more about how each of our churches were drawn to form a new presbytery. Even as we build, we are delighted to see God bless other Reformed and Evangelical denominations. The fields are white for the harvest.