There were 2,000 participants who came together at the Cobb Galleria, Atlanta, Ga., Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for the PCA’s 5th Christian Education and Publications Women’s International Ministry Conference, Amazing Grace 360, emphasizing the whole Gospel for the whole life and whole world. Older women and younger women came from across the PCA with representatives from several countries where PCA ministry is realized. 200 of the participants were under 20 years of age and 200 were over 66 years of age.
With the confusion abroad about “grace” the conference sought to present a program that would encourage and enable the participants to understand the “it is all about God” who is a God of grace and mercy. That theme was carried throughout the conference with Nancy Guthrie leading the plenary sessions unfolding the whole story of: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation (covered by Brian Habig mentioned below). Her messages were clear and set the stage for the more than 30 seminars on different aspects of the whole story.
500 of the participants came for the pre-conference events which featured Lydia Brownback as the plenary speaker and breakout seminars for that “pre-con” event. Kevin Twit and Indelible Grace (above, bottm left photo) effectively led the conference in the worship sessions. Kevin Twit is a PCA teaching elder and has assisted CEP and the women’s conferences on previous occasions.
One of the highlights of the conference, along with the good solid teaching and warm fellowship of the participants, was a Friday night concert, featuring Laura Story (second from right) an accomplished singer and songwriter and winner of the prestigious Dove Award for her album Great God Who Saves, and who serves on the worship leadership team at Perimeter PCA Church in Duluth, Ga. And Saturday night there was a concert featuring Kevin Twit and Indelible Grace.
Indelible Grace has produced a number of CDs, featuring some of the great hymns often set to new music. Kevin is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary. He is also an RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) campus minister at Belmont University in Nashville, TN.
Another highlight of the conference came following the Saturday night dinner, as PCA women from across the country and from more than eight countries were introduced who brought greetings from such locations as: United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Germany, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, China, Canada, West Africa, Greece, Korea, Latin America, the Caribbean, Far East Asia, and Europe. The evening session was narrated and led by Barbara Thompson of Zachary, Louisiana, and Susan Phyllis of Hendersonville, North Carolina. The theme for the evening was appropriately called, “faces of grace.” During that evening session the wives of PCA military chaplains, especially those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, were asked to stand to an auditorium filled with a standing ovation for their families’ service to God and our country’s security.
Joni Erickson Tada addressed the conference via video and brought encouraging words to those who have known suffering and the Lord’s faithfulness in sustaining them through difficult times. Nancy Guthrie (above, fourth from left) who had experienced the pain of losing two children was able to meet with many of the mothers present with similar experiences. A fitting climax of the Saturday evening event was remembering Georgia Settle, now with the Lord, who served as the first coordinator of women’s ministry with CEP and the PCA. Her husband Paul, a former coordinator of CEP, was welcomed. He brought a brief message and prayer for the conference.
Brian Habig concluded the conference in the Sunday morning worship with a message from Romans 8 entitled “Home.” The morning message drew together the “consummation perspective,” in a most effective way- the theme and the variations on that theme went throughout the conference. Habig, a former RUF minister, presently serves as pastor of Downtown Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina.
Another of the highlights of the conference was giving the participants an opportunity to see the more than 50 exhibits, featuring a variety of “Christian” ministries in the church, and other church related ministries. They also had an opportunity to see and purchase the many training resources and study materials that were available from CEP. One of the participants remarked, “I have never seen so many good resources relating to women’s ministry in one place.”
CEP Coordinator Charles Dunahoo said before the conference, “We have carefully designed the entire conference around the theme Amazing Grace 360- focusing on God’s grace, not from an ‘easy believism’ concept of grace, but from a biblical historical redemptive focus on Christ and his sufficiency. The conference highlighted, “The whole Gospel, the Whole life, and the Whole World.” As the conference ended, Dunahoo said “God allowed us to experience that purpose in even greater measures than anticipated.”
Jane Patete, CEP’s women’s ministry coordinator said, “Our prayer was for the Triune God to be lifted before the conference in teaching, fellowship, prayer, and singing the songs of the Kingdom, and that we all would be reminded of his redeeming grace and equipped to live and serve as the citizens of His Kingdom.” As the conference closed, she remarked, “God answered our prayer, to Him be the glory.” DVDs of Nancy Guthrie’s sessions, along with audio of the entire conference, are available from the CEP Bookstore.