Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Italian Connection

By Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr.
GPTS President

From June 20 to July 4 this year, my wife and I had to privilege to return to Italy to minister in Viterbo. Viterbo is a city of about 60,000 located 45 miles north of Rome. For the past five years Pastor Mike Cuneo (GPTS ’05) has been working there in a church work begun by Dr. Mario Forieri.

In June of 2006, my wife and I went to Viterbo, Italy to minister with a Greenville student, Mario Forieri. Mario is a chiropractor who pastored a small, independent congregation. As he became convicted of Presbyterian­­ism, he enrolled at Greenville Seminary as a distant student to prepare for ordination. Through this process, he came to the conviction that he should not administer the sacraments; therefore, the congregation rarely had communion. I went in 2006 to minister and to determine what we could do for oversight.

I returned from that visit to recruit a church planter. Mike is sent out by Calvary Presbytery, and I serve on his oversight Session. He has been in Viterbo for five years. The church has grown with new converts and others coming to the Reformed faith.  They currently have twelve communicant members (Mike has just married Ivana, who will join the church this summer) and seven non-communicant members. They also have another family of five visiting regularly.

Part of the congregation at the conference
This was my fourth trip to work with Mike. Each year I preach a conference at the church (two messages Saturday night and two on Sunday). The first year I preached on the End Times; 2012 the conference was on marriage and divorce; 2013 the conference was on the doctrine of Scripture. This year I preached on the other four solas of the Reformation (Sola Gratia, 1 Cor. 1:30, 32; Sola Fide, Romans 3:21-24; Solo Christo, Revelation 5:9, 10; and Soli Deo Gloria, Romans 11:33-36).

The next Thursday night I taught a class on family and child-rearing from Colossians 3:20, 21. We had a number of non-Christian visitors, among which were three Franciscan monks — all of whom heard the gospel.  It appears that the monks are visiting Protestant churches in order to demonstrate that there are no great differences between Roman Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity.

Pastors Cuneo, Puglia and Pipa serving communion
On the Tuesday to Thursday after the conference on the solas, I conducted our second conference for ministers and church leaders. This year we analyzed a number of modern preachers and discussed how to improve our preaching.

On Sunday, June 29, Pastor Joe Puglia (GPTS ’01), who came over for Mike’s wedding and attended the ministers’ conference, preached a very fine sermon. It was Joe’s first time to preach with translation.

On Monday, June 30, Joe, Mike, my wife and I flew down to Palermo for Mike’s wedding. Mike’s fiancé, Ivana Di Girolama, is from Palermo. We were joined by Joel and Jessica Rinn from Vinzcente, where Joel pastors a Presbyterian church. Three families also came down from Viterbo. The civil service was on Tuesday, and then we all drove out to a guest house where the Christian wedding was held on Wednesday. There were about a hundred people present. I preached on Genesis 2 and Col. 3:18, 19, on the institution and  purpose of marriage and the roles of wives and husbands—again a great opportunity to preach the gospel. My wife and I flew home on Friday, July 4.

The generosity of our donors to the GPTS Missions Fund enables us to go each year to minister in Italy and elsewhere in the world. Thank you very much.