Jul 26, 2010 | Comments 21
Why has the lawsuit by Erskine Board of Trustee (BOT) members Richard Taylor, Parker Young, and David Chesnut NOT been dropped? Was not the Patrick-Wingate Compromise that was adopted by the 2010 General Synod, a guarantee that the lawsuit would be dropped if the General Synod was willing to back away from some of the demands of the March “Snow Synod”? Did the Editor not hear Bill Patrick and Bill Cain say that Taylor and Young had been contacted and they were willing to stand by the Patrick-Wingate Compromise and they would drop the lawsuit if the Patrick-Wingate Compromise was passed by General Synod? Also, though Chesnut was not contacted at that time, did the Editor not hear Patrick and others assure the General Synod that the particulars of the Patrick-Wingate Compromise were such that Chesnut would also honor the compromise and drop the lawsuit? When asked point blank by one of the delegates if the Patrick-Wingate Compromise was acceptable to the plaintiffs, were we not assured that it was? Were we not assured that all who were involved were honorable men who would keep their word? Has not the General Synod kept faith in all the particulars of the Patrick-Wingate Compromise? Has the Editor missed something? Therefore, the Editor of ARPTalk asks this question: WHY HAS THE LAWSUIT NOT BEEN DROPPED? There has been enough time. It has been a month and a half! Why has the lawsuit not been dropped?
THE REPORT OF THE INVESTIGATIVE COMMISSION WAS RIGHT! Many of the Erskine alums and members of the BOT who are steadfastly opposed to Christian reform at Erskine have been on a campaign to discredit the Commission and its members. The report of the Commission has been called a misrepresentation of the situation at Erskine and on the BOT. The integrity of commissioners has even been fiercely maligned. Some of the alums have referred to commissioners as liars.
Well, the Editor contends that the Commission was right. The rhetoric from the alums is nothing more than their misrepresentation and disinformation. Which of the points of the Commission’s report, if any, are incorrect? Some time has now passed and memory fades. What were the points of the Commission’s report? Do you remember the following?
- The General Synod has been negligent in its oversight of Erskine College and Seminary. We have not taken seriously our responsibility for appointing independent, engaged, and competent trustees who both understand and support the unique missions of the institutions. We have not made tangible efforts to train the trustees on matters essential to the fulfillment of their responsibilities to Erskine and to the ARP Church. We have not taken responsible measures to ensure that these missions are understood and implemented properly by the Board and Administration. The ARP Church has invested millions of the Lord’s dollars and countless man-hours in its educational ministry at the college and seminary. We would be poor stewards of these funds, as well as of the legacy of our fathers and mothers in the faith, if we were to refuse to help Erskine fulfill the missions envisioned in the documents we have produced and adopted as a Synod and in the institution’s own mission statements. Before considering the failures of others, we must begin with contrition ourselves.
- There are irreconcilable and competing visions about the direction of the college and seminary among the members of the Erskine Board of Trustees. There is widespread disagreement in relation to the meaning of Erskine’s responsibility to integrate faith and learning and what impact, if any, this should have in the college and seminary classrooms. One need not take sides to recognize that the Board’s lack of agreement on these matters puts the institution in an untenable situation.
- There are irreconcilable and competing visions about Erskine’s mission as a liberal arts college on the Erskine Board and within the Administration and faculty. While the Commission met no one whose vision for Erskine was a fundamentalist Bible college, divisions came clearly to the surface regarding Erskine’s academic standards and the growing number of professional, rather than liberal arts, degrees. Despite vocal differences among the faculty and Administration, it was not evident that the trustees have given any clear direction in these matters.
- It became evident to us as we listened to all the parties concerned that Erskine College and Seminary stand at a crossroads as the search is conducted for a new president. The General Synod must speak clearly at this critical juncture so that the message of our interest in Erskine’s success is unambiguous. The next president must have the full support of the ARP Church and its Board of Trustees of Erskine College and Seminary. In our candid conversations with trustees, faculty, and members of the search committee, we came to the conclusion that no presidential candidate could garner the whole-hearted support of every Erskine Board member. It would be grievously unfair to the next president and potentially disastrous for these institutions if he does not have this unqualified support.
- Almost without exception, present and past members of the Board of Trustees believe that the size of the Board is a significant obstacle to effective governance. In addition, when the Board meets, its 34 members are joined by a number of advisory members and more than a dozen administrators from the institutions. Even during executive session, the 34-member Board is joined by other parties. The result of this practice is that the Administration, and not the Board, effectively sets policy for the institution. The Board, as a whole, does not evaluate the Administration outside of its presence, making meaningful evaluations nearly impossible.
- In an effort to govern the institutions effectively with such a large number of trustees, the Board is subdivided into several committees. While committees can be an effective means of utilizing the special experience and skills of trustees, the committee structure presently employed by the Erskine Board is a hindrance to proper governance and oversight because, in the nature of the case, the Board relies heavily on its Executive Committee. The result, despite the best of intentions among those serving on the Executive Committee, is that most trustees are left without knowledge about large parts of the institution entrusted to their care. The structures critiqued in points (5) and (6) of this report have the effect of hindering any kind of meaningful discussion and debate by the full Board during their meetings.
- The structure and composition of the Board of Trustees are problematic for the faithful oversight of the seminary. The group of trustees who make up the seminary committee are charged with the responsibility for overseeing the seminary on behalf of the Board and, thus, the ARP Church. Most trustees have no involvement in any oversight of the seminary. Though the seminary prepares and trains future ministers, including men who will serve in the ARP Church, the seminary committee includes members who do not meet the criteria for ordination as ministers or elders in our denomination.
- The ideological divisions on the Board have created significant challenges for the Erskine faculty. The College faculty are rightly troubled that the Board of Trustees and Administration have given them little guidance for the implementation of Erskine’s mission. The lack of clear directives has led to widespread faculty confusion about their responsibilities to the ARP Church in the classroom setting. A significant majority of the professors interviewed had no understanding of how the Christian faith could be meaningfully integrated into their discipline. The Church-appointed trustees have not instructed the Administration to explain to professors what is expected of them. To date, there has been no effective training on the integration of faith and learning. Though several professors have asked repeatedly for further clarification on the implementation of the mission, no such clarity has been offered. Though the Board has, in response to the appointment of this Commission, instructed the Administration to develop a plan for such integration, we do not believe that either the Administration or the Board is capable of achieving such a goal.
- The Board has been negligent in its responsibility to hold the Administration accountable for the faculty it employs. The Board has not instructed the Administration to evaluate the faculty either on the quality of their teaching or on their ability to integrate faith and learning in the classroom. Accordingly, the Administration conducts no such evaluations. Contract renewals are offered by the Administration, and tenure is granted by the Board on the basis of student and faculty member self-evaluation. Thirteen faculty members have been employed since the General Synod added inerrancy to its definition of what constitutes an evangelical profession. It is not evident that many of these new faculty members are committed to inerrancy, and there is little evidence that the Board has made certain that Synod’s directives were followed. Seminary faculty, though largely pleased with the Christian commitment and academic credentials of their colleagues, did express concerns that some seminary professors cannot affirm inerrancy as defined by the General Synod, despite assurances of the Administration to the contrary.
- The so-called “culture of intimidation,” found by Second Presbytery’s Committee on the Minister and His Work several years ago, is still present on the campus. There is an atmosphere in some quarters of Erskine College and Seminary that is inimical to faithful implementation of the mission.
As it stands, the Commission was right in all 10 points. Central to the problems at Erskine College and Seminary is the BOT. The Board is a BROKEN institution. Presently, the actions of Taylor, Young, and Chesnut continue to demonstrate the BROKEN and deleterious nature of the BOT. The Commission was right!
In the Patrick-Wingate Compromise the General Synod has backed away from the removal of the Board and the replacement of the Board with an interim board. We were told at the meeting of the Synod that this was the sticking point. So, with the compromise passed by Synod, why has the Taylor, Young, and Chesnut lawsuit not been dropped? Does the continuance of the lawsuit enhance the Board’s reputation and improve the Board’s ability to govern? What of the word of these honorable men?
Are we now dealing with personal pique? At the civil hearing in Newberry on the restraining order, from the testimony of Taylor and Young, it was not difficult to see that Taylor and Young were personally offended and angry that the Synod had voted to remove them from the BOT. It seemed to the Editor (who was present in the room) that they had a sense of entitlement to be on the Board rather than the heart of a servant. Is personal hauteur the reason that the lawsuit has not been dropped?
A very vocal segment of the alums has been and continues to demand complete separation from the ARP Church. Have they not made it clear that they feel that the ARP Church has no right of ownership or voice in the affairs of Erskine College and Seminary? Have they not also made it very clear that they fear and loath the evangelical Christian faith of the ARP Church at Erskine College and Seminary? Is it because of pressure exerted by this vocal segment of alums on Taylor, Young, and Chesnut that the lawsuit has not been dropped?
The word on the street is that the plaintiffs now want to renegotiate the Patrick-Wingate Compromise that was passed by the 2010 General Synod. It seems the attorneys for Taylor, Young, and Chesnut want (1) the “rabid dog” of the Commission “put down,” (2) the actions of the Commission (and that means the March “Snow Synod”) repudiated (3) the General Synod to renounce all governance of Erskine College and Seminary, and (4) the General Synod to guarantee that no disciplinary actions will be taken by the Presbyteries now and forever against ARP ministers and elders who have raised their hands in civil court in traitorous rebellion against the Scriptures in general and the ARP Church in particular.
Were not those the terms of the deal stuck at the 2010 meeting of General Synod? Did not honorable men agree? Why has the Taylor, Young, and Chesnut lawsuit not been dropped? Why these new and unrealistic demands? Has General Synod or the plaintiff’s broken faith?
Why the pejorative language of a “rabid dog” Commission that needs to be “put down”? Is this the language of “honorable” men? Has not the work of the Commission been done? Even if the investigatory work of the Commission were to be renewed, would that not take an action of General Synod? Besides, at the meeting of the next Synod, if the delegates so chose, they could empower a new Commission. So, why the “rabid dog” reaction to the Commission?
How can the actions of the Commission be repudiated? The Commission only reported. The so-called actions are the actions of a General Synod? Was this issue not debated in the deliberations regarding the Patrick-Wingate Compromise? Why the new demands? Does this not sound a bit like extortion?
Why the demand that Synod renounce claims to governance of Erskine College and Seminary? Was this a part of the Patrick-Wingate Compromise?
Why the demand that Synod guarantees that no disciplinary action be undertaken by Presbyteries against ministers and elders who have participated in lawsuits against the ARP Church? Was that a part of the Patrick-Wingate Compromise? Besides, everyone who is an ARP minister or elder knows that Synod cannot accede to such a demand. Synod has no authority to bind the actions of an ARP Presbytery. The authority structure of the ARP Church is ascending and not descending. Do the plaintiffs and their attorneys not understand that?
Why has the lawsuit not been dropped by now? Yes, the Commission was right!
What, ultimately, is the problem in this hullabaloo involving Erskine? As the PC(USA) has been and continues to be in a struggle of contending religions, could it be that we in the ARP Church are involved in a struggle of contending religions – one Christian and the other a form of Presbyterian paganism?
The following quote, written by an alum and taken off Facebook, illustrates the Editor’s point:
“I agree with Aldon. There were some statements made again over the 4th of July weekend about the Patrick/Wingate compromise taking care of the governance issue. No, it has not been settled or taken care of. The appointment of Trustees has to change as Aldon says above. THERE WAS NO LEGALLY ENFORCEABLE COMPROMISE in place at Synod. As others have said, the plaintiffs were not represented at Synod. We must do the Lord’s work to remove the undue influence of Synod and the abusive influence of the moderator’s commission from Erskine’s Board of Trustees. When false information and misleading information are allowed to rule Synod, it is clear that Synod may no longer rule over Erskine.”
First, the level of ignorance displayed in that statement is astonishing. What lack of legal representation? Is not Bill Patrick legal counsel for Erskine College and Seminary? Next, is not the power play for governance abundantly evident? Finally, note the religious aspect: “We must do the Lord’s work to remove the undue influence of Synod and the abusive influence of the moderator’s commission from Erskine’s Board of Trustees.”
“We must do the Lord’s work!” The question that must be asked is this: WHICH LORD? In our world, there are many lords. In our world, there are many lords who have gone out in Jesus’ name who are not of Jesus. In our world, there are many spirits that lead and only one is from the God of the Bible.
The ARP Church is not an apostate church like the PC(USA). The ARP Church is historically evangelical, Reformed, and orthodox. The ARP Church has never defamed the imperial claims of Jesus as the only Lord and Savior. The ARP Church has a high view of Scripture as inerrant. The desire of the ARP Church for Erskine College and Seminary to represent and reflect the theology of the ARP Church is not something new or unique and should surprise no one.
The sentiment of the alums that “We must do the Lord’s work to remove the undue influence of Synod and the abusive influence of the moderator’s commission from Erskine’s Board of Trustees” is blasphemous. The General Synod sought the direction of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, different lords ARE being served by some! Different spirits ARE being called on for guidance by some! Different gods ARE being petitioned for answers to prayer by some!
Why has the lawsuit not been dropped?
I Kings 18:21 reads in this manner: “How long will you waver between two opinions? If Jehovah is God, follow him; but if [the Baal of Erskine] is God, follow him.” Is this the heart of the problem? As the PC(USA) has been infected and taken over by Presbyterian paganism, are we also dealing with a form of Presbyterian paganism?
These are my thoughts,
Charles W. Wilson
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