Paranoia ‘Я’ Us

 

Since the information below is posted on Facebook by Mr. Aldon Knight and Mr. Jay West, the Editor of ARPTalk thought he would share that information with the readers of ARPTalk. The readers of ARPTalk need to be aware of these interesting posts. The Editor will also make a few appropriate comments regarding these posts.

From the pen of Mr. Aldon Knight: a soliloquy.

I am appalled. Again.

For anyone who has either given David Norman your support, or is still holding out on doing so, it has come to my attention that representatives from Reformed Theological Seminary [RTS] were on campus recently recruiting for their seminary. Need [sic] trick, David. I would have at least waited more than 3 months – you know, just to not arouse too much suspicion (wink wink).

A little background here. RTS was formed in June 1963 when a handful of fundie-leaning fanatics decided that there was no seminary in the US that was committed enough to the fundamental interpretation of the Bible as God’s inerrant Word. God forbid (literally, in their minds) that humans should interpret the Bible and actually use it in life. Norman, you know, has a degree from RTS.

But wait, I just remembered something – Erskine has a seminary too! In fact, Norman is officially now the president of that seminary.

Now I’ve worked around a lot of higher ed presidents over the past 15 years at a number of very good institutions. I think all of these presidents would agree that their job could be summed up in short like this:

“The president’s job is to cast the vision for the future of the institution. It is to ensure, through support and broad management of the various academic and administrative functions, that the well-being of the institution is maintained and enhanced, and that the financial health of the institution is maintained and grows. It is to attain and maintain healthy enrollment numbers as the primary basis for financing the institution, and to be the institution’s chief advocate to potential external funding sources.”

Something very close to that, give or take some details.

So here’s the question: HOW DOES HAVING RTS ON CAMPUS RECRUITING STUDENTS AWAY FROM OUR OWN SEMINARY CONSTITUTE MAINTAINING AND ENHANCING THE WELL-BEING OF OUR OWN SEMINARY?

Is Norman going to say that this was the doing of Paul Patrick, current Erskine chaplain and staunch supporter of the Moderator’s Commission? If so, David, who’s in charge here? You or him [he]? Do you agree with him? If not, are you going to issue an official reprimand for such insubordinate behavior, and for such an egregious insult to your presidency?

Is Norman going to say he didn’t know the RTS folks were on campus? They were in MOFFATT DINING HALL FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. They were then hosted by Paul Patrick in “The Barn”, Patrick’s scary little lets-hold-hands-and-wait-for-Jesus-together spot. I understand the president himself may have shown up at that too.

Let me say again what I said in my last post. THE STATUS-QUO [sic] STILL STANDS. The cult that currently controls the ARP Synod is a devious bunch of extremists. They ain’t interested in compromise – that’s all a ruse. The handful of zealots that founded RTS has now been reborn in the form of a group of people in the Synod who think the world is headed for Hell, and want Erskine as their next little bastion of fanaticism.

And Norman is their guy.

From the pen of Mr. Jay West: an exchange with Dr. David Norman, President of Erskine College (EC):

Jay West writes:

Below is an official response from David Norman over the recent controversy concerning RTS recruiting under the shadows of Erskine Theological Seminary [ETS]. After I met with David Norman several months ago, I decided to address any issues pertaining to Erskine with him first prior to a discussion on facebook [sic]. Though I do not agree with RTS being able to recruit on campus, I do not think that Norman was promoting this event. He is very clear to state that “he looks forward to a day when denominations are irrelevant.”

My concern was that the the [sic] chaplain offered a seminary an opportunity to recruit at a student activity designed to disciple students. WHAT WOULD BE THE COLLEGE’S POSITION IF THE SEMINARY INVITED ANDERSON COLLEGE, PC, WOFFORD, and NORTH GREENVILLE TO RECRUIT AT THEIR CHURCH FUNCTIONS? Not good!

However, I appreciate David Norman’s openess [sic] and timely response. I feel that this will encourage dialogue and understanding among the alumni concerning his vision.

My email: His responses follow!

[In the exchange below, Dr. Norman answers Mr. West in the body of Mr. West’s e-mail. To help the reader to distinguish between Mr. West’s words and Dr. Norman’s responses, Mr. West’s words are in black and Dr. Norman’s responses are in blue (Editor’s comment).]

David,

Following our last discussion, I made the conscious decision to vet any issues that arise with you before addressing them with the alumni. Therefore, I am asking you to provide me with some clarity concerning several issues that have been brought to my attention as an alumni [sic] of both the college and the seminary.

There is a forest fire brewing among alumni. Tonight, I received several calls from alumni concerning the fact that a recruiter from Reformed Theological Seminary was invited to campus and approved by the Chaplain. Not only so, but the recruiter was invited to the BARN for a weekly gathering and there erected a tent to recruit. As well, you must know that some people are claiming that you were present at the BARN for this event. What does it say to our students in the cafeteria about our sister institution when the chaplain invites another seminary to campus which is in direct competition?

Is this true? What aspects are true or false?

Yes. This is true. When I asked Paul about the recruiter at the Barn, he said that he allows any evangelical seminary to come. ETS has come before, but it is usually not worth the time because most Erskine students are already aware of what ETS has to offer. The RTS recruiter brought ice cream sandwiches for everyone. I ate one while talking to the recruiter about the troubles RTS is having with its radical inquisitors. I explained to him why I thought ETS would be a better choice. We were good natured about it. We are partners, not competitors.

If this is true, I have several concerns:

1. The Chaplain is an ARP minister. Why is he inviting another seminary, other than ETS, to campus to recruit students? Does he not support the seminary he graduated from as a student? If Patrick wants to participate with the RUF and RTS activities, he needs to consider returning to the PCA.

I think the best way to answer your question is to remind you that both ETS and RTS are not-for-profit, mission directed institutions. If our mission was the means to profit (as we are used to thinking about organizations in our country), we would be competitors. Because our profitability takes a back seat to our mission, however, other organizations that share our mission are PARTNERS, not COMPETITORS.

I am not a big fan of fighting over denominational affiliation. We may disagree, but I look forward to the day that denominations are irrelevant. My primary loyalty is to the church universal. That is part of what I like about the ARP. Most ARP congregations confess weekly their belief in “the holy catholic church”. Just in case the meaning of those words is not clear, it is an expression of loyalty that transcends the kind of denominational barriers some alumni seem to be worried about.

2. Has he invited Erskine Theological Seminary to the BARN to recruit?

Yes. I asked Paul the same question when I saw the recruiter at the Barn.

3. Were you in attendance, and what was your position concerning the presence of RTS and not ETS. [sic]

Yes. I was there. I enjoyed the ice cream and had what I would consider a good conversation with the recruiter (see above).

4. It is my understanding from a board member that the Chaplain reports to the VP of Student Services. Did Dr. Agnew approve this? Does he actually report to Dr. Agnew? Does the chaplain have a problem reporting to a woman?

Paul reports to Dr. Christie. As the VP of student services, however, Dr. Agnew has approved RTS being on campus in the past. I am not aware of Paul having a problem reporting to a woman.

I am asking for clarification, in order to squash any undue rumors, and I hope that this is not true. If I do not hear from you before tomorrow (Friday) at lunch, I will assume all is correct.

Jay West

Thanks for your help, Jay. I am glad to know that I have you as an ally. It is wild how these things can get blown out of proportion. I really appreciate your help in calming people down. Please let me know if you have any further questions. I will copy Robin, Paul, Brad and Scott in case they hear any of the same concerns you are hearing.

All for Christ!

David

To say that the above posts by Mr. Knight and Mr. West are bizarre is a kindness. They have taken “bizarre” to a new dimension. Is it the dimension of the “Twilight Zone”? No! Wait! Is it a level of paranoia that has gone to the incalculable?

Please consider the following points.

  • Mr. Knight must not be aware of what has been taking place on the EC campus for years. RTS has had a recruiting presence on the EC campus for years. This is not something new. There were no attempts to hide it. There has been no cover-up. As far as the RTS-Atlanta people are concerned, they followed all protocols. They contacted student services. They were given permission. These are the procedures that were in place last year when Dr. Randy Ruble was President of EC. By the way, if the Editor is not mistaken, the people who are presently in student services were hired under Dr. Ruble’s leadership. What is this “wink wink” stuff? There is no conspiracy here! A mountain has been made out of no hill!
  • The blast at the Erskine Chaplain, Rev. Paul Patrick, is heavy-handed. In an interview with Chaplain Patrick, he informed the Editor that he did not know about the RTS-Atlanta visit until after it was approved. Indeed, Chaplain Patrick was courteous to visitors on the EC campus. That is expected!
  • Mr. Knight’s description of the ministry of “The Barn” as “Patrick’s scary little lets-hold-hands-and-wait-for-Jesus-together spot” is sophomoric at best. This comes from one who has never attended an event at “The Barn.” Well, is this one of those cases where if you find that you cannot compete with your opponent, then you resort to bashing your opponent? How is “The Barn” “scary”? All of this sounds more than a bit paranoid, does it not?
  • What does it matter that Dr. Norman has a degree from RTS-Orlando? He also has two other degrees from two other schools – one in the US and the other in Scotland. The Editor has a DMin for ETS. What does it matter that the Editor of ARPTalk has a degree from ETS? Well, it must mean that the Editor is an Erskine alumnus.
  • The reaction of Mr. Knight and Mr. West to RTS borders on paranoia. Mr. Knight’s depictions of RTS as a “bastion of fanaticism” and “fundie-leaning fanatics” and the leadership of the ARP Church as a “cult” are disturbing.
  • Somehow Mr. Knight has lost sight of the fact that RTS is not an insignificant and little-known Presbyterian seminary in the USA. RTS is the largest Presbyterian seminary in the USA. And RTS is well respected for both theological orthodoxy and academic integrity.
  • Both Mr. Knight and Mr. West have made much of the presence of RTS representatives recruiting on the EC campus. So, what is the big deal? Are the ETS people unable to sell their product to EC students? Do they even try? Consider the following from EC grad Mr. Daniel Stephens, who is now an RTS-Charlotte student rather than an ETS student:

I was on Erskine’s campus for 4 years and took 4 classes at the seminary, yet they never contacted me once about attending ETS. RTS came down and took me out to dinner and met me on one other occasion. It was very clear to me who wanted me and who didn’t. RTS invited me for a tour, gave me a travel mug, let me have a book from their bookstore, and had me talk to professors; Erskine did none of this. RTS gave me information freely; I asked ETS for information and they didn’t give me anything. Instead of blasting RTS for doing a good job, maybe Aldon Knight should direct his energy towards getting ETS to take advantage of these same opportunities.

The above incident is not an isolated incident; rather, it is longstanding. Years ago when the Editor was contemplating attending seminary, he contacted ETS and asked for information. Forty years later, the Editor still has not received a reply.

The RTS people are recruiting at EC because they are being entreated by students. If EC grads did not perceive the RTS product as superior to the ETS product, the RTS people would not be on the EC campus.

  • It is just simply paranoia on the part of Mr. Knight and Mr. West to think that RTS is attempting to take over EC/ETS and the ARP Church. How many times has this been said in the last 40 years? The struggle is about EC/ETS being faithful to Biblical authority. It is about EC/ETS being faithful and representing the evangelical Christian witness of the ARP Church. The ARP Church is not a “cult.” The ARP Church stands in the mainstream of historic, Reformed, and evangelical Christianity. Mr. Knight, Mr. West, and friends reject this faith and are rabid in their hatred of it.
  • Mr. West seems to combine paranoia with arrogance in more or less equal measure. Does the reader find it bizarre how Mr. West attempted to command President Norman as his “boy”? Does Mr. West, a former Erskine VP for development, still have anger issues over the circumstances of his departure from Erskine? He certainly has spoken often of that on his Facebook posts.
  • Mr. West speaks of Rev. Patrick returning to the PCA. That says more of Mr. West than it does of Rev. Patrick. Rev. Patrick is the Vice Moderator-Elect of the General Synod of the ARP Church. Rev. Patrick is a multi-generational ARP who is still an ARP. Yes, for a short time, Rev. Patrick was the Associate Pastor of the Smyrna Presbyterian Church, Smyrna, GA, a congregation of the PCA. Mr. West demitted the ministry of the ARP Church. Mr. West left the ARP Church for the PC(USA). Mr. West has openly stated that he is in disagreement with much of what he once vowed to be sacred.
  • The Editor is at a bit of a loss at the concern of Mr. Knight, Mr. West, and the “concerned” alumni. What do they care about ETS? ETS is supposed to be the seminary of the ARP Church. Mr. Knight, Mr. West, and most of the “concerned” alumni are not ARPs. The only thing they have for the ARP Church is disgust, a fact that many of us consider to be a compliment.
  • The following statements reflect an interview that the Editor had (at the Editor’s request) with EC Chaplain the Rev. Paul Patrick: (1) The Chaplain has never invited any seminary to advertise at “The Barn.” If someone who represents a legitimate Christian ministry asks to give an announcement, the Chaplain will allow a “two minute announcement.” (2) Both ETS and RTS have been given this opportunity. (3) The last RTS-Charlotte representative to give an announcement at “The Barn” is an EC alumnus whose father is an ARP minister, whose wife is also an EC grad, and whose father-in-law is an ARP minister. Well apparently, this is all very ominous to Mr. West!
  • Mr. West writes: “If I do not hear from you before tomorrow (Friday) at lunch. . .”. Who does Mr. West think he is? The Editor is amazed that Dr. Norman was so gentle with him. Does Mr. West suffer from both paranoia and delusions of grandeur?
  • With all that has been said about ETS, one wonders what the impetus for this was. Where did it come from? Did it come from the ETS administration of Executive Vice President H. Neely Gaston? That would seem logical. Does the reader remember that the impetus of much of the civil litigation against the ARP Church was ETS directed and launched?
  • What is going on? Why the fuss? There is an Erskine Board meeting this Thursday and Friday. This is POSTURING. What is at stake at this meeting? (1) The vote for Dr. David Norman as President was nearly unanimous. The Editor has been informed that there was one trustee who did not vote. Now, we will find out if the board is really united behind Dr. Norman. (2) It is the opinion of the Editor that Dr. Norman, as is demonstrated in his writings, speeches, and actions, has done, in the minds of some, a terrible thing: HE HAS DEMONSTRATED THAT HE IS AN EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN WHO TAKES HIS FAITH SERIOUSLY AND WHO HAS A HIGH REGARD FOR THE ARP CHURCH. (3) The paranoid element of the board that represents the anti-church and anti-God segment of the alumni are going to attempt to legally “steal” EC/ETS from the ARP Church. (4) If Dr. Norman does not go along with this anti-Church and anti-God elements of the board, the attacks on him will set a new low for viciousness.
  • Just so that the reader does not think that Mr. Knight and Mr. West are exceptions and not representative of the secular and paranoid alumni, the Editor presents another Facebook post to give the reader a feel for what is being written.

From the pen of a certain Ms. Beth Alexander Rickenbaugh:

Smells a little fishy to me…just as it has smelled since Norman was named president. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, then it must be a duck! RTS is now taking over the ARP denomination and the Seminary will suffer as a result. Remember, this has been years in the making, since 1969…with many [sic] many ARP ministers supporting the action. Pity the fool that denies what is happening!

Does this post need an explanation? Does this too look like paranoia?

  • What is clear? Mr. Knight, Mr. West and the secular alumni hate the evangelical faith of the ARP Church. In other words, they reject the God of the Bible and distort the concept of God to square with their unbelief. They are sold over to unbelief. This struggle is not about intellectual freedom; rather, they desire a functionally atheistic Erskine where Christian faith is tolerated but only as a matter of private opinion that impacts nothing in life. There is no room for the great Lord Christ, the Lord of the Universe and Hope of all the world, and thus there is no room for evangelical Christianity because Biblical Christian faith cannot exist in such a toxic atmosphere. Actually, what is desired is not for EC to be like a “state school,” but for EC to exhibit an environment that forbids discussion of the God of the Bible and the claims he makes on his human creation. The manifestation of this God-hatred is to be seen in the Facebook posts of the secular alumni. This is not about Dr. Norman, Chaplain Patrick, the ministry of “The Barn,” or the ARP Church. This is paranoia that is directed at the God of the Bible. Indeed, their trademark is paranoia ‘Я’ us!

These are my thoughts,

Charles W. Wilson

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