Understanding the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church & It’s Relation to Erskine Seminary

 
By Seth Stark

[Editor’s Comment: The article below, by Mr. Seth Stark, is how an outsider, a Californian and a graduate student who has recently become an ARP, sees the relationship between the ARP Church and Erskine College and Seminary. –CW]


Last week, there were two news items released regarding The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP) and Erskine College and Seminary (hereafter “Erskine”). As a Ruling Elder in the ARP, but also a relative newcomer to the denomination, I know it can be difficult to follow all the names, institutions, and organizations involved in the ARP and our internal workings. If it is difficult for me, a member of the ARP, to keep track of these things, I can only imagine how much more difficult it must be for my brothers and sisters in other denominations. With that in mind, I write today to give a brief history of the main issues involving Erskine and the ARP to date, then give a summary of where we stand today, and finally, offer some possibilities of what may happen in the future.

A Brief History (1770-2010)

The ARP, as it exists today, is the remnant of the old Associate Reformed Church that had its beginnings in the mid-seventeen hundreds. (For more on the history of our beginnings, read up on Ebenezer Erskine and the Marrow Controversy). In the 1820s, our old denomination broke into four synods, three of which were eventually absorbed into other Presbyterian bodies (eventually, these three, through a series of mergers, became part of the modern PC(USA)). The one remaining synod, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Synod of the South, remained out of these mergers, and has, over the last 190 years, slowly grown. We’ve been known by a couple of different names over the years, but today we are known by the name, The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

In 1839, the ARP started a college and then a seminary in Due West, South Carolina. The name Erskine was given to the school, to honor Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine, who had “seceded” from the Church of Scotland several years earlier.

Over the course of the history of the ARP, various parties have influenced the denomination. Beginning in the 1960s, a conservative resurgence began, which called the ARP back to its Reformed roots. In 1979, a statement on Biblical authority and integrity was adopted by the Synod. However, because the word “inerrant” was not explicitly used, those within the ARP who were opposed to the doctrine of inerrancy wrote a dissenting document titled “A Covenant of Integrity.” It was not until 2008 that the Synod adopted a clearer statement on inerrancy. That statement read “that the Bible alone, being God-breathed, is the Word of God written, infallible in all that it teaches, and inerrant in the original manuscripts.”

Partly because the 1979 statement had not been explicit in its use of “inerrancy” (though that was clearly the intent of the statement) and partly because the denomination did not enforce the 1979 statement, those who did not hold to inerrancy were allowed to remain in the denomination, and some of them came on staff at Erskine. When the 2008 statement was adopted, this caused some backlash from professors at Erskine who do not hold to inerrancy, as well as ministers who had been allowed to resist the 1979 statement. One such minister was Dr. Randall Ruble, who also had become President of Erskine. The 1979 dissenters, who had become entrenched at Erskine, had also ignored the Synod’s directives for approximately thirty years. Dr. Charles W. Wilson (who blogs at arptalk.org) documented the long history of Synod directing Erskine to do something. Erskine would then ignore the Synod’s directives. In the following years, someone at Synod would then complain that Erskine had not obeyed the directives of Synod. Synod would then form an investigatory committee, who would look into the allegations of Erskine not following the Synod’s directives. The committee would report back to a subsequent Synod, who would then direct Erskine to follow the directives of Synod. Erskine would ignore the new directives, and the whole cycle would begin again. To see Rev. Wilson’s chronology of the interaction of Erskine and the Synod, see “A CHRONICLE OF THE LONG FAILURE OF GENERAL SYNOD TO OVERSEE ERSKINE COLLEGE AND SEMINARY, (1976 – 2008)” available at ARPTalk.org (April, 2009).

Though I have highlighted the issue of inerrancy, other issues have arisen at Erskine, including open hostility to the Christian worldview, admission of non-Christians to our DMin program, and neo-Barthian professors in our seminary.

Last year, a called meeting of our Synod met in March. This was unprecedented in ARP history. At this meeting, our Synod reorganized the Board of Erskine to bring it more into line with the doctrine and teachings of the ARP. Three members of the Board then sued the denomination (two elders in the ARP being a part of the suit). In June of 2010, at the regular meeting of Synod, a compromise was reached between the church and those who had brought the suit. The compromise was that the suit would be dropped if the ARP revoked the resolutions (we call them “Memorials” in the ARP) it had passed at the Called Synod that had resulted in the reorganization of the Board. Another important development last year was that Dr. Ruble resigned as President of Erskine, and Dr. David Norman was hired to serve as Erskine’s fifteenth President.

ARP and Erskine – The Current Situation

Currently the Board of Erskine is chosen by the Synod of the ARP. Every year, five new members are appointed for a term of six years. In this way, the entire board (not including the four ex-officio members) rotates out every six years. In addition to the reorganization of the Board and the lawsuit last year, the former President of Erskine, Dr. Randy Ruble, resigned and a new President was appointed. Dr. David Norman received the unanimous approval of the Board of Trustees of Erskine, which is quite an accomplishment, since the Board has been split between pro-ARP and anti-ARP sides–a division that was rather pronounced last year. Dr. Norman briefly presented his vision for Erskine at last year’s Synod, and he is also writing a three part series in our denominational magazine, ARP Magazine, beginning with the January issue in which he will expand on his goals as President. I was able to meet Dr. Norman at Synod last year, and I have confidence that he will carry out the directives of the ARP at Erskine, while continuing to uphold the tradition of academic excellence that he inherited.

ARP and Erskine: Looking Forward

It may seem from my presenting of this history that all our problems in the ARP are resolved. Erskine has a new President and the lawsuit has been dropped. Sadly, this is not the end of our fight. I do believe we are moving in the right direction, but we aren’t out of the woods, yet. Both from without and from within, we face challenges. From without, there are still plenty of people who want to see Erskine become completely independent of the ARP. Some of the alumni and even some of the faculty at Erskine fall into this category. From within, the ARP faces the same challenge of lethargy that many other Reformed and Presbyterian denominations have faced in the past and still face today. Constant vigilance is the required duty of the Church, and if we in the ARP wish to see our denomination and our college and seminary further reformed, we must remain vigilant. Thankfully, God has blessed us with men such as Charles Wilson and Dr. John De Witt (along with many others) who had the courage to sound the alarm and wake enough of us up from our slumber to do something before it was too late. However, even at last year’s Synod I already saw signs of the old, laissez-faire way of doing business in the ARP coming back.

I anticipate that Erskine will still be a hot topic at this year’s Synod. Important things to watch for include who exactly gets put on Erskine’s Board. I am confident that the only way for Erskine to fulfill its purpose of being “the ARP in higher education” is to continually, year after year, ensure that godly, reformed men are placed on its Board. Another issue will most likely involve those who are elders in the church who brought the lawsuit against the ARP. Obviously, this cannot be tolerated and yet these men have been allowed to continue in their offices without consequence, and Scripture has been twisted to attempt to justify these actions by one of our very own seminary professors. So, as I have said, we certainly have our work cut out for us. I would ask those of you reading this who are not in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church to remember us in your prayers. And I would remind those of you reading this who are in the ARP to “Be strong and of good courage.” The road ahead is long and arduous, but, by God’s grace, our victory is assured in Christ our Lord.

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  1. Mary L. Grier Holmes says:

    As a Californian and a newcomer to the ARP Church, it seems this article would be more appropriately titled “Misunderstanding the History of the ARP Church and Erskine College and Seminary.” Mr. Stark first misidentifies the origins of the ARP church in the South and its founders. Then he skips the first one hundred and thirty years of Erskine College and Seminary. Being faithful to the history and traditions of the ARP church and to the founders of Erskine College and Seminary involves rejecting this kind of revisionist history and thought.

     
    • Anthony says:

      As a New Yorker and former Catholic, I’ll just say with a “broad stroke of the virtual pen” that if indeed Erskine College and Seminary were “faithful to the history and traditions of the ARP Church and to the founders of Erskine College and Seminary,” websites like “ARPTalk”, “Erskine for Everyone” and the multitude of chatter on social networks would not have been spawned, and Denomination-rocking debates would never had taken place, not to mention the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars of the Lord’s money that would have been redeemed from the courts of man because of those who hold “revisionist history and thought” with what EC&TS are all about.

      That’s about a buck-fifty of my $.02

      Just sayin…

      On a totally unrelated note, the “Erskine for Everyone” site home page looks like two poor souls writhing in hell, looking for some passerby to dip their finger in cool water and reach down that central portal to soothe their tongue. What’s up with that?

      Just sayin’ …

      -Anthony

       
      • Mary L. Grier Holmes says:

        Mr. Navarro:
        How does “faithfulness to the traditions of Erskine” have anything to do with the development of social media? How did we manage in the 60’s and 70’s? Have you studied the controversies of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s? I’m quite surprised to hear someone say that history and controversy is limited to his own lifetime. The “Lord’s money” is being donated everyday to Erskine by alumni, families, friends, students, teachers and collegues who have supported Erskine for the last 170 years. We want to see Erskine live true to its traditions.

         
        • Mary Lou Holmes says:

          Dear Scott:
          If you don’t know the history of the ARP church or Erskine how can you claim that Erskine has “run amock” for so long? I suggest that the ARP ministers who ran the school and can’t speak for themselves would vehemently disagree. I’m suggesting to you that the ARP ministers who ran the school did not require a religious purity test for professors and teachers. Not ministers.
          It is faithfulness to the Westminster Confession that we have been advocating. It is you who are elevating the words of deWitt and others above the scripture. The “doctrines of man” in this instance are the doctrines of inerrancy misinterpreted by certain human beings to mean that their OWN human interpretation of scripture is the one and ONLY one and the one from God. It is not God’s authority you are advocating — it is your own. No one is equivalent to God. Not even the Moderator of Synod. When the Holy Scripture conflicts or has more than one logical interpretation, as it does in the case of when to seek relief from civil courts, we must seek to resolve conflict by looking to scripture itself (as the Westminster Confession directs), not heresy trials.
          As for the souls writhing in hell? Calvinists believe in the perseverance of the saints. Are you not a Calvinist?

           
  2. Mary L. Grier Holmes says:

    Appropriate scholarship requires an examination of the works of Dr. Lowry Ware, Dr. James Gettys, Dr. J. M. Lesesne, Jr. and the Revs. Grier. The original letters of the Presidents of Erskine and the early ministers of the ARP church are available in the McCain Library. Perhaps Mr. Stark should take some time to read them. Dr. Ware, Dr. Gettys and Dr. Lesesne have written often and extensively on the history of the ARP Church and of Erskine College and Seminary. The article above contains no citations, no quotations and too many inaccuracies to count. Where is Mr. Stark’s explanation for the General Synod’s statement of the 1840’s that “sectarianism” is deplored as “devilishness?”
    Mr. Stark, there is no question that men who are emboldened by their own arrogance to use the Lord our God as a weapon against other Christians in heresy trials are not fit to sit on the Erskine Board. Those whom Mr. Stark calls “Godly men” who have no respect for academic degrees have no business handing them out.

     
    • Scott Robar says:

      Dear Ms. Holmes, what controversy was the Synod dealing with in the 1840’s when it deplored “sectarianism” as “devilishness”?

      What do you mean by “sectarianism” in our current Erskine/ARP situation?

      You seem very familiar with the long history of the ARP; so when you look at the original controversy which led the Erskine brothers away from the Church of Scotland, do you think that they should have remained in it, rather than start a new sect -now called the ARP?

      Scott

       
      • Mary L. Grier Holmes says:

        Dear Scott:
        “Sectarianism” in our current situation is the same as it was in the 1840’s. Ask someone who has studied this. Someone such as Dr. J. M. Lesesne, a son of Due West. ARPs in the 1840s allowed Episcopalians, like my great great grandfather, Joseph Lee, from Charleston, to teach at Erskine. The wise men of the General Synod knew that to limit the pool of professors and to limit the pool of students would spell doom for our Erskine. The Synod historically (for 140 years plus) allowed the Trustees to make decisions for Erskine. There has never been a religious purity test until recent years and there should not be one now. To do so back then would have been considered “devilishness.” At the time the Synod rejected it, the United States did too. A representative from South Carolina, named Pickney, advocated the idea that religious purity tests were for theocratic states, not for democracies.
        As for the origin of the ARP church in the South, it began around 1803 in the U.S. My ancestor, Rev. Isaac Grier, was one of the first ARP ministers in the south.
        When a minister rejects the “doctrines of man” as we are doing here, he is favoring the Kingdom of God. He is favoring the Bible. He is favoring the Christian conscience. Much the same as our ancestors refused to sign a statement of allegiance to the King, we are refusing to sign a statement of allegiance to the doctrines of man as defined in the Westminster Confession.

         
        • Scott Robar says:

          Dear Ms. Holmes,

          Sorry I didn’t respond earlier; I have been sick.

          Your family history with Erskine is something that you’re obviously, and rightly, proud of. I have no such history with that institution. My take on this whole thing is simple, perhaps even simplistic. Erskine college is an agency of the ARP, therefore it should do what it does with a view to that relationship – it should stand for the things that the ARP Synod stands for – especially with respect to biblical doctrine. Ministers in the ARP believe that the best systematic expression of biblical doctrine is found in the Westminister Confession of Faith. There are few places in the WCF where one could say that there is a doctrine of man – if you have a copy with prooftexts you’ll see that.

          Religious purity tests are something that all ministers in the ARP go through. We have presbytery exams, where our views are scrutinized. One of the great features of the United States is that we have denominations. The ARP denomination has various beliefs which it holds dear; if anyone doesn’t like those beliefs, they are free to go to another denomination – but they are not free to expect the denomination to hold no views sacred.

          Just because Erskine has been allowed to run amuck and counter to the ARP for so long, doesn’t mean that it should continue to do so.
          It seems to me that many who love Erskine, wish that the ARP Synod had nothing to do with it.

          Scott

           
          • Mary L. Grier Holmes says:

            Dear Scott:
            It is difficult to believe that someone who claims to have no history with Erskine, no history with the ARP Church and no understanding of the historical relationship of Erskine and the Synod would try to “simplify” the relationship for the rest of us. You are incorrect. Erskine has not “run amuck.” For someone to say so reflects a total misapprehension of what is going on now and what has gone before for the past 170 years.
            Erskine is not an “agency” of the ARP church as you seem to understand the term “agency.” That is why you should look at the history of Erskine. You can’t simplify things for the reader if you don’t understand them in the first place. What has been explained here and elsewhere is not someone’s isolated irrelevant family history, but the history of the ARP Church and its relationship to Erskine. ARP ministers ran the college and the seminary. ARP ministers like R.C. Grier, William Moffatt Grier, R. C. Grier II and so on and so on. You can say they did not agree with your views, but you can’t say they were not ARPs. It is not for me to say who should inherit the legacy of my ancestors. But you can’t say they were not faithful Christians and you can’t say they ran “amock.” There is nothing to back you up. If you have no respect for scholarship and academia then why would you want to run a college?
            As for the tests MINISTERS take — that is entirely different from the tests required for members of the church, for students at Erskine and for teachers at an institution of higher learning. It is a college and seminary, not a position as pastor in your church.
            Erskine isn’t running “counter to the ARP.” The viewpoint expressed here by Scott spells death for an institution of higher learning. Try visiting some other campuses. Try reading about the history of Erskine. It is high time your own personal experiece and anectodal evidence took a back seat to expertise in the field, research and scholarship.

             
  3. Dear Ms. Holms,

    Thank you for you comments.

    Since you raise certain specific points with Mr. Stark, I will leave it to Mr. Stark to respond to you on those points if he chooses. FYI, as I understand it, Mr. Stark originally wrote his article for a friend’s blog in order to give a broad picture as to the goings on in the ARP Church. In my opinion, his article is well struck as an opinion piece.

    Indeed, as you point out, Mr. Stark has written with a broad stroke of the pen. You seem to be most passionate in the matter regarding particulars. If you would be so kind as to pen an article from your perspective and knowledge of the details and submit it to me, I would be most happy to include it in the next mailing and posting of ARPTalk or a subsequent mailing and posting. As in the case with Mr. Stark’s article, you may rest assured that your article would be sent and posted as written – WITHOUT EDITING.

    Regards,

    Chuck Wilson
    Editor, ARPTalk

     
  4. Mary Lou Holmes says:

    Dear Reverend Wilson:
    As for the history of the ARP Church, Ebenezer Erskine is not the founder. When the grandfathers and founders of the ARP Church in the South came to the colonies, it was more than a century earlier. Rejecting the Church of Scotland meant rejecting the King.
    If a person tries to separate the history of the Christian church from the history of the world, he is doing a disservice to himself and to God.
    We have far too many newcomers from other faiths dictating ARP doctrine and interpreting what it means to be an ARP. Scott, that is what is meant by “doctrines of man.” I don’t need prooftext to read a document written in 1643. Christian love and tolerance are ARP traditions.

     
  5. Dear Ms. Holmes,

    Who are you?

    In which ARP congregation were you raised? In which ARP congregation are you now a member? You put great store in whether one is an “insider” or an “outsider”? Which are you?

    I know a few people in the ARP Church. I did not know Dr. R. C. Grier II, former Erskine President; however, I did know Bob Grier, his son. A friend who was in seminary with me married one of his daughters. No one seems to know who you are. Who are you?

    Regards,

    Chuck Wilson
    Editor, ARPTalk

     
  6. Dear Ms. Holmes,

    I’m doing my best to follow you, but you have lost me. I have NEVER written that Ebenezer Erskine is the founder of the ARP Church. I think the word that you wanted to us in your post is “later” and not “earlier.” The Associates and Covenanters (Reformed) migrated to America AFTER the events that marked the rise of the Associate churches in Scotland (and then Ireland) and the Reformed Church in Scotland.

    I have NEVER attempted “to separate the history of the christian church from the history of the world.”

    You write: “We have far too many newcomers from other faiths dictating ARP doctrine and interpreting what it means to be an ARP.” Can you explain how this statement is not xenophobic?

    The phrase “doctrines of man” has a specific historical and theological context. The phrase means a teaching that doesn’t have Biblical foundation. For example, with no disrespect to those who are Roman Catholic, I think most Protestants will say that the Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory is a doctrine of men. That is, most Protestants simply do not believe that there is Biblical warrant for the concept of Purgatory.

    Thank you for your comments.

    Regards,

    Chuck Wilson
    Editor, ARPTalk

     
  7. Daniel Stephens says:

    Ms. Holmes,
    I think the reason why it seems there are so many newcomers dictating what the ARP should be is because the ARP has largely moved away from its traditional identity and they are seeking to fill that vacuum. The ARP in the last 50 or so years has been struggling to identify itself as distinct from the PCUS, PCUSA, PCA, OPC, etc. Before that time the ARP was seen as distinct because of their covenanter heritage, which meant:
    1. Scottish
    2. exclusive psalmity
    3. strict sabbitarianism

    Over 200 years in America has naturally eroded much of the Scottish identity. It has still remained in the ARP, but the typical churchgoer is not well versed clan history or in the national covenant and the solemn league and covenant.

    The ARP church has (generally) relaxed on the sabbath, so that now it is common for ministerial candidates to take exception the the confession on that point; the typical churchgoer does not regard the sabbath in the same way as the typical churchgoer from before the 20th century.

    The ARP has also relaxed on exclusive psalmity, allowing for hymns.

    With these traditional defining marks of the ARP church gone, the past 50 or so years has seen different people with different visions try to fill that vacuum, to say why the ARP church exists. We’ve seen this identity struggle play out in many areas of the ARP church, including Erskine College and Seminary.

    Here are two things I would like to leave you with:
    1. How fair is it to judge somebody for not being born and raised as an ARP? Many of the best the ARP currently has to offer in preaching and in historians were not born and raised ARP. I think Mr. Stark is to be commended for seeking to know the history behind the denomination he finds himself in. If his account is lacking, and if yours is more accurate, than you should seek to instruct him, not berate him.
    2. From my reading of the Erskine brothers and the history of the formation of the ARP, these ‘newcomers’ are often much closer to the thought of the historic ARP church than those who constantly make reference to their ARP lineage.

     
  8. Scott Robar says:

    Dear Ms. Holmes,

    You appear to have sent one of your notes on Sunday
    “February 6, 2011 at 11:52 am.” At 11:52 am on Sunday mornings, most able-bodied ARPs are in church. I hope this finds you well.

    You earlier spoke of “our Erskine” in a sense which in keeping with family sentiment rather than common sense. Sentiment says, “I went to Erskine, I had family members who were presidents, etc. therefore it is my Erskine, and it needs to remain the way that I like.” Common sense says, see what the ARP Synod says and what the college says about their relatioship one to another.

    The ARP Synod, on its website under “ministries” says, “The General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church has established a number of agencies “to enable it to carry on the mission of God in Christ’s Church by word and deed in the General Synod, the congregation, the presbytery, and the whole world.” [Manual of Authorities and Duties, p1]”

    After naming a few other agencies it says, “Erskine College and Erskine Theological Seminary are our institutions of higher learning in Due West, South Carolina.”

    So the ARP Synod calls Erskine Seminary and College “agencies” (a designation you disapprove of) and “ours.” But you say “ours” meaning you and those who oppose the current ARP Synod, which happens to be much more conservative than it was in the past – and that’s the real problem isn’t it?

    The Erskine College website says, ” Erskine College was founded by the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1839.”

    We all know that the ARP Synod appoints the board members for the college, and each year the college must present a report of its activities to the ARP Synod.

    The ARP Synod has changed in a conservative direction (micro-evolution!), but its relationship to the college has not changed. There is now an ARP president, and (correct me if I’m wrong) two administrators recently left for another college…I’m guessing because they are uncomfortable with the, now more conservative, ARP.

    That’s all “doctrines of men” right? But you see in the Bible a way to make all of this right – make legal charges and drag the Synod into civil court. You said, “When the Holy Scripture conflicts or has more than one logical interpretation, as it does in the case of when to seek relief from civil courts, we must seek to resolve conflict by looking to scripture itself (as the Westminster Confession directs), not heresy trials.”

    Yikes! You don’t want the ARP Synod to have “heresy trials,” but you do want civil trials against the ARP Synod. You’ve already had trouble with the word “our” and “agency” now you’re showing yourself to have trouble with the word “court.” The ARP Synod is a Church court. Its Presbyteries and sessions are its lower courts. These courts try matters regarding biblical doctrine. But you would rather that the ARP Synod give up its right to act as a court, judging doctrinal error.

    You don’t want the ARP Synod to act as a Church court, and you don’t want the ARP Synod to have control of its agency, viz., Erskine College. Is there anything else that you would like the Synod to give up or do for you?

     
  9. Mary L. Grier Holmes says:

    Scott:
    Your statement above contains so many misrepresentations, it is hard to decipher. Let’s start with just one part.

    “Yikes! You don’t want the ARP Synod to have “heresy trials,” but you do want civil trials against the ARP Synod.”

    Quite wrong. Completely wrong. The Presbyteries have trials, not the Synod. The ARP Church is not set up to function as the civil and criminal courts of law are set up to function. It is not set up for the Moderator to act as the ultimate authority or dictator of the ARP Church. That would be an authoritarian system that the Erskine brothers and the founders would deplore. The courts of law in the state of South Carolina and the federal courts are set up to have jurisdiction over plaintiffs and defendants who have a civil disagreement. To do as you are suggesting would result in a theonomy. A Christian Reconstructionist ideal. That is the sort of arrangement that exists in Iran. Clerics are in charge of all LAW. There in Iran all law is interpreted by the religious leaders. We don’t have that arrangement here. You may have a disagreement with what the Bible says about that. I say render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s. But you can’t say there is only one interpretation of it and everyone who disagrees with you is a blasphemer and a heretic. The Synod of the ARP Church does not have jurisdiction over this kind of dispute. The civil courts do. If the judge lacked jurisdiction, he would have thrown the case out. Looking only to the “law” as it is written and rewritten by Synod when the membership and leadership of the Synod changes every year — that would spell disaster for Erskine and everyone connected to it.
    “You’ve already had trouble with the word “our” and “agency” now you’re showing yourself to have trouble with the word “court.'”
    The word “our” is frequently used by both sides. Seth Stark used it to refer to the ARP Church in his article above. Some on this side say they “own” Erskine. “Agency” does not mean ownership. When I’ve used the term “our”, I’ve not used it legally. I am not using it in the sense of some kind of property ownership. You continue to misinterpret my words because all you can think about is materialism, property rights and earthly things.
    “The ARP Synod is a Church court. Its Presbyteries and sessions are its lower courts. These courts try matters regarding biblical doctrine. But you would rather that the ARP Synod give up its right to act as a court, judging doctrinal error. ”
    This is not a matter of two choices. It isn’t an “either or” situation. Like I’ve said before the same person or group of persons who violates the rules of law (by replacing 14 Board members) is not entitled to “try” other Christians as “heretics”. Especially where, as here, the Biblical authority has more than one logical interpretation. Calling everyone who disagrees with you a heretical Barthian isn’t getting you anywhere. Have you never heard of the Middle Ages?
    Rev. Tim Phillips recently posted an article on his blog that points out the difference between using the church as a ministerial authority and the “ultimate” authority. I invite you to see what he posted.

     
  10. Mary L. Grier Holmes says:

    Dear Daniel Stephens: Thanks for sending your perspective. Except for the last two comments, which I will explain:

    “1. How fair is it to judge somebody for not being born and raised as an ARP?”

    Who is doing the judging? The idea of putting someone on trial for heresy does not cause a blink of an eye. The idea of firing some twenty odd people at Erskine doesn’t cause anyone to shift in their seat. The idea of persecuting other Christians doesn’t give you a moment’s pause. But you would accuse longtime Erskine supporters and traditional ARPs of judging?

    “2. From my reading of the Erskine brothers and the history of the ARP church . . .” these newcomers are often much closer “in thought” than those who constantly make “reference to their ARP lineage.”

    Suddenly, now it is not so important for us all to share the same background then is it? It is not so much a resurgence of ARP values. It is brand new values. New doctrines of man that were written in 2008. A brand new standard that was never in force at Erskine, never in the mind of the Erskine brothers and never imagined by the founders of the ARP church.

     
  11. Dear Ms. Holmes,

    For the record: (1) Indeed, there is a difference between the civil court system (South Carolina and Federal) and the CHURCH COURT system of the ARP Church. (2) The ecclesiastical system of the ARP Church is formed around a “court” system – Session, Presbytery, and General Synod. The highest court of the ARP Church is the General Synod. Yes, the Synod may function as a “court” and adjudicate a church trial. I was present and participated when the General Synod last did that. (3) Our church courts are actually obliged to deal with issues such as heresy.

    For the record: The ARP Church holds/owns Erskine as an “agency” in the SAME manner as the ARP Church holds/owns Outreach North American, World Witness, Bonclarken, Dunlap, etc as agencies. I am not aware of a distinction.

    Once again, may I ask, who are you? I know who Mr. Robar and Mr. Stark are. Whether you have a high or low opinion of Mr. Robar, he is a “minister in good standing” in First Presbytery. As such, whether new or late to the ARP Church and no matter his family name, he has equal standing with all ARP ministers. Similar comments may also be said of Mr. Stark. So, who are you? Are you an ARP or not?

    I’m sure that Mr. Robar is able to respond to the other points that you have made.

    Once again, thank you for your comments.

    Regards,

    Chuck Wilson
    Editor, ARP Talk

     
  12. Dear Ms. Holmes,

    For the record: there is no heresy trial underway in the ARP Church at this time. The issues that are being dealt with at this time in First Presbytery do NOT involve charges of heresy.

    For the record: the documents that were overwhelmingly adopted by the General Synod in 2008 on Scripture reflect the theological consensus of conservative, evangelical, and Reformed Christianity for the last 150 years. Also, I doubt you have read enough of the Erskine brothers to know their “mind.” Sorry! – my opinion!

    Ms. Holmes, who are you? Tell us plainly. Are you ashamed of whom you are?

    Once again, thank you for your interesting comments.

    Regards,

    Chuck Wilson
    Editor, ARPTalk

     
  13. Mary L. Grier Holmes says:

    “By what authority do you speak?” I’m surprised to hear anyone who is a minister in the ARP Church question my equal standing to speak. Reminds me of the Gospel of Matthew.

    Although your writing seems to say that it is, the ARP Church is not an exclusive men’s club. It doesn’t matter for puposes of running Erskine College or writing about the history of the ARP Church whether one is a minister “in good standing” or not. When I see what is written by others on this site, it seems the writers write about their superiority rather than what is an accurate history of the ARP Church.

    Here is something you said, Rev. Wilson, that we agree on:
    “The phrase “doctrines of man” has a specific historical and theological context. The phrase means a teaching that doesn’t have Biblical foundation.”

    The 2008 “doctrine” of the Synod to the extent that it includes the term “inerrancy,” as it is misinterpreted by some, is a NEW doctrine of man. It has no basis in the Bible, the Westminster Confession or the ARP Church of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
    Erskine could not have “gone astray” by not following something that is NEW sectarian devilishness. New ideas like hate and heresy trials on the basis of this new non-Biblical doctrine are rejected. These are not traditions of the ARP church and they are not traditions of Erskine. These are not even Christian ideas. These are the things Christ warned us against.
    When one obtains a degree from Erskine, one learns to think critically, question authority and to respect the ideas of people with advanced degrees.
    If the ministers commenting on this site don’t respect scholarship and advanced degrees, but rather “membership in good standing”, why run an institution of higher learning where merit is considered important?

     
  14. Dear Ms. Holmes,

    Once again, thank you for your comments.

    Once again, who are you? Can you not tell us who you are? You speak of credentials of scholarship and degrees earned? What are yours? Gives us your history!

    For the record: I have not written of the ARP Church as a “men’s club.” My wife is an ARP. I have a daughter who was baptized an ARP and who is married to an ARP minister. I have four grandchildren who are baptized ARPs.

    For the record: I have four earned degrees, and three of those are “advanced degrees.” However, I will not argue that those degrees make me particularly smart or wise. Those degrees only mean that I have attended a number of educational institutions for a long time and spend a lot of money and time.

    For the record: BOTH the statement of the ARP Church on Scripture that was adopted in 2008 and the WCF were written “by men.” Neither document is Scripture. Both documents attempt to bow before the authority of the Bible. I suppose, using your words, it is possible to say that both documents are “doctrines of men” because they are not the Bible.

    For the record: I have not questioned your “equal standing” to speak. I have asked: “Who are you?”

    For the record: not all the posts are from ministers. Mr. Robar and I are ministers. The person who has been given the lion’s share in these posts is Mary L. Grier Holmes.

    Finally, I’m sorry but I have no idea what your reference to “the Gospel of Matthew” means. The Gospel of Matthew has 28 chapters and thousands of words.

    Regards,

    Chuck Wilson
    Editor, ARPTalk

     
  15. Mary Lou Holmes says:

    Rev. Wilson:
    I like what you have to say. For the most part. I understand why you have fans. The fact that you call people in the night to threaten their futures, their families and their careers doesn’t scare me.
    Check out the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, Mark and John for the phrase “by what authority do you speak?”
    The 2008 (untested by time) doctrine of man, “inerrancy” as it is misinterpreted to mean ONE AND ONLY ONE interpretation of scripture, is contrary to the Westminster Confession, contrary to the Erskine brothers. How do I know the minds of the Erskine brothers? The same way I know they were not vegans. It did not exist in their time. They would have rejected it the way they rejected the King as the head of the Church. One absolute authority is counter to the Presbyterian roots of our faith. We are decentralized.

     
  16. Tim Phillips says:

    “Rev. Tim Phillips recently posted an article on his blog that points out the difference between using the church as a ministerial authority and the “ultimate” authority. I invite you to see what he posted.”

    Ms. Holmes, I thank you for the kind mention of my blog in your response. At first I was puzzled as to the particular post in question, as I did not remember writing such a statement. Then I discovered (at least I believe I have discovered — please correct me if I am wrong) that you were referencing a quote by Michael Horton (a quote within a quote as it were) that I included in the post (here if anyone wishes to read: http://gairneybridge.wordpress.com/2011/02/05/cant-we-all-just-get-along/).

    Here is Dr. Horton’s quote, which appears on p. 194 of his new Systematic Theology book, The Christian Faith:

    “Ultimate authority always resides outside the self and even outside the church, as both are always hearers of the Word and receivers of its judgment and justification. The church is commissioned to deliver this Word (a ministerial office), not to possess or rule it (a magisterial office). Thus, the authority is always transcendent. Even when it comes near us, it is never our own word that we hear (Ro. 10:6-13, 17).”

    Kevin DeYoung is the one quoting Horton, and he is doing so to show that Roman Catholicism, liberal Protestant Christianity, and conservative Protestant Christianity cannot really “get along” because they all disagree on a very fundamental level. That is, their view of Scripture divides. Horton’s point is that the ultimate source resides outside of the self (that would be liberal Protestantism) and the church (that would be Roman Catholicism), but must come from God as given to us through His word. In doing so, he is making a certain assumption about the authority of the word of God and how they relates to the duties of the Christian minister and the marks of the Christian church.

    Incidentally, Dr. Horton and Rev. DeYoung both believe in the doctrine of inerrancy and the necessity of church discipline. So the blog article you referenced has someone who believes in inerrancy and church discipline, quoting someone who believes in inerrancy and church discipline, quoting someone who believes in inerrancy and church discipline. There is something deliciously ironic about that, at least imho. But again I thank you for the mention.

     
  17. Dear Ms. Holmes,

    Once again, thank you for your comments. This posting is most interesting!

    For the record: I’m not trying to “scare” you.

    For the record: you don’t know anything about me but hearsay. Believe what you want!

    For the record: your knowledge of theology, the history of the Church in general, and the history of the ARP Church in particular is less than elementary.

    At least 4 or 5 times now, I have asked you to tell the readers of ARPTalk who you are. The readers of ARPTalk do not know who you are or by what authority you write. Once again, who are you? If you can’t answer that question, don’t bother to respond. Your comments will not be posted by the site administrator.

    Regards,

    Chuck Wilson
    Editor, ARPTalk

     
  18. Reformed Rebel says:

    Ms. Holmes, I hope that you will bear with the comments of a man who may be described as “young and full of zeal”. You have said the following above:

    The 2008 “doctrine” of the Synod to the extent that it includes the term “inerrancy,” as it is misinterpreted by some, is a NEW doctrine of man. It has no basis in the Bible, the Westminster Confession or the ARP Church of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
    Erskine could not have “gone astray” by not following something that is NEW sectarian devilishness. New ideas like hate and heresy trials on the basis of this new non-Biblical doctrine are rejected. These are not traditions of the ARP church and they are not traditions of Erskine. These are not even Christian ideas. These are the things Christ warned us against.

    I must disagree; in fact, the doctrine of inerrancy has ample basis in the Bible and the Westminster Confession. This can be seen in WCF 1.4 as well as WCF 31.4. The Assembly repeatedly insists that Scripture itself is the ultimate authority in the church. Synods and councils are to make decrees and and determinations that are “consonant to the Word of God,” and these decrees are to be received with reverence and submission, providing that they are in “agreement with the Word” (WCF 31.3). Therefore, church councils are never to be made the rule of faith or practice — they are simply a help, insofar as the conform to Scripture.

    Why, Ms. Holmes, if councils and synods can err, as WCF 31 clearly teaches, are the Scriptures set up as the standard to which councils and synods must conform, if the Westminster divines believed that the Scriptures could and did err?

    The teaching of inerrancy can find support in this contrast between the potentially errant church and the Bible, which originates from God. Inerrancy is presupposed by the Westminster Assembly, and can be logically inferred from the divine origin of Scripture, and their use of Scripture as the inerrant standard of conformity for potentially errant councils and synods.

    And furthermore, ma’am, if heresy trials are a “new sectarian idea” in the ARP, that is merely a commentary on the sad state of the denomination…

     
  19. Dear Rreaders of ARPTalk,

    Ms. Holmes was ban from commenting on ARPTalk. However, since this comment is directed to her, we will post her comments, if she desires to respond. We want to be fair.

    Regards,

    Chuck Wilson
    ARPTalk, Editor