Mar 03, 2011 | Comments 16
The Erskine Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting of February 18-19 has come and gone. Not unexpectedly, news as to what took place is slowing seeping out. The following report reflects information that the Editor of ARPTalk has collected from multiple sources.
- The discount rate for this year’s Freshmen Class is 68% on tuition. This is the highest discount rate that has ever been extended to a Freshman Class. The average discount rate on tuition for all classes is 63%. The class of 2010, including transfer students, was reported at about 170. The 2010 class was one of the smallest in years. This means that, with fewer students and a higher discount rate, the revenue from students is significantly less.
- When the Editor was on the BOT (1998-2004), the recruitment goal for the next year’s Freshmen Class was about 100 deposits by the end of January. The goal for the 2011 Freshman Class is about 250 students. At the time of the BOT meeting, 26 students had made deposits for 2011. Who is in charge of recruiting? This is not a good sign for recruitment or cost covering income!
- Revenue from fundraising is down. However, help is on the way from an estate that has recently been settled. Between $500,000 and $700,000 should be available before the end of the financial year. Fortunately, for Erskine these unrestricted funds may be used to lessen an anticipated deficit.
- The draw from the Endowment is 7%. This means that all interest and some principal are being used in an attempt to balance the budget. The Erskine Endowment was about $42,000,000 in 1998 when the Editor become a member of the Erskine BOT. Thirteen years later, the Erskine Endowment is still about $42,000,000. The difference is that $42,000,000 bought more in 1998 than it does in 2011. A static Endowment means that the Endowment is losing ground.
- Some have asked if there is a percentage beyond which the Endowment cannot be drawn down. There is a guideline of 7%; however, that is only a guideline, that is, a suggestion. The percentage may be changed at the discretion of the BOT. Interestingly, in the past, when Erskine Administrators stated to the General Synod that budgets were “balanced,” one did not know whether the money had come from generated income or from Endowment principal. The Moderator’s Commission reported at the March 2010 Synod that the current withdrawal practices cannot be sustained. That warning is still relevant.
- It was reported that there have been no raises in three years. It was also reported that there were positive conversations about raises for this coming year. How can that be? The anticipated income from the estate settlement is not enough to balance the budget. How is it going to provide extra funds for raises? Is there going to be a last minute raid on the Endowment?
- In the face of another deficit, there is reluctance to layoff faculty members and other employees. As the Editor sees it, the only way the present faculty makeup at the College and the Seminary can be maintained is to draw down the Endowment again!
- According to the proposed new bylaws, the membership of the BOT is to be reduced from 36 to 27. At first glance, this seems to be a positive move. However, looking at the proposed bylaw changes and counting the number of advisory people who will meet with the BOT, the multitude that meets will be large. When the Editor was on the BOT, it took the Founders Room to seat the BOT and all the people who met with the BOT and the room was very crowded. It seems that not much has changed. And, please, be aware of who all the other people were. They were the lobbyists. Why can the BOT not meet alone and call in individuals as they are needed.
- The meeting of the Seminary Committee was indeed eventful. It even continued after the BOT adjourned.
- It was reported for the past two or three years that ETS has been running a deficit of about $500,000 a year. In spite of the claims of former Executive Vice President Neely Gaston that the budget was balanced, ETS was not standing on its own. The balancing was being done as a result of a transfer of funds from the College to the Seminary. The picture repeatedly portrayed regarding the financial stability of ETS to the Seminary faculty members and the members of General Synod by both retired President Randy Ruble and former Vice President Neely Gaston was considerably misleading. Currently, ETS is running a $300,000 deficit and the financial year is not over until July. It was also reported that there is a sum of $500,000 outstanding in the accounts receivable. This means that there is a sum of a half-million dollars in uncollected fees and tuition. One must ask: What have the business practices of ETS been in the last three years?
- The matter of what Professor Richard Burnett believes regarding the inerrancy of the Bible does not go away. Dr. Burnett has often and publicly declared that he does not affirm the position of the ARP Church on inerrancy. If the Editor understands correctly what is taking place NOW, Dr. Burnett has changed his mind and is now saying that he affirms inerrancy, but he affirms a definition of inerrancy that redefines inerrancy. That is still a rejection of the position of the ARP Church on inerrancy.
Well, this matter can be cleared up easily. It is widely known that the Editor of ARPTalk has been critical of what Dr. Burnett teaches on inerrancy. The Editor affirms what most would call a historic view of inerrancy. Below is a short and simple statement of what the Editor believes about inerrancy.
The Editor of ARPTalk believes that the Scriptures claim to be without error and inspired by God down to the very words of the Biblical text, and yet it is well known that the manuscripts of the Biblical texts were not transmitted without some scribal mistakes. Thus we speak of the Bible as “inerrant in the original autographs” and with the firm assurance that God has providentially preserved the text substantially intact. Because of this, our copies and translations are altogether reliable and authoritative; although, technically speaking, they contain some scribal mistakes over which students of the Bible puzzle – matters known to all who have studied the Biblical text and matters that do not challenge cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith. The Editor affirms that there was an original text of the Bible that was given by divine inspiration and that reflected the perfect and flawless nature of God Himself. The Editor stands with the ARP Church and affirms that “the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God without error in all that it teaches” and that “the Bible alone, being verbally God-breathed, is the Word of God written, infallible in all it teaches, and inerrant in the original manuscripts.” The Editor also reaffirms his ordination vows that “the Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testaments [is] the Word of the living God, the only perfect rule of faith and practice, to which nothing is to be added and from which nothing is to be taken at any time or upon any pretext.”
-Charles W. Wilson
Although the above statement is a bit wordy, it is straightforward. The doctrine of inerrancy is not a complex mystery. As it was used to respond to liberal theologians who were casting doubts on the reliability of the Biblical text and the veracity of the Bible, the doctrine of inerrancy answers three questions:
- Was there an original text that was “God-breathed” and reflected the flawless and perfect and sinless and error-free nature of God?
- Has that text been transmitted to us in a form that we can trust? and
- Is that text authoritative for what we believe and practice?
What does Dr. Burnett believe? The box below is reserved for Dr. Burnett to state what he NOW believes about inerrancy. Dr. Burnett, will you please be so kind as to inform us as to what you NOW believe? The Editor’s personal e-mail is email@example.com.
Also, Dr. Burnett, will you also tell us what you believe about Natural Revelation? Do you unambiguously affirm the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith on Natural Revelation? If not, where do you differ? And finally, Dr. Burnett, will you tell us what you believe about the teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith that Christ died to save the elect and that only those who turn to Christ in faith are saved from eternal condemnation in hell?
There was a common refrain from the members of the Erskine BOT with which the Editor spoke. They were amazed that there was no sense of urgency at this meeting. Yet Erskine College and Seminary are still in conflict with the General Synod of the ARP Church AND, in spite of the windfall from an estate, the College and Seminary are still swimming in red ink.
Finally, Dr. David Norman is not the author of the mess that now is Erskine College and Seminary. He has inherited years of administrative failure and BOT dysfunction. The task that is before him is heavy. Thankfully, the promise of the Scripture is that, for those who ask for wisdom, the God of the Bible gives liberally and upbraids not. The prayers of the Editor are with Dr. Norman.
These are my thoughts,
Charles W. Wilson
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