An Open Letter to the 2011 General Synod of the ARP Church


Editor’s Note: It is the practice of the Editor to use the third person when he writes. However, since the article below is in the form of a “letter,” the Editor will use the first person.

I think that the tragic character Gollum in J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings is specifically analogous to the relationship between the ARP Church and Erskine College and Seminary. Gollum was bewitched by and addicted to the evil ring of power to the point of slavery and destruction. The ring that he called “My Precious! My Precious!” was so corrupting and deadly that his humanity was transmogrified into a hideous creature that was a caricature of grotesque beastliness. The ring’s seductive power was so great that he was not able to deal with it in the only way that was sane and safe – by burning it in the fires of Mount Doom.

Like Gollum and the ring, the ARP Church for the past 50 years has been both spiritually seduced and gelded by the power of a deadly ring. Our ring is not so much Erskine College and Seminary as it is the addictive notion that the Lord Jesus Christ has called the little ARP Church to the business of a college and seminary that are LIKE the colleges and seminaries of the world and the other denominations (especially those who have forgotten God). Our dream of an evangelical and confessionally Reformed college and seminary that are second to none has gripped us in blind and stubborn devotion to the point that we have thrown ourselves and our resources into a fruitless and, I sincerely believe, sinful endeavor.

We have somehow read the Great Commission and have come up with the idea that Jesus instructed us to build a college and a seminary. We have gone so far as to identify the mission of the ARP Church with the advancement and continuance of the man-made institution of Erskine College and Seminary. We have justified our disobedience and adoration of that which we have built as our obedience in advancing the Church. We have failed to listen when Jesus said that He died for His Church, and we have somehow re-interpreted His words as “DIED FOR HIS SCHOOL” and have gone forth and dissipated our resources to erect Erskine College and Seminary as an idol of our disobedience.

Originally, our task was noble; however, as is often the case, we came to adore the thing we created rather than adoring the God who gave us the resources with which to build, and a good thing has been corrupted to the point of no return. We now fail to recognize that God has closed the door and that all our efforts are not going to reopen what God has closed. We have failed in our vigilance in watching over what God entrusted to us, and we have failed to use our courage to stand against disobedience and infidelity; therefore, God has taken from us the thing entrusted to us and given it to others. That He has handed our ring over to those who despise evangelical Christianity is ample evidence of the level of God’s judgment on the ARP Church!

My brother ministers and elders, we are all being judged by God. We have all been seduced and deformed and gelded by the ring of Erskine College and Seminary. Of all the people who have drunk from this bitter cup, I have drunk much too deeply for the last 40 years. Shame on me!

Our recent efforts are too little and too late. God cannot trust us with the task of Erskine College and Seminary. We now do not have the resources, the faith, or the courage. It is time we let go of this evil and corrupting ring before the lamp of the church is taken from the ARP Church. Indeed, as the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are deformed and dying and disobedient, and still the refrain for the umpteenth time goes up for the ring: “Let’s try one more year!”

No, let us flee the evil ring!

Brothers, we have met the enemy and he is US! We have been defeated and put to flight and scattered by US!

Report on the Meeting of the Erskine Board of Trustees

The Erskine Board of Trustees met on May 19 and 20. The following are some of the highlights.

  • HIGHLIGHT: It was announced to the EBOT that Erskine College and Seminary is the leader of peer institutions in campus recycling. A full 33% of campus trash is recycled through this award-winning program, called “Recycle-Mania.” I am sure the whole evangelical community in the USA and the rest of the world is gathering to Due West to learn from Erskine College and Seminary about trash.
  • HIGHLIGHT: When the bylaws were presented to the EBOT, a motion was made to affix the bylaws with a preamble that would have acknowledged that the EBOT is subordinate to and under the review and control of the ARP Church. As Erskine documents and ARP Church documents clearly state, Erskine College and Seminary is an agency of the ARP Church and is owned and operated by the ARP Church. Below is a copy of the document.

Preamble to the Erskine College and Seminary Bylaws

Notwithstanding anything contained herein, the Erskine College Board of Trustees hereby acknowledges that pursuant to the ARP Church’s Book of Standards and its Manual of Authorities and Duties, it is subordinate to and is under the review and control of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. The ARP Church retains its right to appoint trustees at will notwithstanding recommendations by its Committee on Nominations and further retains its rights to remove trustees with cause and in accordance with the Manual of Authorities and Duties.

The motion failed. According to multiple sources, the vote fell out in the following manner:

FOR – Dr. Boyce Wilson, Rev. Charles Evans, Mr. Steve Maye, Dr. John Basie, Dr. Jim Corbitt, Rev. Joey Donahue, Rev. David Johnston, Mrs. Judy Boyd, Dr. Fred Carr, Mr. Bobby McDonald, and Dr. Dixon Cunningham;

AGAINST – Mr. Scott Mitchell; Mr. Robert Galloway, III, Ms. Ann Marie Tribble, Mr. Joe Patrick, III, Rev. Eddie Spencer, Rev. Ray Cameron, Ms. Crosland Stuart, Mr. Jerry Clemons, Dr. Richard Taylor, Mr. David Whitesides, Ms. Jennifer Gilkison, Mr. William Cain, Dr. Larry Nycum, Ms. Lisa Senn, Rev. Andy Putnam, Ms. Ann Campbell and Mr. David Conner;

ABSENT – Dr. Randy Folks, Rev. Max Bolin, and Rev. Tim Watson.

The following asked that their vote be recorded in favor of the amendment: Rev. Chuck Evans, Dr. Fred Carr, Rev. Joey Donahue, Mr. Steve Maye, Mr. Bobby McDonald, Mrs. Judy Boyd, Mr. Dixon Cunningham, Dr. Jim Corbitt, Rev. David Johnston, and Dr. Boyce Wilson.

A motion then was made to adopt the new bylaws and the vote to adopt prevailed. Mr. Steve Maye and Mr. Bobby McDonald asked that their names be recorded in opposition to the motion that was passed.

Below are a few of my comments regarding the amendment:

  1. Just before Synod last year, I wrote the following article in ARPTalk, “Rodney King Evangelicals,” warning that the secularist members of the EBOT who were removed by the “Snow Synod” and then restored in the subsequent legal proceeding were going to attempt to steal Erskine College and Seminary from the ARP Church. My prediction was a year off. They have attempted and they have succeeded. We in the ARP Church do not have the will to see this overturned. At this point, it will take a Charter change that would involve the re-chartering of Erskine College and Seminary. Plainly, we DO NOT have the spiritual stamina or courage to do what it would take to bring that to pass.
  2. The argument that the preamble amendment would not pass muster with SACS is a red herring. The language mirrors what the EBOT has adopted in the past. The language is similar to that at Covenant College (PCA) and passed SACS’ litmus test. Indeed, the bylaws of Covenant College have been reviewed and approved by SACS with the PCA recognized as a DUE INFLUENCE. Now, with the passing of the revised bylaws, the ARP Church is identified as UNDUE INFLUENCE!
  3. Why are the names of Rev. Eddie Spencer, Rev. Ray Cameron, and Rev. Andy Putnam recorded in opposition to the preamble amendment? Why are they against that which would clearly reaffirm the relation that had existed between Erskine College and Seminary and the ARP Church? Have they not betrayed the ARP Church? The day of standing came, and they stood with those who have made it crystal clear that they have no use for the ARP Church. Sadly, Rev. Putnam, Moderator-elect, is one of the authors of the revised bylaws. Why did he not stand to protect the interests of the ARP Church? The day of choice came; these men chose to stand against the ARP Church! There is no other way to put it! What I write ain’t nice, but it is true! Indeed, they will say they voted their conscience; their consciences have led them to betray their church.
  4. These new bylaws propose a new trustee selection process yet to be ratified. The proposed Trustee Selection Manual has been distributed to EBOT members, but that manual will not be voted on until after the meeting of General Synod, and presently the policy does not exist. The bylaws now state that ONLY the EBOT has the authority to remove trustees – not the General Synod that elected them. The new bylaws also set the terms on trusteeship – a right currently held by the General Synod. At the next meeting of the EBOT all substantive authority that the General Synod has over Erskine College and Seminary will be nullified.
  5. Whether we ARPs are willing to look at reality and acknowledge it, the historic relationship between the ARP Church and Erskine College and Seminary is NOW severed. In my opinion, these changes in the bylaws make the General Synod’s oversight of Erskine College and Seminary so narrow and inflexible as to be meaningless words on paper. Erskine College and Seminary is no longer an agency of the ARP Church. The question that is now before us is this: Do we want to be just another DONOR to the parachurch organization called “Erskine College and Seminary” that once had an organic relationship with the ARP Church?
  • HIGHLIGHT: The EBOT did not unambiguously support President David Norman in his denial of Dr. Jay Hering’s application for tenure. The argument for not backing President Norman that was presented was that the current tenure process has not been adopted by the EBOT. It seems that the previous tenure process dates back to 1976/77 and in 2009 former President Randy Ruble changed the policy and sent the changes to Chairman Scott Mitchell for review by the EBOT and adoption. Chairman Scott Mitchell claims that he did not get Dr. Ruble’s memo. Whatever the case, the recent changes separated the tenure process into a college protocol and a seminary protocol. It seems that many changes were unilaterally implemented at the seminary under the leadership of former Executive Vice President H. Neely Gaston, who seems to have made-it-up-out-of-thin-air as he went along. Due diligence was not done by either the Seminary Committee or the EBOT during the Reign of Disaster under Drs. Ruble and Gaston. Ultimately, as Trustee Eddie Spenser expressed it, tenure is an Executive decision. Indeed, it is in the province of the President to grant or deny tenure for whatever reasons. Shockingly and shamefully, Dr. Hering appeared before the EBOT with his lawyer, Mr. Brown Parkinson, a member of the Greenville ARP Church. So that no one misunderstands, at Erskine College and Seminary, the denial of tenure is not the equivalent of being dismissed. Erskine does not have an “up or out” policy. Despite the denial of tenure, Dr. Hering would still retain his job. The present issue does not speak regarding Dr. Hering’s employment; rather, it speaks volumes regarding the EBOT’s failure to unambiguously support the President that they voted unanimously to hire as President last year. Frankly, this action by the EBOT is not about the realities at Erskine College and Seminary; rather, this is about the strained political relationship between the EBOT and the ARP Church.
  • HIGHLIGHTS: The situation at Erskine Seminary is a disaster from stem to stern. There is no other way to put it! (1) According to multiple sources, the ATS audit is not going well. There are going to be many citations. Probation regarding accreditation is a looming possibility. (2) Many, many changes in the catalogue and in procedures were implemented unilaterally by former Vice President H. Neely Gaston apart from the Seminary Committee’s oversight. For example, the catalogue revision below is found in the 2010/11 catalogue. This revision was inserted without EBOT review. The statement speaks regarding denominational relationships.

While Erskine Theological Seminary is the seminary of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and has educated many ARP students of theology in preparation for the ministry, our students come from a wide variety of denominations. These denominations include (among others) the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church in America, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Baptist Convention, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, the Reformed Episcopal Church, the Pentecostal Holiness Church, the Assemblies of God, and other free-church bodies. The University Senate of the United Methodist Church has approved Erskine Seminary as an appropriate institution for its ministerial candidates to study, provided that they were enrolled at Erskine prior to July 1, 2007, and remain enrolled continuously until the completion of the degree. United Methodist students who enroll at Erskine after this time may do a portion of their study at Erskine and may then transfer to a United Methodist seminary to complete their education.

What a stirring affirmation of the ARP Church by the now gone Dr. H. Neely Gaston! Now, consider the following from the 2002/03 catalogue regarding the relationship between the seminary and the ARP Church. This statement was reviewed by the EBOT. The contrast in the two statements is conspicuous.

Erskine Theological Seminary is owned and operated by the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and seeks, under the direction of a Board of Trustees appointed by the denomination, to serve the Church in the field of graduate theological education. The Seminary, while maintaining its integrity as an educational institution, fully subscribes to the confessional standards of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. In particular, this means that the Seminary holds the Holy Scripture to be the Word of God, given by inspiration of God, to be the only perfect rule of faith and practice. Whereas the Seminary further holds that the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself, it sets forth the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechisms as the best concise theological expression of the truth therein. Erskine Seminary is, therefore, strongly committed to the Biblical and Reformed understanding of Christian faith.

The discrepancies between what was and what is are many. I have just looked at the Erskine Seminary catalogue. Depending on how one counts, there are fourteen or fifteen fulltime faculty members. Only five are ARP ministers. When I was on the EBOT, a motion was made and passed that mandated that a full one-half of the faculty members had to be ARP ministers. What of the self-proclaimed conscientious oversight of Erskine Seminary by the Seminary Committee and the EBOT? In what universe has one-third now become one-half? For at least seven years, Erskine Seminary has been in violation of the EBOT policy.

(4) At the spring graduation this year, there were 22 MDivs and 19 DMins. The number of students attending and the number of students graduating, especially in the MDiv program, simply do not correlate with the inflated numbers of attendees that have been given by administrators in recent years to the General Synod. (5) In spite of another motion to affirm inerrancy for new administrators and new faculty members, past issues have not been addressed and the continuing presence of Dr. Richard Burnett is troubling. Why is there not an investigation of his blatant attacks on the ARP Church’s position of inerrancy? (6) The following motion is very troubling: “The [Seminary] Committee requests that the Chair of the Board appoint an ad hoc committee and its chairperson to review and report back to the full Board when ready regarding all matters pertaining to certain communication recently signed by various faculty members relating to the ARP Church statement of faith required of all faculty members.” Well, what does that mean? That’s a blast at the “Good Friday Statement.” I thought that academic freedom was honored at Erskine Seminary as a hallmark. Dr. Richard Burnett can attack the position of the ARP Church and elicit nothing more than a yawn from the administration and the EBOT; however, faithful men who are willing to stand with the ARP Church are investigated! Shame!! No wonder a mountain of financial woes now stands threateningly astride Erskine Seminary!!

  • HIGHLIGHT: (1) The rising Senior Class at the college is reported at 85. The FTE is 540, which means there is an average of 135 per class. At the time of the EBOT meeting there were 139 high school students who have paid their deposits. It is reported that the goal is for 200 this Fall. Freshmen student recruiting between now and the start of the Fall Semester is not easy. Obviously, the good students have already made their choices. Now begins the “buying” of sub-par students to fill out the student body. (2) There is a debt of $11,500,000 that will have to be refinanced soon. (3) The new budget is austere. Positions are going to be eliminated. Employee’s benefits are going to be reduced drastically. Tuition is going to be increased and that will make it more difficult to recruit students. Positions are going to be eliminated. The following story illustrates the serious nature of the difficulties that are now upon Erskine College and Seminary. I was at the Spring meeting of the alums. Trustee Lisa Senn reported that $2,400,000 was needed to balance the Scholarship Fund. At that time, $1,900,000 had been received and $500,000 in gifts was needed before July 1. Whether that money comes in our not, Erskine College and Seminary are in deep financial distress. Any talk of a balanced budget this year as though the crisis has past is whistling-in-the-dark-of-midnight-on-a-stroll-through-a-haunted-graveyard. Apart from the late Rev. Tommy Wilson’s good form to die and leave Erskine College and Seminary with about $600,000 and apart from the $500,000 that the ARP Church pumped out this year, the situation at Erskine College and Seminary would be the financial equivalent of the disaster of an earthquake and a tsunami. And this is only the beginning of woes!
  • HIGHLIGHT: A most Gollum-like thing took place when the departing Chairman of the EBOT gave his final remarks. With tears in his eyes and trembling voice, Mr. Mitchell apologized to the EBOT for the actions of the “Snow Synod” in which the General Synod of the ARP Church attempted to stand up to an incompetent EBOT and a corrupt administration and save Erskine College and Seminary. He then had the audacity to say that it was his hope that the 2011 General Synod would apologize to the EBOT. Even after the EBOT passed bylaws of divorcement. Gollum-like, does he also bite the heads off of live fish!?

Specific Comments:

1. Is the relationship between the ARP Church and Erskine College and Seminary now ended?

Actually, the relationship between the ARP Church and Erskine College and Seminary ended in 1976/77 when the EBOT stood the General Synod down. It has taken us a long time to get to the place where we are able to acknowledge reality. With the “Snow Synod” and the failure of the General Synod to withstand the legal fight last year, the story simply needed some time to run its course. We in the ARP Church are too spiritually gelded to withstand the evangelistic secularism and infidelity that is now the driving force at Erskine College and Seminary. We have failed to act decisively to deal with those who teach falsehood and who hold the ARP Church in contempt.

2. What should be the course of the ARP Church regarding Erskine College and Seminary?

The motion that should be made at General Synod is this: “Mr. Moderator, I move that the 2011 General Synod direct the Moderator to appoint an Ecclesiastical Commission of eleven (11) members to do all that is necessary ecclesiastically and legally to separate the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church from Erskine College and Seminary, Inc.”

It is time for the ARP Church to let go of the ring that Erskine College and Seminary has been and continues to be to the denomination. If we do not, the divide that separates us is going to widen and destroy the ARP Church. The denominational agencies are already being impacted negatively. Giving to the Denominational Ministry Fund (DMF) is down. Giving is down not just because of economic stress or because of our lack of generosity, but because so many of us are not going to violate our consciences and give to a fund that supports a college and seminary that does not belong to us and stands in opposition to what we believe about the Gospel. The dilemma that many of us find ourselves in is described in the following manner: 25% of all that we give goes to the DMF to make it possible to oversee and promote all our agencies, 25% of all that we give to the DMF goes to advance the cause of church planting and renewal, 25% of all that we give to the DMF goes to support the preaching of the Gospel to the world, and 25% of all that we give to the DMF goes to support Erskine College and Seminary. At Erskine College there are professors who preach infidelity and a faculty that votes “No Confidence” in the actions of the General Synod of the ARP Church, and at Erskine Seminary one professor openly attacks and publicly derides the position of the ARP Church on the Bible, another raises his hand to sue the ARP Church in civil court, and, when given the opportunity to sign a document of support of the ARP Church’s position of inerrancy, the majority of the faculty members choose to ignore it. When Jesus asks me about my stewardship of money and I tell Him that I was 75% faithful in my giving, I fear that He is going to inform me that 75% in giving to faithful causes and 25% in giving to support those who promote the cause of infidelity and anti-Christ and theological heresy is 100% disobedience on my part. A crisis is coming! I tell you a crisis is already upon us! Indeed, the division in the ARP Church over Erskine College and Seminary is going to devastate our legitimate agencies because so many of us will not give to that which upholds infidelity and theological error. Without substantive changes, the language stating that Erskine College and Seminary is now going to be “faithful moving forward” is nonsense and silly! For the sake of my conscience, I can no longer give to Erskine College and Seminary or to a DMF that gives to Erskine College and Seminary. I have not been parsimonious. Since 2004/5, my wife and I have sacrificially given nearly $22,000 to Erskine College and Seminary. At this point, I cannot give to support that which I think is evil. I will no longer give to a college that harbors infidelity in the name of academic freedom and countenances flagrant attacks on the evangelical Christian faith in the classroom, and I will no longer give to a seminary that stands theologically out-of-step with the ARP Church. This is not an issue of generosity; it is a matter of faithfulness to the God of the Bible and the Standards of the ARP Church which I swore to uphold when I was ordained in May of 1976. At Erskine College and Seminary, the leadership and majority of the EBOT want nothing to do with the theological ethos of the ARP Church; therefore, they do not need any of the money of God’s people in the ARP Church. Let them have quail until it comes out of their nostrils!

I call on all faithful ARPs who love the Lord Jesus and His coming to withhold their money from Erskine College and Seminary.

I call on faithful pastors to instruct their congregations and Sessions that support of the DMF is support of that which is both anti-ARP Church and anti-Christ.

3. Can Erskine College and Seminary not be reformed by incremental measures through political compromise?

The hope that Erskine College and Seminary can be saved by incremental measures and compromise with heresy is – and has always been – a false hope. Sadly, because of that deceptive hope, the ARP Church has devolved from confessional to CONFUSED! Nowhere in the Bible does God command us to reform by means of incremental measures that allow infidelity to continue and prosper. The commands are to put away the false gods and to put away the destructive practices and ways of sin and error. God does not call us to acts of political compromise with infidelity as an act of faithfulness. We have gone forth with faith in our efforts expecting God to bless us. The problem is that God has not gone with us. Trust in efforts that God does not enjoin is DISOBEDIENCE and REBELLION. God commands: PUT THE EVIL AWAY FROM YOU! We have dwelt too long in the tents of wickedness!

4. Why is the ARP Church so impotent?

In a recent conversation with Moderator-elect Andy Putnam regarding the lawsuit last year, he said that we ARPs were fortunate that a class action suit was not filed against the General Synod because the only thing of value that the General Synod holds is the ministers’ retirement fund. Rev. Putnam is correct in a number of ways. One, the retirement fund is held in trust for retired ARP ministers and other employees, and it and probably everything on earth can be attacked in a class action suit; however, the probability of such an attack succeeding is highly unlikely. Two, he is right in his fear. We ARPs have demonstrated that we fear legal actions. We fear! We fear! As the Bible says, the fearful man fears when no one chases him.

5. What is going to happen to President David Norman?

At the moment, the EBOT needs Dr. Norman in order to get through the SACS reaccrediting process. That will take 12 to 18 months. During that time, the financial crisis will continue and recruitment of students will languish. Unfortunately, these woes are not of Dr. Norman’s making; however, he will be saddled with them! At that point, the “long knives” on the EBOT will go after Dr. Norman. There is nothing the General Synod can do to protect him. Remember, the General Synod is now UNDUE INFLUENCE. The path of attack on Dr. Norman is already being prepared on the Facebook site of the secular alums.

As I conclude, I will change my analogy from Gollum to a refrain that is found throughout First and Second Kings: “Nevertheless, the high places were not removed.” Kings Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Azariah were “good kings” who sought to obey God in Jerusalem; however, they did not remove the high places. For all the good these kings did in Jerusalem, they did not deal with the “high places,” and ultimately the “high places” and the idolatry allowed there spread and brought down God’s fierce judgment on Judah. The inner “Jerusalem” of the General Synod for the ARP Church is secure. I do not know of any Presbyterian denomination in the USA that has better theological documents than we do. “The high places” for the ARP Church is Erskine College and Seminary. The infidelity and idolatry (fundamentalistic secularism) are bringing God’s judgment on us. Like Joseph, we should be running from the seductress. Unlike Joseph, we continue in the tent and the embrace of the seductress in the comfort of the high places – Erskine College and Seminary!

These are my thoughts,

Charles W. Wilson

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  1. Ralph Smith says:

    Rev. Wilson,

    I was summoned to read your article by a friend. I think your response to the liberals in your denomination is 100% appropriate.

    You referred to a number of ministers that voted against the church. If I was an ARP I would bring them before the presbytery. If what you say is true, your own ministers and the moderator of your Synod has sold you out. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Daniel Stephens says:

    I had two conversations this weekend with two different people about the amount of time and energy spent over Erskine and the impact it is having on the church proper. Imagine if all the time spent figuring out what is going at Erskine was spent getting to know people in the communities in which we live. Imagine if all the time spent figuring out what “the other side” was doing was spent implementing ways to reach the lost. Imagine if all the time spent reading and writing about Erskine was spent researching the Bible and preparing excellent sermons.

    The problem is that the issues at Erskine are real, pressing, and indicative of so many other problems. Both sides are bound by conscience to oppose the the other side.

    What can be done? On the one hand our time and energy can be spent elsewhere–in obeying the great commission and loving our neighbor. But on the other hand, we confess with Kuyper, “When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.”

    Chuck, I want to disagree with the conclusion of this letter, I really do. However, you make an especially strong case by saying that the Bible does not advocate incremental purification or compromise with sin and idolatry. The case is strengthened when you mention that leitmotif of Kings. I’m going think and read and try to disagree with you, but I give no promise of being able to do so.

    PS – As an avid Tolkien lover, that was an excellent use of Gollum. Another Tolkien parallel can be found in the Silmarils. They became a focal point for the exile of the elves, war, and suffering.

  3. Andrew Putnam says:

    Rather than try and address each of the accusations in this issue that regard me, let me give you the overall story.
    One of the basic principles of Presbyterian polity is that things are done decent and in order. I’ve served as Synod’s Parliamentarian for quite a number of years and I always attempted to make sure that we follow our rules etc. Therefore, it is always difficult to respond when, for example, a report is received and voted upon at the meeting of synod, without the delegates having had ample time to study or consider the issue. It is one of the reasons we require a 2/3 vote to consider reports that were not mailed out to the delegates in advance of the meeting. (this was one of the common complaints about the ‘snow synod’- the commissions report being handed out at the meeting instead of in advance.) The Synod met in a called meeting in March of 2010 and considered recommendations of the commission and acted upon them. The clerks and I attempted to make sure that each action, from the calling of the emergency meeting by the moderator, the verification of votes and the proceedings of the meeting, were done in strict accord with our Form of Government, Rules of Order, Rules of Procedure and Manual of Authorities and Duties without prejudice towards any outcome or vote.
    As a result of the decisions of the General Synod in the March meeting, lawsuits were filed that halted the action regarding Erskine. It is clear that had those individuals not filed suit, others would have filed similar suits. At the June Synod meeting a compromise was reached that left the board intact, sought to address the concerns raised at the March meeting and expressed support for Dr David Norman, the new president. The concerns of Synod included: size of the board, structure & authority of the executive committee, financial oversight of the college and seminary, the roll of the trustee on the board, the integration of faith and learning, the administration of the college and seminary and issues of concern about a couple of professors.

    There are two governing documents that need to be considered when dealing with Erskine, the Erskine charter and the bylaws. The charter, on file with the state of South Carolina, is revised only upon approval of both the college board and the General Synod. It defines the legal relationship and establishment of Erskine College and seminary. For example: It states clearly that trustees for Erskine are appointed only by the General Synod of the ARP. It was last revised in the late 1970s. The bylaws are set forth to govern the college and seminary and are approved or amended by a 2/3 vote of the board of trustees.
    This past September I began work, with other trustees, on a revision of the bylaws of Erskine College. This revision was prompted by 2 factors, specific requests by the General Synod of the ARP Church (previously stated) and SACS. The committee did not address issues and areas within the bylaws that were outside of this scope. During the entire time that we were having meetings, over several months, I do no recall any discussion within the bylaws committee about a desire to separate Erskine from the ARP Synod, in fact the conversations were quite the opposite. Therefore it is rather puzzling for someone to see the revisions in that light. As a part of the bylaws revision, we reviewed the charters and bylaws of numerous other schools. After we had completed most of our work, the bylaws were presented to the board in their March meeting. At that time a website was setup where copies could be obtained by the general public, and feedback was encouraged. As a result of the feedback, the committee was able fix, tweak and rewrite sections of the bylaws that needed work. It was a great tool in the long process.

    At the May meeting of the Board of Trustees, an amendment was offered by Mr. Steve Maye regarding a preamble to the bylaws. (as reprinted above). As noted I voted against it. Let me give you my 3 reasons:
    This was the first time I’d heard about it. Mr Maye read the amendment, that clearly a few other trustees were aware of, but it was not distributed prior to the meeting, it was not offered through the website or via email in the months prior. This was the first time that I had heard it. In fact, the first time I’ve read it was today on this site. As noted above, whenever possible, I do not wish to vote blindly on matters of such great importance.
    While it is true that this is language similar to the Covenant College bylaws preamble, that is completely out of context. the language in Covenant’s bylaws mirrors language in their charter. The same language is not in the Erskine charter. As I expressed to Chuck in our phone call, (the part he didn’t tell you about) if this is the language desired, it needs to be in the charter, not in the bylaws. For me this is a simply polity issue that is straight forward. Unless the charter has the language prior, the bylaws (which can be amended at anytime by the board) is not the place for this preamble. This belongs in the charter, not the bylaws period.
    The preamble references the Manual of Authorities and Duties regarding the removal of trustees with cause, yet there is currently NO PROVISION FOR THIS in the MAD. A Synod committee was appointed last Sept. to address and recommend to a future Synod meeting alterations to the MAD. As of the May board meeting, the Synod packet had been sent out without any report or recommendations from the committee. (* Today I received an advanced copy of the committee’s recommendations that are going to be distributed etc at Synod, assuming a 2/3 vote to consider the report, required since it was not distributed in advance.)

    I could not, and would not, vote on such an important alteration to the work, in such a last minute fashion. Nor do I believe that the bylaws are the proper place for such language, given the wording of the charter, but that the charter is where such language should be considered. Finally, I’m not going to vote on utilizing a method that the General Synod has not even seen or approved regarding the Manual of Authorities and Duties.

    Now that the bylaws have been revised, let’s consider where were are a year later: We now have a new president/administration. We’ve addressed the authority of the executive committee, reduced the size of the board (in half) clarified a number of issues and have put in place a methodology that will encourage greater communication between the Board and Synod’s committee on nominations. For years, this communication has led to a lack of understanding on what Synod expects in a trustee and what Erskine’s needs in a trustee (experience etc) and is at the heart of many of our disagreements. The new guide, developed with Synod’s committee on nominations, provides a framework to facilitate this communication. Let me be clear, at no time does this alter the appointment authority of Synod, as spelled out in the charter, nor does it take away the basic parliamentary right to nominate/elect trustees from the floor of Synod. It is a vast improvement in the breakdown of communication that has been evident for years. I would hope that we could modify this method to work with some of our other large boards.

    As to the rest of Chuck’s assertions, assumptions, etc I’ll let the readers try and figure out whether he is wanting to cut the college loose or blast those that want to. I’m not sure I can figure out where he stands on this now.

  4. Ralph Smith says:

    Dear Rev. Putnum
    Why would you vote against that preamble? Were you not ordained as a servant to the church? It appears to me that you, as the moderator of evangelical denomination, should have voted in favor/priority of the Church so that your educational institution serves the needs of the Church and denomination. You would do well to read Bill Evans’ Reformation 21 article, as your position proves his points about the demise of the ARP.

    After reading what you wrote above, either you are crazy enough to believe that Erskine can better after years of liberalism and mediocrity and have a quality relationship with an evangelical church, or you just plain disingenous in what you write. You sir, seem to be playing a game. You call out Rev. Wilson for assumptions and accusations. However, you assume that Erskine will be okay managing itself. Do you really believe that? Do you really believe that voting against the preamble furthered the cause of Christ? Wow.

    I fear that integrity is not just an issue with Erskine leadership but also with leadership in the ARPchurch.

    I continue to pray that a fear of the Lord will prevail in the ARP church, rather than that of sinful, weak spirited men, willing to please a godless generation.

    Still following the Erskine vs. the Church of Jesus Christ with great interest and much prayer.

  5. Tim Phillips says:

    Andy, I appreciate your response. I do have a question (actually a couple) that I hope you can answer.

    First, you say in your comment that the new bylaws reduce the size of the board in half. I’m confused at how that is being calculated. Either my math is wrong (but I hope not, since I used to teach math!) or, more likely, I am not reading the bylaws correctly. Under the old system, the BoT was composed of 30 members, 4 ex officio members, and 23 advisory members. That’s 30+4+23, or 57 members. The new bylaws state:

    “The number of Members shall not exceed twenty-seven (27). … [T]he President of the Erskine Alumni Association and the Moderator of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church shall be voting ex-officio Members of the Board. … The following persons shall be Advisors to the Board: the President, the Vice Presidents, the Treasurer, a delegate from the Seminary Faculty, a delegate from the College Faculty, the President of the Student Government Association, the
    President of the Seminary Student Body, the Chair of the Board of Counselors, the Director of the Board of Christian Education Ministries of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Executive Director of Central Services of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Moderator Elect of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the President Elect of the Erskine Alumni Association, the President of the Erskine
    Flying Fleet Club, and the Representative of the Women’s
    Ministries of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.”

    That appears to be 27+2+15 = 44 members, or just over a 20% reduction. Please correct me if I am mistaken.

    The other question has to do with one of the resolutions passed during the Snow Synod. Resolution #2 was, of course, negated by the lawsuit and the subsequent actions of the 2010 meeting of General Synod, but the other 3 resolutions were “still in effect” to some degree, so to speak. Resolution # 1, which is the one which directed the rewriting of new bylaws, specifically mentioned the size of the board was to be 16 members. I am sure it is just parliamentary ignorance on my part, but how are these two things to be reconciled (i.e., resolution 1 and the proposed bylaws)?

  6. Scott Cook says:

    Pastor Putnam,

    You say that your objection to the proposed preamble was one of procedure, not substance. So I ask, are you in any way opposed to the substance of the preamble? Suppose all parliamentary protocols had been followed, and the board is now voting to amend the charter with this specific preamble. How would you vote?

    Thank You,

  7. Matt Danejur says:

    An interesting approach!! Bravo indeed. However, as I was recently listening to a sermon where the message involved a LOTR referance, I realized something. Have we over used LOTR trilogy for analogies within our own faith? It is a good analogy, and many good spiritual paralells, but it has been done over and over again.

    I would like to bring up the topic- what other of our favorite movies, or books- could we use. I thought LOST would be a good one.

    Perhaps we have forgotten such tales as August Gorman- the mild mannered “would be” con artist turned computer programmer who had to choose between going down in history as the man who killed Superman or the man who saved him….

    “Fate rarely calls upon us at a moment of our choosing”
    -General Optimus Prime

    (what is your favorite movie/ gospel analogy)

  8. Andy,

    Brother, you can speak directly to me. We know each other well. We have never stepped away from straight talk.

    This is so sad. We have spoken a number of times lately and a multitude of times in the past and where I stand is not a mystery to you, my brother – not at all. Well, let me make it very clear AGAIN: (1) I wrote that the cause of the ARP Church has been betrayed by the new bylaws and, therefore, by those who supported them. (2) I also wrote that the struggle for Erskine College and Seminary to reflect and promote the evangelical Christian faith is lost to the ARP Church.

    As you are aware, in the history of the decline of Presbyterianism in America, the tactic of liberal churchmen and compromising evangelical churchmen has been the smokescreen of church procedure. Brother, your outlining of the events of the “Snow Synod” and the 2011 Synod and your explanation of church procedures is dismissive of us. When did you become the Bishop of the ARP Church? The ARP Church is not your fiefdom – yes, you give that impression. And when did you become a lawyer? You speak like one.

    You are not taking the divisions and distrust between the General Synod and Erskine seriously? Brother, these are not matters that can be dealt with by parliamentary parsing. Do you not understand that a great many of us look at what has taken place at Erskine and call it by terms of infidelity and heresy and rebellion and godlessness and betrayal and administrative and Board incompetence. Those are hard words. The seriousness is such that I and many others are through with Erskine. The seriousness is such that I and many others will no longer give to Erskine or recommend that students attend either the college or seminary.

    Brother, the idea that the “Preamble Amendment” was foisted on the Board out the blue and you didn’t have time to think about it is ludicrous. Your mind is not that slow. From what I have been told, you are really the author of the revised bylaws. In your post you act toward the bylaws as a mother hen watching over chicks. What were you thinking? You had ample time to prepare a preamble such as the one presented. The division and distrust and anger regarding Erskine is a palpable thing. Did you not think that something was needed to be written that would put to rest the distrust and suspicion? I did not see the proposed “Preamble Amendment” until a few days ago. The first time I read it my response was that this is the motion that is needed to begin regaining a disaffected Synod.

    Brother, your words about “decent and in order” ring hollow? Gaston nearly kills the Erskine Seminary. Burnett attacks our position of the Bible. Crenshaw preaches infidelity and berates students. Seminary professors Burnett, Bush, and Hering attempt to sue the ARP Church in civil court. Board Chair Scott Mitchell attempts to sue the ARP Church in civil court with the blessing of the Executive Committee and the Erskine Administration and Erskine money, and Trustees Chesnut, Taylor and Young do sue the ARP Church in civil court. Andy, what were you saying about Presbyterian “decent and in order?”

    Andy, you have thrown out red herrings. You know as well as I know that there is not going to be a charter revision. You know as well as I know that in order to challenge the bylaws it is going to take a court fight, and you also know that the General Synod is not going to go to court over this manner. Therefore, you know the game is over.

    Fine! Game, set, match! For all practical purposes, Erskine is no longer a part of the ARP Church. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the General Synod to realize that fact. It will also be interesting to see how long it will take the members of the General Synod to realize that the leader in this separation was a Moderator-elect.

    Andy if you wanted to see a separation, why didn’t you just say so? On numerous occasions we have talked about that. I even got the idea that you supported it. You said, “Make the motion.”So, why do it in this manner? Why stand with those who hate the ARP Church?

    Andy, you said to me: “Don’t call me a Baal worshiper.” Well, I haven’t. What I have said is far worse. My brother, I truly believe you have disgraced your office as Moderator.

    Brother, I don’t hate you. I am brokenhearted for you.


    Chuck Wilson
    Editor, ARP Church

  9. Craig Mutton says:

    A few months back, I ran across a quote from a past resolution by the ARP Synod:

    As a Christian college, the uniqueness of each individual is a basic premise, but the universality of our human dependence on Jesus Christ as the ultimate Word is equally fundamental, the point of reference for all knowledge and all experience being Biblical revelation and authority.

    I suppose we could argue over whether our individual uniqueness and our dependence on Christ are “equally fundamental,” but I would be hard pressed to find a better, more succinct statement of Christian educational philosophy than the assertion that Biblical revelation and authority provides the reference point for all knowledge and experience.

    If this resolution represented a conviction that were the true educational standard and goal of the ARP, and if that conviction were backed up by staunch action, then we would have seen reform at Erskine decades ago.

    Sadly, Rev. Wilson, I believe your assessment is correct. The reason I say that lies in the great gulf between Synod’s assertions regarding the supremacy of Scripture in education and the common practice among members of ARP churches of surrendering their children to an educational institution that deliberately and systematically excises all references to God and His relation to the world He has created.

    If we really wanted our 18- to 24-year-olds to be trained in an educational environment that recognizes the supremacy of Scripture, would we so readily cede our five- and six-year-olds to an educational environment that proscribes even the presence of a Bible in the classroom? Do our teaching elders forthrightly warn our people of the dangers inherent in subjecting our covenant children — the Lord’s heritage — to godless instruction?

    The attempt to reform our denominational college and seminary without first reforming our own thinking and practice with respect to the education of ALL our children has proved to be an exercise in futility.

    May we stop turning our children over to an enemy who lays the foundation of their formal training in a completely godless context. May God grant repentance to our shepherds and sheep alike.

    I close with a quote from Thomas Manton’s Introduction to the Westminster Confession of Faith:

    CHRISTIAN READER, I CANNOT suppose thee to be such a stranger in England as to be ignorant of the general complaint concerning the decay of the power of godliness, and more especially of the great corruption of youth. Wherever thou goest, thou wilt hear men crying out of bad children and bad servants; whereas indeed the source of the mischief must be sought a little higher: it is bad parents and bad masters that make bad children and bad servants; and we cannot blame so much their untowardness, as our own negligence in their education.

  10. Andrew Putnam says:

    Let me see if I can respond to all of this in one shot:

    Tim, the number in the room (advisors etc) was 57. it’s now been cut to 25 and 2 advisors. When the commission originally recommended 16, they were willing to go to 18. I’ve don’t know how they arrived at that number, yet in conversations it was clear that they didn’t have a specific number in mind. The actions of the last Synod meeting did not specify either the 16 or 18 number. In looking for a number to reduce towards, we compared the size of the board/student body etc in 122 SAC approved private colleges. the functioning average was in the 25-30 range. ( I sent you the spreadsheet via facebook). Without knowledge or research, I was originally advocating a lower number, but that appeared to be dysfunctionally low upon examination.

    As to being the author of the bylaws- that’s laughable. I assure you that if any one of us on the committee had our way, the bylaws would have been very different. It was a collaborative effort. We left our egos at the door and tried to work together. I would hope that the delegates to Synod could do the same, but Chuck seems to suggest otherwise in his post and I’m sure that there are others who will follow his line of reasoning.

    To be accused of being a bishop is also absurd. But I understand it, as I’ve heard it for years. (though I’m a bit put off that you don’t think I rise above bishop- ha)
    We are Presbyterian. I’m the moderator elect of the synod. I’ve been the moderator of a presbytery and have served in a number of presbytery and synod positions. I’m trying to do the job I was elected to. It is an unpaid job that involves being an advisory member to every board and agency, being on the executive board, writing for the magazine and moderating the meeting of Synod. I’m attending the business required as the men before me. You are free to decide if they (or I) have attempted to “seize power” or some other nonsense. I will not disparage their service, as they saw fit at the time. You are free to have someone nominate you for moderator this year or any year- and they will accuse you of the same thing.

    As an ordained minister I took a vow to preserve the Unity, Peace, Purity and Prosperity of the church. Despite what some want to believe, the 4 are listed equally in the FOG. I realize that is difficult and displeasing to some- It is hard to be unified with brothers we don’t like personally or have hurt. Also there seems to be folks that assume Purity (only as they define it) is the primary goal- and some are determined to ‘purify’ the church, Synod etc–, while others assume Peace at all costs is the purpose of the church – as if to suggest that we should be tolerant of anything and avoid disagreement. (I’m not sure, after looking at the statistics, if we have many pushing Prosperity as the main focus). In my understanding of the vow, it is a balance. If anyone wants to change the FOG they are welcome to pursue that and insist upon whatever is their favorite flavor of the day. I’m sorry if the rules and polity get in the way, or slow down, people’s desires to change things, fix things, reform things, beat people up or see their foes beaten and begging before them. I realize that bylaws at Erskine will not be perfect to everyone and they can be amended at anytime by the board. I did not offer the preamble or something similar to the bylaws, because (as I stated above) that’s not where it belongs. (it belongs in the charter)

    I’m very much in favor of rewriting the charter. (to answer Scott’s question) I think language similar to that needs to be the charter. Personally, I think the Synod inadvertently messed up in the 1970s (twice) when it rewrote the charter then. ( I wasn’t around, but chuck, you were). There were drastic changes to the charter in 73 and in 77/78. The charter is where the language has to be spelled out. I’ve been saying that for a year now. The bylaws committee wasn’t tasked with changing the charter, and I did ask them about it, and the General Synod has not directed a committee to undertake that either. (since both are necessary signors, I would assume either group could initiate the rewrite). As to where Chuck stands, I’m still confused by his last post. Within this latest blog post, he seems to condemn those that want to separate the college from the denomination and advocate a quick and timely severing of the college and the denomination. This seems like a flip flop from all of the previous issues. 
Personally, I do not want to see the college cut away from the ARP. Yet that is the decision of the Synod, not me. If someone wants to propose any change to the situation, or changes the FOG etc – or any change what so ever, I always say the same thing “make the motion”. Let the Synod decide. That does not mean I’m in favor or against it, but that I’m Presbyterian. The Synod will decide. It may even change or modify its decisions from year to year.

    I do have a concern with ordained ministers or elders conducting themselves in any fashion that goes against their ordination vows. Whether it is in public discourse, civil court, meetings or on the internet. I hope that presbyteries would address these situations.

  11. Andy:

    Don’t know if you missed it or skipped it, but would you mind answering Scott’s question above,

    You say that your objection to the proposed preamble was one of procedure, not substance. So I ask, are you in any way opposed to the substance of the preamble? Suppose all parliamentary protocols had been followed, and the board is now voting to amend the charter with this specific preamble. How would you vote?

    For our own edification, I would also entertain an answer from Rev’s Spencer and Cameron.


  12. Jim Corbitt says:

    I am sorry to see your latest ARP Talk. Your position is wrong and would totally destroy the work of David Norman.
    We need to support him and give him the time he needs.
    I pray that God would use David Norman to bring Erskine back to her Christian roots. Let’s support him. Please reconsider your stand.
    In His service,
    Jim Corbitt

    • Fred Carr says:

      I learned early, to pray, “Thy kingdom come”. I learned from Rusas Rushdoony the Biblical reasons for being optimistic about that coming kingdom. I learned from Edwards and Kuyper and Sam Patterson and many others, what it is to be an activist engaged in kingdom building – even when circumstances are hard.

      I remain optimistic about the future of Erskine College and Seminary. That’s not because of what we can do but because of what God can do. Spiritual revival happens fast. Look at what God did in Christian colleges in the 1970’s! I pray for a revival at Erskine. Reformation will likely take more time. Sometimes I grow impatient; other times I am willing to invest time in this kingdom work.

      I remain engaged in the work of kingdom building at Erskine. I disagree with Chuck: now is not the time to withdraw from our support of David Norman and our efforts to shape Erskine College into the Christian liberal-arts college that we can unreservedly recommend to our sons and daughters; and Erskine Seminary into a reformed seminary that trains people for ministry in the ARP and other evangelical and reformed denominations.

      My biggest concern has to do with the one clear “due influence” the ARP has in the life of Erskine – the election of Trustees. The Synod can not afford to do nominations and elections as it has in the past. No more “business as usual”. I do not assume the Committee on Nominations has not done its job adequately vetting candidates for Trustee. It falls to the Synod to insure that the men and women we elect as Trustees, are people in whom we can trust and to whom we can entrust the college and seminary of our denomination. [ARPs reading these words, who may be at Synod, come ready for the work of finding the right people to be our Trustees.] Read this carefully: if we fail here, we’ve lost our voice.

  13. Ralph Smith says:

    Dear Mr. Corbett,

    What Dr. Norman needs IS a Church that supports the Evangelical position. Have you not read what your moderator says? He REFUSES TO SAY THAT THE SYNOD (the Church of Jesus Christ) HAS A SAY IN CHRISTIAN EDUCATION. Good grief, he sold out your denomination, Mr. Corbett. Dr. Norman has at lest weakly affirmed the authority of the Bible (and at least subtlety inerrancy). He has affirmed the authority of the church in so doing. Your moderator—whom you elected–has thrown you under the bus. Have you not read the votes? He refuses to answer questions with plainness.

    The Question for the moderator of the ARP General Assembly is why not affirm that the ARP Church has authority over Erskine?

    Mr. Corbett: Rev. Wilson is not eloquent or all that savvy. However, (from my own children’s experience) and from at least one faithful minister of gospel who even attended ETS, ARPs are playing games rather than being faithful to the the Lord of the Bible.

  14. Andy,

    Brother, you are sidestepping issues and questions.

    One, my conclusion in ARPTalk(46) is clear. I wrote that the battle for Erskine in the ARP Church has been lost. I said that now is the time to make the motion that coincides with reality. That means that it’s time to stop funding a para-church organization through the DMF. Next, and this is the heartbreaking part, you were a part of the rather sordid events that have lead to the separation. Actually, in my opinion, that which is taking place now is an attempt to contain the damage and keep the funding of the ARP Church to a college and seminary organization that is anti-ARP Church. We all know that we ARP ain’t real smart!

    Two, for all your words, old friend, you have not explained why you opposed the “Preamble Amendment.” Was it not worth making sure that the rights of the ARP Church were protection? Are you not being both condescending and disingenuous in your explanations? Were you not aware that a firestorm of criticism was going to hit you and the other members of the EBOT? Actually, what harm would such a “Preamble Amendment” have done if Erskine is so keen on being ARP?

    Three, I asked questions about Burnett and Crenshaw and Hering. I don’t remember seeing your responses. What are your opinions regarding them?

    Four, Andy, you’re bold in wanting to change the charter. As you say, it will take the actions of both the General Synod and Erskine to get that done. Your affirmation of the correct language is empty because the charter change is never going to take place. Where something can’t be done, you are bold. Where something could have been done, you folded. I know I have offended you; however, you know that the wounds of a friend, though painful, are precious.

    FYI, I was at the meeting of the 1973 General Synod as a candidate for the ministry. I was ordained in May of 1976. The debacle of 1976/77 was not of my making. However, when the General Synod directed the EBOT to hire college Bible professors who were evangelical Christians, I watch the EBOT tell General to go to h—. and then I watched the General Synod fold like a cheap suit. Not much has changed!

    Brother, the threat in your last paragraph is unbecoming of you. In saying that it is unbecoming, I don’t take offense. These discussions are tense.

    I’ll let others speak to the other issues.


    Chuck Wilson
    Editor, ARPTalk


    Dear Readers,

    I have received an e-mail from Erskine Trustee Dr. John Basie (former Erskine employee, former ARP, son-in-law of former Erskine President Dr. John Carson) that there are a number of errors in my report on the events of the EBOT.

    1. Ms. Jennifer Gilkison has resigned from the EBOt. Obviously, she did not vote. My sincere apologies to Ms. Gilkison!
    2. There are two votes that my sources cannot account for.
    3. Dr. Basie ABSTAINED on the vote for the “Preamble Amendment” and in favor of the bylaws.

    I respect Dr. Basie’s desire that I correct these errors for the sake of clarity!


    Chuck Wilson
    Editor, ARPTalk

  16. Dear Jim,

    I’m NOT against David Norman. In fact, I am FOR David Norman. Just because I have done the unthinkable and predicted what is going to take place to him doesn’t mean that I am against him. In the end, because of my warning, I may be the kindest person he knows. I pray to God that I’m wrong; however, I have seen these games played. Sadly, as an Erskine Trustee, there is not a thing that you will be able to do to stop the train. The help won’t be there!

    Jim, the relationship that existed between Erskine and the ARP Church is now severed. The dream that you and I have shared for so long is dead. We lost. The game is over. If you wish to soldier on for a dead cause, soldier on. Don’t count on me. I am done with the efforts to reform Erskine.

    Warmest regards,

    Chuck Wilson
    Editor, ARPTalk

  17. Andrew Putnam says:

    I’ll answer you as directly and plainly as I can. ( though I thought that I was clear previously)
    there was no threat in the last paragraph intended.
    I was not intending to suggest that you had anything to do with the rewrites in the 70s, merely that you might have more info to share on why they were done.

    I would agree with Jim Corbitt regarding his post. I would love to see Chuck’s response.

    whoever Ralph Smith really is: I have affirmed the authority of the General Synod in regard to Erskine, especially as the General Synod has defined it, not as you or anybody else wishes to interpret it. We have published our statements regarding higher education. We need to modify the charter to reflect it.

    as to Anthony Navarro’s question: I thought I answered it in the last post. I think the charter needs to say something like what the preamble that Mr Maye put forth. I would word it slightly differently: ( for example, I wouldn’t directly say “the Manual or Authorities and Duties” as that name may change in the future. minor I realize, but to be crystal clear: I like the concept and think it should be in the charter, not the bylaws and have said this all along. ) As to changing the charter: this requires the vote of the board and the synod. I’m not sure which group Chuck thinks would not vote for this.
    I thought I’d made clear that I’m not going to support any preamble that references a NON EXISTENT section of the MAD and that clearly needs to be supported by language in the charter.

    Sorry that I didn’t follow the first post clearly. I’ve reread the whole LOR post and it’s obvious that Chuck has now changed his views regarding Erskine. Again, argue with Jim Corbitt on that. As to any Erskine personnel currently employed: I would not consider it appropriate for any trustee to discuss such things in this public forum.

    • Anthony Navarro says:

      Sorry If I’m being obtuse, (I am a displaced Coney Island Yankee after all) but I still don’t think you answered Scott Cooke’s question – I’ll quote one particular sentence rather than the four I I quoted earlier:

      …are you in any way opposed to the substance of the preamble?

      I won’t re-quote the preamble, but it’s up top in yellow.

      Thanks in advance for your clarity and brevity.


  18. Andrew Putnam says:

    I’m opposed to the substance that references non existent policy in the MAD. when the General Synod approves a policy, I’m fine with that section. otherwise, I approve of the substance of the preamble.

  19. Anthony Navarro says:

    ‘Lemme try again, as Scott question inferred substance and not procedure…

    Excluding what is is is not the Manual of Authorities and duties does or does not say; excluding anything the current Erskine Charter does or does not say; excluding what one may or may not interpret the ARP Church may or may not explicitly or implicitly do according to the non-profit code of South Carolina; and excluding what the newly revised ByLaws does or does not say, do you agree or disagree with the substance of the proposed preamble which includes the following direct or indirect inferences, that:

    – the Erskine Board of Trustees is subordinate to and is under the review and control of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.
    – the ARP Church retains its right to appoint trustees at will notwithstanding recommendations by its Committee on Nominations and
    – the ARP Church retains its rights to remove trustees with cause

    If I’m asking the wrong question, someone please lend a brother a hand… I thought I was repeating what I thought was a simple question that should have elicited a simple answer.

  20. Andrew Putnam says:


    • Andrew Putnam says:

      (was that short enough of an answer?)
      I’m in agreement with those statements. have been all along.

      I want to point out again (not qualifying my answer):
      we currently have no written policy, procedure etc for removing trustees of any board for cause. I hope we will fix this omission in the MAD soon.

      • Anthony says:

        Thanks… Yes, your ‘yes’ is an answer to the question I think was posed. See you next week!


    • Anthony Navarro says:

      Thanks… sorry for all that having to take so long :-p

  21. Dean Turbeville says:

    For the twelve years I have been an ARP pastor, I have seen again and again that some of my brothers in the ministry say they are willing to fight the right fight (for an inerrant Bible, or biblical worship, or a faithful Erskine, or church discipline, or the sovereign rights of the church to govern her agencies, or whatever,) but it is never the right time, or the right motion, or the right wording, or the right procedure to do so. I know I am not the smartest guy when it comes to ecclesiastical etiquette. But man, somehow it just never seems to be quite right … to do the right thing.

  22. Janis Cunningham says:

    I am hopeful that Rev. Putnam can be one of the leaders to make this happen the right way. Because it has to be done the right way or the church will be involved in endless lawsuits. Thank you Rev. Putnam for clarifying the recent vote on the preamble and for sharing your knowledge on how the changes can be properly done. I especially am happy to see that you agree with the substance of the preamble. I will be praying for all of you next week to have wisdom and to work together toward making the changes to the charter. I hope even more that the denomination can come to terms as to what it stands for. As Rev. Turbeville said, it is time to do the right thing. But it must be done the right way.

  23. Ralph Smith says:

    Rev. Putnam,

    Thank you for your response. As I read your lengthy responses, it seems to me that you are back peddling. Maybe this is a good thing.

    I have said again and again (on other ARPTalk blog threads) who I am. I am not an ARP. I am not a theologian. I am not a minister. I am not a heretic as someone once accused me. I am a retired teacher, and therefore I am VERY interested in educational issues as they pertain to my Christian/Biblical values. My background is PCA.

    I hold no titles of importance like ‘Senior Pastor’ or even clerk of session (yet). ‘Whoever’ I ‘is’, in a public forum, I thought that anyone could offer opinion and participate in discussions.

    I, like many other Bible believing conservative Presbyterians watch and pray with great interest for Erskine (and now even more for the ARP denomination). You would do well to read Dr. William Evans’ Reformation21 articles. Many people, like me, keep up with the Reformed world and wonder if the ARP will be faithful.

  24. Reformed Rebel says:

    I’ve had to read and re-read this post and the following comments a half-dozen times to make sure that I wasn’t misreading anyone, or reading in an manner that wasn’t nuanced. That being said, from a non-ARP perspective, here’s what I see:

    Once you get down to brass tacks, nothing has changed — at least not meaningfully.  The only difference that I can see is that the de facto, unspoken position of Erskine College & Seminary has now moved from being ostensibly covert to overt, and enshrined in the By-Laws.
    Tactically, nothing has changed.  In order for there to be a meaningful Reformation of Erskine, the first position that must be “captured” (I trust you’ll forgive the martial imagery) is the BoT.  That hasn’t happened — and won’t happen, at least for a long time.
    As I’ve said in previous comments, anyone who believes that any institution can be moved from a more liberal / counter-confessional position to a more conservative / confessional Reformed position incrementally is at minimum deeply misled.  A quick glance at the history of such institutions will show the impossibility of that method.
    Ultimately, Dr. David Norman is going to be unable to do much more than move the furniture around at Erskine.  This isn’t because he doesn’t have the will or the backbone to do more, but because he doesn’t have the unwavering backing from the Erskine BoT that he would need to see real change happen.  The best case scenario is that Dr. Norman sets the stage for the changes that need to occur; the worst case scenario is that all he does will just be putting a Band-Aid on a deep sucking chest wound.

    In the end, where the ARP finds itself now was almost inevitable. I’m a natural-born infantryman, so I’ll put it in these terms:  the tactical position has so deteriorated as to turn the war for Erskine into a battle of attrition, and the confessional team doesn’t have the bodies to spend trying to take the “Erskine hill”.  Once the Synod backed down during the lawsuit, at that point, the battle was lost.  To continue to try to retake Erskine after that…it’s like sending light infantry to try to take out a bunkered machine gun nest with no ground cover to fire from, and no close air support or artillery to back them up.  It’s a suicide mission. Until the BoT is firmly in confessional hands, to continue to send men up the hill is just plain foolhardy.
    There are only 2 ways forward that I see; first, you can hack off the gangrenous limb before the rot spreads to the rest of the body — abandon Erskine entirely.  Second, you fall back, regroup, lick your wounds…and wait.  Wait for the trees and ground cover to grow back, wait for the day when you do have the artillery and close air support, and then you charge the hill again.
    The question that has to be answered is this:  Is Erskine College and Seminary a hill worth dying on?

  25. Dear Andy,

    Brother, what does your “Yes” mean? And what does it matter that you say “Yes” now?

    I’m reminded of the movie “Gladiator.” Marcus Aurelius and Maximus risked all in a great battle. After the battle is over, Commodus shows up asking: “When is the battle?” Both Marcus Aurelius, Commodus’ father, and Maximus know that Commodus is a political schemer who is not to be trusted.

    Brother, there is a difference between you and Commodus. You were present at the battle: however, you were on the other side. You did not openly stand for the cause of the ARP Church. You attempted to do the political savvy thing – the way of the political schemer. You voted with those who have stolen Erskine from the ARP Church, but, with a smiling face and a smooth word, you then come over to “the dumb” conservative and say that you are really trying to accomplish their agenda – just wait for a better day. And damn me, in the past I have bought that from you and the like of the pestilent Gaston and West.

    Andy, the power of this evil ring of Erskine is deadly. The psychotic and opiate dreams-of-things-that-cannot-come-true is “crack”-like in deadliness. This ring has corrupted you into the likeness of one of those evangelical, compromising churchmen of the 1920s and 30s who sold mainline Presbyterianism into the hands of the infidel and ungodly – that is, you’re traveling the path of the political schemer. I’m reminded of a conversation with John Leith just before he died: “How did we [the PCUSA] get here?” Well, it wasn’t hard! His sellout led the way. It was the way of the political schemer.

    Brother, I didn’t think you would come out and say it so clearly; however, your defensiveness and your hubris that with a mountain of words you can convince us that black is white have revealed your heart.

    Indeed, these are my thoughts,

    Chuck Wilson
    Editor, ARPTalk

  26. Dear Readers and Delegates to General Synod,

    Well, I have been rereading. The accusations that I don’t want to give Dr. Norman a chance are stinging. That isn’t true. I want to give him every chance – I pray for his success. Honestly, I don’t think he has a chance under the existing conditions.

    It’s time to think out of the box. It’s time for a new paradigm.

    The divisions at Erskine are Gordian knots. Dr. Norman is not able to accomplish his agenda because of the ARP Church, the EBOT, the secular alums, the EC Foundation, and Quislings on the administration and faculty. In fact, the ARP Church doesn’t know what it is doing, and the Board is divided. Still, the chant goes up: “Let’s give Dr. Norman a chance.”

    I want to do more than give David a chance. I want him to succeed splendidly. So, what I write next is not tongue-in-cheek. I mean every word of the following. LET US DEED ERSKINE TO DAVID NORMAN.

    No, I’m not crazy. This can be done. Of course there are obstacles. Let’s overcome them. I trust David Norman to own and operate Erskine more than I trust the General Synod and/or the EBOT, don’t you? Dr. Norman could choose his own board. He could set a Godly agenda and course for the college and seminary and see to the accomplishment. He could choose his own administration. His decision regarding tenure would be final.

    I’m willing to do this. I trust Dr. Norman. I want to give him the best shot possible. Do you?

    I submit this as an idea for putting the rubber on the road!


    Chuck Wilson
    Editor, ARPTalk

  27. Dean Turbeville says:

    Chuck, this idea of yours makes far too much sense to have any chance of success.
    After all, the reason Gollum would not let the ring of power go is because it was HIS ring, HIS “Precious.” How would any of the major players you mentioned be able to get up in the morning without the shining light of “their” Erskine to get them through it? If we REALLY cared about the mission of Erskine in the world, the wisdom of your idea would be apparent to all. But if it is just our family idol, our reason for being, our “precious,” then a thousand procedural, legal and historical reasons will be marshalled to oppose it.
    I still believe in human redemption, so I will hope. In any case, I thank you for your audacity. Let the spiritual CAT-scan of the ARP Synod and Erskine community begin!

  28. Dear Readers of ARPTalk,

    The link below is to “The Aquila Report.” The article was originally published in “World Magazine.” The article addresses the issues in “ARPTalk(46)” and the comments that have followed. Whether you agree with me or not, I commend the reading of this short article.–the-authority-and-reliability-of-the-bible&catid=50:churches&Itemid=133


    Chuck Wilson
    Editor, ARPTalk

  29. James Curtis says:

    Here’s to hoping our Moderator-Elect has an open ear to Scripture…

    “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”- James 3:17 (ESV)


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