Jun 16, 2011 | Comments 82
Well, the June/annual meeting of the General Synod of the ARP Church has come and gone, and the Editor of ARPTalk is not depressed. In ARPTalk(46) on June 1 (An Open Letter to the 2011 General Synod of the ARP Church), the Editor concluded that a motion should be made and passed to sever the relationship between the ARP Church and Erskine College and Seminary. That motion was not made. Instead, the Editor was surprised by both the actions of the Erskine Board of Trustees (EBOT) and the General Synod (GS). The EBOT came to GS open to a charter rewrite that would clearly state that the ARP Church “owns” Erskine College and Seminary and that the GS has the right to remove Erskine board trustees with cause. Not unexpectedly, the GS extended an olive branch to the EBOT.
Below is a recounting of the highpoints of the meeting of the 2011 General Synod with commentary.
1. Moderator Andy Putnam
Moderator Putnam did an outstanding job! It is no secret that Mr. Putnam and the Editor have clashed in recent days over procedural issues involved in dealing with Erskine College and Seminary. Moderator Putnam read the mood of the General Synod regarding the rewriting of the charter of Erskine College and Seminary and assisted in the smooth implementation of the necessary actions. Once again, Moderator Putnam is to be commended. He kept business moving without intruding in the discussions and debates. Well done, sir! Well done!
2. Motion regarding former Moderators who are laymen
A motion was made by Rev. Jim Corbitt and passed that allows Moderators who are laymen (past, present, and future) to have “voice and vote” in the meetings of GS so long as they are members in an ARP Church. Laymen who are willing to serve as Moderator of our GS are very special people. Obviously, these men are well respected for their abilities. Accomplishing the duties that are expected of them involves both time from their professions and money from their wallets. This motion honors these men with a welcome back to the house they have led.
3. Moderator’s Commission discharged
A motion was made and passed that discharged the Moderator’s Commission and thanked the Commissioners for their work. It was rumored that a motion that would have asked the General Synod to apologize to the EBOT for the actions of the “Snow Synod” was going to be made; however, no such motion was voiced.
4. Election of the Moderator-Elect
Nominated by Dr. Mark Ross and seconded by Dr. Bill Evans, the Moderator-Elect is Dr. G. Stephen Suits. Dr. Suits, an Elder on the Session of First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, SC, is a pediatric surgeon who also has theological degrees from two seminaries. He is a lecturer on medical ethics, the founder of the Palmetto Family Council (a pro-family and pro-life action group), a former board member of Focus on the Family, an incoming member of the EBOT, and he is the father of eight children. Dr. Suits continues a record of outstanding Moderators who are laymen. His Vice Moderator-Elect is Rev. Ken McMullen, the librarian at Reformed Theological Seminary-Charlotte.
5. Motion regarding former Moderator Dick de Witt
A motion was made and passed that commended Dr. Dick de Witt for his sermon and leadership in this year’s opening Worship Service.
6. Motions regarding the PCUSA
Two motions were made regarding the Presbyterian Church (USA). The first motion was essentially a condemnation of the PCUSA’s adoption of procedures that allow for the ordination of people who are practicing “gays, lesbians, and transgendered.” The motion called on the General Assembly of the PCUSA to repent and recant. The second motion directed that our statement be delivered to the Stated Clerk of the PCUSA.
7. Motions regarding the CRC and the ICRC
There were motions made and passed from the Inter-Church Relations Committee to sever ties with the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) and the International Council of Reformed Churches. In 2001, Rev. Jason Chen was the fraternal delegate from the CRC to the GS. Rev. Chen attempted to instruct the ARP Church on the issue of the ordination of the women to the office of Elder and Minister. Rev. Chen was seen as meddling in the business of the ARP Church. The relationship between the ARP Church and the CRC has not been warm since. This motion simply acknowledges that the relationship has been severed for some time. The matter regarding the ICRC is an issue of dollars.
8. Motion regarding Military Chaplains
A motion from Synod’s Committee on Minister and His Work was moved and passed for the ARP Church to change endorsing agencies for ARP military chaplains. Presently, the ARP Church is affiliated with the Presbyterian Council on Military Chaplains and Military Personnel (PCCMP). The PCCMP is the endorsing agency of the PCUSA. The differences between the ARP Church and the PCUSA on the homosexual issues are such that our chaplains cannot in good conscience remain a part of the PCCMC. The new endorsing agency is the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel (PRJC). The PRJC endorses chaplains from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, and the Presbyterian Church in America. These are “sister” denominations with us in NAPARC. The chaplains that the Editor spoke with at GS were thrilled with this move.
9. The most important action of the General Synod
In the opinion of the Editor, the most important action of General Synod involved the report of the Special Committee for a Policy on Board Member Removal. The GS now has a policy whereby trustees of boards and/or members of committees of General Synod agencies may be removed “for cause.” It should be noted that “for cause” is not easily done; however, whereas GS was without a specific policy, there is now a policy in place.
10. A motion responding to the new bylaws of the EBOT
A motion was made and passed that asked the EBOT to revise the new bylaws to reflect the new policy of the General Synod on the removal of trustees “for cause.”
11. THE MOTION
According to Dr. Bill Evans in his article that is posted on Reformation 21, A Most Surprising ARP Synod Meeting, this was the most important motion regarding Erskine College and Seminary. The EBOT was represented by the incoming Chairman, Mr. Joe Patrick, incoming Vice Chairman, Mr. Bill Cain, incoming Chairman of the Seminary Committee, Rev. Ray Cameron, President David Norman and others. (One wonders why Mr. Scott Mitchell, the present EBOT Chairman, was not present at the proceedings!?) The attitude of the Erskine representatives was conciliatory. In the Moderator’s Committee on Erskine, Mr. Patrick asked, “What do you want of us?” Then he said: “We will do what the Synod wants.” Was Mr. Patrick showing true humility or was he just being another obsequious Chairman of the EBOT? Time will tell! Nevertheless, what the GS wanted was framed by Rev. Clint Davis, Pastor of the Chester ARP Church. Rev. Davis’ outstanding motion asked for a charter change in which there is language that acknowledges that Erskine College and Seminary is (1) organically connected to the ARP Church as an “agency”, (2) is owned by the ARP Church, (3) is under the authority of the ARP Church in defining the mission of Erskine College and Seminary, and (4) is dependent on the ARP Church to approve and appoint trustees and, if necessary, to remove trustees “for cause.” Rev. Davis’ motion passed overwhelmingly. Now – and forgive the Editor’s pessimism – we have heard such sentiments before. Will the EBOT follow the lead of the incoming Chairman and incoming Vice Chairman? That is to been seen. The Editor is of the opinion that the EBOT people would have done almost anything to get the $575,000 allocation of General Synod. The financial plight of Erskine College and Seminary presently is desperate. Please forgive the Editor’s cynicism. The Editor’s prayer is that he will have to eat these words. If he does, he will do it with zest!
12. Mea culpa by the Chairman of the Seminary Committee
A mea culpa was read to the General Synod by Rev. Ray Cameron the incoming Chairman of the Erskine Committee for the administrative malfeasance of former Executive Vice President of the Seminary Neely Gaston. The long list of failures by that administration is well known. It was reported to the Editor that Dr. Gaston was present at this reading. That is as it should be! It is also reported that the ATS audit is going to be very painful for ETS. The allowing of non-Christian clergy into the DMin program in violation of both the mission statement and admission requirements is not a matter that will go unnoticed by the ATS auditors. Dr. Gaston’s attitude of “I-don’t-give-a-damn-what-ATS-says” is going to haunt ETS for some time to come.
13. Affirmation of the “Good Friday Statement” on inerrancy
A motion was made by Rev. Jeff Kingswood and passed that the signers of the “Good Friday Statement” be commended for their bold affirmation of the position of the ARP Church on inerrancy and their support of President David Norman’s administration. On Good Friday this year, six faculty members of Erskine College and Seminary posted this statement on Ref21. The signers were Drs. Terry Eves (PCA), R. J. Gore (ARP), Dale Johnson (PCA), Toney Parks (National Baptist Convention), Bill Evans (ARP), John Makujina (Independent Baptist). Well, it is understandable why Dr. Richard Burnett did not sign this statement. He has said that if he were to affirm inerrancy that his academic friends at Princeton Seminary and in the PCUSA would disown him as an anti-intellectual. However, why did those others who have vowed that they believe in inerrancy not sign this statement? This is not a time for men to hide in the background mouthing phrases like “I’m flying under the radar.”
14. Motions regarding the Erskine Chaplain
Motions from the Synod Committee on Erskine Campus Minister and Ministry were passed that place the Erskine Chaplain under the direct authority of the General Synod and establishes a formal relationship with Reformed University Fellowship. There are many reasons for this actions, not the least is that it protects the Chaplain from the type of interference that was attempted by former Academic Dean Gid Alston and former Seminary Executive VP Neely Gaston. There is no confusion now. The Chaplain is under the oversight of the General Synod.
15. Complaint against Dr. Jay Hering
A 36-page Complaint from members of Second Presbytery regarding that Presbytery’s mishandling of charges against ETS professor Dr. Jay Hering over his attempt to sue the ARP Church in civil court was referred to the General Synod and then referred to the Ecclesiastical Commission on Judiciary Affairs. It will be most interesting to see how the Ecclesiastical Commission handles this matter!
16. FOG draft distributed
The draft of the revision of the Form of Government (FOG) was distributed. The Editor’s prediction is that there will be much discussion on this matter. The Editor is certain that we ARPs will continue to have a foggy FOG.
17. The Preliminary Report of the Strategic Planning Committee
The Preliminary Report of the Strategic Planning Committee was distributed and approved. For more on the details of this report, see Dr. Bill Evans article in Reformation 21, A Most Surprising ARP Synod Meeting. The one thing that stood out to the Editor was that there was nothing said about Erskine College and Seminary. Why not? Erskine College and Seminary is what the ARP Church has been talking about and fighting over for the last 40 years. Erskine College and Seminary is the 800 pound gorilla that is sitting in the room with us, and this issue is not addressed!? Well, the Editor is nearly blind; perhaps he missed something!
18. Motions regarding the Stewardship Committee
There were two significant motions made and passed regarding Stewardship that were other than the routine adoption of the report and recommendations. (1) The Stewardship Committee asked that the Denominational Ministry Fund (DMF) be supported by means of a tithe on the budgets of the congregations. That idea was not received well. The idea of a mandate that directs congregational tithing was sent to the Committee on Theological and Social Concerns for study. (2) Rev. Frank van Dalen stood and said: “The DMF is broken.” Well, he told the truth. He moved that the matter of the DMF be sent to the Executive Board of the General Synod for study and recommendations. This matter of the DMF’s being broken is documented well. The DMF is broken for at least the following two reasons. (1) A vision for the ARP Church has not been presented that captures the hearts and imaginations of our people. (2) The manner in which the DMF is framed makes it impossible not to give to Erskine College and Seminary. This is an issue of conscience for many of us. We are NOT going to give to a program that sends money to Erskine College and Seminary. We are not going to support a college where the leading faculty spokesman for the college is a functional atheist who revels in attacking evangelical Christianity. Many of us are offended that Erskine College is advertised as a “Christian” college when the evangelical and Reformed faith of the ARP Church is used as a target of attacks. Moreover, many of us are not going to send money to a seminary where a professor privately and publicly attacks inerrancy and another professor attempts to take the ARP Church to civil court. Yes, indeed, the DMF is “broken.”
What is the response of the Erskine-Facebook-alums-who-sing-I-hate-the-evangelical-Christian-faith-of-the-ARP-Church? Below are a few of their Facebook posts.
Al Brady Law [printed as posted]
For the past year of so i’ve been urging everyone on this board to understand the kind of people we are dealing with on TOS [the General Synod]. I’ve been cautioned by the two Davids [Danehower and Dangerfield] to be civil and respectful which I have refused to do, and now you can see why.
If anyone thought deWitt would fade into the woodwork they simply don’t understand the urge for control and power that his kind embodies.
Let me be clear. We cannot trust Norman, Putnam, deWitt, Turbeville, Maye or any of the other so called Christian leaders. Surely, you can see now that there is no Christian brotherhood in them or their message. It’s clear what they want Erskine to become. Further, it is clear that anyone who is perceived to be an impediment to that goal will be eliminated no matter how high or low their station.
The one thing men like this uderstand is power, and we gave up our whipping stick when the lawsuit was dropped. At the time of the “great compromise” at the last Synod, I said that it was no compromise at all. They are just changing tactics, and lo and behold here we are, and we will lose this battle, I promise.
The way to possibly regain power is a concerted campaign for all alumni to refuse any financial giving to Erskine or the Seminary. There will be those who don’t want to punish Erskie this way, and there will be those who will say that holding back money will harm the students. Well, how could we be doing any more harm that Norman and his crowd are doing? With their plan Erskine will sink, maybe slowly but it will sink and will become another laughing stock like Bob Jones University. Oh yeah! South Carolina can be the home of two odd ball colleges who put doctrinal purity ahead of academic excellence. More of what South Carolina needs.
Don’t let them win. If you must contribute do so with the Erskine Foundation but with the proviso that no money is to go directly to the college or the seminary. Pay legal bills. Provide financial help directly to students and encourage them not to attend Erskine until the mess is cleaned up.
I know the instincts of many have been to be calm and respectful. With all due respect you are WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. I’ve dealt with power hungry people my whole adult life. They only understand the big stick approach. Being civil and respectful is a worthy goal, but it must be a two way street. That is never going to happen with these clowns.
Please heed the warning. It’s the only chance you have to save what was once a great little college.
Mary Lou Grier Holmes [printed as posted]
If we fund the Foundation with enough donations instead of the Synod’s hand-picked Board of Trustees, then we will have a say in what is done with our money. We can ask for rehires and severance packages to those who have lost their jobs. We can even ask some administrators to renegotiate their compensation based on (1) fund raising results, (2) alumni satisfaction, (3) number of applications, (4) increase in endowment, (5) faculty administration relations.
Perhaps we can grow the Foundation enough to hire staff.
Let’s also correct the misconception that the school has strayed from the denomination’s mission. What has happened, in fact, is that some of the leaders of the denomination have changed from traditional ARPs into something else.
It is leaders like deWitt who have gone off the Lord’s path. Jesus did not teach us to persecute one another for differences of opinion.
David Danehower (Professor, NC State) [printed as posted]
Having read this report, it seems clear to me that the right wing and center factions of the ARP Church are forgetting (or never knew) the historical “forbearance” of the ARP denomination in accepting faculty and a student body that have a broad denominational basis. Might I suggest to the Church that they now consider changing their belief in “unity with other believers in Christ” to “unity with other conservative reformed believers in Christ.
Dr. Evans has a way of spinning things to his best advantage. Like Chuck Wilson, he makes much of the $500K that the Church gives to the College, while never mentioning the $2+million dollars that alumni and friends provide (admittedly, some alumni and friends are ARPs).
He also makes much of the ministry of the ARP Chaplain, who will be paid directly by the Church this coming year. I find that quite appropriate as I have heard that the Chaplain’s ministry really focuses on students who have a reformed viewpoint similar to his own. As I understand it, the more multi-denominational Fellowship of Christian Athletes is generally acknowledged by students as the leading Christian student group on campus. The “Barn” crowd has been described to me as a clique. Perhaps I am wrong on this. If so, please feel free to provide me with information to the contrary.
Back to that huge amount of money given to Erskine by the Synod. The figure is around $550K, with smaller amounts also given to Erskine College and Seminary during Easter and Thanksgiving. Individual Churches and women’s groups also give to the Annual Fund. I’ve been looking at that figure some, especially since folks like Dr. Evans and Chuck Wilson like to tout it so often. Consider these facts: At present the ARP/Reformed Chaplain is paid from those funds. I assume that includes a housing allowance and funds to support his ministry. Every ARP student is awarded $1500 if they attend Erskine. In addition, if College will match up to $2000 from each ARP Church that supports one of its students. Furthermore, each ARP Seminary student can get an 80% credit from the college. (Interestingly PCA seminary students get 40% off, but I am unsure if the PCA Church doesn’t provide support or some sort of reciprocity in that regard.
I’ve done some rough math and, based upon my best guess, it may be that essentially ALL ARP support directly and specifically benefits (drum roll please) the ARP Church! In fact, if my assumptions are correct, then I am not sure if alumni giving is not actually subsidizing benefits that accrue specifically to the Church. I would like to note, for balance, that children of alumni get a $1000 grant as well. Again, if you are aware of information to the contrary or can supply me with more detailed info on ARP student numbers, numbers of ARP seminarians, etc., please feel free to correct me or at least make my calculations more accurate!
Given that the ARP Church apparently does not feel it necessary to serve the spiritual needs of ALL Erskine’s students (i.e. non-reformed need not apply), I think it is worth considering whether Alumni should not begin a dialog with other denominations whose churches are represented amongst our ranks. If any alumni have contacts within their respective churches that could prove helpful in this endeavor, please speak up!
In a rather blunt exchange with Mark Wilson, a card-carrying member of the Erskine-Facebook-alums-who-sing-I-hate-the-evangelical-Christian-faith-of-the-ARP-Church, Dr. Kyle Sims, Pastor of the Lancaster ARP Church, wrote, obviously in great frustration, that they were a “bunch of idiots.” The Editor applauds Dr. Sims for his impeccable perceptiveness!
Finally, a few concluding remarks of the Editor.
The Editor left the 2011 meeting of General Synod without being depressed. However, unlike Dr. Bill Evans’ analysis, the Editor is not sanguine about the relationship between the ARP Church and Erskine College and Seminary. It is impossible – ONCE AGAIN – to miss that the business of the church was overshadowed by business involving Erskine College and Seminary. The Editor has no hope that this situation will change in the near future. Indeed, it is time for the relationship between the ARP Church and Erskine College and Seminary to be severed. The issues between us are irresolvable.
- The EBOT and administration acknowledged that they have no idea what to do about Dr. Bill Crenshaw at the college and Dr. Richard Burnett at the seminary.
- It is shameful and disingenuous that Erskine College is advertised as a Christian college when the leading spokesman of the college is essentially an atheist who rails at evangelical Christianity with all the vigor of a tent-meeting evangelist, and it is just as shameful and disingenuous for the seminary to be promoted as a Reformed evangelical seminary when the most outspoken professor at ETS openly attacks the position of the ARP Church on the Bible.
- The money-pit that is called “Erskine” cannot be filled. After 170 years, Erskine College and Seminary is a financial failure. The institution is not able to stand on its own. There was a request for $100,000 just for salaries. After 170 years, the ARP Church is still subsidizing Erskine College and Seminary. The idea of Erskine College and Seminary as a 170 year old start up business needs to be put to rest. Erskine College and Seminary needs to be given the opportunity to stand on its own feet, and, if it cannot, it is time for Erskine College to go the way of all flesh.
We ARPs need to be watching what is going on with the EC Foundation. This is the organization that paid the bill for the lawsuit against the ARP Church last year. The rogues who lead this organization for the Erskine-Facebook-alums-who-sing-I-hate-the-evangelical-Christian-faith-of-the-ARP-Church are stockpiling money for another legal suit against the ARP Church. Yes, they are! That is exactly what they are saying. See the Facebook comments above.
It is time to admit the folly of our arrogance. The major reason that we ARPs cannot let go of Erskine is our pride. No matter how poor an institution Erskine College and Seminary is, we are proud that we have a college and seminary. It is like the man who has a cancer on his thyroid. The thyroid and the cancer are his – parts of his body. He wants to keep what is his. It does not matter that his thyroid and cancer are going to kill him unless they are surgically severed from his body – they are HIS! Well, Erskine College and Seminary is ours and it is killing us. Let us remove this cancer before we die. The ARP Church is pouring 25% of its budgeted funds into Erskine College and Seminary with no end in sight and nothing for the money. Even if we are able to reform Erskine College and Seminary, we need the separation. The task of the church is to grow the church, not the college/seminary. It is time for us to take care of the ARP Church!
We have begun the charter revision process. The MO of the Erskine people in the past has been to promise the GS anything that is asked. They are certain that by the meeting of the next Synod all that has been asked for will be forgotten, and then they send out another rosy report to GS about how all is well in Due West. The EBOT will not follow the lead of the GS! But we try once again!
These are my thoughts,
Charles W. Wilson
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