Sep 03, 2011 | Comments 72
A tip of the hat is due President David Norman of Erskine College and Seminary. The story coming out of Due West. SC, is scant and cryptic; however, the news is that Dr. Norman has done what four other Erskine Presidents were unable or unwilling to do: he has disciplined Dr. Bill Crenshaw and suspended him from his teaching position.
A senior English professor, Crenshaw has made a career of using his classroom to ridicule both the mission of Erskine as a Christian college and the faith of Christian students. For years, Bill Crenshaw has been the bane of multiple Erskine administrations that were unwilling and seemingly unable to deal with his antics.
The following has been made public: (1) Crenshaw has been suspended for the Fall semester; and (2) his institutional email account has been closed. At this time, in Due West and on Facebook, there is a great deal of speculation as to what this means and where it is going.
One of the questions that are circulating asks why Crenshaw was suspended at this time. Did President Norman suspend Professor Crenshaw for his frequent attacks on Christianity and Christian students? In point of fact, we do not know and may never know the answer to this question. Perhaps Dr. Crenshaw’s lengthy history of personal conflict with others in the Due West community finally caught up with him.
A second question that is circulating asks the meaning of “suspended for the Fall semester” and the canceling of the institutional email. Well, these developments are code for “gone,” and do not expect to see Dr. Crenshaw back in an Erskine classroom again! “Suspension” is used for “face-saving.” “Canceling of the institutional email” is what takes place when an employee is removed.
On the basis of what the Editor knows from his time on the Erskine BOT, it looks as though a deal has been cut. From the Editor’s BOT experience, the law firm that represents Erskine prefers to negotiate rather than litigate in these matters. That deal probably looks something like this: (1) Dr. Crenshaw will get his salary and benefits this year; (2) he will also get some “going away money”; (3) there is a non-disclosure clause that prevents both parties from speaking about the stipulations of the agreement; (4) there is an indemnification clause that relinquishes the rights of the parties to sue each other in these matters; and (5) there are stiff penalties that secure the silence and cooperation of both parties.
Pragmatically, this is a good deal for both sides. Dr. Crenshaw settles for a bag of money that will carry him through until he is 65 and he does not have to work. Dr. Norman has essentially silenced Dr. Crenshaw by pulling out his tongue and cutting off his fingers. Dr. Norman has removed a significant distraction and liability to the institution’s mission.
The Editor is not rock-sure of his speculations; however, he is willing to bet his hat. There are a number of reasons for the Editor’s confidence: (1) the silence of Dr. Crenshaw that began about six weeks ago; (2) the unwillingness of President Norman to discuss this manner when he announced it to the BOT on August 18; and (3) Dr. Crenshaw’s continued silence. It ain’t natural for Crenshaw to be silent about anything! The boy loves to talk . . . and talk . . . and talk!
The Editor has a question. Did Bill Crenshaw engineer this? The Editor’s answer is Yes! Dr. Crenshaw is shrewd – very shrewd. He is well aware of the direction of the ARP Church. He knows the direction that Erskine is now drifting. He wanted a way out. What was the best way out with maximum effect for him?
The Editor thinks that he found the way out. Well done, Bill! You played your cards well!
Well, is there a loser in this affair? That answer is Yes! The losers are the nearly 2,000 secular Erskine alums who belong to and may participate on the “Alumni for Erskine” and the “Alumni for an Independent Erskine” Facebook sites. They have held Crenshaw in high esteem. They venerate him as their guru and their voice. He has been their champion for a secular Erskine since their college days. From his vitriolic writing on Facebook and elsewhere, the secular alums expected him to lead them in their “righteous war” against the forces of Fundamentalism and anti-intellectualism. “Crenshaw the Champion” would stand against the benighted and evil forces of evangelical Christian ignorance in the ARP Church and on the BOT and the Erskine administration and community. Instead, it appears that when given the choice of leading a crusade for secularism or “thirty pieces of silver” for his pocket, “Crenshaw the Champion” became “Crenshaw the Coward” and took the bag of money and ran to his North Carolina home on the lake.
Now, the Editor’s assessment of the situation may be wrong. How will we know? The Editor’s calculus has failed if the following happens: (1) Crenshaw again cranks up the rhetoric on Facebook, on his blog, and elsewhere and goes after Erskine and President Norman; (2) a lawsuit is filed by Crenshaw against Erskine; and (3) Crenshaw files a complaint with SACS. Indeed, time will tell whether the Editor has ciphered correctly.
Has the Editor Changed His Mind?
A number of you have asked the Editor the following question: “Now that Crenshaw is gone, have you changed your mind on the relationship between Erskine and the ARP Church?”
The answer to that question is NO! As a matter of fact, the Editor is more convinced than ever that the ARP Church should sever the relationship with Erskine. The business of Erskine College and Seminary is not something that the ARP Church should be involved in! We lack both the resolve and the resources that are needed to sustain and oversee the business of a college and seminary.
The Bible has something to say about knowing a tree by its fruit (Matthew 7:16-20; 12:33; Luke 6:43-44). Currently, the “fruit” (the secular alums) of Erskine College and Seminary represent a flat contradiction of the theological standards and philosophical understanding of the ARP Church in higher education and theological training. Is the purpose of the ARP Church in her endeavors in higher education and theological training through Erskine College and Seminary to produce a large number of graduates who hate and reject the evangelical Christian faith of the ARP Church and who unwaveringly oppose the philosophy and oversight of the ARP Church as her educational agency? If that has been the purpose of the ARP Church for the last 40 years, we have succeeded splendidly. However, if our goal was to do liberal arts education from an evangelical perspective and theological training that affirmed the ARP Church and have graduates who reflected the educational philosophy of the ARP Church and the theological verities of the ARP Church, we ARPs have failed miserably.
Luke 13:6-9 reads in this manner:
A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why encumbers it the ground?
And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that you shall cut it down.
After 40 years of attempts, it is time that we acknowledge the truth. We in the ARP Church do not have the financial and personnel resources to turn Erskine College into a Christian liberal arts college that exists to the glory of God, nor do we have the ability to run Erskine Seminary so that it functions to reflect and promote the ministry of the ARP Church. We have struck out! It’s time for a batter other than the ARP Church!
The Editor wishes that what he has written were not true; however, wishing does not change reality.
These are my thoughts,
Charles W. Wilson
Filed Under: Extra!