Oct 08, 2011 | Comments 36
The Anderson Chapter of the Erskine Alumni Association met on Thursday evening, September 22, 2011, at J Peter’s Bar and Grill in Anderson, SC, with 33 present. The crowd was “old”; only a few were 30-something (about 4). I have never attended one of these meetings. My wife and I attended this meeting with two young friends who are alums. My intention was to observe and listen and report. I did not speak. As soon as I returned home, I typed up my recollections. My chronology may be a bit off. Below are some of my observations.
- Mr. Buddy Ferguson and the team that was with him are to be commended. They were confronted by a hostile crowd, and he and his team performed admirably.
- Some of the people present were Mary Elizabeth Todd, Kevin Metz, Jay West, Kevin Brock, Nan Campbell, Charles Blakely, and John Tribble, who had come up from Atlanta to make his thoughts known. I sat at the same table with Mary Elizabeth Todd; however, the noise level was so high that she didn’t know who I was, and we had a civil conversation.
- The first question was: “Where is David Norman? Why isn’t he here? We have a word for ‘the young man!’” Mr. Ferguson explained that Dr. Norman was in Virginia visiting a donor. Then they wanted to know how many of the chapter meetings Dr. Norman had attended. Mr. Ferguson answered about half. These alums seemed to be very put out that Dr. Norman wasn’t there; they had come for a piece of “the young man.”
- John Tribble startled me with his question. Erskine has engaged a national recruiting consultant, and he asked: “Where is the money coming from to pay the consulting firm? Why is this money being paid to people who are not Erskine people?” He gave the impression that he was entitled to this information. He gave the impression that the Erskine administration was doing something underhanded. A young lady named Tobe Frierson, an Erskine employee who works in recruiting and who was also a part of Mr. Ferguson’s team that evening, explained the merits of the consultant. She noted that the “old” system was “broken” and that this arrangement was working very well. At this point the tired old canard of the “Bible College” was paraded out like a ghoul to frighten the alums one more time. It was clear that the point of this interrogation was a fear that Dr. Norman’s administration might be focusing on recruiting evangelical Christian students to attend Erskine. Their desire is a secular diversity that only tolerates a generic, insipid, and empty form of Christianity. Such is their broadmindedness that evangelical Christians need not apply. It was astonishing to watch anti-Christian xenophobia at work. Clearly, the attitude was this: we are entitled to what we want and we don’t want the Christian faith taken seriously. John Tribble announced that he was a fifth generation Erskine grad. He then opined that he needed to be heard and that all those people who were trying to “change” Erskine were second- class interlopers.
- These alums know little of how the Erskine Board of Trustees (BOT) works. They asked: “Why isn’t a representative of the BOT here to speak with us? We are entitled to information!” They failed to understand that the BOT exists to oversee the work of the administration and that the administration is the public voice of the institution.
- Indeed, the alums are upset with Dr. Norman and his administration. There are too many changes and new people they don’t know or trust! They are going to withhold their gifts to Erskine. The most vocal on this matter was Jay West. After a couple of drinks and a bottle of wine, he was still very clear in his opinions. He stated that he had changed his will again so that a 1.4 million dollar gift had been withdrawn. He said that he would re-instate his 1.4 million dollars if Erskine would listen to him and the alums instead of the ARP Church. Well, I have been hearing this out of West since about 1998 when I was on the BOT. He treats his will like a “Yo-yo.” Yawn! This antic has gotten old. Erskine will never see any money out of Jay West! That you can take to the bank!
- Regarding the constitution of the BOT, the refrain went like this: “We have the money. We have the voice. We matter. How dare the ARP Church control the appointments to the BOT?”
- The most bizarre and jaw-dropping question of the evening was this: “How dare David Norman and his administration not speak out on behalf of the EC Foundation and defend the names of Lee Logan, Jim Gettys, John Hunt, and Bill Lesesne since a motion (“memorial”) by the sessions of three congregations in Second Presbytery has been made calling for an investigation of these men as Directors of the EC Foundation”? Incredible!! I didn’t believe my ears! The EC Foundation has no connection to Erskine. In fact, the EC Foundation hurts Erskine by siphoning contributions away from Erskine. Logan, Gettys, Hunt, and Lesesne are not employees of Erskine. The matter before Second Presbytery involves four ordained elders in Second Presbytery. Why are these ARP elders Directors in the EC Foundation (1) when the EC Foundation has paid for litigation against the ARP Church, (2) when the stated purpose of EC Foundation is to collect money in order to sue the ARP Church, (3) when the goal of the EC Foundation is to oppose the ARP Church’s oversight of Erskine, which is one of the agencies of the ARP Church, and (4) when the EC Foundation regards the ARP Church an “outside influence” in its oversight of Erskine? I do not know what those people were drinking for supper; I was drinking water.
- Generally speaking, the alums’ animosity toward the ARP Church and President Norman in particular and evangelical Christianity in general was palpable.
- An interesting tidbit is that only about 6% (about 40) of the student body of Erskine is ARP. It seems that ARPs no longer trust Erskine.
- The BIG surprise of the evening: NOT A WORD WAS SPOKEN IN PUBLIC ABOUT DR. BILL CRENSHAW! I wonder why!?
Well, I’m sure I have missed something; however, I think I have hit on the salient points. I’m sure others will add points I have missed. I’m also sure some will interpret the evening differently. Be that as it may . . .
These are my thoughts,
Charles W. Wilson
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