An Open Letter to the “Star Wars Cantina Presbytery” (Second Presbytery)

 

Dear Gentlemen of Second Presbytery,

A former member of Second Presbytery once referred to our presbytery as “The Star Wars’ Cantina Presbytery”. By that, he meant that the presbytery was made up of the oddest people.

I was taken aback by his cutting sarcasm; however, after the Fall Meeting of Second Presbytery on Tuesday, October 11, 2011, I am now convinced that Second Presbytery is indeed the “the Star Wars’ Cantina Presbytery” of the ARP Church. We are much more than odd. We are a gallimaufry of various blends and shades of strangeness that makes Second Presbytery a caricature of a presbytery that is then a caricature of itself – a garish Hudibrastic burlesque of Presbyterianism!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35cLo7d07Xs

Attached and at the end of this article, is a copy of the “memorial” that was brought before Second Presbytery, first, by the Session of the Spartanburg ARP Church, and then the Sessions of the Redeemer ARP Church and the Unity ARP Church joined in support of the “memorial” by adding the names of their Sessions. This memorial was the most important item before Second Presbytery for consideration. The salient points of the “memorial” are three:

1 – The EC Foundation:

Established after “the March 2010 ‘Snow Synod’ to support resistance to the efforts by the General Synod . . . as it sought to ensure missional fidelity at Erskine College and Erskine Theological Seminary as agencies of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church,” the EC Foundation exists (a) to “support these [Erskine] institutions as they are involved in any civil litigation” against the ARP Church, (b) to impugn “the honor and reputation of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church by alleging on its website that the General Synod acted ‘illegally’ at its March 2010 meeting, and by speaking of the General Synod as ‘an unreliable and capricious partner’ in its dealings with Erskine,” (c) to express “gratitude for the support of ‘some alumni and friends of Erskine’ who ‘object to the current direction of these institutions,’ who ‘have suspended their financial support of Erskine,’ and who have instead ‘chosen to make gifts to this foundation’” and has thus jeopardized the financial stability of Erskine College and Seminary, and (d) to support “the recently terminated Dr. William Crenshaw, a man known for his opposition to Evangelical Christianity and to the mission of Erskine College as an Evangelical Christian liberal arts college.”

2 – The Question

The question regarding Mr. John R. Hunt, an elder in the Young Memorial Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and Messrs. William W. Lesesne, Lee W. Logan, and James W. Gettys, Elders in the Due West Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church:

Since “elders in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church have solemnly promised ‘to submit in the spirit of love to the authority of the session and to the higher courts of the Church’ (Form of Government IX.D.3.6), and ‘in all things to promote the unity, peace, purity, and prosperity of the church’ (Form of Government IX.D.3.7),” have these Elders violated their ordination vows as “Directors” of the EC Foundation?

3 – The actions called for:

That the Sessions of these Elders “investigate the activities of Mr. William W. Lesesne, Mr. Lee W. Logan, and Dr. James W. Gettys, and Dr. John R. Hunt respectively as Directors of the EC Foundation, to determine whether their activities as Directors of the EC Foundation have been in conflict with their role and responsibilities as elders in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and to ascertain whether ecclesiastical charges should be filed against these elders. Both Sessions shall report back to Second Presbytery with their findings and proposed courses of action at a called meeting of Second Presbytery to be held no later than November 30, 2011.”

In the simplest of terms, the Sessions of the Young Memorial ARP Church and the Due West ARP Church were asked to investigate the activities of four Elders as they are both Elders in these congregations and “Directors” of the EC Foundation and to determine whether or not their involvement with the EC Foundation is in violation of their ordination vows as Elders in the ARP Church.

Others may see the story of the October 11th meeting of Second Presbytery differently (and I invite the views of others), but these are my recollections and observations.

  1. For the record, I had NO part in framing or putting forward this “memorial.” I was surprised by it. I support its sentiment; however, I would not have presented the motion in the manner that it was presented. When the “memorial” was debated, I did not speak to it; nevertheless, I did vote for it.
  2. The emotions that had been fomented against the “memorial” verged on hysteria. If I had been Messrs. Lesesne, Logan, Gettys, or Hunt, I would have spoken for and voted for the investigation. As a mater of fact, I would have insisted on it. I would have wanted both the wisdom of my cause explained and the righteousness of my cause seen. As it is, there is a blanket of doubt and distrust over the affair.
  3. The performance by Mr. Neely Gaston, former Executive Vice President of ETS, has to be the most bizarre show of the day. With a red face, neck veins bulging, and voice warbling, he once again declared the actions of the “Snow Synod” illegal as he attempted to read page-after-page from South Carolina law. Finally, the Moderator asked him to speak to the point. I do not think he ever did, but he did sit down. This chimera that the “Snow Synod” acted “illegally” is simply an act of self-delusion. Yes, the actions of the “Snow Synod” were taken to civil court; however, I do not know how Mr. Gaston and others get to the notion that General Synod acted “illegally”. In point of fact, the affair was settled by what is called by many as “The Compromise,” and the legal actions were dropped before the civil court could rule on the matter. It was not one of Mr. Gaston’s better days.
  4. The most convoluted speech of the day was given by Mr. Randy Ruble. Without speaking to the issue that was being debated, Mr. Ruble rehearsed his role in the lawsuits that were filed by the BOT and members of his faculty after the “Snow Synod”. He seemed to give the impression that he was an innocent bystander in the affairs; He declared that he was a faithful churchman, and then he acknowledged his complicity in the law suits and financial matters regarding the EC Foundation, stating that he had given $4,000 to the EC Foundation to assist in paying attorneys’ fees for the plaintiffs. He also said that his actions were efforts to help newly appointed President David Norman. Well, as I remember the story, many of those actions occurred before President Norman appeared on the scene. No doubt, time has passed, and I am sure that Mr. Ruble’s recollections of the details may have corrupted.
  5. The saddest speech of the day came from a member of the Session of the Due West ARP Church. This Elder informed the presbytery of what “wonderful and good men” Lesesne, Logan, Gettys, and Hunt were. In the past, he pointed out that Lesesne, Logan, and Gettys, Elders in the Due West congregation, were men who had worked hard for the cause of Erskine College and Seminary – even giving their lives in the employment of Erskine. He also noted that Hunt had given faithfully to Erskine. The Elder said that the Due West congregation and community had been bitterly split by this controversy between the ARP Church and Erskine College and Seminary. He said that too many people had left the Due West congregation because of this clash. It was time, he said, to let bygones be bygones. Every one sins; does it really matter what these men are doing on the EC Foundation? An investigation of the activities of these men would hurt the Due West ARP Church, the community, and Erskine. To ask these men if their vows as Elders in the ARP Church and their activity on the EC Foundation as “Directors” were in conflict was too controversial and disruptive. This matter should be overlooked for the sake of peace. The great imperative before us was that we should “love one another” and forget what had taken place and that these men were still attempting to subvert the ARP Church and the present Erskine administration. A friend has written the following words regarding this Elder’s words: “From time to time during debate at meetings of Presbytery, we are reminded that we are all sinners, and the reminder is proffered as a rational for excusing those whose actions or words are being examined. That is non-information and immaterial to any debate, and it does not relieve the body of its responsibility to examine infractions of duties, theological standards, or ethical behavior in an effort to maintain presbytery, denominational order and, hence, peace.”
  6. The responses of the representatives of the Young Memorial ARP Church were troubling. The elder representative was horrified that the Session was being asked to investigate the activities of Mr. Hunt. A Session should not be asked to investigate the actions of one of its members, he declared. Mr. Jeff Bost, the Pastor of the Young Memorial congregation, confessed that he was so distressed over the matter that he would not have been able to sing the “Psalm of Unity” (Psalm 133) if the “memorial” had passed. That is, if the Session of the Young Memorial ARP Church had been asked to do something that is very vanilla Presbyterian, Mr. Bost would have been devastated by it.
  7. Mr. Matt Miller, the Pastor of the Greenville ARP Church, did the most surprising thing of the day when he introduced the Erskine administration and BOT into the debate by reading an e-mail from President David Norman and Chairman Joe Patrick to the presbytery. Essentially, the communiqué stated that the matter of the EC Foundation was an Erskine matter and informed the presbytery that they were dealing with it. At the time, no one seemed to notice that what Mr. Miller did was a violation of presbytery’s protocol and “out of order.” That is, the audacity of the action was such that everyone was caught by surprise. Likewise, at the time, no one seemed to notice that Erskine matters took precedence over and trumped Second Presbytery in the oversight of its own house. In fact, Erskine (the tail of the dog) wagged the dog (the church). If anything demonstrated that Second Presbytery has become “The Star Wars’ Cantina Presbytery,” that did!

There were three extraordinarily distressing issues that arose from this debate that have been publicly demonstrated on the floor of Second Presbytery for all to see. Let me explain.

  1. The Erskinolatry of “olde Erskine” was unmasked and put on display for all to see. The direction of affection was clear, and, for many of those who spoke, it ran toward Due West rather than vertically. I was stunned by what I heard and saw. I came away with the impression that the first and great commandment is written in these words: “Thou shalt love one another as thyself and permit anything without question or rebuke for we are all sinners and not to do so is not to be nice. The second is like unto it: with all thy mind and soul and strength, thou shalt love thy Higher Power as thou art able to conceive him. On these two hang all the Twelve Commandments.” By the way, if you are not familiar with the Eleventh and Twelfth Commandments, they are: “(11) Thou shalt be nice”; and “(12) Thou shalt say no critical thing about Erskine no manner the depth of the evil, for in so doing our god is pushed over on his face.”
  2. Everyone is tired of this conflict over Erskine and wants it to “go away”; however, instead of doing the thing that will resolve the conflict, we run from it. We run from “peacemaking.” We attempt “peacekeeping” rather than “peacemaking.” According to Matthew 5, Jesus did not sanction “peacekeepers” – those who do the expedient thing and cover up the issues! We attempt to keep the peace by “peacekeeping” because we fear how others will esteem us. We show little or no fear of the God of the Bible who placed us in a position of leadership. Moreover, doing the right thing is hard if we cherish calm and the accolades of others. Perhaps I expect too much from the small pond of the ARP world where egos, reputations, and careers are forced into tension with biblical/confessional/ecclesiastical fidelity. However, the tensions that divide us can only be resolved through “peacemaking,” for in “peacemaking” issues are resolved rather than “swept under the rug.” I think the following words by Martyn Lloyd Jones are particularly applicable to both Second Presbytery and General Synod: “There is no purpose in having a basis or a confession of faith unless it is applied. So we must assert the element of discipline as being essential to the true life of the church. And what calls itself a church which does not believe in discipline, and does not use it and apply it, is therefore not a true church.” (What is an Evangelical? The Banner of Truth Trust, 1992, p. 83.) It is heart-wrenching to watch men seek to maintain the status quo by “peacekeeping” rather than attempting to bring health to the church by “peacemaking” – resolving the issues that divide us! However, as they say, it is what it is!
  3. I was amazed at how little the members of the Sessions of the Due West ARP Church and the Young Memorial ARP Church knew about our Presbyterian polity. They could have done a great service for Second Presbytery and the General Synod by: (1) Noting that we are divided on Matthew 18:15-20 and have no consensus as to the difference between a “private” and “public” offense and asked presbytery and General Synod for instruction; (2) Noting that we are divided on the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6 and asking presbytery and General Synod for an official interpretation; and (3) Noting that our “Book of Discipline” is a contradictory and convoluted document and therefore useless, and asking Second Presbytery to memorialize General Synod to revise and update it. Instead, they became defensive and fled from the opportunity to be constructive.

I close with this story. When Raphael was painting his famous Vatican frescoes, a couple of cardinals stopped by to watch the master and criticize his work. “The face of the Apostle Paul is too red,” said one of the churchmen. Raphael retorted, “Paul blushes to see into whose hands the church has fallen.”

These are my thoughts,

Charles W. Wilson


Memorial to Second Presbytery

Whereas, elders in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church have solemnly promised “to submit in the spirit of love to the authority of the session and to the higher courts of the Church” (Form of Government IX.D.3.6), and “in all things to promote the unity, peace, purity, and prosperity of the church” (Form of Government IX.D.3.7), and,

Whereas, Dr. John R. Hunt is an elder in the Young Memorial Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and Mr. William W. Lesesne, Mr. Lee W. Logan, and Dr. James W. Gettys are elders in the Due West Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and,

Whereas, Dr. John R. Hunt, Mr. William W. Lesesne, Mr. Lee W. Logan, and Dr. James W. Gettys are Directors of the EC Foundation, and,

Whereas, the EC Foundation was formed in the wake of the March 2010 “Snow Synod” to support resistance to the efforts by the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as it sought to ensure missional fidelity at Erskine College and Erskine Theological Seminary as agencies of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and,

Whereas, one of the stated “values” of the EC Foundation is “to support these [Erskine] institutions as they are involved in any civil litigation,” and,

Whereas, the EC foundation raised substantial funds to support the lawsuit of Dr. Richard Taylor, Mr. David Chesnut, and Dr. Parker Young against the General Synod, and,

Whereas, the EC Foundation has impugned the honor and reputation of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church by alleging on its website that the General Synod acted “illegally” at its March 2010 meeting, and by speaking of the General Synod as “an unreliable and capricious partner” in its dealings with Erskine, and,

Whereas, the EC Foundation on its website has expressed gratitude for the support of “some alumni and friends of Erskine” who “object to the current direction of these institutions,” who “have suspended their financial support of Erskine,” and who have instead “chosen to make gifts to this foundation,” and,

Whereas, such intentional diversion of funds from Erskine to the EC Foundation poses a hardship and threat to the wellbeing of Erskine, and creates further challenges for the Erskine administration as it seeks to faithfully implement the stated mission of the schools, and

Whereas, the EC Foundation on its website has expressed support for the recently terminated Dr. William Crenshaw, a man known for his opposition to Evangelical Christianity and to the mission of Erskine College as an Evangelical Christian liberal arts college,

Therefore, Second Presbytery hereby instructs the Sessions of the Due West Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and the Young Memorial Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church to investigate the activities of Mr. William W. Lesesne, Mr. Lee W. Logan, and Dr. James W. Gettys, and Dr. John R. Hunt respectively as Directors of the EC Foundation, to determine whether their activities as Directors of the EC Foundation have been in conflict with their role and responsibilities as elders in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and to ascertain whether ecclesiastical charges should be filed against these elders. Both Sessions shall report back to Second Presbytery with their findings and proposed courses of action at a called meeting of Second Presbytery to be held no later than November 30, 2011.

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  1. Tony Locke says:

    Those three issues are what’s wrong with the memorial.

    1. EC Foundation
    A. “to support resistance” that is not true. The EC was organized to aid in paying the financial costs of a lawsuit. Synod should have organized a Foundation to pay for the lawyer fees of BOTH SIDES seeing Synod’s actions pushed things into a court. OF COURSE this issue HAD TO BE DECIDED by a secular court, seeing Synod asked for a secular court to rule between our two organizations years ago when the school was bifurcated into a separate and independent institution. We took ourselves before a secular court and asked, Synod paid, to have the laws of SC govern our relationship between us and Erskine. Those laws needed to be interpreted by the secular government who wrote them. SYNOD NEEDED THE COURT to rule on those laws for our benefit so that our actions would have been without doubt RIGHT. The kindest thing would have been if Synod had filed the injunction against ourselves, to get clear interpretation of the law, since we knew there was a variety of interpretation and the issue was not being well received. We should have set up a Foundation to cover the legal costs, of both parties, while we did the RIGHT THING and straightened things out at Erskine.

    B. Synod acted ‘illegally’ might be a true statement. We will never know because ministers in Synod screamed like little school girls when the injunction slowed down our plan. If we had embraced the lawsuit with calm and with a plan for winning, then we might have had a different result. We walked ourselves and Erskine into the same court years before to make them a separate institution. We should have walked back into that court room with our heads held high, and with every intention of winning.

    C. that some “have suspended their financial support of Erskine” was inevitable. The secular alumni, and those not appreciative of our firm action, were going to stop giving. Wasn’t there a promise from the leadership in Synod that LOTS OF MONEY was waiting to be given to Erksine if we took strong action? Where are those big donations?

    D. the support, or lack thereof, of Dr. Crenshaw should not have been listed in a Memorial to Presbytery. Seriously? This was an over reach and a foolish inclusion.

    2. The Question
    A. have these Elders violated their ordination vows as “Directors” of the EC Foundation? Of course not. They have sent most of the money they raised to pay for legal bills as requested and directed by Dr. Ruble and Dr. Norman. These Trustees would have been sued by former trustees and alumni if they hadn’t sought an injunction in pursuit of their legal fiduciary responsibility toward Erskine. Synod put them between a rock and a hard place. I personally hope that they have acted with integrity. Maybe not, but I think they calmed an even greater storm that was setting the alumni against the Board of trustees. These men were going to be in trouble no matter how they managed the crisis. We should leave them alone and let things calm down.

    3 – The Actions
    A. “no later than November 30, 2011” The report date was too soon.

    B. “Sessions investigate the activities” seems condescending. Does Presbytery know these Sessions acted with indifference? Did these other sessions ever meet with the other elders to discuss these things? No they did not. Are we really going to treat these churches as mission churches who are need of Presbytery oversight? It was offensive, even though it was only a call for investigations. The earlier “whereas” paragraphs read like a list of charges.

    I have other things to say but long comments don’t get read. In conclusion let me say that I think Synod was right in everything they did, but the way they handled it was terrible. We created a storm and acted blindsided by the wind in our face. Our cause was just and righteous. Maybe next time we can have a little more foresight, and backbone, for the fight.

     
    • James Curtis says:

      Rev. Locke,

      Let me begin by saying that I hope you and your family are well. You’ve been in my prayers for a while now, and I haven’t received an update on your health. I hope it is much better now.

      If you don’t mind, however, I will mention some things regarding your post:

      First, under point 1.A. you mention, “Synod should have organized a Foundation to pay for the lawyer fees of BOTH SIDES seeing Synod’s actions pushed things into a court.”

      I must protest this. Synod did not force anyone’s hand into suing the Church. They chose willingly to get involved after the Church made a decision. The Church should not be held responsible for others legal fees to sue itself. That’s absurd, and I say that will all due respect.

      Second, you also mention under point 1.B., “Synod acted ‘illegally’ might be a true statement. We will never know because ministers in Synod screamed like little school girls when the injunction slowed down our plan.“

      While I disagree with your wording, and I would encourage you to be more loving and respectful towards other ministers of the denomination, I do not disagree with your point. We don’t know. We probably won’t know. Dr. Gaston’s words at Presbytery rung hollow. We don’t have a civil court ruling, we have his interpretation of the law, which should show how hollow his words really are.

      Third, I want to echo your words from point 1.C. I was talking with a minister earlier who said that changes, no matter how small, affect a church. People will leave if you change the carpet, much less the theology. Look at the PCUSA flocking to other churches- even ours! Though, I will admit, the PCUSA situation doesn’t even compare properly; they have bigger fish to fry.

      Fourth, your point 3.A. Is a statement. A conclusion without premises. It’s not even an argument. Paul Patrick stood up and addressed Presbytery saying 6 weeks was plenty of enough time to find out if these elders were violating their ordination vows. Heck, it’s not even Nov. 30th yet, and you already said in your point 2.A. hat they didn’t! An investigative committee could have found that out with much greater detail than you in 6 weeks. But let’s assume that no one but me thinks it’s enough time. Let me, once again, echo Paul Patrick: Can we not amend this memorial to fit a better time frame? From what I have read of your post, Rev. Locke, you don’t disagree with the investigation happening, you disagree on procedural grounds. So let’s make it procedural and investigate!

      Fifth, and finally, the calling out of men is never the way anyone wants it. People are going to get hurt. But let me, ONCE AGAIN, echo the words from the Presbytery meeting:

      Can we not address these procedural issues you have, amend them, and go forth with the investigation?

      Respectfully,
      James Curtis

       
    • Daniel Stephens says:

      Rev Locke, I’m using your points as an orderly way to comment on the whole issue, they should not be seen as direct attacks on you.

      1.B. Not much argument here. The Synod had the charter, the MAD, and possibly the bylaws. The plaintiffs possibly had the bylaws and the local judge. The ARP church underestimated the plaintiffs’ zeal for Erskine and overestimated its own zeal for the Lord.

      1.C. Before everything erupted there were two factions. Some from each had already stopped supporting Erskine and it was inevitable that when the time came, one would altogether stop supporting. More importantly, I fail to see how money is in any way relevant to the breaking of ordination vows and scripture. We are talking about scripture, vows, and the administration of one of the divinely instituted marks of the church; if we throw out the 3rd mark of the true church based on finances, do we next start deciding doctrine based on the highest bidder? Will we lay on hands to whoever offers us money?

      2.A. For the sake of argument, I’ll grant you the point that the trustees would be sued on account of the Synod’s actions and that a court would bother to hear it. In that case they acted in the interests of themselves instead of the institution. That seems a tad bit contrary to the idea of a trustee.

      3.A. the FoG requires sessions to meet at least once per month and are expected to meet at other times should the need arise. Orders from presbytery are a pretty compelling case to meet. Even so, there is ample time for a regular monthly meeting to happen. Besides, if they are such upstanding men, it should take no time at all to clear them of the egregious accusations. There are two options: either the sessions are unable to do the work for which they were ordained, or they are trying to use procedure and emotional appeals to mask that they have no doctrinal footing.

      3.B. The other sessions cannot investigate these men because it is not their task to do and they do not have the authority. Furthermore, all churches are under the oversight of the presbytery. “The court of the Church next higher than the session is the Presbytery, which has the oversight of a group of congregations within a specific geographical area.” (FoG XII.A) Furthermore, the Presbytery has the power: “To receive, hear, resolve, and decide references, appeals,and complaints according to constitutional procedures, including questions of doctrine or discipline.” (FoG XII.B.2.b)

      I honestly don’t understand why so simple a memorial was so opposed. There is currently no peace and an investigation is a step towards restoring it (either by silencing critics or getting rid of sin either by repentance or expulsion). Rather, 2nd Presbytery decided it would rather sweep everything under the rug and proclaim peace when there is no peace (Ezekiel 13:9-12, Jer 6:14)

       
    • Dear Mr. Tony Locke,

      With all due respect, have you read either the EC Foundation’s website or my article? I have read your long comment three times and I’m not able to follow your thoughts.

      I will point out three things that you either missed or don’t understand:

      1. The reason that Crenshaw’s name is mentioned in the memorial is because of what is posted on the EC Foundation. THE EC FOUNDATION BROUGHT UP THE ISSUE OF CRENSHAW. The makers of the memorial only responded to what is clearly written on the EC Foundation’s website.

      2. Well, you thought the response date was unreasonable. I did too. A motion to change the date was very easy to make and would probably have passed.

      3. You missed the point of my article. The point is found in the last paragraphs. The issues that divide us must be settled. What is the way out? I outlined a solution that is “plain Jane” Presbyterian. Do you have a better plan?

      Regards,

      Chuck Wilson
      ARPTalk

       
  2. James Curtis says:

    Firstly, and most importantly, let me mention that I applaud Dr. Norman. As a student of Erskine College, I am excited to have him at the helm. Erskine is, regardless of what others say, in good hands. Hands the Lord has provided faithfully for us at Erskine.

    I do, however, have a question. Acknowledging Dr. Norman’s correctness in asserting the EC Foundation is an Erskine matter, and knowing full well that what is an Erskine matter, I do think there is something to be said about these men being elders within the ARP Church, not merely men who are in control of a foundation that is raising money for or against the College.

    Again, I support Dr. Norman as my College’s President. I respect him. Heck, I admire the man (that’s what philosophy majors do to guys who mention the Mind/Body dualism problem over lunch). But, I do have to wonder why he chose to approach presbytery about elders allegedly taking actions against their presbytery, their church, and lastly their church’s college. Dr. Norman, I must say this is not merely the college’s problem. These men are being called into question about ecclesial matters, Dr. Norman! This is the Church’s area of jurisdiction. I must disagree with you.

    I also must disagree with how you, Chuck, treat Rev. Miller in your article. In his defense, he asked the moderator and the moderator allowed it without objection from the court- and there was none. Not even from you. You are just at fault as Rev. Miller is, if we can call his actions out of order. Hopefully there are no hard feelings on Rev. Miller’s last motion of the day resounding in your words.

    And for the record- whether or not these men from the DWARP Church are guilty of breaking ordination vows, raising money to sue the college, or anything else is beyond me. I am not, in any sense, trying to proclaim judgement upon these men, nor claim their motives. Apparently, though, it will remain unseen as Presbytery will not assert it’s authority through investigating the sessions of a Church all in the name of unity. What about Presbyterianism? Can we not investigate other Church’s behaviors to determine whether or not something is amiss?

    As a good friend and mentor told me after the Presbytery meeting, “Everyone was saying, ‘We can do something else.’, ‘There has to be another way to accomplish this.’, ‘This isn’t loving, we can find a different way too look into this!’, but we didn’t. We didn’t search other options, we didn’t try different approaches; we left it dead on the floor of presbytery never to see the light of day again.”

    Respectfully,
    James Curtis

     
    • Dear Mr. James Curtis,

      Thank you for your comments.

      Thank you for your concern for Mr. Miller. I’m not angry at him; I don’t think he’s angry at me. WE ALL got caught with our “pants down” with his motion. I think I said that. Indeed, it was out of order. It won’t happen again without a challenge.

      I don’t think this issue is “dead on the floor.” It will come back again in another form.

      As I wrote to Mr. Locke, don’t miss the point of my article. There is a solution given that may help resolve the issues that divide us. It’s a solution that is “plain Jane” Presbyterian.

      Regards,

      Chuck Wilson
      ARPTalk

       
      • James Curtis says:

        Chuck,

        I was focusing more on the letter from Dr. Norman mentioned in your post. I apologize for taking it off topic.

        Respectfully,
        James Curtis

         
  3. Brian Smith says:

    Dear Rev. Wilson,

    Im not too sure about the star wars post. However, I am certain that Rev Miller in G-ville and Rev. Bost in Anderson look like Jabba the Hut. Too large to have any sense that their kingdom is crashing down.

    I pray that Erskine and the ARP can begin to think in a Christian way. BTW… isn’t the church in Due West liberal? I think you expect to much. When I was at EC, the minister didn’t believe the Bible was relevant! This is why I am (still) a Baptist.

     
  4. Claire Muzal says:

    Chuck,
    Well, you made me look up “Hudibrastic.” So I learned something new again.

    But what wasn’t new is that we humans don’t take our oaths seriously enough.

    “Will you..?” “Do you affirm…?”
    “I will…” “I do affirm…”

    horse-pucky.

    We all decide how much it is worth fudging on our REAL allegiance to oaths for the sake of the alliance the oath gives us. Newly sworn in church members and officers do it every week – unless, of course, some pastor somewhere is willing to let a new member affirm only six (leaving out #5) of the seven questions in the FOG in order to “get in” the church (so they could teach SS), and no one else bothered to take notice.

    That kind of ethic I respect – some Presbyterian stuff IS negotiable then…..

    So, the presbytery was trying to decide if these men acted unpresbyterianly. Perhaps it was left on the floor because, most presbyters saw their own high levels of unpresbyterianliness and couldn’t pick up their stones.

    How many members of Presbyterian churches are really presbyterians anyway?

     
    • Dear Ms. Claire Muzal,

      Thank you for your comments.

      First, let me correct a misconception. The questions in the FOG for membership are suggested and not required. The questions in the FOG for Elders are required. Also, this matter is NOT about church members; rather, this is a matter that involves those who are Ministers and Elders.

      Second, you are CORRECT that some ARP Ministers and Elders in Second Presbytery are ignorant of what Presbyterianism is; however, the situation is for worse than ignorance, others know what Presbyterianism is and choose to ignore/violate it.

      Third, there are a number of words for the ethical condition at which you hinted. “Antinomianism,” “anarchy,” “lawlessness,” “faithlessness,” and “betrayal” are just a few that come to mind. It is the land of the Book of Judges where every man did that which was right in his own eyes. I don’t think that is a “brave, new world” for which we want to strive.

      Regards,

      Chuck Wilson
      ARPTalk

       
  5. Will Anderson says:

    Just curious and I suppose those not present in the meeting may be curious also, but what was the content of the emails that were read at the meeting of Second Presbytery?

     
    • Mr. Will Anderson,

      As per your request, below is a copy of the e-mail that was sent from Dr. Norman and Mr. Patrick to Second Presbytery and read by Mr. Matt Miller. The document is copied from the Minutes of Second Presbytery.

      Having read the e-mail a couple of times, I now see that it is far more intrusive than I thought. When I heard it read, I missed just how invasive and arrogant it actually is. In a word, the tail tells the dog where to go and what to do, and then the dog does!

      Well, I have many more thoughts on this matter; however, I would first like to see your thoughts and the thoughts of others.

      Regards,

      Chuck Wilson
      ARPTalk
      ____________________________

      Matt Miller read a joint statement from Joe Patrick, chairman of the Board, and David Norman, President of Erskine College and Seminary.

      Dear Presbyters,

      Thank you for a brief moment to express some personal thoughts about the memorial before you from our own perspective as Chair of the Erskine Board of Trustees and President of Erskine College and Theological Seminary. It is important for this body to recognize that based on the effects we can see of the past few years, it is not in the best interests of Erskine for real or perceived concerns surrounding this institution, or its current or even former employees, to be hastily brought into public investigation. We want to broadly advocate sincere and patient efforts to understand the individuals and issues involved and for time to be given for the appropriate Erskine group to work towards reconciliation and improvement where possible. In this case, the Erskine Board has already initiated a process of dialoguing constructively with the EC Foundation and its board members and how they can be supportive of the Erskine mission.

      You should also know that we, based on our direct involvement with Erskine in various forms, can say that the men mentioned in this memorial have together given or brought about an unquantifiable amount of benefit to Erskine through their time, talent and resources over their lifetime. We are sure they are not perfect and neither are Erskine board members or ARP presbyters. Please note that we are in no way
      commenting on the content of the EC Foundation website but that we, together with the Erskine Board, do intend to try to understand more about what is stated there, as well as how our differences, perceived or real might be resolved.

      The Erskine Board needs time and a more constructive environment than this memorial creates to continue diligently to work towards a stronger Erskine. Please pray for our work and extend your support to Erskine in every way possible.

      Your servants in Christ,

      Joe Patrick David Norman

       
  6. Brian Smith says:

    Dear Rev. Wilson,

    Shouldn’t the presbytery instruct Erskine? Also, why in the world would a minister in the ARP try to halt the progress of holding Erskine’s feet to the fire. It is obvious that ‘Matt Miller’ either has zero common sense, simps the Erskine cool-aid, or is super ingnorant to what goes on at EC. My goodness, if Matt Miller only knew how ridiculous EC was in the late 90s early 00s he’d repent!

    Matt Miller, please understand that we need christians in support of EC. if you are a christian please support your church!
    BS

     
    • James Curtis says:

      Mr. Smith,

      I must protest. You do not know Matt Miller, yet raise individual issues against the man. That’s not keeping with Scripture, my friend. Matt Miller is a great Godly man, a minister who is faithful to the Word, and, from what I hear, a fantastic father and husband (and these I do not doubt).

      Rev. Miller has his reasons for doing what he did, and without him giving them to you I sincerely doubt you can make the claims against him you have. I suggest, as a brother in Christ, that you repent of this and seek his forgiveness.

      Respectfully,
      James Curtis

       
      • Daniel Stephens says:

        For the record, I do not know Rev. Miller nor is my post passing judgment on him.

        Jim,
        Mr. Smith is wrestling with this question, “Why in the world would a minister in the ARP try to halt the progress of holding Erskine’s feet to the fire[?]” His ideas of how it could happen is that Rev. Miller was either not understanding, deceived, or ignorant.

        Your response sounds exactly like those who have been defending the plaintiffs and the EC board members (which according to some of your other comments, you disagree with). Whether anyone agrees with his action at presbytery or not, it was a public action and it impacts other people. How is objecting to, speaking about, or trying to understand such actions out of line with scripture?

        While it may be true (again I don’t know the man) that Rev. Miller is all those good things, you are the first to talk about his character, and you bring it in to deflate criticism of his actions. “He is a good man, so everything he does is good. Therefore it is a sin for anyone to question his actions” is basically the argument style.

        It is possible to question a man’s actions without disparaging the man.

         
  7. Dear Mr. Brian Smith,

    Your question to me (I think): “Shouldn’t the presbytery instruct Erskine?”

    My answer: the memorial that was on the floor of Second Presbytery was not about Erskine; rather, the issue was about Elders in Second Presbytery. The e-mail that Mr. Miller read that brought Erskine into the debate was a cheeky intrusion that was also extraneous.

    For the record: unlike Mr. Curtis, I think your questions to Mr. Miller are appropriate. Mr. Miller walked into the debate on the floor of Second Presbytery with his head up and his eyes open.

    I will leave the rest of your comments to you, Mr. Miller, and Mr. Curtis.

    Regards,

    Chuck Wilson
    ARPTalk

     
  8. Brian Smith says:

    Mr Curtis,
    I think that you have overreacted to my concerns. Please stay on track.
    For the record:
    The presbytery and General Assembly actions of minister are public information. I never questioned that he is or is not godly.
    I never questioned that he is a good father.
    I never questioned that he is a good husband.
    Frankly, I never gave those issues any thought. (Don’t try to conjure up an emotional drama.)

    Mr. Stephans has helped to clarify my point above. It seems to me that Rev. Miller is going in the opposite direction of what is needed to turn EC into a quality Christian institution.

    My point is that we need people to start behaving as Christians ought to do when it comes to EC RATHER THAN DOING THE politically expedient thing or acting with indifference. I am simply appalled at what Rev. Wilson reported in #7 above:
    ”Mr. Matt Miller, the Pastor of the Greenville ARP Church, did the most surprising thing of the day when he introduced the Erskine administration and BOT into the debate by reading an e-mail from President David Norman and Chairman Joe Patrick to the presbytery. Essentially, the communiqué stated that the matter of the EC Foundation was an Erskine matter and informed the presbytery that they were dealing with it. At the time, no one seemed to notice that what Mr. Miller did was a violation of presbytery’s protocol and “out of order.” That is, the audacity of the action was such that everyone was caught by surprise. Likewise, at the time, no one seemed to notice that Erskine matters took precedence over and trumped Second Presbytery in the oversight of its own house. In fact, Erskine (the tail of the dog) wagged the dog (the church). If anything demonstrated that Second Presbytery has become “The Star Wars’ Cantina Presbytery,” that did!

    I have stated before on this blog that ARP ministers need to repent of thier neglect of EC. Praise the Lord for Rev. Wilson’s desire to do things right around EC.

    Mr. Curtis, if you can blast away (as I read your history of posts) why can’t I have my thoughts. Stay on track.

     
  9. Charles Hackney says:

    Rev. Wilson, Ive been reading through this site and Ive been amazed at the amount of hate you have for others. You say you want Erskine to be an evangelical christian school, but nothing they have done say they are not. You accuse them of being weak in the Christian faith because they let Jews and Muslims graduate from Erskine Seminary. What does this have to with being a Christian College or not? This just betrays your hate for Jews and Muslims, you want to ban them from a school. That is beyond cruel and very unchristian! You also so your hate for gay individuals and women by saying that they should not be ordinaned in any presbyterian chruch and you insuiate that teachers at Erskine seminary should take a strong position (one that is very hateful) against gays and women being a part of the church. Ild like to remind you that nowhere in the Bible does it say homosexuality is a sin, Nowhere!, this anti-gay hate propagnda. You need to stop your hate speech, others may listen to you. The Bible does not support you.

    _Charles

     
    • Charles Hackney says:

      Banning someone from attending a school just because they are Muslims or Jews or gays is no different then banning someone because they are black or asian, what did we fight the civil rights movement for, so you and others can hate and dicrimnate against gay people, Muslims or Jews?

       
      • Dear Mr. Charles Hackney,

        Let me make the following observations:

        1. The stated purpose/mission of Erskine Theological Seminary (ETS) is to train candidates for the Christian ministry. ETS is also the seminary of the ARP Church, and, as such, ETS is evangelical and Reformed. The matriculation of non-Christians for professional religious training is a violation of the mission of the seminary. This violation has created considerable difficulty for ETS in the seminary’s relationship with the ATS (the accrediting association).

        2. With regard to the ordination of women, are you aware that the ARP Church does not ordain women to the office of Pastor?

        3. I have never written that I “hate” Muslims or Jews. Nor have I written that I “hate” gays. I believe those are your assumptions.

        4. With regard to what the Bible says about homosexuality, you are incorrect. The Bible most clearly identifies homosexuality as a sin.

        By the way, tell us a little about yourself. You don’t seem to know much about the ARP Church, Erskine, or evangelical Christianity.

        Regards,

        Charles W. Wilson
        ARPTalk

         
    • James Curtis says:

      “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV).

      “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Romans 1:26-32 (ESV).

      And the ever-famous-
      “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Leviticus 18:22 (ESV).

       

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