Bits and Pieces

This issue of ARPTalk is sort of a newsy church newsletter. The items reported on deal with Erskine Theological Seminary and news regarding Christian colleges. I think you find these “Bits and Pieces” interesting and informative.

ATS Gives ETS A+

The blowing of the wind that you heard and felt a few days ago was the collective sigh of relief that came out of Due West, SC. Finally, the folks at Erskine Theological Seminary (ETS), President David Norman and acting Executive Vice President Steve Lowe, were able to let out their breath and breathe normally again. The ATS (Association of Theological Schools) audit is now a nightmare of nights’ past. The question that was terrifying the Erskine people was whether or not ATS would forgive ETS for all the indiscretions and violations that occurred under the “reign of incompetence” of former Executive Vice President Harvey N. Gaston.

The team of editors who put together the ATS Self-Study were diligent and expansive in exposing and admitting to a veritable myriad of violations, infractions, and abuses of ATS policies, directives, and protocols. The Self-Study was 465 pages long. The copy I have must weigh 10 pounds! It is a full ream of paper.

The editors of the ETS Self-Study did something that is as rare as kryptonite in the Due West community. They demonstrated leadership. That is, they took responsibility for and ownership of all the failures of Dr. Harvey N. Gaston’s broken reign that former Erskine President Randy Ruble allowed to crash into a sea of ATS violations, financial distress, conflict with the ARP Church, and empty classrooms. In fact, using good Roman Catholic language, the editors, having done a “mea culpa, mea gran culpa,” clearly did what had to be done: they came clean and acknowledged what was wrong at ETS.

Their plans to fix ETS may not succeed; however, they were truthful in presenting the problems and clear in a plan to address those problems. The ATS auditors were impressed. ATS is not about closing seminaries. ATS exists to promote seminaries. The auditors read the ETS Self-Study and were impressed with self-evident genuineness. The result of the ATS audit: the ETS audit was approved with commendation. In my words, it was an A+.

Well, do you suppose that the long-running controversy between Erskine and the ARP Church would have been resolved years ago if there were three or four men/women on the Erskine administration and EBOT with as much wisdom and insight as the editors of the ETS Self-Study? Did you notice that the editors of the ETS Self-Study did not attempt to inform ATS auditors that the ETS administrators, faculty, and staff were “competent,” “informed,” “engaged,” “independent” and “fiduciary responsible”? To begin with, the editors of the Self-Study are not given to “acts of stupid.” It was abundantly clear that just the opposite had taken place. There was no attempt to cover up the obvious.

A question that I have been asked by a number of friends is this: “Chuck, how should the EBOT have framed its response back to General Synod? What would a response look like that would capture the heart of General Synod?” Well, the template is in front of the EBOT. Indeed, instead of asking Mr. David Conner to write what many of us consider an insult, I would have hired the editors of the ETS Self-Study to write a response.

Well, if I were framing a response to General Synod’s request, I would have done the following four things.

First, the report would have begun with an apology to General Synod: “Whether by design or ignorance, those representing the EBOT to the 2011 General Synod have misspoken and misrepresented our relationship with SACS and ATS regarding accreditation. We cannot and must not do what our representatives indicated. We apologize. We ask General Synod’s indulgence and forgiveness.”

Second, a mea culpa that would have looked something like this would have been written: “We affirm the conciliatory efforts of the representatives of the EBOT to the 2011 General Synod in that we genuinely desire a new beginning with the ARP Church. We are prepared to take responsibility for present and past failures of the EBOT and administrations. To show our good faith, we name . . . (and the list would have been long and detailed {465 pages ??} and nothing like the cryptic and terse almost-apology that was made by EBOT Chair Joe Patrick and EBOT member Bill Cain last June at General Synod). We apologize for these named failures and sins and others that we have missed. We give no excuses. We take full responsibility. We ask for your forgiveness. We acknowledge that we have betrayed the church.”

Third, two things I would not have mentioned: (1) the “independence” of Erskine; and (2) the words “competent,” “responsible,” “informed,” “engaged,” and “fiduciary responsible” would never have been written-on-paper with regard to Erskine administrators and EBOT members. I would not have insulted the ARP Church with a denial of the obvious.

Four, having admitted the mess and taken full responsibility for and ownership of it, I would have charted a path to get the college and seminary out of the mess, and I would have invited the General Synod to join in “the fix.” and, most importantly, I would have made sure that “the fix” was something that would capture the heart, the mind, the soul, the vision, and the money of the ARP church.

If a response like that had come from the EBOT, the stars would not have fallen out of the night sky, but the whole world would have heard Chuck Wilson cheering, and he would have sat down and penned a motion for the 2012 meeting of Synod to INCREASE (not maintain) Synod’s commitment to EC and ETS. As it is, Chuck Wilson and many others like him look at the response of the EBOT to General Synod and say: “Good grief! Let’s be rid of this cancer! Let’s put our money in the business of the church!”

These are my thoughts,

Charles W. Wilson


News from Christian Colleges That Take Commitment to Their Statement of Faith and Mission Seriously

1: See the following URL regarding Grove City College:

2: Below are two interviews with Dr. Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College. Did you know it is possible for a “Christian” college to be vibrant and relevant from a Christian – and, yes, even a Reformed – perspective? We ARPs and pitiful Erskine are well behind the 8-ball when it comes to educational integrity and values.

3: I hear from sources at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Alabama that their seminary has brought Third Millennium Ministries on board. A year-and-a-half ago President David Norman of Erskine was heavily recruiting them. Amazingly, Briarwood PCA Church with an unaccredited seminary gets Richard Pratt and Third Millennium. What happened? Amazing! Amazing!

4. The following was sent to me by Rev. Tony Locke. It demonstrates what happens when a denomination fights for its college. How foolish and nearsighted and what cowards we ARPs are! We ran in fear of the BOIs called The EC Foundation. We did not win the prize! We took the course of quitedness! Many of the Erskinites and the ever-so-cautious and fearful ARPs were quick to criticize Mr. Ken Wingate’s opinions that he brought forth at the “Snow” Synod on behalf of the Moderator’s Commission as uninformed. Now, I wonder, is Mr. Wingate saying, “I told you so!”? If he is not, he should be!

Louisiana College wins court fight over scripture

also at

Louisiana College Wins Legal Battle for Inerrancy — Lessons for the ARP Maybe?

and

Louisiana College wins court fight over scripture – secular court has no jurisdiction to settle theological disputes

written by Leigh Jones:

Louisiana College trustees and administrators at the end of March won what could be the last battle in a long war over the school’s adherence to its biblical foundation.

On March 28, a Louisiana district court judge dismissed a suit brought against the school by four professors who claimed defamation and infliction of emotional distress in a disagreement with school leaders over the inerrancy of scripture.

In what school administrators have billed a landmark decision upholding religious liberty on campus, Judge Mary Doggett ruled that because the disagreement centered on theology, secular courts had no jurisdiction in the matter.

“Under the Establishment Clause, the consideration is whether the issues which the Court will have to resolve will necessarily turn upon competing interpretations of religion, thus resulting in the court becoming ‘entangled’ in an ecclesiastical dispute,”

Doggett wrote, referencing the First Amendment. “The ‘Entanglement Doctrine’ provides that a court must decline jurisdiction over a lawsuit when the dispute is so intertwined with matters of religion that a proper resolution cannot be made without interpreting or choosing between competing religious principles or doctrines.”

“The ‘Entanglement Doctrine’ provides that a court must decline jurisdiction over a lawsuit when the dispute is so intertwined with matters of religion that a proper resolution cannot be made without interpreting or choosing between competing religious principles or doctrines.”

The case brought by the four professors-Carlton Winbery, Frederick Downing, James Heath and Connie Douglas-clearly arose out of a theological dispute, Doggett concluded.

During depositions, the professors “candidly testified that their errant view of the Bible was in conflict with the inerrant beliefs of the [school] administration,” according to Doggett’s ruling.

The professors filed suit in 2005 against the school amid a growing furor over the school’s movement away from Baptist doctrine. The professors fueled the controversy with statements they made during class, including voicing skepticism over the bodily resurrection of Jesus and Mary’s virginity, school President Joe Aguillard said.

In response to complaints from parents and students about how liberal the small college in Pineville, La., had become, the Louisiana Baptist Convention appointed a new slate of conservative trustees to oversee operations, Aguillard said: “Their goal was to bring the college back to its biblical roots.”

When several faculty members recommended using M. Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Traveled” as the cornerstone text in a course on Christian values, Aguillard and other administrators baulked. The school’s academic freedom policy allowed the book to be used in the course, as long as the professors told students it was written based on Buddhist principles. Any teaching about the book also had to include a juxtaposition of Christian values against the values set forth in the book.

As soon as Aguillard denied the professors’ request to use the book as a cornerstone text, they filed suit.

The resulting court battle, which dragged on for almost seven years, was not the first time a Louisiana court was asked to weigh in on the fight over the theological direction of Louisiana College. When the Board of Trustees in late 2004 promoted Aguillard, then a faculty member, to the school’s top job, a group of donors and alumni concerned about his conservative views filed suit. The state’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the school.

Before the latest case reached court, all four professors retired. While the school won the case in district court, the professors could appeal.

Although the infighting over the school raged for about four years, starting in 2003, disagreements over the school’s stand on the inerrancy of scripture are pretty much over now, Aguillard said. During the last five years, enrollment has grown by 89 percent. The school is building more dormitories and hiring more teachers for its 1,600 students. It just opened a School of Divinity, and next year, Louisiana College will welcome its first class of law students.

Aguillard attributed the school’s recent growth to its willingness to stand up for biblical truth: “God’s Word is true, and Louisiana College will never move from its position on biblical inerrancy, regardless of attacks from any and all directions.”

5:  Below is a letter that I posted in the “comment” section of the last ARPTalk posting. I think it needs to re-posted in this context. The letter is written by Mr. Martin A. Moore, Chairman, Board of Trustees of Covenant College, and is addressed to their alumni regarding the new President of Covenant College, Dr. J. Derek Halvorson. ARPs might like to notice how the vetting is done at Covenant College.

“On behalf of the Covenant College Board of Trustees, I am pleased to announce the selection of Dr. J. Derek Halvorson ’93 as the sixth president of Covenant College. Dr. Halvorson’s tenure will begin on July 1, 2012.

“The unanimous vote by the Board of Trustees evidences our strongly-held belief that Dr. Halvorson will provide the godly leadership needed to further advance the College’s mission of exploring and expressing the preeminence of Jesus Christ in all things.

Dr. Halvorson is the president of Providence Christian College in Pasadena, California. In addition to his current executive position, he brings experience in fundraising and constituent relations from his previous roles at Covenant, and experience in teaching at the university level and in the financial markets. HE HAS BEEN ORDAINED AS A RULING ELDER IN THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN AMERICA (PCA), AND HE MUST PASS A THEOLOGICAL EXAM ADMINISTERED BY THE PCA PRIOR TO HIS INAUGURATION. [my emphasis]

“After graduating cum laude from Covenant with a bachelor of arts in history, Dr. Halvorson earned a master of arts from the University of Arizona and a doctorate of philosophy from Loyola University Chicago – both in history. He and his wife, Wendy, are the parents of a son and a daughter.

“In addition to selecting the sixth president, the Board of Trustees today unanimously voted to sign a letter of intent with Providence Christian College, expressing Covenant’s intent to acquire Providence. We believe this sister institution – a small, Reformed, residential liberal arts college on the West Coast – is a remarkable fit with Covenant’s mission and purpose and offers an opportunity for Covenant to extend the reach of its mission. In consultation with key constituencies, including the faculty, we will with due diligence pursue the acquisition and operation of Providence Christian College.

“We are thankful for God’s faithful and generous blessings upon Covenant College since its founding in 1955 in Pasadena, California, and we look forward to continuing to advance Covenant’s founding mission under Dr. Halvorson’s leadership in this new chapter in the life of the College.”

The Chairman of the Covenant Board of Trustees writes that the new President of Covenant College “must pass a theological exam administered by the PCA prior to his inauguration.” In the past – perhaps, just perhaps – if the good folks on the Erskine board who are so quick and bold to inform the General Synod that they are “competent,” “informed,” “engaged,’ and “fiduciary responsible” had used such wisdom and good sense, the impasse that now exists between the ARP Church and Erskine would not be standing between the ARP Church and Erskine like a mountain in a desert. Instead, there might be a spirit of cooperation. Well, it is a thought – just a thought!

These are my thoughts,

Charles W. Wilson

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  1. Readers of ARPTalk,

    Below is another article on Louisiana College. Their playbook for how to win in court was pretty simple: Make the subject NOT Academic Freedom or Missional Integrity, but the definition of a Theological specificity (inerrancy) and the court has to throw it out for “entanglement.”

    http://www.thetowntalk.com/article/20120404/NEWS01/204040335/Louisiana-College-prevails-lawsuit-about-faith-based-teaching

    Regards,

    Chuck Wilson
    ARPTalk

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