Water from a Poisoned Well

 

After 40 years in the ARP Church watching and participating in the events concerning Erskine College (EC) and Seminary (ETS), I am convinced that Due West, SC, is the place where light and truth and Biblical faithfulness and reason go to die and be buried in a graveyard of darkness, disingenuousness, faithlessness, and madness. My 40 years in the ARP Church have taught me NOT to trust anything that comes out of the Erskine administration and Erskine Board of Trustees (EBOT). It is water from a poisoned well!

Last Thursday and Friday, May 17-18, 2012, the EBOT met. The main occasion for conflict had to do with:

  1. the Ad Hoc Committee’s report responding to General Synod’s request for trustee removal,
  2. the “Minority Report of Erskine Trustees Regarding the Erskine Board’s Response to the General Synod” (Minority Report) which uncovered the embarrassing fact that the findings of the Ad Hoc Committee were inaccurate and poorly researched or an attempt at deception, and
  3. a document sent out by Chairman Joe Patrick entitled “Further Input to Discussions on 2011 General Synod Requests” (FID) (for more on this see next issue of ARPTalk).

The FID is little more than a feeble and clumsy attempt to discredit the signers of the Minority Report. Chairman Joe Patrick sent out the FID, which we presume to have been authored by EBOT Chairman-to-be and Ad Hoc Committee Chair Mr. David Conner (a ruling elder in the Greenville ARP Church). Chairman Patrick sent out the FID on Tuesday, May 15. It was sent out two days before the EBOT meeting began on Thursday, and its antagonistic rhetoric seemed to presage a clash on the EBOT (and sounds like an “ambush” to me!).

Sadly, the meeting seems to have been a standoff. The result is BOTH reports are now before the 2012 Synod. The “We-must-be-independent-of-General-Synod” majority of the EBOT was not in the mood to rethink their report. Therefore, two contradictory reports are before our elders and ministers:

  1. the Ad Hoc Committee’s report which declares absolutely that Synod’s request for changes to the EBOT’s bylaws/charter which would allow for removal of trustees “for cause” is impossible and unthinkable; and
  2. The Minority Report which states that not only is Synod’s request feasible, but there are at least three colleges within a hundred miles of Due West that have already incorporated this same provision in their bylaws/charters.

Am I missing something or is somebody lying to me again?

Here is the truth: SYNOD’S REQUEST IS POSSIBLE IF THE EBOT IS WILLING TO DO IT. The impediment is not SACS or ATS; rather, the EBOT has rebelliously and defiantly dug in and is unwilling to change the bylaws/charter. WHY?

If the members of the EBOT decide that they want to work with General Synod and change the bylaws/charter to reflect Synod’s request, SACS and ATS will not interfere. However, as pointed out by the author(s) of the Minority Report, if the EBOT and administration are in a mind to fight the General Synod, the presidents of SACS and ATS stand ready, willing, and itching to come to Erskine’s aid and do whatever is necessary to defend the institution against the ARP Church.

Once again, General Synod’s request is possible if the EBOT is willing. Witness these words by Mr. Scott Jaschik in INSIDEHIGHERED and electronically published on February 20, 2012, immediately after the Board’s rebuff of the General Synod:

SACS rules do not explicitly bar a larger board that appoints college trustees from also having the right to remove those trustees, but there are specific requirements that must be in place, and a college’s board must always have the independence to make decision on hiring, supervising and, if necessary, firing a college president.

Let me be clear, General Synod is not interested in firing the President.

Mr. Jaschik is certainly knowledgeable about these issues; however, I do not see his comment referenced in the Ad Hoc Committee’s response to General Synod. WHY? I do not know how Mr. Conner missed it because he could have easily gotten it from President David Norman who was interviewed by Mr. Jaschik in that very article!

What I do see is Mr. Conner attempting to justify deception. It would be noble if Mr. Conner had said in the Ad Hoc Committee’s report: “We are now independent of the ARP Church. Do what you will.” However, the EBOT will not do it. WHY? The answer: M-O-N-E-Y! Mr. Conner is well aware that Erskine is financially desperate. Therefore, the plan is this: “DECLARE INDEPENDENCE OBLIQUELY. LET THE ARPs FIGHT AMONG THEMSELVES OVER THEIR SENTIMENTAL MEMORIES OF BETTER DAYS AND NOBLE DESIRES FOR ERSKINE, AND KEEP THE NEARLY $600,000 PER YEAR COMING AS LONG AS POSSIBLE. LIVE OFF THE CHURCH! LIVE OFF THE CHURCH! SOMEDAY THEY WILL WAKE UP, BUT LET US HOPE THAT TODAY THEY SLEEP!”

Indeed, the financial distress at Erskine College and Seminary is a nightmare of colossal proportions. The administration is desperately attempting to balance the budget – and probably will. However, as in previous years this will take some accounting magic. It can be done by a credit line. That is, one either borrows the necessary money from a bank using the Endowment or other assets as collateral or one borrows the money from the Endowment and writes an IOU to the Endowment. Or one can simply dispense with the fiction of “borrowing” and simply take the needed money out of the Endowment. Witness the nearly $1,000,000 that former President Randy Ruble admitted at the “Snow Synod” had been borrowed from restricted Erskine funds and has never been repaid to the appropriate restricted fund. As Dr. Ruble said, “We will pay it back when we can!” Fact: The money was taken in the mid-90s and, if I heard Dr. Ruble correctly in 2010, nothing had been repaid at that point. Obviously, the debt is still outstanding.

Sadly, the financial situation at Erskine is about to get worse. I hear that the pocketbook is about to be opened wide yet again to buy students this summer. With Dr. Norman’s goal of at least 230 students this Fall and with only 111 students confirmed with deposits at the early May cutoff date, how are 119 students going to be recruited by opening day in August? Answer: Get a pile of financial aid money and go to Students-R-Us and buy them out of the “scratch and dent” bin! Soon voices in Due West will be lifted in praise: “Jobs are saved and salaries are paid! We are saved for another year! We do as we please! To hell with the vision and mission the ARP Church desires for us! The Christians in the ARP Church are stupid and gullible and nice!! We have pulled the wool over their eyes again! It was easy! Good for us!”

Well, there was another motion passed at the EBOT meeting. With the Ad Hoc Committee’s report declaring to Synod that the EBOT will not consent to Synod’s request and the Minority Report indicating that the Ad Hoc Committee’s report is either mistaken or deceptive (the latter question depending on, to paraphrase Senator Howard Baker in the Senate Watergate hearing, “What did Mr. Conner know and when did he know it?”), a motion was made and passed that asked Synod for another year to study the issue and politely told Synod to stay out of this or the “Bogyman” SACS will get us.

Here the audacity of the EBOT is astounding. They speak of their “fiduciary responsibility,” their “competence,” their “engagement,” their being “informed,” and their being “independent” as though none of those matters are applicable and primary to elders and ministers of the General Synod. They, the appointed trustees, act as though they have priority over Synod. They respond as if they are an INTERNAL influence in the affairs of the ARP Church, but the ARP Church is an EXTERNAL influence in the affairs of Erskine. Well, if the General Synod of the ARP Church is EXTERNAL to Erskine, why is Erskine not EXTERNAL to the General Synod of the ARP Church? And why are we ARPs giving nearly $600,000 to an EXTERNAL entity?

At this point, can we trust the research of an EBOT committee on this matter?

Folks, I am so tired of this. I am tired of this institution telling the ARP Church that has birthed them, prayed for them, and given more than $20,000,000 in the last 40 years to stay out of their business. I thought they were our business. What we are asked is to drink water from a poisoned well! I will not do it!

Why does it take another year to study this matter? The last time I looked the three schools mentioned in the Minority Report are no more than about 100 miles from Due West (and two of which are eating Erskine’s lunch in regard to student recruitment even as Erskine withers). If one wanted, the research could be accomplished and the report written before Synod. The task is not that difficult! A blind man can do it!

In the name of fiduciary responsibility, competence, engagement, being informed, the independence of the ARP Church, and let me hasten to add truthfulness, let us be done with Erskine and hopefully redirect our money to the cause of Christ’s Church and His Kingdom. Too long we have endured this cancer and this “mixed multitude” in our midst!

My article is long. I apologize. There is much more. The reader does not want to miss the next article. The story gets even more distressing.

These are my thoughts,

Charles W. Wilson

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  1. Brian Walker says:

    Dear Chuck,

    I stopped to read this while preparing the second of two sermons on Acts 5. I’m struck by the simple yet compelling conviction of Peter and the apostles in the face of threats from religious and political elites: “We must obey God rather than men.” It also strikes me that these are the same men who had just witnessed the Spirit’s power in dealing swiftly and severely with the double-tongued and deceitful Ananias and Sapphira.

    While I’m not involved in these matters in the same way as those who are still serving in the ARP (and therefore ignorant of most of the political underpinnings), I will share two simple but sincere thoughts: 1) As an alumnus of ETS I long to see that institution revitalized on a foundation of biblical fidelity. 2) As a former ARP minister, who still holds a lot of affection for that denomination, I long to see the Synod draw a line in the sand and say “Enough! Come what may of Erskine, we must obey God rather than men.” Over-simplistic? Maybe. But these are my thoughts.

     
    • Dear Mr. Brian Walker,

      Good to hear from you. Long time no see. Thanks for the comments.

      Regards,

      Chuck Wilson
      ARPTalk

       
    • Rhonda Arnold says:

      On the outside looking in…obedience is to GOD always. I pray for this school, and the ARP church. I also pray for the Leadership of both. Revival …Take the Land Lord, for it is yours.
      I love Due West, Erskine, and the leaders in this town. I am asking God to heal this land and make it his again.
      I am not a graduate of Erskine. My aunt is a graduate and I have many friends from Erskine. Seek GOD and his will for Erskine over man. Seek Christ for he has the answers, not man.
      God bless the ARP church, Erskine and the town that I love Due West.

       
      • Dear Ms. Rhonda Arnold,

        Amen! Amen! However, there is a day of revival, a day of missed opportunities, and a day of judgment. As much as I desire it, I don’t think this is the day of revival. May I be wrong!!

        Regards,

        Chuck Wilson
        ARPTalk

         
  2. RevK says:

    “18 Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, 19 one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike.”

     
    • Dear Mr. Revk,

      I don’t know you, do I? What is the name of “Revk? Those who comment on ARPTalk identify themselves. Who are you?

      You quote from Deuteronomy 29. The rest of the passage is in this manner: “[18] Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood; [19] And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: [20] The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven. [21] And the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law: [22] So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it; [23] And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath: [24] Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? [25] Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: [26] For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them.”

      Indeed, as I have often said, passages like this apply to the Erskine situation. The place stands under the hand of God’s judgment.

      I look forward to chatting with you. Use your name, would you?

      Regards,

      Chuck Wilson
      ARPTalk

       

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