WORLD Got It Right!

 

I have been an ARP for 40 years. I was present at all the 2012 meeting of the General Synod of the ARP Church. Once again, I am forced to repeat a maxim I have arrived at after 40 years of dealing with Erskine College & Seminary – a maxim I believe to be incontrovertible: Do not trust any report or communiqué until it is shown to be factual! Sadly, what comes out of Belk Hall rarely resembles reality.

Regarding the WORLD Magazine article, Separation of church and school: The struggle over the governance of Erskine College and Seminary continues, all the Editor can say is their reporter(s) got it right. The press release sent out from the office of Mr. Cliff Smith, the Director of Communications at Erskine, on the other hand, is neither accurate nor representative of what took place on the floor of the 2012 General Synod. It is nothing more than SPIN. The Erskine administrators are desperately trying to proclaim the 2012 Synod as a victory. Well, they might want to look up “Pyrrhic Victory” in a dictionary.

Mr. Smith seizes the language of commendation in the motion by former Moderator Mr. Steve Maye. But for Mr. Smith to say the motion made by Mr. Maye is a statement of commendation is for him to travel through the Looking Glass, have tea with the Mad Hatter, and play croquet with the Queen of Hearts. Furthermore, he would have us to to believe the Cheshire Cat is real and to commend him for his discovery. Mr. Maye is a southern gentlemen, but he is not stupid. The motion made by Mr. Maye was an astonishingly charitable and yet stubbornly realistic response to the actions of the Erskine board and administration – and, particularly, of the board’s ad hoc committee and its chair and the chairman of the board, Mr. David Conner. The Erskine board asked for another year for their ad hoc committee to study Synod’s request that the trustees revise the board’s bylaws/charter in order to comply with Synod’s removal policy of trustees “for cause.” As a result of Mr. Maye’s motion, a Synod committee appointed by Moderator Dr. Steve Suits will also study the same matter. A Minority Report from the Erskine board revealed the disturbing fact that either the ad hoc committee did not do the work assigned or withheld and covered up the facts in order to produce a preconceived outcome. In response, a Synod committee will “birddog” the board’s ad hoc committee. If anything was evident at the 2012 meeting of General Synod, it was a profound distrust of the Erskine administration and board by about half of the delegates.

Witness also that, as Mr. Maye began his motion, he said it was time for all of us to get on the same page about Erskine or let Erskine go its way. If memory serves me correctly, he used the term “separation” – the first time this fateful word has been used on the floor of the Synod. It will not be the last! In the ARP Church, Erskine has become THE “bone on contention” that divides us.

When I first read Mr. Smith’s press release, I said it was another example of what many us call “Erskine disingenuousness.” After a night of sleep, I am now of another opinion: it is the pitiful bellowing of a dying animal.

Consider the following. If the following comments are not the moaning and special pleading of a fearful administration that has lost its purpose for existence, has broken covenant with the mother that birthed the institution, and is in the midst of death throes, what are these comments?

  1. Mr. Smith attempts to blame WORLD Magazine for Erskine’s plight. The reporter(s) of WORLD Magazine described the mess and got it right. ERSKINE MADE THE MESS!
  2. The difference between “directive” and “request” is subtle. The Erskine administration and board are not refusing to abide by a Synod “directive.” At this point, they are refusing to honor Synod’s “request.” However, for the record, there are examples where Erskine administrations and boards have refused Synod’s “directives.”
  3. The language that Erskine is not attempting to break away from the ARP Church is “Jesuit casuistry.” According to the new bylaws/charter, Erskine is now “independent.” Presently, it is the board’s pleasure for the ARP Church to appoint trustees. The bylaws/charter can be changed yet again without the consent of the ARP Church. In other words, Erskine is no longer an “agency” of the ARP Church. Erskine is now an “independent” college with historical ties to the ARP Church that happens to receive support from the ARP Church’s General Fund. So, Mr. Smith is technically correct. Erskine cannot “break away” from something of which it is not a part.
  4. Mr. Smith writes: “Both the ARP Synod and Erskine trustees understand that the Synod cannot direct the Erskine Board to change its governing documents.” Erskine is no longer a part of the ARP Church. What is taking place? The ARP Church is struggling to get its arms around this reality! It is an unpleasant reality for us – a “say it ain’t so” time! But soon enough the cold, hard facts will be undeniable.
  5. Mr. Smith states the Erskine board’s response to the General Synod was an act of compliance. Just the opposite is true! He is very aware the 2011 Synod’s request was validated and partially written by Erskine representatives (including President David Norman). He is also aware the “request” was expected to be embraced and implemented. When the President, the board’s chair, and other representatives are agreed on a motion, does one expect it to be rejected? The expected response is adoption!
  6. Mr. Smith writes: “Erskine values its unique relationship” to the ARP Church. Well, of course, the ARP Church is the largest donor!! Have the geniuses in Belk Hall considered what they are going to do when the ARP money goes away?
  7. The most laughable and Orwellian statement that Mr. Smith makes is this: “. . . the Board of Trustees and President Norman have worked diligently to address the ARP Synod’s concerns. The results have been significant revisions to Erskine’s bylaws, policies. . . .” Indeed, they are “significant revisions”! They Xed the ARP Church out!

As I have noted, reading Mr. Smith’s news release is painful and sad. Erskine has become such a point of division we had a minister speak openly at the 2012 Synod of designating giving rather than supporting the Denominational Ministry Fund which sends Erskine 20% of Synod’s budget. What one delegate said in the open, many are saying privately. What one suggested openly, many are doing quietly. Erskine is now a cancer in the side of the ARP Church.

Mr. Smith’s rhetoric about academic excellence at Erskine and about students “flourishing” is odd for a Christian college representative to write. Is it necessary for him to state what should be obvious? The truth is different. Erskine is now forced to “buy” students. The attrition rate is high. The fabled “academic excellence” is lost. “Thriving” and “flourishing,” Dr. Norman’s buzzwords, are now reduced surviving. And when one reads the alums’ websites, one asks this question: Is this what a Christian college produces? The comments on the Facebook sites of the Erskine alums are diatribes against the evangelical, conservative, and Reformed faith of the ARP Church.

WORLD Magazine got the story right. I am embarrassed for Mr. Smith. He spins a web of empty platitudes about Erskine. Well, was that not what he was hired to do? Someone has to record the death groans and write the obligatory epitaphs.

These are my thoughts,

Charles W. Wilson

 


Below is a copy of the Erskine news release that has been taken from the Aquila Report


WORLD magazine recently published a “Web Extra” post at worldmag.com entitled “Separation of church and school: The struggle over the governance of Erskine College and Seminary continues” (June 8, 2012). That article has since been republished or linked by several other blogs and news services.

Since Erskine did not have an opportunity to provide comment or perspective for the original article, we would like to offer that perspective now in hopes of providing your readers with a more comprehensive and more accurate understanding of the facts regarding Erskine’s current and future relationship with the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP).

Since publication, some details have since been revised on the original post at worldmag.org, providing more accuracy. However, since those details may not be revised in all versions of the article, we address them below.

The article, both by its title and the general direction of the content, would give most readers the perception that by refusing to abide by “directives” from the ARP Synod, Erskine’s trustees and its administration are signaling their desire and intend to break away from Erskine’s founding denomination. One could also perceive that separation is also the prevailing desire of the ARP Synod

Unfortunately, this presents a somewhat skewed view of the current relationship between the ARP Synod and Erskine. More specifically, it misinterprets the events of the past two Synod meetings and the future intentions of Erskine regarding this relationship.

While consideration of alterations to the college’s governance to provide a process for the Synod to remove trustees from the Erskine Board were part of the content of the proposal, the motion of the 2011 ARP Synod was worded, received by Erskine, and acted on by the Erskine trustees as a request to consider and report back to Synod, not a “directive” to make changes to Erskine’s charter or bylaws.

The authority of the Erskine Board of Trustees to govern the college is clearly outlined in Erskine’s charter as well as the “Statement of the Philosophy of Christian Higher Education” provided by the ARP Synod. Both the ARP Synod and Erskine trustees understand that the Synod cannot direct the Erskine Board to change its governing documents.

By the time of the most recent meeting of the ARP Synod (June 5-7, 2012), the Board of Trustees of Erskine had, in fact, complied with that request. An ad hoc committee of trustees had studied the matter, reported to the full board, and the board had voted on a response, which was provided to Synod.

While the Erskine trustees concluded that it was wiser to retain the current governance structure rather than alter its charter and bylaws in the manner suggested, they provided a document that lays out the research conducted and reasons for that decision. Additional information then came to light, after the Erskine trustees’ initial response to the Synod was sent. Both the Synod and Erskine acknowledge this information requires more consideration.

Throughout this process, at multiple times in a variety of ways, including the official written communications and presentations to the assembled 2012 ARP Synod, Erskine’s trustees and President David Norman have made it clear that Erskine does not desire to sever ties with the ARP. Erskine values its unique relationship the ARP. Founded 175 years ago, Erskine was South Carolina’s first and now its oldest four-year institution of higher learning founded by a church.

The ARP Synod still maintains its vital and historical role of spiritual oversight and retains sole authority to appoint all Erskine trustees to the board. Erskine is laboring in earnest to preserve its long-standing relationship with the ARP, being organically and meaningfully connected to its founding denomination at a time when many colleges have long since cut ties or marginalized the relationship with their churches. Erskine Trustees and President Norman have consistently communicated this message to the ministers and elders that comprise the ARP Synod, to alumni, faculty, students, prospective students and families, as well as to the general public many times over the past two years.

During that time, the Board of Trustees and President Norman have worked diligently to address the ARP Synod’s concerns. The results have been significant revisions to Erskine’s bylaws, policies, and procedures that are designed to reinvigorate and accomplish Erskine’s mission to glorify God by equipping students to flourish as whole persons for lives of service through undergraduate liberal arts and graduate theological education in a way that is authentically Christian, academically excellent, intentional, and sustainable.

What Erskine is doing is not an easy task, but it is worthwhile. The 2011 ARP Synod commended Erskine’s trustees and President Norman, who was just completing his first in office, for their effective work. Again this year, the 2012 ARP Synod commended Erskine’s trustees and administration for being willing to continue the dialogue on these issues.

The motion referenced in the WORLD post was in two parts, the first of which was this commendation. The second part established a Synod committee that would continue to study additional information regarding the governance relationship and its structure as the Erskine board did the same. The issue at hand deals with both the feasibility and advisability of altering the governing documents of Erskine to provide a process for the ARP Synod to remove Trustees for cause.

In the article, the language and intent of the motion and comments made by its framer expressing his desired outcome were conveyed in a way that implies that the ARP Synod desires to pursue separation. While there may be individuals who hold that opinion, future separation was not at issue in the Synod’s action. The motion did not imply or suggest a future separation between the ARP and Erskine. Nor did it assume the outcome of the proposed joint effort to study the matter further.

The Erskine Board of Trustees and administration appreciate the ARP Synod’s continued commendations for our work and progress in recent years to ensure an academically rigorous and authentically Christian education for our students. Erskine welcomes the opportunity to continue reviewing the issues and concerns brought forward for further discussion into 2013.

Erskine values the mutually beneficial relationship shared with the ARP Synod and is committed to retaining it in a way that aids our respective missions. We at Erskine look forward to continuing to equip men and women with the knowledge and guidance necessary to pursue lives of significance in service to Christ and his Church, their families, their communities, and the world. This ultimately is something both the ARP Synod and Erskine can agree is worth doing well.

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  1. Ken Huff says:

    I suggest Dr. Norman and Andy Putnam need to get on the same page with talking points. Putnam’s ARP Talk article apparently said Erskine should be a “Christian Liberal Arts College.”

    In an Erskine pitch to prospective Erskine “would be’s” at Horizons in mid – June 2012, Dr. David Norman made a unique distinction from Putnam. Dr. Norman said to this group, “Erskine is a ‘Liberal Arts Christian College.'” Now, I realize that some might cry “symantics.” However, I believe PhD’s and presidents of colleges are usually far more precise with their words. Dr. Norman had a captive audience and a perfect opportunity to declare that Erskine is first and foremost “Christian.” However, he spent all his time articulating the finer points of a liberal arts definition.

    As you say Erskine has been Unfaithful to the label of Christian amd appartenly not much better with Liberal Arts. Will the madness ever stop? Repent Erskine; Repent ARP!

    Ken Huff

     
    • Dear Mr. Ken Huff,

      Thank you for your comments.

      Amen!

      Regards,

      Chuck Wilson
      ARPTalk

       
    • Eric Goodwin says:

      Ken, I think Dr. Norman would respond that you cannot have a true liberal arts education without a Christian perspective. I don’t remember when he addressed this – perhaps his inaugural – but he did so in a wonderful mix of semantics and application.

      He emphasized that a liberal arts college develops a whole world perspective rather than a specific, vocational focus. (Erskine having a thriving Athletic Training major is somewhat contradictory, but necessary for the amount of athletes that attend the school) He further emphasized that you cannot have a true whole world focus unless you have the Christian perspective. Thus, a true liberal arts college MUST be Christian.

      His arguments were much more specific, but I believe I represented them well. If I did not, I apologize in advance.

      As a side note, Chuck, I found the WORLD article patently absurd – it’s just a rehash of online blogs and reports with no original research or thought.

       
      • Dear Mr. Eric Goodwin,

        Thanks for your comments. Good to see you again.

        You write: “I found the WORLD article patently absurd – it’s just a rehash of online blogs and reports with no original research or thought.”

        Really? Aren’t you being rather dismissive? Were you there? Are you aware that WORLD had “eyes and ears” at Synod?

        As I remember, the WORLD article came out immediately after Synod. ARPTalk’s analysis of Synod came out much later. Did the other blogs beat WORLD to the draw? Didn’t Aquila quote WORLD? ARPTalk certainly wasn’t one of WORLD’s sources.

        BTW, you missed Mr. Huff’s question. He was asking: “Where is ‘Christian’ in Liberal Arts at Erskine?”

        Well, I’ll let Mr. Huff speak for himself.

        I hope you are enjoying your summer and getting some rest. Classes begin soon.

        Regards,

        Chuck Wilson
        ARPTalk

         
      • Ken Huff says:

        Mr. Goodwin:

        Sorry for the formality. I am a product of a Christian Liberal Arts College education. I dearly cherish the Christian aspect of my college education. I was taught how to live not just how to secure a living. As a member of the ARP, I desire the president of this college to herald the value of a Christian Liberal Arts education with the emphasis on Christian. My witness of his Horizons address to prospective students was a “grandstand” promoting academics. While I believe Christians should pursue academic excellence, Erskine should be first and foremost a place where students are assured of academics that promote the “. . . likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph.4:20-24). My experience with Erskine (although limited) does not sound forth a clarion note of Christian. At horizons, Dr. Norman seemed more interested in magnifying the principles of a Liberal Arts educatinn rather than magnifying our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ which is distinctly Christian.

        I understand his situation. If Dr. Norman promotes Erskine as distinctly “Christian” Liberal Arts, the alumni base with burn him at the stake. However, if he desires to keep this “unique” relationship with the ARP, Dr. Norman might more precisely consider his words in front of a distinctively ARP crowd regardless of the age of the crowd. Perhaps he did choose his words carefully and now we clearly see his direction for Erskine . . . primarily Liberal Arts and secondarily Christian.

        Mr. Goodwin, did you decide to attend Erskine for it’s academics or because of it’s Christian environment, knowing that it was a safe place for you to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

        Thanks for your comments.
        Ken Huff

         
        • James Curtis says:

          Mr. Huff,

          Eric can answer the question any way he’d like, but if we’re honest he was offered a full ride to an academically excellent institution- he’d be a blathering idiot to turn that down. And I don’t mean that negatively, Eric. I would have easily done the same thing.

          James Curtis

           
          • Ken Huff says:

            No problems here! I am glad that Mr. Goodwin go the full ride. Praise the Lord! But, to my point, as member of the ARP, I refused to send my daughter to Erskine. I feared that Erskine would undermine the 18 years of discipleship and shepherding given to her by her family and church. All I am saying is that it seems more than logical, right and appropriate for ARP members not to have to worry about such a thing from an institution that has a “cherished” relationship with the ARP, according to Dr. Norman from the Synod floor.

             
          • Dear Mr. James Curtis,

            Thank you for your comments – comments all the way from Scotland.

            You and Mr. Eric Goodwin seem to be acquainted.

            Regards,

            Chuck Wilson
            ARPTalk

             
        • Eric Goodwin says:

          Ken,

          I’ve had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Norman talk about Erskine numerous times – probably more than most. I’ve interviewed him twice for The Mirror. The Euphemians were honored to have him speak at our first Presidential Address; he spoke on community and brought in many of the themes we’re discussing here. He is passionate about this topic and speaks well on it.

          In short, Dr. Norman finds the a non-Christian liberal arts education incomplete and – indeed – inherently contradictory. A true liberal arts education implies a Christian focus. Otherwise, you are only receiving a fractured understanding of the world divorced from God. I think that Dr. Norman, especially as a philosopher, necessarily implies Christian when he discusses liberal arts.

          Every time I have heard him speak on Erskine I have heard him discuss the intimate connection of Christianity and a liberal arts education.While Christianity is the perspective, liberal arts is the method and the tools of education. While the two are interlinked, I think it is more important to underscore the how (liberal arts) than the why (Christianity) – particularly when the two are necessarily connected anyhow. And thus Dr. Norman consistently, in my experience, talks about both and cannot understand them separated.

          The reply to your question is interesting. I came to Erskine with the Presidential Scholarship, but that was the how far more than the why. I could send you my application essays – they speak frequently both about Erskine as a nurturing home for my Christian faith (I wrote frequently about the Barn) and about Erskine as an excellent academic institution. I’ll say this though: anyone who chooses a college for reasons above the academic is stupid. Colleges, including Erskine, exist to provide a superior academic experience first and foremost. If you’re looking for something else – to find a husband, to party, to hide from the real world, or to find a safe place to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ – you may find it at Erskine, but prioritizing it will needlessly threaten your pocketbook.

          Erskine is an academic institution grounded in the liberal arts – for which, says Dr. Norman, a Christian perspective is necessarily required.

           
          • Dear Mr. Eric Goodwin,

            Once again, thank you for your comments. The conversation you’re having with Mr. Huff is interesting.

            Would you mind answering a question for me?

            A few days ago on your FACEBOOK site you quoted the following from ARPTalk: “Dr. Norman said what he wrote [his doctoral dissertation] was nothing more than a speculative conversation in which philosophers are wont to engage. At the end of the discussion, Dr. Norman said whatever the church said he would affirm. He said he held his views hypothetically and was willing to change his views in order to be in accord with the church.” Then you added: “Dr. Norman, this is why the student body thinks you are flaky. If you can’t stand up for your dissertation, what will you stand up for?”

            Well, that’s a straightforward criticism questioning Dr. Norman’s academic integrity! Do you think Mr. Huff may have the same frustration?

            So far in you conversation with Mr. Huff, you are an apologist for Dr. Norman’s positions. Where did the sense of frustration go? There seems to be a bit of incongruity here. Now, as you defend Dr. Norman, do you not realize that you are coming across obsequiously?

            Regards,

            Chuck Wilson
            ARPTalk

             
            • Eric Goodwin says:

              Chuck, I was merely attempting to give justice to Dr. Norman’s public beliefs on Christian Liberal Arts for the sake of Ken’s curiosity. I never said I support them (or disagree with them) and I’m not defending him – just (hopefully) fairly representing his words so Ken can understand.

              As for Facebook, I stand by my words and I hope that Dr. Norman didn’t truly mean his. Being willing to divorce yourself from a publicly affirmed belief – particularly a dissertation – because someone asks you to is something quite substantial. If he truly said that and truly meant it, its ramifications are disappointing and dangerous.

              For the interests of clarity and truth, what was it exactly that Dr. Norman said?

               
              • Dear Mr. Eric Goodwin,

                Thank you for your comments. Thank you for your response to my question? Now, permit me a few comments.

                1. My reporting of the conversation with Dr. Norman is a fair, accurate, and truthful summary or verbatim of what he said. For the record, two others were present who can speak to this. Obviously, Dr Norman was present and Mr. Scott Cook was also there. I believe you know Mr. Cook. If you would like to speak to Mr. Cook, his cell number hasn’t changed since his Erskine days.

                2. I understand Mr. Huff’s frustration with Dr. Norman’s position or new position or new and improved position or let’s try it once again position on the Christian liberal arts college or the liberal arts Christian college; it is like grasping a cloud. And “attempting to give justice” to it is a very tall order for you. Dr. Norman has the “gift” of being able to confuse everyone in a room. I have heard him speak numerous times, I have spent considerable time with him face-to-face, and hours-and-hours with him on the phone and I’m still confused. Sadly, he either doesn’t know what he’s talking about or is unwilling or unable to implement it. So, in the meanwhile, he does what a philosopher or politician (and he’s both) does: he talks about it! The steep hill for Dr. Norman is ERSKINE AIN’T CHRISTIAN! It is impossible to have a Christian college without a committed Christian faculty. The faculty Dr. Norman has is essentially the faculty he inherited from Dr. Randy Ruble. That faculty is not a friend of evangelical Christianity. Herein is the dilemma! Herein will continue to be the dilemma! You see, just because Dr. Norman closes his letters with “All for Christ” doesn’t mean all are for Christ. Indeed, in the case of Erskine College, they are not. BTW, what Mr. Huff saw in the faculty at Samford is why he sent his daughter there.

                3. Why are you the “designated hitter” for Dr. Norman’s vision? It seems rather obsequious for you to do this. Can’t Dr. Norman speak for himself?

                If you will re-read the ARPTalk articles, you will notice it has only been recently I have been critical of Dr. Norman. As a matter of fact, in more than one conversation with me, he asked me to be critical of him. He said it would help him to deal with the alums and the EC Foundation. I refused. I was waiting to see what he was going to do. A number of friends said to me, “Easy with Norman, he does better than he talks!”

                At this point, I like neither what he “talks” or
                does.” His “does” really bothers me. He has been disingenuous with the ARP Church.

                Mr. Goodwin, Dr. Norman is no stranger to ARPTalk. Let him speak for himself. He doesn’t need you. Are you being used?

                My words are blunt. I’m not attempting to dismiss or disrespect you. The issues we are dealing with are substantive. You’re over intellectualizing the issues. Frankly, the concept of Christian liberal arts is not difficult. However, without an administration, faculty, and board that are committed to the concept, it is impossible to do. The task at Erskine is impossible!

                Regards,

                Chuck Wilson
                ARPTalk

                 
          • Ken Huff says:

            Mr. Goodwin:

            Thanks for the background and your comments.

            I think Dr. Norman’s (perhaps your’s) premise is faulty. There are liberal arts colleges that care little if at all for any Christian viewpoint as a part of their academic approach. So, there can be a liberal arts education without any emphasis on Christian. Dr. Norman’s argument, although I have not heard it as you describe it, is further faulty in that if Christian is secondary in a liberal arts education the Christian part is likely to go away all together. Example: Erskine seems stuck in this pattern. With the current direction, the Christian part is headed out the door.

            I guess I am Stupid! I helped my daughter choose a college based primarily on the spiritual environment and the academics were secondary. Samford is a great academic institution. Do the research! Yet, I have no fears of her faith is undermined or degraded in the classroom. Quite the contrary; I know her faith is flourishing and growing as I continue to disciple her now at a distance. Funny though, God is providing financially every step of the way. God is very kind.

            Lastly, I am grateful for the faithful remnant that remains at Erskine. I am grateful for RUF and the Barn and the spiritual impact that God graciously provides for those students that participate. God is good to give those ministries. However, as a college uniquely associated with the ARP, Erskine should stand unashamed as Christian first and foremost. There is nothing wrong with marketing that perspective. I wonder if Dr. Norman and the majority of the EBOT is ashamed of the Christian label for Erskine?

             
            • Eric Goodwin says:

              Ken,

              It’s obvious that you’re not understanding the point. Christianity and liberal arts are necessarily linked. To teach a full view of the world, the purpose of liberal arts, you must do so from a Christian perspective. Liberal arts institutions which divorce themselves from the Christian perspective develop a fractured world view unequal to the term liberal arts. In Dr. Norman’s view, a true liberal arts program necessarily implies a Christian perspective. Liberal arts institutions which teach from a non-Christian perspective are not truly fulfilling the liberal arts mission.

              If I use the word blue to describe the color green is that not foolishness to you? Certainly! Because in our understanding the word blue necessarily implies the color blue. To divorce one from the other is absurd. Likewise with Christianity and liberal arts in Dr. Norman’s view.

              Furthermore, your initial premise misunderstands the semantics. While a liberal arts Christian college is merely a liberal arts college which teaches from a Christian perspective, Dr. Norman’s terminology in your initial post in fact *presupposes* the Christian nature of Erskine and that the liberal arts are merely the method of the teaching.

              This fits in perfectly with Dr. Norman’s views: a non-Christian liberal arts college is a contradictory premise, but non-liberal arts Christian colleges are common. Because his terminology and view presupposes the Christian nature of Erskine, he is well-justified in spending his time showing what makes Erskine different from other Christian colleges.

              Does that make sense?

               
              • Ken Huff says:

                Mr.Goodwin:

                I do understand. Read James Curtis below. The point is I disagree. There is no shame in putting the Christian empahsis as the primary focus. Yet, I fear this is the case for the EBOT and Dr. Norman. This indeed smacks of politics. Dr. Norman and Joe Patrick contritely spoke of the desire for continued relationship with the ARP during the week of Synod. The very next week Dr. Norman voices a Liberal Arts Christian emphasis. Why did he not communicate this at Synod?

                Also, Dr. Norman and many other of the EBOT have affirmed evangelical Christianity in assuning leadershp at the EBOT level. Most ARP folks would expect that affirmation to include the Centrality of the Gospel, meaning the believer’s very existence it to live life in the reality of making much of Jesus and the Cross, not making much of liberal arts. As Mr. Curtis has written, if you don’t put the Christian first, it is clear as mud. The Christian in Chritian Liberal Arts must be first. Jesus paid much too high a price for it to be secondary in the beliver’s life. That is true for me first and foremost, but equally as true for Dr. Norman, the EBOT, the faculty and staff of Erskine and the Erskine students.

                Thank you for your words and your challenge to me to think and live more Gospel-focused in this area of my life.

                Grace to you.
                Ken Huff

                 
            • James Curtis says:

              Two things if I may, directed toward Mr. Huff and Eric:

              Mr. Huff: You wanted to make sure your daughter was in a safe environment to grow in her Christian beliefs (the fruit of your hard work as a father), so you sent her to Samford? Allow me to be extraordinarily perplexed by this as I have several friends at Samford who all tell me, repeatedly, that the religion department there is absolute rubbish. I believe the terms/phrases “liberal,” and “don’t believe the whole Bible is true,” came up more in that discussion than has ever in any discussion about Erskine. Now, I’m not saying Erskine is a safe haven either, but at least Erskine’s Bible department has its head on straight (if I can say that about my major?). I’ve enjoyed every word that has come from your mouth regarding your daughter- until Samford. I’m lost for words, to be honest.

              Eric: I think you need to pump the brakes on saying he doesn’t understand when, clearly, both of you are misreading or carelessly looking over the others’ arguments. Mr. Huff’s point is that there are, contrary to what Dr. Norman says, Liberal-Arts colleges divorced from Christianity. This, if I’m reading Mr. Huff correctly, clearly provides substantial evidence against Dr. Norman’s thesis that Liberal Arts implies Christian. If this is the case, then Mr. Huff would say, and has said, that Dr. Norman is placing the Christian emphasis after liberal arts, and thus Christian purpose ends up clear as mud.

              There is another problem regarding this which no one (except maybe Chuck in earlier ARPtalk comment threads/articles) has mentioned: Dr. Norman hasn’t said a word here to clear things up. This might be a political strategy, and if it is it is ending up like most of his political strategies (i.e., a failure), but the fact remains that something must be said, and whether he likes it or not people will criticize him. I would say I’m sorry to him, but honestly I’m not, as this somehow keeps happening. If he were to open up about this and shed some light, then maybe he would help potential donors to EC, and (I would think for Dr. Norman) more importantly confused students who are already paying ridiculous amounts of money to attend, to make the step toward beginning (or continuing) financial and possibly other types of support.

              Arguing amongst yourselves is absurd, gentlemen, because Eric is not Dr. Norman. Until he speaks up on this (and he is certainly capable) we’ll keep bickering about semantics and meanings we’re not even sure about.

              James Curtis

               
              • Dear Mr. James Curtis,

                Well spoken!

                Regards,

                Chuck Wilson
                ARPTalk

                 
              • Ken Huff says:

                Samford it is and I am thoroughly convinced both from a spiritual and academic standpoint she is exactlyin the right place to grow in the grace and knowledge of her Savior. Two years into this, she is growing into the Godly young woman I have begged God for her to be. The Samford faculty play a large role in this growth. You see, she is not a Bible Major. She is a Church Music Major. Yes, the Bible faculty may be as you say. However, I interviewed faculty and administration at length for the assurance of my daughter’s spiritual safety in the Music Dept. Also, the worship classes that she has had to this point have indeed been taught by Catholics, but none of those men have openly degraded her faith in class. (Erskine Bible Faculty have been accused of this degrading of sudents’ faith to their shame.) At Samford, true to their word, they have discipled and been shepherds to my daughter in numeous ways. To my point, Samford from administration (top) to student(down)communicates a distinctively Christian Liberal Arts passion . They live it. They don’t just give lip service to it.

                However, this is not a debate over Samford. This is an ARP elder saying that Erskine should be Christian Liberal Arts. Emphasis on Christian! Arguing that Samford somehow is not merely (for a moment) takes the focus of what is true at Erskine: Christian at Erskine is not the main focus not does it seem to be a desired focus according to Dr, Norman.

                BTW: My pastor has four kids of college age or older and none went to Erskine for some of these same reasons. What an evidence of the poor spiritual condition at Erskine that a pastor of an ARP church cannot send his kids to the denominational college.

                 
                • James Curtis says:

                  Mr Huff,

                  It doesn’t take focus off of anything. It focuses right on to what you’re saying. Samford, at least for me, destroys a majority of what you’ve been going on and on about. Samford is Erskine without the church in 10 years (if it were to survive).

                  Disappointing is the word I’m alluding to, Mr. Huff. I find your argument immensely less appealing because, I would argue, you haven’t stuck to it yourself! I have a friend who is a Church Music major at Samford, and I learned quite a bit about what they taught her in some of her “bible” courses. Furthermore, if an ARP Elder finds himself unable to send his children to Erskine it seems entirely backwards to me for you to send your kid(s) to a school that is much further down the road Erskine is traveling.

                  The point about the Bible departement is this: if their Bible professors don’t get it, then that speaks volumes (and rather loud ones at that) about the school’s position on Scripture. I’ll repeat myself: the *school’s* position on Scripture. Why would you send your child to a school with that view of Scripture? I say again, backwards Mr. Huff. Backwards.

                  But let’s roll along with your point that she has grown. You are under the assumption that she wouldn’t have grown at Erskine, which isn’t as far gone as Samford. I’m absolutely failing to see your point in light of your decision, please forgive me for that.

                  James Curtis

                   
                  • Dear Mr. Ken Huff and Mr. Jim curtis:

                    Guys you have lost focus. We’re not dealing with Samford. Samford is the concern of Southern Baptists in Alabama. Erskine College is our concern.

                    Regards,

                    Chuck Wilson
                    ARPTalk

                     
                    • Ken Huff says:

                      Agreed Chuck! Yet, I appreciate anyone who challenges my thinking and practices to be right and Godly. So, Mr. Curtis thank you for your consideration to help me to that end.

                      Grace to you both.
                      Ken Huff

                       
  2. Eric Moore says:

    WORLD Magazine absolutely did not get it right, and I am glad that the writer was asked to correct himself.

    Mr. Wilson, I know you want first-time commenters to introduce themselves. Please bear with me if there is other protocol that I am failing to follow. I am an Erskine alumnus, an inactive ARP elder, currently a member in good standing of a PCA congregation, and an occasional ARPTalk reader. I have less awareness and involvement than some people on these matters, but more than most — certainly more than the average WORLD reader.

    The average WORLD reader — even the average ARP — may have read Mickey Mclean’s original article and thought that the Erskine Board had refused to comply with a directive given to it by the ARP Synod.

    However, the Synod of 2011 did not issue a directive to the Erskine Board. I am confident that Synod would not have issued a directive if one had been proposed.

    My understanding is that Synod presented some preliminary language for amendments to the charter and by-laws, asked the Board “for their consideration and review,” and requested “feedback and proposed amendments.” As best I can tell, the Board complied with these requests and has acted cooperatively and in good faith.

    By presenting this story as a matter of Synod giving a directive and the Board of Trustees refusing to act on it, I think the original WORLD article was misleading and inflammatory. Mr. McLean should not only report accurately but, as an ARP elder himself, should promote a peaceful and fruitful continued discussion of the issues before the church.

    I am grateful for Cliff Smith’s efforts to make the facts known, and appreciate that Mr. McLean did indeed make some changes to his article after receiving Mr. Smith’s comments.

     
    • Dear Mr. Eric Moore,

      Thank you for your comments. Welcome to ARPTalk. Thank you also for identifying yourself a bit. I hope you continue to read ARPTalk and to participate. I appreciate knowing another Erskine grad. As you know, I too am an alum.

      As one who is a witness to the 2011 and 2012 Synods, may I help you with some points of misunderstanding?

      1. First, I think I need to help you with an issue of church polity. You are a “former ARP”; you are not an “inactive ARP.” You are currently a member of a PCA congregation. As a member of a PCA congregation, you have no membership in the ARP Church.

      2. As one who was present at the 2011 Synod and who knows a great deal about the framing and making of “the “request” that was past and sent to the Erskine board, let me correct a couple of misconceptions. Mr. Mclean was technically incorrect when he described the “request” as a “directive.” However, Mr. Smith is not only incorrect but misleading in giving the impression that Synod’s “request” was simply a request. When the Erskine President, the board chair, and other board members and Erskine officials help in framing a “request” and “sign off” on it, saying, “Tell us what you want; we will do it!” the “request” suddenly carries the weight of a “directive.” No one missed that! Indeed, WORLD go it right. Mr. Smith was told to SPIN the story. He did. Like Washington politicians, these folks are masters at deception. SPIN is not the MO of WORLD.

      3. You write that Synod would not issue a “directive” to Erskine. Really?!? I have seen Synod do that!

      4. Let me assure you, Erskine is not cooperating with the ARP Church. If they were, why this mess? The motion made by former Moderator Mr. Steve Maye was a motion of distrust of the Erskine board and administration. The work of the Erskine board in dealing with this matter of “trustee removal for cause” will have a Synod committee birddoging it. That’s an action of distrust!

      5. Mr. Mclean’s articles clearly demonstrate the level of division in the ARP Church over matters regarding Erskine. He also clearly relates the level of distrust that many of us have for the Erskine board and administration. It may not have passed, but a motion to separate would have been close. Publicly and privately, this discussion is taking place.

      Finally, as one who was present for the entire 2012 Synod, I’ll give Mr. Mclean an “A” in his reporting. Indeed, he missed some of the language; nevertheless, he got all the ethos right. When Erskine got hit as badly as it did, the only thing left for Mr. Smith to do was “damage control.” That’s called “spin.”

      Mr. Moore, I hope you feel free to disagree with me. I would be glad to continue our conversation.

      Regards,

      Chuck Wilson
      ARPTalk

       
  3. James Evans says:

    Hey, I honestly didn’t read all of this, but i am glad that there are some people who have the patience to read and write so much. I’d like to thank Eric especially here, since he has paid attention to many of Norman’s speeches, and would know Dr. Norman’s stance on things more than anyone else that I can think of.

    My 2 cents is this:
    Horizon is a Christian High School retreat (or a High School Christian retreat, to say it like a heathen), perhaps Dr. Norman focused on the Liberal Arts aspect with the audience in mind. I’m sure many high school atendees needed the clarification that Liberal Arts does not refer to a political stance, but rather a type of education.
    Also, I have had several talks with Dr. Norman one on one, and I can assure that he is neither evil, nor is he atheism supporting.

     

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