Carpe Diem: Hastening to Obey and Do the Right Thing

 

Have you read Psalm 119:60? The Psalmist writes: “I will HASTEN [author’s emphasis] and not delay to obey your commands” (NIV). A corresponding New Testament text is James 4.17: “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (ESV). When we in the ARP Church are confronted with the history of Erskine, what do we say? Have we hastened to obey God? Knowing the “right thing,” have we attempted to do it? We are very familiar with Erskine College and Seminary’s story of infidelity which sadly stretches back for more than 40 years. We read the disingenuous and obfuscatory reports by Erskine administrators and board leaders to General Synod and to the ARP Church, and, in our sinful unwillingness to address their duplicity, we have become complicit in that dishonesty. We know Erskine Presidents have hired, countenanced, promoted, and protected “false teachers” on the faculty who have rejected and ridiculed the Christian faith and taught their students to do the same in the name of “critical thinking” and “academic freedom.” We are not unaware of the board’s MO in subverting the ARP Church’s efforts to reform Erskine College and Seminary into a distinctively Christian institution. With all this before us, we have shrugged our shoulders and looked away and sent them money to do it again. We have not hastened to deal with Erskine according to what the Bible clearly teaches regarding false teaching and deceit. We have made excuses. We have known what the “right thing” is, but we have ignored it. We pray and ask God’s blessing on the ARP Church and Erskine College and Seminary, and then we wonder why God has closed up the heavens to us! And we despair that God sends us not a blessing but a famine of the soul and empty pews!

Nevertheless, the foolishness of our disobedience and faithlessness continues. Like ancient Israel, we continue to walk in the ways of self-delusion! We do not seize the day and return to God in repentance and new obedience. Carpe diem is far from us.

1. Proposed Summit by the Parsimonious

Before the last two meetings of the board, Ms. Nan Campbell, the President of the Erskine College and Theological Seminary Alumni Association (EAA), on behalf of the EAA board, proposed

“trust and communications-building summits with leaders from the General Synod, Erskine’s Board, Administration, Faculty, and Alumni. . . .”

The Moderator of General Synod, Dr. Steve Suits, wisely refused to participate in this “Summit.” This call for a “Summit” is a FARCE. Ms. Campbell, as President of the EAA, is the President of NOTHING. The EAA is a non-organization. It is a loose connection of Erskine alums whose only identity is through Mr. “Buddy” Ferguson and his office as Director of Annual Fund and Alumni Affairs. Besides this, the Moderator of General Synod does not have the authority to do such a thing. He is not a “bishop”.

Unsatisfied with Dr. Suits’ answer, Erskine Board Chairman and ARP ruling elder David Conner took up Ms. Campbell’s cause and took it to the Executive Board of General Synod. Once again, the answer was “No!” The sort of forum proposed by the EAA is precisely what already exists: the Erskine Board of Trustees. Are Ms. Campbell and the alums of the EAA unhappy with the Erskine board? Or more likely, was their goofy proposal designed to put further pressure on the ARP Church?

A few weeks ago, I received in the mail the Erskine: 2011-12 Annual Report. One wonders if Ms. Campbell, the President of the EAA, has read and examined this financial statement. Did she notice only 18% of degreed college alums give to Erskine College? Did she notice only 6% of seminary alums give to Erskine Seminary? Did she notice only 13% of alums overall give? If Ms. Campbell wants to use her time wisely for the sake of Erskine rather than for blatantly political ends, the financial lovelessness on the part of the Erskine alums would be a prime target for her to consider. Indeed, one thing can be said about Erskine alums: they are a parsimonious lot! Given that some of these alums received a tuition-free education, they do not give back much to Erskine College and Seminary! Why do they have such disregard for Erskine? Therefore, how is it that Ms. Campbell and the EAA have the unmitigated gall to suggest a “Summit” or anything else?

It is also necessary to note that credit for any gift given by Erskine alums is claimed by Ms. Campbell and the EAA. That is misleading! There are many alumni who give to Erskine who hold the EAA and the direction they want for Erskine in disdain. I am one of those, and there are many others. I greatly resent their claim of credit for what I have given. Indeed, the notion of the EAA representing Erskine alums is a fiction. The highly politicized EAA represents the secular, anti-ARP Church segment of the alumni.

But wait, this story of arrogance and overreaching continues. Erskine board Chairman David Conner is not pleased with questions 6 and 7 in the “Doctrinal Commitment Questionnaire for Nominees.” Mr. Conner, a member of the Session of the Greenville ARP Church, was so bold as to ask the Executive Board of General Synod to overturn the action of General Synod. Well, this is to be expected from a lawyer who functions as a pettifogger on matters regarding the ARP Church.

The offending questions are as follows:

(6) If your commitment to any of the above stated doctrinal standards and commitments of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church change during the term of your service, will you notify the chair of your committee or board, and either demit your position, or submit to the process and internal bylaws of the committee or board of whom you are a member, as well as the higher authority of the Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, where it deems appropriate as the appointing body, in reassessing your term of service?

(7) If you are considered delinquent in your stated duties and/or doctrinal commitment as a committee or board member, will you submit to the processes and internal bylaws of the committee or board of whom you are a member, as well as the higher authority of the Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, where it deems appropriate as the appointing body, in reassessing your term of service?

Wisely, the Executive Committee of General Synod informed Chairman Conner and the Erskine board the Executive Committee of General Synod did not have the authority to overturn an action of General Synod. There was nothing else the Executive Board of General Synod could do.

What could be behind this request by Chairman Conner? In Chairman Conner’s letter, he wrote he was writing “on behalf of the Board of Trustees of Erskine College and Theological Seminary.” I have spoken with a number of trustees who say Chairman Conner WAS NOT writing in their behalf on this matter. Do you suppose these board members I spoke to were lying and misleading me? What are Mr. Conner, President Norman, and Ms. Campbell up to? If past actions are an indicator, you can be sure they are not up to doing the will of the ARP Church. The direction being charted by Mr. Conner and his ilk is now abundantly clear: they want an independent Erskine.

Why do we in the ARP Church not hasten to deal with these matters regarding Erskine College and Seminary? Do we not know what the “right thing” is? Why do we countenance such sleaziness in our midst? Do we not know that to know the right thing to do, and fail to do it is sin?

There are, however, those who know what the “right thing” is, how to do it, and also how to “hasten” in doing it. Inside Higher Ed is not a friend of Evangelical Christianity or our “Philosophy of Higher Christian Education”; however, their article on Shorter University chronicles that what we in the ARP Church desire for Erskine College and Seminary can be accomplished if we have the courage and perseverance to do it. At Shorter University, Evangelical reform has taken place, and, in spite of all the dire predictions by the “Chicken Little” liberals, Shorter University has not lost SACS accreditation. Also, notice that giving to the school has increased. Finally, how is it Southern Baptists demonstrate a higher and better ecclesiology in their dealings with educational institutions than does the ARP Church? Now that is ironic and humbling for us Presbyterians who pride ourselves on being “connectional”.

Well, someone is going to ask: “What will happen if we fail?” The answer is simple: NOTHING WORTH HAVING WILL BE LOST!

2. Trustee Changes

Now, with the resignations of Dr. Larry Nycum and Rev. Tim Watson from the Erskine board, there will be SEVEN (7) nominees for General Synod to appoint to the Erskine board this June. To say we are at a pivotal place in the life of the ARP Church and Erskine College and Seminary is a monumental understatement. If we are prepared to seize the day, NOW is the time for change. The deadlock on the board can be unlocked and reformation can begin.

At the last meeting of General Synod, Dr. Kyle Sims, Pastor of the Lancaster ARP Church and member of General Synod’s Committee on Nominations, boldly, clearly, passionately, and publicly declared he was for the reformation of Erskine College and Seminary. He asked for time. He said we should go about the process of reformation in an orderly fashion through the nominating process. He noted the majority of the Synod wanted to see Erskine transformed into an Evangelical Christian college and seminary faithfully honoring and implementing our “Philosophy of Christian Higher Education”.

Carpe diem! Indeed, the 2013 meeting of General Synod is the time for us to seize the day. The 2013 meeting of General Synod is the time for us to “hasten” to obey God. We know our sins: neglect of oversight and unwillingness to correct the problems at Erskine. We would much rather be well liked than effective or faithful. Will we have the faith, courage, and gumption to finally do “the right thing”? All it will take is the nomination of seven discerning and courageous Bible-believing and ARP Church-loving nominees by the Committee on Nomination and their appointment by the 2013 General Synod. We have bemoaned the deadlock. Now can the “right” and “middle” of the ARP Church join hands and do what more than 75% of us say we long for? Can we seize the day?

Carpe diem! How can we do it? One, we can “hasten” to do “the right thing” and vote to change the board; or, two, we set Erskine free from the ARP Church and let the institution go its way and reroute our resources to renewing the ARP Church. Both of these options are righteous. To continuing vacillating on this matter is flagrant sin.

These are my thoughts,

Charles W. Wilson

 

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  1. Tim Phillips says:

    Chuck, in the interest of clarification: I am a member of the Executive Board of General Synod (as a presbytery representative), and I was in attendance at the fall meeting which you reference above (the meeting was conducted via video/phone conference). The Manual of Authority and Duties says the first duty of the Executive Board is “To act on behalf of Synod in emergency situations.” Neither of the two requests we were presented with were determined to be “emergency situations.” The Executive Board is not a bishop that acts above or independently of General Synod, and I’m not sure that folks really understand.

    With regard to the proposal from the Alumni Association, I applaud the efforts of the AA to extend this olive branch. But this is simply outside of the purview of the Executive Board. When this was being discussed at the meeting, I specifically mentioned that several members of the Executive Board were Erskine alumni; if the AA wanted to meet with us, we could be asked as individuals, just like any other alumnus of Erskine. There is no need to involve the Executive Board itself in such a matter.

     
  2. Dear Mr. Tim Phillips,

    Thanks for the comment. Thanks for the info.

    You are too kind. Ms. Campbell and Mr. David Conner know how the Executive Board of General Synod works. This is about leverage. Nothing more! Nothing less! These are not reasonable or honest people.

    Regards,

    Chuck Wilson
    ARPTalk

     

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