Jul 18, 2013 | Comments 8
Editor’s Note: (1) Below is an “Open Letter” by Mr. Scott Cook to Rev. Matt Miller, the Pastor of the Greenville ARP Church. If you would care to read them, the documents referred to by Mr. Cook are stored on ARPTalk and are located at the following URL (click the following URL if you are reading this article on the ARPTalk site otherwise, if you are reading the pdf of ARPTalk, “cut and paste” the URL: http://www.arptalk.org/Taylor-v-Greenville.pdf). Ignore the obligatory warning. The download is safe. (2) A courtesy e-mail, with a copy of Mr. Cook’s letter, was sent to Rev. Miller more than 24 hours before the posting of this article. He was asked if he would like to post a response alongside Mr. Cook’s letter. Rev. Miller did not respond.
Open Letter to Matt Miller
Dear Matt Miller,
I am writing this open letter to you regarding your comments at Synod this year about the complaint against Second Presbytery. Since your comments were made in public and had some influence upon the court’s decision to deny the complaint against Second Presbytery, I thought it appropriate to engage you in open dialogue.
I was troubled by your explanation of how the Session of the Greenville ARP Church handled the issue of Dr. Taylor’s sincerity in its response to the presbyters who filed charges against Dr. Taylor. As you may recall, Dr. Chuck Wilson spoke to the complaint by arguing that if Synod accepts the recommendation of the Ecclesiastical Commission, then Synod will set the precedent that sincerity overrides the authority of the Scriptures and the Standards of the ARP Church. You then rose and offered a “point of clarification,” relaying to the court that “[Dr. Taylor’s sincerity] was not however in any way material to the conclusion of our session’s report, which was that the statute of limitations had expired.… [T]hat was simply a report of his statement, which we concluded in our report was not material to our conclusion” (this quotation taken from an audio recording of Mr. Miller speech at Synod).
This, however, is not how the official statement of the Greenville ARP Session reads. The sincerity of Dr. Taylor is indeed listed as a ground for judicial action not being necessary, which is in apparent contradiction to the information you gave the court. The report gives two reasons for recommending no proceedings against Dr. Taylor. The first reason is that “I. Prosecution was not Timely,” arguing that the statute of limitations had passed. The second reason is, “II. Judicial Process not Necessary.” The opening sentence of this section reads, “Even if the foregoing limitations rule was nonexistent, the Committee recommends that judicial process against Dr. Taylor is unnecessary.” (emphasis mine) The Committee listed three supporting facts—none of which deal with procedure—for why judicial proceedings were not necessary. The very first reason speaks of Dr. Taylor’s sincerity, and it was this portion that Dr. Wilson read to the court and that you said was not “in any way material” to the conclusion of your session: “(a) That Dr. Taylor, as a trustee, truly believed that the action taken by the General Synod with respect to the attempted removal of certain trustees would be detrimental to the welfare of Erskine College and Seminary, and also believed that no other options were available to him and the other plaintiffs” (emphasis mine).
In light of these details, I ask that you please explain how sincerity is in no way “material to the conclusion” of the session’s report. I could very well be misreading your Session’s findings, but if Dr. Taylor’s sincerity is listed as a ground for Judicial Process being unnecessary, how can Dr. Taylor’s sincerity be merely background information?
A Response to Clint Davis
Editor’s Note: The article below by Rev. Bill Marsh is in response to the Rev. Clint Davis’ reflections on the 2013 ARP Synod which was posted on the Aquila Report (http://theaquilareport.com/reflections-on-the2013-arp-synod-the-arp-in-the-present-and-future/). Rev. Marsh has given permission to ARPTalk to re-post his article. The article was originally post on The Aquila Report at http://theaquilareport.com/grateful-realism-a-response-to-clint-davis-review-of-the-arp-general-synod/.
Grateful Realism: A Response to Clint Davis’ Review of the ARP General Synod
by William C. Marsh
There is much to agree with in Rev. Clint Davis’ recent review of this year’s meeting of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) General Synod. The numerous unified and faithful votes of the delegates can only encourage the hearts of the faithful. Moreover, to hear a bright and leading young pastor like the Rev. Davis celebrate the covenanting, heroic past of the Synod’s ancestral roots in Scotland, as well as his call for commitment to confessional, free-offer-of-the-gospel evangelical religion is most encouraging, and it is exactly the right prescription for our future as a denomination of Christ’s Church. What a bright promise such a commitment will bring to our Synod!
However, along with gratitude we should, in all Christian maturity, also bring a sober realism. Many did not leave our Synod meeting with the (unalloyed) “joyful, fraternal” feelings of which the Rev. Davis writes. The heartbreakingly close vote on the matter of disciplining elders who sued their own denomination in a civil court to overturn an ecclesiastical decision they disagreed with was not a sign of discernment or courage on the part of the denomination. Frankly, it is hard to think of another denomination with the kind of commitments the Rev. Davis celebrates which would tolerate such a situation without discipline. According to all expressions of Reformed Confessionalism, such discipline is no less than a mark of a true church, so our failure in this instance is no small matter.
The much-celebrated vote to reclaim Synod’s rights to remove Erskine Board members with cause, as well as the solid slate of new trustees which were elected, should indeed encourage all who believe the schools, both college and seminary, are agencies of the Church. However, as necessary as these steps are, it must be remembered that the “heavy lifting” in reforming the college and the seminary still lies ahead. Neo-orthodoxy is still being taught at our seminary, and the college faculty remains sadly composed of many with open contempt for the very evangelical Calvinism the Rev. Davis honors. One can only hope that Synod’s “go slow” approach at reform will bring the cure to the patients before they pass away!
And that leads to the issue of congregational giving to the denomination through the Denominational Ministry Fund (DMF). Even while maintaining some sympathy for the Rev. Davis’ concerns, the situation is more complex than he represents. At some point, the issue of the sheer number of agencies our small denomination supports must be addressed. More importantly, the issue of conscientious dissent must be considered more carefully.
Surely, the Rev. Davis is correct in saying that some congregations which have not given to the DMF are just “going it alone” in a spirit of independency. But he is wrong, I think, to assume that the other group – the handful of congregations which withhold giving to the DMF (though often giving substantial dollars to those faithful agencies themselves) – are doing so in the naïve assumption that such an action will “exert control or influence” over the denomination. In some of our congregations, were the pastor to tell the whole story to their sessions and congregations regarding their denomination’s agencies, it could actually depress giving to the Church in those congregations if the tithes of the saints were knowingly sent to support anti-Christian teaching at the college and seminary.
For the sake of the very confessionalism which the Rev. Davis rightfully trumpets, this right for conscientious dissent must be maintained at all costs (see Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 20)! The motion proposed by the Board of Stewardship to punish such congregations by forbidding their officers to serve in any capacity at the Synod level of the church was not only entirely counter-productive and a violation of our Standards, but also remarkably mean-spirited. Thanks be to God that it was overwhelmingly defeated!
Again, I want to heartily endorse the Rev. Davis’ flying the flag of old-school Presbyterianism and the Great Commission. Long may it wave! But the unity such faith gives the church requires no underestimation of the difficulties we face as a Synod and the remaining corruptions within our historic expression of the one, true faith.
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