Oct 26, 2016 | Comments 9
Because there were two meetings of the Erskine board in October, ARPTalk(138) has been slow in appearing. The meeting on October 6 was pro forma and segued into the October 21 meeting for the nomination and election an Interim President. Nevertheless, a couple of big things came out of the October 6 meeting.
Hello, Sam James!
First, following the resignations of Ron Vigus from both the board and the chairmanship of the board in August, Sam James was nominated and elected the chairman of the board. An ’07 graduate of Erskine College, James is the owner and president of the James Funeral Home in Huntersville, North Carolina. He is also a member of the Huntersville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.
For the first time in more than 40 years, the chairman of the Erskine board is unashamedly an evangelical, a man who is a member of and loves the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and a man who is committed to seeing Erskine College and Seminary aligned with the theological commitments of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.
Goodbye, Paul Kooistra!
Second, the October 6 meeting of the board is Paul Kooistra’s last meeting of the board. His tenure as the President of Erskine ended ignominiously. At his first meeting of the board, Kooistra made it clear the board did not meet without his presence — even when the board was in executive session and he was the topic of discussion. He made it clear if the board met without him, he would resign immediately. Well, on October 6, after giving his report (which was a statement of “I have nothing to report!”), the chairman asked him to retire from the board meeting. Graciously, he continues in a caretaker role until November 1; however, I see a van is parked in front of the President’s residence in Due West!
Wait Till February!
Third, the most controversial item on the agenda at the October 6 meeting was the report of the ad hoc committee on the seminary. The ad hoc committee reported its recommendation (a recommendation passed and brought to the board by a whopping majority of two votes to one vote) is to move the seminary to the Columbia campus. There is, however, a “minority report.”
When the ad hoc committee met to do its work, the meeting lasted so long one of the members of the committee had to leave the meeting to attend to other business before the vote was taken. The person who voted in the negative and the person who left to attend to pressing business have joined in a “minority report.”
The idea of closing the Due West campus, dismissing the Due West faculty, and moving Erskine Seminary to Columbia is the brainchild and the last hurrah of Kooistra. The plan presented by the ad hoc committee is Kooistra’s plan.
In the last issues of ARPTalk, I reported Kooistra was saying there is division on the seminary faculty. In spite of documents from the seminary faculty which indicate unanimity in purpose, it is now evident there is division. According to the “minority report,” when Kooistra asked Mark Ross (Columbia campus) if “any of the faculty in Due West” should be retained for service in Columbia, Ross’ reply was “he did not want any of the drama of the Due West faculty.” Indeed, Kooistra worked hard in dividing the seminary faculty to the point Ross is willing to throw his colleagues under the bus. This is simply a loathsome thing. It is a cruel thing to create division among brothers (Proverbs 6:19).
The matter of the ad hoc committee was referred to the February meeting of the board in order for a second look to to take place and for the new President to give his input on the matter.
Hello, Rob Gustafson!
On October 21, the Erskine board met to elect Dr. Robert E. Gustafson, Jr. Interim President of Erskine College & Seminary. Gustafson has an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia, where he played football. He has MA degrees from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary/Massachusetts and Columbia University. Gustafson is also an Erskine alum, holding a DMin from the seminary.
Gustafson is a lifelong learner. While a student at RTS/Orlando in 1997, an article about him was posted in the The Reformed Quarterly: “Rob Gustafson: Lifelong Learner.” He says, “I love learning because that’s what life is all about.” With regard to Christian education, he says,
When you separate education from Christianity you end up in a world which has no ultimate meaning. . . The minute you separate them you have something less than what education was meant to be, which is an understanding of the world God has created and an assurance that some order and structure exist. It also brings understanding to the pain and suffering with which we live. Without a Christian perspective, one can quickly become very cynical, skeptical, and disillusioned. . . In many ways, I think this is where we are in our country’s educational system. . . We see it indirectly in the way people treat each other, the way human life is devalued, and how people use their leisure time. All of these trends are products of an educational system which has as its end goal simply to do a good job and make a little money.” (http://rq.rts.edu/fall97/gustafson.html)
Gustafson’s background in education (and education as Christian ministry) is extensive. He has taught at the prestigious Stony Brook School, Long Island, New York; the Westminster School, Atlanta, Georgia; and the Trinity Christian Academy, Dallas, Texas. He has also served as the Headmaster of the Dunham School, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; the Jackson Preparatory School, Jackson, Mississippi; and the Stony Brook School, Long Island, New York.
When addressing the Erskine board, Gustafson said he did not have a vision for Erskine. He said he did not need one. Rather, the vision for Erskine was “The Philosophy of Higher Christian Education” which he held in his hands. He also said Erskine’s main problem is a problem of alignment. Erskine is not in alignment with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church which owns Erskine. Furthermore, he also said anyone at Erskine who is not on board with the desires and vision of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church needs to find a new avenue of service.
I have learned the lesson of Ronald Wilson Reagan: “Trust but verify!” However, I can say this: in 42 years, I have not seen both a Chairman of the board and a President of Erskine who openly speak of commitment to evangelical Christianity, faithfulness to the Philosophy of Higher Christian Education, and alignment with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as the vision for Erskine.
The secular alums view Gustafson’s election with alarm and dread. Their Facebook page begins with these words: “I do not have a great feeling about this.” Indeed, God be praised, this may be the tolling of the death knell for what the liberal alums refer to as “Ol’ Erskine.” I pray so!!
The following is a list of some of the secular alum’s comments:
- “He [Gustafson] seems underqualified. . . .” I wonder if this very qualified and educated person has been informed “underqualified” is not a word?
- “Just another stupid fundie.” A man who is so “stupid” he is an Erskine alum and holds four degrees — one from the prestigious University of Virginia and one from the prestigious Columbia University. Not bad for a “stupid fundie” who cannot read or write!
- “I don’t see how a preacher as president will advance the ball.” Perhaps it is not “the stupid fundie” who is ignorant. For this ignorant person, Dr. Gustafson is not ordained as a minister. For this ignorant person, Erskine was founded by Associate Reformed Presbyterian ministers and led exclusively by Associate Reformed Presbyterian minsters for more than 130 years. In other words, the education which was greatly subsidized for this person at Erskine is predicated on the faithful work and sacrifice of Associate Reformed Presbyterian ministers who were not ignorant and who “advanced the ball.”
- “It would appear that Erskine’s downward spiral is doomed to continue.” Presently, I see the spiral as upward and give praise to God.
- Ward Logan is the son of Lee Logan who was Erskine’s man for development for years. Ward Logan writes: “EC has been deliberately and systematically diminished by the arp synod and a arrogant empowered group of the bot. In addition, it seems that they have reduced the influence and reputation of the arp denomination. Once respected, the denomination has become almost irrelevant. I continue to mourn my alma mater. I continue to worry about the great folks that still work at the college. The denomination has done it to itself. I would imagine that the denominations finances are probably in shambles as well.” Well, Ward Logan needs to pull his head out of the sand. If Erskine was systematically plundered, one of the plunderers was his father, Lee Logan. Some of Lee Logan’s actions were exceedingly unwise and costly for Erskine. Ward Logan mourns the removal of the incompetent and the plunderers. May God deliver Erskine from matriculating students like Ward Logan.
- Steve Southwell, an Associate Reformed Presbyterian and a former board member (who rarely spoke a word at board meetings when he was on the board), writes, “As I’ve stated before, Erskine doesn’t have a BOT. Erskine is run by a committee of the church.” Well, during his time at Erskine, Southwell was a baseball player and not noted for his academic prowess. Of course, the Erskine board is set up like a committee or agency of the General Synod for that is what it is. After all these years, is Southwell so dense he is just now discovering the obvious!??
- Bill Crenshaw writes, “Erskine, as we knew it, no longer exists.” Bill, finally, we are now in agreement. I pray you are correct!!
As far as these secular alums who despise evangelical Christianity and hate the Associate Reformed Presbytery Church are concerned, I have a recommendation for President Gustafson: FORGET THEM! They are the equivalent of the “mixed multitude” which brought on the judgement of God for Israel. I would tell them to take their money and go to perdition with it!
In conclusion, I weep and rejoice. I weep for so much lost. I weep for all those who have been broken by a faithless Erskine and do not know they are cripples and the Christianity they embrace is a “false gospel.” I weep for the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church which has been too nice and feckless to forcefully and faithfully address the sins and false teaching which have paraded in bold defiance at Erskine the last 40 years.
But today is a new day! Today, I think I can see God doing a new thing at Erskine. Today, I can see a small rain cloud of blessing forming over Due West. Today, I think I have cause to rejoice and dance and sing number 26 in the back of the Bible Songs, “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah.”
These are my thoughts,
Charles W. Wilson