ARPTalk 142 – The Lord Showed Up and Showed Out!


Holy Spirit LgThis year’s meeting of General Synod was simply REMARKABLE. For the first time in my life, I left Bonclarken with tears of joy in my eyes, with a sense of awe, and with a merry heart of thanksgiving. I witnessed things at General Synod which I have never seen — things which took my breath away. Neek Smif in a Facebook post gives the best and most appropriate summary of this year’s meeting of Synod: “The Lord showed up and showed out!”

I hate church meetings. The chairs are uncomfortable, and I am easily bored. So, when I heard what Moderator Lee Shelnutt was planning, I groaned in anticipation of boredom and pain. I called Shelnutt, and I said, “Lee, we don’t have that much business. Why are you dragging the meeting into Thursday? If you push it, we can go home Wednesday evening. Why are you making us suffer through so many sermons?”

I Was wrong!!! Our General Synod felt like an ol’ time camp meeting. All the preachers preached well. The Holy Spirit warmed my cold heart.

One sermon, however, needs to be spotlighted. Using the language of my Baptist and Pentecostal youth, Dr. Mike Milton’s sermon was “Holy Ghost inspired.”

I saw a first: the delegates of General Synod applauded a sermon. Sour-faced, business-minded, academically-oriented preachers and elders applauded a sermon! In 44 years of attending Synod, I never experienced such a thing. The applause was not for a great performance; rather, “the Lord showed up and showed out” in His servant Mike Milton. As Miss Lula Mae would have said, “I heard the sound of the Spirit’s feathers.”

Moderator Shelnutt, thank you for your wisdom. Thank you for not listening to me and some others I know who complained, asking, “Why all the preaching?”

I am now thinking something new: I wish every meeting of General Synod was like this one! The Holy Spirit warmed my heart.

The New Moderator

The new Moderator is Philip Malphrus, who was elected by acclamation. Mr. Malphrus is an elder in the Devenger Road Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC and is Patrick Malphrus’ father. Patrick Malphrus is the Pastor of the Devenger Road Presbyterian Church and the immediate past Vice Moderator of General Synod. The nomination of Philip Malphrus by his son was a touching moment. Rarely does one see such a thing. It was a first for me, and I think it was a first for Synod.

MillerRev. Jamie Hunt was supposed to give the seconding speech for Mr. Malphrus. However, he was providentially prevented from being in Bonclarken by the birth of a grandson. Hunt sent Rev. Mark Miller in his place. Miller was tasked with reading Hunt’s seconding speech. No one was prepared for what took place.

The performance by Mark Miller was magnificent. I do not think many of the delegates were aware of his ability to mimic voices. As one person said to me, “Mark does Jamie better than Jamie does Jamie!”

Miller’s performance was a much-appreciated and enjoyed moment of humor. It was also a first. I do not think anyone has ever dared to do such a thing. I have never seen a seconding speech for Moderator applauded. I hope Miller’s performance was videoed; Jamie Hunt needs to be given the opportunity to enjoy seeing and hearing his protégé at work.

The Moment of Sadness

The presentation of the report of the Ecclesiastical Commission on Judiciary Affairs was a moment of sadness. A long-standing, knotty, and painful conflict in First Presbytery was finally dealt with by Synod and, hopefully, resolved. This was the second time the issue was before us. The verdict on the matter was a foregone conclusion; at question was the process. Clearly, we do not deal well with judicial matters. We do well when we function legislatively, but we usually get confused when a judicial matter is before us. On a judicial matter, we can get lost on a oneway street in Due West.

The Pleasant Surprise

Moderator Shelnutt asked and scheduled Erskine President Rob Gustafson to preach. I cannot speak for others, but I was not expecting much out of a professional academic. More than pleasantly surprised, I was wonderfully surprised. The man knows how to preach! I hope Moderator-elect Malphrus schedules him to preach next year.

The Moment of Gladness

When the Erskine Report was given, “the Lord showed up and showed out.” I felt like I was living Psalm 126.1-2:

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”

Speaking on behalf of the Erskine Board, Chairman Sam James began by telling how he was recruited to Erskine. He told how a “bait and switch” tactic was used on him. He was sold on Erskine as a distinctively Christian college. When he arrived in Due West, he discovered he had been mislead. He said this was not right. He said Erskine must become the distinctively Christian college she purports to be. He acknowledged the board’s failures. On behalf of the Erskine Board, he apologized to General Synod and asked for forgiveness.

On behalf of Erskine Seminary, Provost Leslie Holmes acknowledge how Erskine Seminary had gone its own way and ignored Synod’s desires for the seminary. He made it clear Erskine’s waywardness has ended. He made it clear Erskine Seminary is the seminary of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. He made it clear that during his watch as Provost the theological direction of General Synod will be the seminary’s theological direction. The words he used before the board in May were repeated to Synod regarding future hires: “If you’re not Reformed in your theological perspective, if you’re not an inerrantist in your understanding of the Bible, and if you’re not pro-ARP Church, then you are not on the faculty of Erskine Seminary.” Then he asked for Synod’s forgiveness for the seminary’s failures and for the seminary to be received back as the Father received the prodigal son in Luke 15.11-32.

By the time President Gustafson spoke, I was in shock and fighting back tears. He make it clear Erskine is the educational agency of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. He also apologized for Erskine’s past failures, asked for forgiveness, and asked for restoration. The response from General Synod was overwhelmingly gracious.

There was another first: the delegates of General Synod gave the Erskine delegation a standing ovation. The apology was accepted, forgiveness was extended, and restoration was granted.

Concluding Remarks

I think I have surprised the readers of ARPTalk. My report is short and not exhaustive. I have not written a Jeremiad; instead, I write not dismay but hope.

I see a small cloud in the distance and hear the faint rumble of thunder. Does it forecast revival-rain? I hope so — revival for both the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and Erskine.

Nevertheless, I am a realist. Our doctrine of sin says sin happens. One glorious meeting of Synod is not a cure-all. It is only a beginning. We expect hard days ahead. We expect failures and sins. But we also expect grace-days when “the Lord shows up and shows out.” Indeed, when leaders of our institutions transparently acknowledge failures and sins, when they ask for forgiveness, it is a grace-day. Grace-days are the foundation on which we can built renewal.

I hope to see many more grace-days for Erskine. I hope to see many more grace-days for the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Don’t you??

I have a novel idea. For just one year, why not turn General Synod into an ol’ time camp meeting for a whole week where we do the business of Synod but we also hear good preaching, and pray and beg God to send down the Pentecostal fire of revival on us? You know, it might work. The Bible says we do not have because we do not ask (James 4.2-3). Say, is it proper for Associate Reformed Presbyterians to ask God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in revival? Would it not be wonderful and God-honoring for General Synod to be a spiritual retreat? Now, that would be another first, and we could go home, saying, “the Lord showed up and showed out!”

These are my thoughts,


Charles W. Wilson

Photo Credit: Waiting For The Word

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  1. Bobby Alford says:

    Is there a “Praise the Lord” in this house?

  2. Christopher H. Wisdom says:


    I will continue to join my prayers with yours of joyful thanksgiving and petition for Erskine
    and for the ARP Church!

    • Chuck Wilson says:

      Dear Chris Wisdom,

      Thanks for the comment.

      It is a delight to hear from you.

      The Lord has remembered your tears and toil at Erskine. We would not be where we are today without you.

      God bless,

      Chuck Wilson

  3. Phil Pockras says:

    Chuck, I was practically in tears of joy just reading this. Thanks for this report. May God bring much more blessing.

    Please pray for us in the RPCNA, with our own Synod coming up the week after next. We have a short time, much business, and some possibly contentious business. However, we do not have the concerns that y’all have had over Erskine with our institutions: Geneva College and the RP Theological Seminary. Why don’t we? The grace of God in Jesus Christ. That, brother, is the *only* reason.

    • Chuck Wilson says:

      Dear Phil Pockras,

      Thanks for the comments.

      Good to hear from a RPCNA friend.

      Indeed, our prayers are with you.


      Chuck Wilson

  4. Joan says:

    What a delight to read such an answer to your many prayers.
    I had been pretty skeptical that there would ever be a positive outcome from this group.
    Encouragement to not give up!!!

  5. I know that Jim would have been so pleased..He was probably looking down and cheering you and others on.

  6. Chuck Wilson says:

    Dear Nancy

    Yes, you are absolutely right. On the way home, I was thinking the same thoughts as you.

    I miss Jim. Without him is like having one arm. As you know, I trusted his counsel.

    God bless,

    Chuck Wilson

  7. James Hakim says:

    Dear Chuck,

    As far as the ARP goes, I was almost literally born yesterday. I have been a licentiate and pastor in the PCA for 15 years, but was at Synod to be examined for a call in the Tennessee-Alabama Presbytery.

    However, the Lord blessed me with the same tears of joy. The entire week was such an obvious demonstration of the gracious and powerful work of God the Holy Spirit.

    As you and many felt about Dr. Milton’s sermon, so I also felt. And even more so about the sermon preached by the young man from Canada.

    Is there any way to get recordings or transcripts of these sermons?

    Grace and Peace,
    James Hakim
    Pastor-elect, Hopewell ARP
    Culleoka, TN

  8. Chuck Wilson says:

    Dear James Hakim,

    Thank you for your comments.

    Call Cindy Scott at the ARPCenter and she has the information you need. The phone number of the ARPCenter is 864-232-8297 (and usually Cindy answers the phone).


    Chuck Wilson

    • James Hakim says:

      Thank you so much! She was exactly the person to whom I needed to speak. For others interested in the sermons: Cindy says that the videographer is producing the sermons as standalone clips, and that these should be on the arpchurch website sometime this week or next.

      • Chuck Wilson says:

        Dear James,

        Thank you for the information.

        I’m sure many are interested. The sermons are worth hearing again.


        Chuck Wilson

  9. Chuck Wilson says:

    Dear Alma Wendill,

    I don’t know who Alma is (and I really don’t care), but I despise anonymous letters and letters sent to me without a return address. Such people are loathsome.

    The following is a copy of Alma’s letter.

    “Mr. Wilson,

    “In regard to some of your observations about the Synod meeting.

    “1) Baptist, Pentecostal youth.
    “OK. That explains a lot.

    “2) You are so complimentary of your fellow pastors.

    “3) Applause = a good sermon.
    Therefore Joel Osteen, Jimmy Swaggart are great preachers.

    “4) Maybe the best thing about Synod, 2017, was that Mr. Chuck Wilson did not show out quite as much.”

    Alma, let me make a few observations on your invective.

    1) Alma, you are a sour pickle, aren’t you? I am sorry your life has been so bleak!

    2) Alma, yes, my youth involved Baptist and Pentecostal congregations. It also involved Presbyterian, Lutheran, and a couple of African-Americh congregations. Alma, the difference with those people of my youth and you is they are not ill-manner, uppity, and ignorant snobs who write a hate-letter with no return address.

    3) Indeed, Alma, I was complimentary of the preaching at Synod this year. I’m usually not complimentary. By general consensus of those attending Synod this year, the preaching was exceptional. I wish you had been there to hear the sermons. Maybe your cold heart would have been warmed too!?! And for your information, I have never classified Joel Osteen or Jimmy Swaggart as “good preachers.” That is your idea; not mine.

    4) Alma, who is the liar who told you I didn’t show out much? Of course I did!!!

    If someone knows this woman, please, direct her to my response.


    Chuck Wilson

  10. Tim Phillips says:

    Chuck, perhaps I am one of those “sour-faced, business-minded, academically-oriented” pastors of which you speak, although I don’t think anyone has ever accused me of that. I enjoyed most of the preaching at Synod, and I did think Dr. Mark Ross’ sermon was especially good and faithful. I personally went up to the young man from Canadian presbytery and thanked him for his sermon, and in particular his exhortation about the Lord’s Day. And I was one who made the motion that the sermons be made available online.

    I did not, however, applaud any of the sermons. I do not think think that was a “highlight” of Synod. It was a low-point of the meeting of Synod for that to happen. If a member of my congregation were to do so during one of my sermons (not that this would ever happen), I would rebuke him, not praise him. Surely we can appreciate faithful sermons by men of God, and even encourage such men after the fact, without resorting to evoking a response from out our culture that is more indicative of entertainment, rather than a means of grace.

    Forgive me if I do not sound appreciative. It was a good meeting of Synod, and Moderator Shelnutt is to be commended for his leadership.

    • Chuck Wilson says:

      Dear Tim Phillips,

      Thanks for the comments — I suppose.

      For you, “sour-faced” and “academically-minded” is not enough. I need to add “old-fuddyduddie” to the list.

      Unlike you, I liked the applause. I know you, and you would have been displeased with David for dancing. I don’t give a rip what the culture does or doesn’t do!

      But we can be of different opinions on this!


      Chuck Wilson

  11. Tim Phillips says:

    Dear Chuck,

    I trust you are not accusing me of the sin of Michal, for she was cursed for that. I would venture to say that there is much more going in the passage that simple disgust over David’s dance moves. We are not David, and thanks to be God that One greater than David has removed a curse from us greater than Michal’s.

    However, let me say without hesitation that if the Rev. Chuck Wilson ever strips down to his underwear (or worse) and dances on the floor of Synod, I doubt I will be the only one (or the first one) to object.

    “Old Fuddyduddie”

    • Chuck Wilson says:

      Dear Old Fuddyduddie,

      If I ever strip down to my drawers and dance on the floor of Synod, I give you permission to shoot me in the head and put me out of my misery. Please!!


      Chuck Wilson :-)

  12. Roger Mathis says:

    Much going on in Due West. Many leaving or forced out. Freshman class doesn’t have enough students to make the school survive. Yet you are oddly silent. Maybe its because you’ve glanced at the financials and have realized the new administration is dooming the school and taking it back to the 1960s. I know many that loved the school and loved the Lord dearly have left (or been forced out) because of the gloomy outlook. I just hope the students can get away in time so they can still get a degree somewhere else before Erskine collapses.

    • Chuck Wilson says:

      Dear Roger Mathis,

      Yes, many good things are going on in Due West, Roger.

      Some are leaving and going to other places of endeavor. Roger, isn’t it time for change? Good heavens, the people who have left haven’t done much for Erskine!!

      Indeed, the Freshman class, about 200, is a bit smaller than last year. However, that is not a bad thing, Roger. It means the number of mediocre athletes is smaller.

      Roger, I’m not “oddly silent.” The last meeting of the board was very vanilla. I’ll write, Roger, when I have something to write about!

      Roger, you don’t know the history of Erskine. The 1960s for Erskine was the era “Old Erskine” crawled into existence.

      The “gloom” you see, Roger, is the passing of “Old Erskine.” Thank God, die! die! die! I think it is a time of rejoicing, Roger. RIP, Old Erskine!

      You are almost correct, Roger. Students who don’t want what Erskine has to offer need to leave. However, Erskine is not on the brink of collapse. Roger, did you know new people are being hired?


      Chuck Wilson

  13. John Wilde says:

    Any thoughts on the Erskine Charter Board?


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