Pray for Called ARPC Synod Mtg March 2-3, Re: Erskine
Please be in prayer for the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC), http://www.arpchurch.org/Site/Home.html
The ARPC is finally dealing with the toll in its educational institutions from the clash of modernity with a Biblical worldview after decades of neglect by the Church. The issues were reached a critical juncture last year when the ARPC officially adopted the Doctrine of the Inerrancy of Scripture.
This called meeting is in responce to the events in the World Mag piece:
"Looking for a miracle:
A transformed denomination seeks to transform its college and seminary" 4 July 2009 @ WORLD Magazine
Background on the triumph of Inerrancy in the ARPC and the identity crisis at its college and seminary is documented by The Christian Observer here:
In a nutshell, The Called meeting is about the ramifications of how to APPLY Inerrancy to what and how material is taught its educational institutions.
The ARPC is having a Called Meeting of General Synod to receive and act on the findings and recommendations of the Moderator's Commission on Erskine College and Theological Seminary, Tue Mar 2 @ 4:30pm Wed Mar 3, 2010 @ 3pm Eastern Time at Bonclarken, 500 Pine Dr, Flat Rock NC 28731.
Please be in prayer for wisdom by the commissioners in taking positive action that the APRC may regain control of its college & seminary and integrate a Biblically Christian, Evangelical, & Reformed worldview into the philosphy of Christian Education practiced by the B.O.D., Administration, Faculty, & that such may be integrated into both the Curricula and classroom teaching at both institutions.
Those who read the Preliminary Report will perceive both the magnitude and difficulty of the tasks before the ARPC in recalling its educational institutions to fidelity to a Biblical world view.
The Commission has released a PRELIMINARY Report (below) in advance of the meeting, which it distinguishes from its OFFICIAL Report, which will be made at the meeting. The Commission reports that it is UNANIMOUS in its reccommendations, which will be made at the called meeting.
Preliminary Report of the
Moderator's Commission on Erskine College and Seminary (below)
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Preliminary Report of the
Moderator's Commission on Erskine College and Seminary
February 19, 2010
In order that voting delegates may have the opportunity to prepare for the presentation of our report, the Moderator's Commission on Erskine offers this preliminary report of our findings. This report includes a general overview of the work we have done and some of the conclusions we have reached. In addition, we have attached two relevant documents: (1) the Philosophy of Higher Education (adopted in 1977); (2) the 2007 Vision Committee Report. Delegates are asked to become familiar with these documents, which our report will frequently reference.
Statement of Purpose
The delegates of the 2009 meeting of the General Synod instructed the Moderator to "form a special commission to investigate whether the oversight exercised by the Board of trustees and the administration of Erskine College and Seminary is in faithful
accordance with the standards of the ARP Church and the synod's previously issued directives."
Over the past 6 months, the Commission has:
Interviewed at least 80 trustees, administrators, faculty, and students.
Met 14 times for both meetings and deliberation.
Invested approximately 900 man hours in this effort.
The desire of every member of the Commission is that Erskine College and Seminary thrive as outstanding institutions of higher learning by fulfilling the missions with which they have been charged by the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. We offer this
report with the hope that it will bring about increased effectiveness in implementing those missions, widespread support for the institutions from within and without the walls of the ARP Church, and a great harvest for the King and Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Commission particularly commends Dr. Randall T. Ruble, President of Erskine College and Seminary, for his full cooperation with us. While not every person on campus was as forthcoming and cooperative as we would have hoped or as Dr. Ruble directed, his
love for Erskine and desire for its success in the 21st century was evident at every juncture.
History and Context
Erskine College was founded by the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1839. As the college of the ARP Church, Erskine exists to "equip students to flourish by providing an excellent liberal arts education in a Christ-centered environment where learning and biblical truth are integrated to develop the whole person." In 1858, the Seminary became a separate institution. In addition to fulfilling the mission stated above, the seminary exists "to educate persons for service in the Christian Church."
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The two institutions are governed a single, 34-member, Board of Trustees. Thirty of those members are elected directly by the General Synod each year as part of the report of the Committee on Nominations. The Minutes of the General Synod from the past 40 years give evidence of a long-standing pattern of concern about Erskine College and Seminary. Historically, these concerns have been addressed by the production and adoption of documents intended to clarify Erskine's mission and underscore the duty of the Board and Administration to implement that mission faithfully. One such document, a statement of our church's Philosophy of Christian Higher Education adopted by the General Synod in 1977, will figure prominently in this report.
The present chapter in Erskine's history began in 2005 when Dr. John L. Carson resigned as president. After a considerable search and the presentation of a nominee from outside the evangelical Reformed community, the Board asked former seminary dean, Dr. Randall T. Ruble, to come out of retirement to serve as Interim President. Soon after, the Board named Dr. Ruble to be the 14th President of Erskine. Earlier this year he announced his retirement from the presidency effective June 30, 2010. The Board of Trustees has established a presidential search committee and the search for a new president is underway.
The Role of the General Synod
Erskine College and Seminary is an agency of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Generations of ARPs have sent their covenant children to Erskine College for a Christian liberal arts education. As the ARP Church's institution of higher learning, the college should express the best of Reformed scholarship and piety. As our denomination's theological school, Erskine Seminary should be a faithful conduit of our doctrines and the orthodox Christian faith as it seeks to train the next generation of gospel ministers. It has been often remarked that, "As go the seminaries, so goes the pulpits. As go the pulpits, so goes the church."
The ARP Church owns and operates Erskine College and Seminary through the trustees it appoints and therefore has an obligation to ensure that our directives are being followed and the missions of these institutions are being implemented. Our trustees for Erskine function in a fiduciary role for the General Synod and we are obligated to hold them to account for the responsibility we have entrusted to them. Even beyond these governance concerns, the General Synod and its members are accountable to Almighty God for how we educate our young people and train our ministers.
The Commission unanimously finds that:
1. The General Synod has been negligent in its oversight of Erskine College and Seminary. We have not taken seriously our responsibility for appointing independent, engaged, and competent trustees who both understand and support the unique missions of the institutions. We have not made tangible efforts to train the trustees on matters essential to the fulfillment of their responsibilities to Erskine and to the ARP Church.
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We have not taken responsible measures to ensure that these missions are understood and implemented properly by the Board and Administration. The ARP Church has invested millions of the Lord's dollars and countless man-hours in its educational ministry at the college and seminary. We would be poor stewards of these funds, as well as of the legacy of our fathers and mothers in the faith, if we were to refuse to help Erskine fulfill the missions envisioned in the documents we have produced and adopted as a Synod and in the institution's own mission statements. Before considering the failures of others, we must begin with contrition ourselves.
2. There are irreconcilable and competing visions about the direction of the college and seminary among the members of the Erskine Board of Trustees. There is widespread disagreement in relation to the meaning of Erskine's responsibility to integrate faith and learning and what impact, if any, this should have in the college and seminary classrooms. One need not take sides to recognize that the Board's lack of agreement on these matters puts the institution in an untenable situation.
3. There are irreconcilable and competing visions about Erskine's mission as a liberal arts college on the Erskine Board and within the Administration and faculty. While the Commission met no one whose vision for Erskine was a fundamentalist Bible college, divisions came clearly to the surface regarding Erskine's academic standards and the growing number of professional, rather than liberal arts, degrees. Despite vocal differences among the faculty and Administration, it was not evident that the trustees have given any clear direction in these matters.
4. It became evident to us as we listened to all the parties concerned that Erskine College and Seminary stand at a crossroads as the search is conducted for a new president. The General Synod must speak clearly at this critical juncture so that the message of our interest in Erskine's success is unambiguous. The next president must have the full support of the ARP Church and its Board of Trustees of Erskine College and Seminary.
In our candid conversations with trustees, faculty, and members of the search committee, we came to the conclusion that no presidential candidate could garner the whole-hearted support of every Erskine Board member. It would be grievously unfair to the next president and potentially disastrous for these institutions if he does not have this unqualified support.
5. Almost without exception, present and past members of the Board of Trustees believe that the size of the Board is a significant obstacle to effective governance. In addition, when the Board meets, its 34 members are joined by a number of advisory members and more than a dozen administrators from the institutions. Even during executive session, the 34-member Board is joined by other parties. The result of this practice is that the Administration, and not the Board, effectively sets policy for the institution. The Board, as a whole, does not evaluate the Administration outside of its presence, making meaningful evaluations nearly impossible.
6. In an effort to govern the institutions effectively with such a large number of trustees, the Board is subdivided into several committees. While committees can be an effective means of utilizing the special experience and skills of trustees, the committee structure presently employed by the Erskine Board is a hindrance to proper governance and oversight because, in the nature of the case, the Board relies heavily on its Executive Committee. The result, despite the best of intentions among those serving on the Executive Committee, is that most trustees are left without knowledge about large parts.
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of the institution entrusted to their care. The structures critiqued in points (5) and (6) of this report have the effect of hindering any kind of meaningful discussion and debate by the full Board during their meetings.
7. The structure and composition of the Board of Trustees are problematic for the faithful oversight of the seminary. The group of trustees who make up the seminary committee are charged with the responsibility for overseeing the seminary on behalf of the Board and, thus, the ARP Church. Most trustees have no involvement in any oversight of the seminary. Though the seminary prepares and trains future ministers, including men who will serve in the ARP Church, the seminary committee includes members who do not meet the criteria for ordination as ministers or elders in our denomination.
8. The ideological divisions on the Board have created significant challenges for the Erskine faculty. The College faculty are rightly troubled that the Board of Trustees and Administration have given them little guidance for the implementation of Erskine's mission. The lack of clear directives has led to widespread faculty confusion about their responsibilities to the ARP Church in the classroom setting.
A significant majority of the professors interviewed had no understanding of how the Christian faith could be meaningfully integrated into their discipline. The Church-appointed trustees have not instructed the Administration to explain to professors what is expected of them. To date, there has been no effective training on the integration of faith and learning.
Though several professors have asked repeatedly for further clarification on the implementation of the mission, no such clarity has been offered. Though the Board has, in response to the appointment of this Commission, instructed the Administration to develop a plan for such integration, we do not believe that either the Administration or the Board is capable of achieving such a goal.
9. The Board has been negligent in its responsibility to hold the Administration accountable for the faculty it employs. The Board has not instructed the Administration to evaluate the faculty either on the quality of their teaching or on their ability to integrate faith and learning in the classroom. Accordingly, the Administration conducts no such evaluations. Contract renewals are offered by the Administration, and tenure is granted by the Board on the basis of student and faculty member self-evaluation.
Thirteen faculty members have been employed since the General Synod added inerrancy to its definition of what constitutes an evangelical profession. It is not evident that many of these new faculty members are committed to inerrancy, and there is little evidence that the Board has made certain that Synod's directives were followed.
Seminary faculty, though largely pleased with the Christian commitment and academic credentials of their colleagues, did express concerns that some seminary professors cannot affirm inerrancy as defined by the General Synod, despite assurances of the Administration to the contrary.
10. The so-called "culture of intimidation," found by Second Presbytery's Committee on the Minister and His Work several years ago, is still present on the campus. There is an atmosphere in some quarters of Erskine College and Seminary that is inimical to faithful
implementation of the mission.
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Additional Information To Be Presented
This Commission has been constantly aware that the very nature of our work is sensitive. It involves the reputations of trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, and students. The goal of our report is that Erskine College and Seminary emerge from this process with the tools and vision necessary to fulfill the missions the ARP Church has given to them. This goal must also inform how the Commission reports certain conclusions.
The need for handling delicate matters in a sensitive way was the very impetus for the establishment of this Commission. The alternative - discussing sensitive matters in great detail on the floor of the General Synod - would not serve the purpose of strengthening Erskine College and Seminary, nor would it promote the peace of the church. To this end, and in an effort to be as sensitive as possible to all of the persons involved, this preliminary report has mentioned only in general terms the particular pieces of evidence that have led us to these conclusions. We believe it is only right to bring any more specific evidence and our recommendations to the meeting of the General Synod itself. Even then there will be particular matters and situations of which we believe it would be inappropriate for detailed discussion.
Some have asked that our entire report be delivered to delegates weeks in advance of the called meeting of General Synod. We are sympathetic to this line of thinking. We, too, want the delegates to have sufficient time to discern the Lord's will prior to the hour of decision.
However, it should be evident to all that the discussion and debate over Erskine over the past several years has generated much heat and little light. This is at least partially to be explained by the widespread use of blogs, internet discussion boards, and "Facebook" as methods for disseminating sensitive information. We believe that the release of some conclusions and our recommendations would have the effect of depriving the General Synod of the deliberative process such a premature action is meant to effect. Our report would then be removed from the carefully reasoned and prayerful deliberations of elders and ministers in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and would instead be subject to the publicly-voiced opinions of anyone with internet access, whether or not they hear the Commission's full report or have any real interest in the future success of Erskine College and Seminary. The realities of what takes place on the Erskine campus and among the trustees are nuanced and delicate. Debate about these matters should be marked by the fruits of the Sprit of God and not the sometimes mean-spirited clamoring that so often occurs on the internet.
Our decision to present the final portion of our report directly to the General Synod will no doubt disappoint some who find it a hindrance to prayerful preparation for this rare called meeting of the synod. We believe that the peace, purity, and prosperity of the General Synod and our witness to a watching world require this two-part report, and we ask those who think otherwise for their patience. The Commission is in unanimous agreement with the findings and recommendations contained in our report. We have done this, each one of us, because we have a desire to see Erskine flourish; the college as the pre-eminent Christian liberal arts college of the Southeast, and the seminary as a training ground for the next generation of faithful gospel servants.
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The Moderator's Commission on Erskine College and Seminary
Ruling Elder George S. Robinson, Chairman
The Rev. Paul D. Mulner, Secretary
The Rev. Dr. John R. de Witt
The Rev. William C. Marsh
Ruling Elder Gordon S. Query
The Rev. Roger S. Wiles, Esq.
Ruling Elder Kenneth B. Wingate, Esq
also attached to the Preliminary Report (but omitted here) are:
(1) the Philosophy of Higher Education (adopted in 1977);
(2) the 2007 Vision Committee Report.
I can post/email them also if you like.
While the Preliminary Report contains sufficient background, there is much more information on the matters which have led to this called meeting online. For more details, particularly re: the issue of Barthian professors at the seminary, faculty who do not embrace inerrancy, and science teachers who teach evolution rather than any theory related to theism, readers may consult back issues over the past wo years of the UNofficial blog site, ARP TALK, edited by Charles ("Chuck") W. Wilson. http://arptalk.weebly.com/
Rev. Wilson's blog wen site serves to document the controversies over issues involved in (what he calls) the "Fumanization" of Erskine ever since the ARPC officially embraced the Doctrine of Inerrancy" at its General Synod two years ago. ("Fumanization" refers to Fuman Univ in Greenville SC - although a Southern Baptist college, Furman is about as Evangelically Christian as Bob Jones is Liberal.)
Thankyou for your prayers.
Rev. Mark Linker,
Teaching Elder, Tennessee-Alabama Presbytery, ARPC
713 Warrenton Shores Drive, Guntersville, AL 35976