The Great Punt
If it were not for seeing old friends again and meeting new ones, the meeting of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church this summer would have been a total waste of time. As a friend said, "We're doing it again. In good ARP style, we're kicking the can down the road again. This Synod is nothing but a big punt." Well, he nailed the essence of General Synod on the head. So, my title for this analysis of General Synod: THE GREAT PUNT.
For you who can remember, Charlie Brown had his Great Pumpkin. The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church has ANGUS, THE GREAT PUNTER.
I like this cartoon of Angus. Being visionally impaired (and not offended by "blind" jokes), I didn't miss the artist's humor: Angus is cross-eyed. He doesn't have the slightest idea as to the direction in which he is kicking the ball. That's about right for a meeting of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church!
The New Moderator
The Moderator-elect of General Synod is the Reverend Rob Patrick, the Pastor of the Boyce Memorial Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Kings Mountain, NC. Having been Vice Moderator twice, he is prepared as much as one can be for the hazardous duty of moderating a contentious meeting of General Synod. And, yes, the meeting of General Synod next summer portends to be a contentious meeting. That is, unless the powers that be can figure a way to put off the study on deacons again and again and again and . . .
The Study on Deacons
The study on deacons was brought forth a year ago at the last Covid meeting of General Synod at First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, SC. A memorial from First Presbytery which would have defined the office of deacon to men only was politically maneuvered to a study committee. The memorial from First Presbytery was well prepared and compelling. The debate was passionate. As I remember, no one challenged the Biblical exegesis of the paper; rather, the political ramifications were front and center. If the memorial had come to the floor for a vote, some say it would have passed, and others say it would have failed. I don't know. It was too close to call. It was fascinating to watch.
If the study on deacons finally comes to a vote at the 2023 meeting of General Synod, I hope I'm still alive to see it. If I am, I'm going to set up a concession stand and sell cokes, popcorn, cotton candy, and peanuts. It will be more fun to watch than the summer Gene Horton, Buddy Worley, Teddy Larson, and I took Teddy's cat down to Elmer Taylor's minnow pond to find out if a cat can swim. It was 1956, we were ten, and we were told cats couldn't swim by my Uncle Ran, but we were not sure. We tried hard that day to drown Teddy's cat, but the cat wouldn't cooperate. We found out cats are good swimmers. However, they don't like it. The cat bit Teddy twice. We gave up. We let the cat go. We took our BB-guns and shot at an empty sardine can until it sank. Sinking an empty sardine can was more fun than trying to drown a cat. An empty sardine can doesn't bite!
Will the Associate Reformed Presbyterian cat swim out of the YAB lake next summer? Will Angus punt the ball again? My prediction: whatever happens, no one will be happy. If Angus punts again, no one will be happy. If there's a vote, no one will be happy. I think there is a high probability we will lose congregations.
From the mouth of the Chairman of the Board of World Witness: "We are not sending missionaries to start Associate Reformed Presbyterian congregations, we are sending missionaries to further the Kingdom of God." Now, I may not have quoted him exactly, but I have it close.
I am 76 years old, I have lived long enough to be jeered for not advancing the cause, the name, and the institution of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and told I wasn't "a real ARP," and now I am jeered when I ask why the cause, the name, and the institution of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church are not advanced on the mission field, and told I am opposed to furthering the Kingdom of God.
As a young minister in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, I remember Chap Lauderdale saying and writing the following: "The Board of Bonclarken is how the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church advances in camp and conference ministry, the Board of Christian Education is how the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church advances in publishing Christian literature and teaching in the local church, the Board of Dunlap is how the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church advances in ministry to orphans and other children's ministries, the Board of Erskine is how the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church advances in college and seminary education, the Board of Outreach North America (Church Extension in those days) is how the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church advances in planting and growing new congregations in the United States, the Board of Stewardship is how the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church advances in promoting faithful giving to and the wise use of monies on the denominational level, and the Board of World Witness (Foreign Missions in those days) is how the ministry of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church is advanced in the world." And, as far as the success of World Witness in those days is concerned, the proof is in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church of Mexico and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church of Pakistan.
For the life of me, I don't see how winning people to Christ and planting local congregations which are Associate Reformed Presbyterian, establishing presbyteries, and a national denominational presence (as we did in Mexico and Pakistan) is opposed to the Kingdom of God.
In the United States would we think of giving money and people resources to plant a congregation for the Presbyterian Church in America, or the Christian Reformed Church, or the United Reformed Churches in North America, or the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America? No! We would not do that! Well, maybe I should say I don't think one of our presbyteries would do that.
Sadly, there is no way to avoid the Statistical Report. The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in North American is dying. The great majority of our local congregations are dying, declining, or plateaued. In Second Presbytery, churches are closed faster than they are planted. We have a dismal record in planting churches. However, instead of pouring our money, effort, and time in securing a healthy Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, we send 18.59% of our Denominational Ministry Fund to World Witness and raise a total budget of $4,750,180 for World Witness. And what is done? Well, the cause, the name, and the institution of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church are not advanced. The Reformed Church of XXXX is supported. The Church of XXXX is supported. The Baptist Church of XXXX is supported.
The fig leaf of supporting the Kingdom of God over a denominational standard is nonsense. World Witness is supporting denominational standards everyday. The problem is World Witness is not supporting the denominational standard of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.
Isn't it interesting that a man who was once ridiculed for not being "a real ARP" is now the voice for being an Associate Reformed Presbyterian loyalist? This one thing I learned as a church planter: you can't plant a generic church; you have to plant a standard! When one looks at the Kingdom of God as the church as it is spread over the world, there is a multitude of standards. As we look for the standard of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church on the mission field today, it is not being planted! It is absent!
Erskine College and Seminary
Of course, I'm sure the reader is wondering, "What is Chuck going to say about the Erskine report?"
Well, not much. I wish President Adamson and Chairman Whitehurst well in an impossible task. I think the spiritual condition of the campus is well stated in the following Facebook talk by "Josh Childs, Campus Chaplin" (sic): https://www.facebook.com/ErskineCollege/videos/josh- chiles-campus-chaplin/4743991395641573/
What do you think? Where is the Gospel? This is WOKE! This is anti-Gospel!
A Letter to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church
We sent a letter to denominational officials of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church informing them we are not pleased with the theological direction they are going. We did this years ago with the Presbyterian Church (USA). They responded saying, "Who are you? Mind your own business." I expect to see another such letter.
The image is from deep space. It is what some call a hole in the universe. The hole is a billion light years across. In the hole there is nothing: no stars, no light, no galaxies, no plasma, no dark holes, nothing. Astronomers do not know what to make of this hole. It's a mystery.
Well, the rest of the meeting of General Synod was an empty hole for me. We spent our time shuffling papers, listening to long sermons, and hearing uninteresting and boring presentations. As one elder delegate said to me, "I have now attended two meetings of General Synod: my first and last." He is a very successful businessman. He also said, "You people are not serious people." I can't argue with him.
These are my thoughts,
Charles W. Wilson