An Open Letter by Bill Marsh to the ARPChurch

An Open Letter by Bill Marsh to the ARP Church

Dear Chuck,

You have been an ARP for more than twice as long as I have, so I write you with you a question. I was struck this afternoon by the apparently-terrifying fear of sunlight shown by the Executive Board in the matter of my complaint.

As you recall, I complained in March to the Executive Board that they had no business taking up your complaint as an emergency given the pace at which they handled the matter (at least until the end!). I further complained that they were proscribed by the Manual of Authorities & Duties from acting on any presbytery matters. Finally, I complained about the actions of the investigators and the particular men selected to both investigate and prosecute you.
Rather than addressing the allegations I made in the complaint, the response of the Executive Board was to put forth a proxy (former parliamentarian Andy Putnam) to argue that the complaint was out of order since it partially complained against actions take in October by the EB. However, it also argued against March actions of the EB in a complaint also filed in March. Since I am long past caring enough about the terminal patient that is the ARP’s denominational agencies and boards to travel to its third-rate campground, I was not present on Tuesday to ask a question. I pose it to you here: Rather than hide behind the calendar’s apron strings, how do the members of the Executive Board respond to the specific allegations I made in the complaint?
That they put up a former parliamentarian to reprise his old role of moving the court with his self-asserted apodictic certainty, and that they asked a former Moderator of Synod to temporarily take the chair who is now an employee of a General Synod agency (and would thus wisely toe the party line), suggests that they would rather do anything than have to defend their actions in the sad matter that was your judicial case.
One could fairly ask: Do our leaders take their work seriously? Or just themselves?
What am I missing?
Questions to which the Executive Board owe answers to the ARP Church:
  1. How was your handling of this matter consistent with an emergency? 211 days from referral by a presbytery to trial. Remind me of “two weeks to stop the spread”!
  2. Do our Synod’s officers believe that the Executive Board is a court of the church?
  3. How do they reconcile their taking up Second Presbytery’s referral to the Synod with the Manual of Authorities & Duties’ specific directive from the Synod that the Executive Board not act on any presbytery matters? If the discipline of a minister is not a core presbytery function, what exactly is a core presbytery function?
  4. Do they believe that they appointed investigators who could be reasonably viewed as impartial to Rev. Charles Wilson in light of his — and their — past actions and statements?
  5. Why did the Investigators not speak to any witnesses except those with animus against Rev. Wilson? Why did they only speak to the two daughters making accusations but not the other three children raised in Rev. Wilson’s home?
  6. Do they believe that the second charge made against Rev. Wilson was adequately supported by witness testimony? Since the Investigators advanced a charge on the testimony of one person, do the officers of Synod believe that it met Biblical criteria?
  7. Are the officers of Synod proud of the vulgarities and profanities the Investigators used in the charges? Do they believe that those statements were necessary to be included in the language of the charges rather than as supporting evidence? Do the officers of Synod believe that the ARP Church into posterity has been edified by such language?
  8. Do the officers of Synod believe that, having accepted the allegations of the Investigators, that they were powerless to vacate their prior approval of the charges and accept new charges as part of a resolution that might bring healing to the Wilson family?
  9. In what ways have the ministers and elders of the Executive Board worked toward reconciliation and any kind of redemptive outcome for this family? Is any member of the Wilson family better off because of the efforts of the (now) former Moderator, (now) former Vice Moderator, Principal Clerk, or the Parliamentarian of the General Synod?
  10. Can every member of the Executive Board state -ex animo- that he knows every action taken in his name and that he approves of the actions of the leaders of the Executive Board?
  11. Do the officers of the Executive Board claim that they afforded every opportunity to the defense that they accorded the prosecution?
  12. How much of Synod’s funds did the Executive Board spend on its investigation of Rev. Wilson?
  13. Did the Executive Board believe that a 77 year old blind man constituted such a physical threat that Synod’s funds should be expended for two Greenville County deputies for multiple days?

 

Sadly, I do not expect answers to these questions.
 

Sincerely,
Rev. William C. Marsh
Retired Minister
Grace Presbytery
An Open Letter by Bill Marsh to the ARPChurch

An Open Letter by Bill Marsh to the ARP Church

An Open Letter by Bill Marsh to the ARPChurch

Dear Chuck,

You have been an ARP for more than twice as long as I have, so I write you with you a question. I was struck this afternoon by the apparently-terrifying fear of sunlight shown by the Executive Board in the matter of my complaint

As you recall, I complained in March to the Executive Board that they had no business taking up your complaint as an emergency given the pace at which they handled the matter (at least until the end!). I further complained that they were proscribed by the Manual of Authorities & Duties from acting on any presbytery matters. Finally, I complained about the actions of the investigators and the particular men selected to both investigate and prosecute you.
Rather than addressing the allegations I made in the complaint, the response of the Executive Board was to put forth a proxy (former parliamentarian Andy Putnam) to argue that the complaint was out of order since it partially complained against actions take in October by the EB. However, it also argued against March actions of the EB in a complaint also filed in March. Since I am long past caring enough about the terminal patient that is the ARP’s denominational agencies and boards to travel to its third-rate campground, I was not present on Tuesday to ask a question. I pose it to you here: Rather than hide behind the calendar’s apron strings, how do the members of the Executive Board respond to the specific allegations I made in the complaint?
That they put up a former parliamentarian to reprise his old role of moving the court with his self-asserted apodictic certainty, and that they asked a former Moderator of Synod to temporarily take the chair who is now an employee of a General Synod agency (and would thus wisely toe the party line), suggests that they would rather do anything than have to defend their actions in the sad matter that was your judicial case.
One could fairly ask: Do our leaders take their work seriously? Or just themselves?
What am I missing?
Questions to which the Executive Board owe answers to the ARP Church:
  1. How was your handling of this matter consistent with an emergency? 211 days from referral by a presbytery to trial. Remind me of “two weeks to stop the spread”!
  2. Do our Synod’s officers believe that the Executive Board is a court of the church?
  3. How do they reconcile their taking up Second Presbytery’s referral to the Synod with the Manual of Authorities & Duties’ specific directive from the Synod that the Executive Board not act on any presbytery matters? If the discipline of a minister is not a core presbytery function, what exactly is a core presbytery function?
  4. Do they believe that they appointed investigators who could be reasonably viewed as impartial to Rev. Charles Wilson in light of his — and their — past actions and statements?
  5. Why did the Investigators not speak to any witnesses except those with animus against Rev. Wilson? Why did they only speak to the two daughters making accusations but not the other three children raised in Rev. Wilson’s home?
  6. Do they believe that the second charge made against Rev. Wilson was adequately supported by witness testimony? Since the Investigators advanced a charge on the testimony of one person, do the officers of Synod believe that it met Biblical criteria?
  7. Are the officers of Synod proud of the vulgarities and profanities the Investigators used in the charges? Do they believe that those statements were necessary to be included in the language of the charges rather than as supporting evidence? Do the officers of Synod believe that the ARP Church into posterity has been edified by such language?
  8. Do the officers of Synod believe that, having accepted the allegations of the Investigators, that they were powerless to vacate their prior approval of the charges and accept new charges as part of a resolution that might bring healing to the Wilson family?
  9. In what ways have the ministers and elders of the Executive Board worked toward reconciliation and any kind of redemptive outcome for this family? Is any member of the Wilson family better off because of the efforts of the (now) former Moderator, (now) former Vice Moderator, Principal Clerk, or the Parliamentarian of the General Synod?
  10. Can every member of the Executive Board state -ex animo- that he knows every action taken in his name and that he approves of the actions of the leaders of the Executive Board?
  11. Do the officers of the Executive Board claim that they afforded every opportunity to the defense that they accorded the prosecution?
  12. How much of Synod’s funds did the Executive Board spend on its investigation of Rev. Wilson?
  13. Did the Executive Board believe that a 77 year old blind man constituted such a physical threat that Synod’s funds should be expended for two Greenville County deputies for multiple days?

 

Sadly, I do not expect answers to these questions.
 

Sincerely,
Rev. William C. Marsh
Retired Minister
Grace Presbytery

Is Freedom of Speech to Caricature/Satire Church Leaders Protected Under the First Amendment?

Header Caricatures

Unwilling to play the unseemly game of ecclesiastical oversight, I withdrew from the political nonsense of the ARPChurch. I did not renounce my faith. I did not renounce the Church of Jesus Christ. I did not renounce the ministry, for I am still ordained — just not in the ARPChurch.

I was anathematized as outside the bounds of the Church of Jesus Christ, as having lost my salvation, and in danger of hell by Clerk Kyle Sims and Bill McKay. However, both men make an unfounded assumption: the ARPChurch is THE Church of Jesus Christ. Wow! You know, this sounds a bit like something coming out of the Roman Catholic Church during the time of Martin Luther, doesn’t it?

I was in the ARPChurch for 51 years. I have never seen what Moderator Bill McKay did. Through the news auspices of the ARPChurch, he informed the world that Chuck Wilson was excommunicated. In the last 51 years, I remember others who left or were forced out of the ARPChurch, but I don’t remember such a public treatment. I suppose a word of thanks is due here!

Bill McKay, who is infamous for informing the Canadian police that one of the ARPCanadian congregations was meeting for Sunday services during Covid, was the voice of condemnation (through I suspect someone else wrote the email). The ARPChurch is blessed to have such a leader!
The reader may find this an interesting piece of information. When my wife and I entered the Greenville Vatican (called Central Services), we were met with two policemen in full “battle rattle.” The only thing I was armed with was an old Montblanc fountain pen (which I still use to compose articles before I type them into “Pages”).

It was amazing! They were afraid of a sickly 77-year-old man and a 76-year-old woman. Specifically, they were afraid of a 77-year-old man who is blind in his left eye and legally blind in his right eye, who has diabetes, who is hypertensive, who suffers with amyloidosis-wild, who had a heart attack 18 months ago, and who struggles with progressive heart failure. Incredibly, young men I know who have “carry permits,” were afraid of a wizened old man!

I am reminded of Proverbs 28.1, “The wicked flee when no one pursues.”

When my wife and I walked out of the Greenville Vatican, we remembered these words from an old Negro spiritual,

Surely been 'buked, and surely been scorned, thank God almighty, I'm free at last,
but still my soul is-a heaven-born, thank God almighty, I'm free at last.
Free at last, free at last, Thank God almighty, I’m free at last.

In the style of Jonathan Swift and others, I opened my pen and began a satire of the leaders of the ARPChurch. I did not publish or post the satire; rather, I sent it to Kyle Sims, Patrick Malphrus, Matt Miller, Nathan Frazier, and Tom Shoger to see what they though of it. I don’t think they much like it!

Below is their response.

Mr. Wilson,

You should have already received this email from our attorney Andrew Mathais which contains our response to your previous email. I am forwarding this to you in the event that his original email went to your junk file.

Sincerely,

Rev. Kyle E. Sims, D.Min
Principal Clerk, Associate Reformed
Presbyterian Church

Below the email from attorney Andrew Mathais

Mr. Wilson,

I am in receipt of your email seeking comments concerning your draft ARP Talk blog post entitled “Going Down (Part 2)” (attached here). Please accept this as the comment you requested.

DO NOT “release” your draft blog post as it is filled with untruths that will give rise to claims of defamation if published. Expensive and public litigation is not in the best interest of you or the Church.

My clients are prepared to take legal action should you continue to make defamatory statements about them. While my clients hope to avoid litigation, I hereby provide notice of our evidence preservation demand. As a potential party to a legal action, you and all individuals acting on your behalf should consider this communication as formal notice of your legal obligations pertaining to the preservation of evidence. This preservation obligation extends to all documents, data, and any other tangible or electronically stored information that could become a source of discovery and evidence in this dispute, including but not limited to all written communications, electronic communications, voicemails, receipts, financial records, emails, text messages, iMessages, Facebook messages, or other social media communications concerning or in any way related to the statements contained in your draft blog post or any other future defamatory comments, written or otherwise. Notice is hereby given to you and all individuals acting on your behalf that any destruction, concealment, or loss of such documents, data, or information (including, without limitation, emails, text messages, or other electronic communications) will be considered spoliation of evidence. These obligations also extend to any of your agents, employees, representatives, advisors and/or counsel. Failure to comply with this notice may result in the imposition of severe sanctions by a court of competent jurisdiction.

A more fulsome response to your request for comment will follow. The nature of this second communication depends on whether you choose to ignore my admonition not to publish “Going Down (Part 2).”

Andrew [Mathias]

Who are these guys kidding? They also play in the world of the blogosphere, the Internet, the Facebook, Twitter, texts, and emails. It’s a rough-and-tumble world.

Before I was a part of the ARPChurch, I was a freeborn American citizen, and I am still a freeborn American citizen. I don’t think the First Amendment can be taken from me, even if I engage in satire/caricature of individuals who are public or semi-public figures. It seems the righteous clerics of the ARPChurch fear criticism. All tyrants do!

There is no libel in what I have written. There is, however, satire of men with very large egos who have spent their lives hiding in the dark under the guise of being righteous.

Well, I had no intention of publishing the draft.

I wonder if it were the caricatures that they didn’t like!?

The caricatures are below. What do you think? Do you think it may have upset them?

Cardinal Patrick Malphrus Papal Joey

Cardinal Matt Miller The Jester

According to Alex Pettit the Director of World Witness the pronoun for the Holy Spirit is IT

Cardinal Nate Frazier Consigliere & Intellectual Legate

<h4>Pope Kyle</h4>

Pope Kyle

Is freedom to caricature/satire church leaders guaranteed under the First Amendment? Well, Yes, it is! There is a long history of it. Church leaders are also political leaders. Some may think caricature/satire is in bad taste, but the First Amendment is not about good taste. Nor does it protect pompous clerics from being called out.

Maybe they should have confiscated my old Montblanc pen at the Greenville Vatican.

Sadly, the ARPChurch cannot be turned from its slow march to the graveyard of denominations. What I have read in the Synod reports for this year is discouraging. The indicators are pointing do, and the leaders rejoice that it is not a bad as it could be.

Saint W. C. Fields said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.”

It has been 15 years for ARPTalk. I have been a damn fool for long enough. It is time for others to take my place.

I say farewell and adieu,

 

 

Charles W. Wilson

Going Down Part One Chuck Wilson ARPTalk ARP Talk

Going Down — Part #2c

Going Down Part One Chuck Wilson ARPTalk ARP Talk

Welcome to ARPTalk(168), Part 2c, an analysis of the ARPChurch which was begun with ARPTalk(164), Part 1.

We begin with this question: Why is the ARPChurch dying?

Consider the following. (1) There is a refusal to admit the ARPChurch is sick — VERY SICK. (2) There is a failure to take responsibility. (3) There is an unwillingness to change. (4) Critics are stifled. (5) Solutions are inward focused. (6) Entrepreneurial types are feared. (7) There is a desire to return to a bygone age which is held pristine. (8) The present leaders are expert in managing the status quo. (9) There is an unwillingness to focus on the nonnegotiable: the Great Commission.

MISSIONAL INDICATORS: Going Down!

I want the reader to be clear as to what I mean by missional. I mean that which contributes to the increase, the multiplication of congregations.

1) Outreach North America

As far as church planting is concerned, Outreach North America is ineffective. Certainly, there are a couple of bright spots of which I know; however, church planting is not something the ARPChurch does well.

The decline in congregations is far past alarming. A study was commissioned to study the combining of presbyteries. Presently, five presbyteries are no larger than 1500 members.

The ARPChurch’s approach to evangelism is to let the Baptists and nondenominationalists do the work of the Great Commission. Then, waiting for a convert to read a Reformed book or two, they proselytize the person in the name of Reformed theology. That’s not evangelism! As a matter of fact, according to Matthew 23.15, it is compassing sea and land to make a Reformed proselyte, and when he is made, he is as useless as the proselytizers.

I don’t think this is what Jesus meant when He said, “Go!”

In a similar vein, there is waiting and hoping for congregations to become dissatisfied with the PCA (or another denomination) and withdraw to the ARPChurch. Leaders speak of a large number of disaffected PCA congregations wanting to transfer to the ARPChurch. Then the leaders of these disaffected congregations ask this question: “Why do I want to be in the ARPChurch?” Not finding an answer, they go elsewhere or create something new!

2) World Witness

Foreign missions in the name of the ARPChurch is not something World Witness does. World Witness is a parachurch organization which functions as a support agency to larger parachurch organizations and other denominations, providing money and people. As the ARPChurch is drying up and  wasting away into something less than a micro-denomination in the US, (with the exception of legacy denominations in Mexico and Pakistan) the ARPChurch is irrelevant on the mission field. Does anyone realize  the  stated  goal  of  World  Witness  is  NOT  planting Associate Reformed Presbyterian congregations on the mission field? If that is done, it is considered a form of religious colonialism. And how do I know this. Alex Pettit told me.

Perhaps theological ineptitude in the ranks of the leadership of World Witness is why the ARPChurch fails to advance on the mission field. Indeed, an organization is not going higher than its leadership

For a number of years now, Director Alex Pettit, a member of the Greenville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, has desired ordination through Second Presbytery. Two years ago, he drove full bore to get it, saying (after eight years as the director) he needed ordination in order to have parity with ministers. Never mind that John Mariner led World Witness successfully for 30 years as a layman and never thought of himself as less than a minister. As a matter of fact, Associate Reformed Presbyterians and others in the world of foreign missions thought Mariner was a minister. As theologically articulate as most ministers I have known, I once asked John why he didn’t pursued ordination, and he responded: “I don’t need it; I’m just an administrator.”

When Pettit came before Second Presbytery, his exam was awful. When asked to outline the book of Genesis, he was unable to do it. When asked to define theological terms, he was shaky, confusing terms. The most embarrassing moment occurred when Andrew Di Iulio (attempting to rescue him, saying, “Let me give you a snowball and get you back on track!”) asked, “What is the proper pronoun for the Holy Spirit?” Pettit answered, “It.” Groans from the presbytery. Second try, “She!” Groans from the presbytery. Third attempt: “He.” There is no fourth option!

It is a serious matter when a denominational leader is confused about the Trinity!

Notwithstanding, there was a circling of the wagons. Matt Miller who was Pettit’s pastor when he was the pastor of the Greenville Church went into protection mode. Tom Shoger, a member of the Board of World Witness, also went into protection mode. So, how does one spell “nepotism?”

Since 1976, I do not know anyone in Second Presbytery who has encouraged and promoted more men into the ministry than Chuck Wilson. I worked hard with the candidates I promoted. I told them, “Just because I support you, do not think I will throw ‘snowball’ questions to you. I expect more of you than others. I will ask hard questions.” I never led a circling of the wagons to protect a candidate who did poorly.

Needless to say, this spectacle of nepotistic tomfoolery and ecclesiastical nonsense led by Matt Miller and Tom Shoger has resulted in bitter division in Second Presbytery, with at least one congregation withdrawing, with numerous individuals resigning from committees, and calls for  the  dissolving  of Second Presbytery on both sides of the isle.

EDUCATIONAL INDICATORS: Going Down!

1) Erskine College

I have waited to see if the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Magazine would report that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) has placed Erskine on “Warning” AGAIN. Well, no! Bad news about Erskine is concealed from the eyes of the hoi polloi of the ARPChurch. One must not say anything ill about Erskine — even if it’s true.

Below is what SACS auditors reported.

For twelve months for failure to comply with Core Requirement 4.1 (Governing board characteristics), Core Requirement 13.1 (Financial resources), and Standard 13.3 (Financial responsibility) of the Principles of Accreditation, a Special Committee was authorized to visit the institution.

So, what does it mean? It means, for the third time since the "Snow Synod,” Erskine finds itself receiving an accreditation sanction from SACS. I think I’m correct in stating that between 1925 to 2010 Erskine did not receive a public sanction from an accrediting agency.

For those interested, below is the full text of the “Principles of Accreditation” with which Erskine is NOT in compliance.

Requirement 4.1: "The institution has a governing board of at least five members that: a) is the legal body with specific authority over the institution. b) exercises fiduciary oversight of the institution. c) ensures that both the presiding officer of the board and a majority of other voting members of the board are free of any contractual, employment, personal, or familial financial interest in the institution. d) is not controlled by a minority of board members or by organizations or institutions separate from it. e) is not presided over by the chief executive officer of the institution.”

Requirement 13.1: "The institution has sound financial resources and a demonstrated, stable financial base to support the mission of the institution and the scope of its programs and services.”

Requirement 13.3: "The institution manages its financial resources in a responsible manner.”

In other words, the SACS auditors have found that Erskine does not have sufficient financial resources, that it is not properly managing its finances, and that the board of trustees has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to providing oversight (PARTICULARLY FINANCIAL OVERSIGHT) of the institution. It kinda sounds like what happened with the Minister’s Retirement Fund, doesn’t it? The leadership of he ARPChurch doesn’t know how to handle money!

For those of you who thought a myriad of sports programs (and particularly, football) would save Erskine College (for sports programs would draw in multitudes of students and money), you were wrong. The broken mantra of “Sports, Sports, Sports” has forever erased Erskine’s reputation as an elite academic institution.

Recently, Erskine College reported the baseball team beat the Southern Wesleyan University’s baseball team 40 to 8, tying the NCAA Division II record by hitting 12 home runs in a game. According to the news release, this is the most runs scored in a game and the most home runs hit in a game this season in NCAA Division II play. I bet 10,000 fans were present to see it. I also bet an armored car was necessary to transport the receipts from the game to the Due West bank.

The situation at Erskine College is such that the Bible is taught, but it is ignored. The situation at Erskine is so bad that the chaplain is a Pentecostal, charismatic who preaches a gospel of health and wealth instead of Christ the Savior. The situation at Erskine College is such that the Ten Commandments are carved in stone at the front fountain but ignored. Nevertheless, God’s blessing on the institution is expected, and the students are expected to rise above the ordinary in Jesus’ Name. And for you who do not understand, this action is the equivalent of taking God’s name in vain.

2) Erskine Seminary

The situation at Erskine Seminary remains bleak. If it were not for faculty members in their offices and a few administrators wandering around Bowie Hall (the seminary building in Due West) and the Extension site in Columbia (on the campus of First Presbyterian Church), the seminary building and the seminary extension site are empty caverns. No one is there! A stroll down their halls is a walk through an echo chamber.

Erskine Seminary has become a small online seminary. This year there were only 31 graduates. Only 6 were MDiv graduates. Only 2 or 3 were Associate Reformed Presbyterians.

For some inexplicable reason, the seminary leadership decided to advance the ThM program as a “cash cow.” The ThM program is a degree designed for those who desire to teach or pursue a PhD or ThD.

To oversee the multitudes who want a ThM degree, Matt Miller has been appointed to supervise the program. Interestingly, has he ever taught a seminary course or successfully administered a seminary program? Nevertheless, it is his charge to promote the benefits of pursuing a ThM program to pastors who have a theological itch to scratch, but no idea how save their congregations from decline. Well, being snarky and cynical, I suppose a ThM program gives a minister something to occupy his mind and time as his congregation dies.

So, if you’re a minister, why attend Erskine Seminary for a ThM? So that Matt Miller can teach you how to plateau a congregation, teach you how to become so upset with a congregation that you want to preach them to hell instead of heaven, and become so disillusioned with preaching that you had rather hear a sermon than preach a sermon?!

CONCLUDING REMARKS

 

As events are playing out, the ARPChurch is administratively mismanaged on every level by incompetent and feckless leaders in the sense that they have failed in ministry and now call failure success. It’s a long story of individuals collapsing or plateauing congregations or agencies. It is a long story of failed agency leaders and pastors being helped to another place in order to fail or plateau again and again in Jesus’ name. Associate Reformed Presbyterians are so accustomed to incompetence, fecklessness, failure, and nepotism in leaders that they suspect anyone who succeeds or promotes the idea of meritocracy. Associate Reformed Presbyterians ignore the Great Commission and wonder why their congregations are shriveling.

Rightly, the leaders of the ARPChurch decry the “health and wealth” gospel as false and deadly; but they have embraced the gospel of “dying and broke” which is just as false and deadly! The glaring truth of this is in their dying and shrinking congregations.

The ARPChurch is not going down the toilet, the ARPChurch is DOWN THE TOILET!

These are my thoughts,

 

Charles W. Wilson

Going Down Part One Chuck Wilson ARPTalk ARP Talk

Going Down — Part #2b

Going Down Part One Chuck Wilson ARPTalk ARP Talk

Welcome! ARPTalk(167): Going Down, Part 2b continues my analysis of the new leadership of the ARPChurch.

Christian leadership is given — A TRUST! Christian leadership is sacrifice, not privilege! The Christian leader checks his ego and reputation at the door before taking on his role. Some of the marks of the Christian leader are these: (1) he seeks to glorify God in his efforts; (2) he is patient and compassionate with both friends and critics; (3) he sacrificially seeks the good and joy of those he serves; (4) he refuses to focus on his dignity, rights, and privileges, (5) he is honest and trustworthy, and (6) he disabuses himself of personal visibility and recognition. So, are these the marks of the denominational leaders of the ARPChurch?

Cardinal Bishop Patrick Malphrus

If there is a Cardinal Bishop (the head bishop of the Sacred College of Cardinals) in the ARPChurch, it is Patrick Malphrus. And, if there is an individual in the sordid mess of the ARPChurch that is painful for me to write about, it is Patrick.

Connected at the hip like conjoined twins, Patrick Malphrus and Kyle Sims are the power-brokers of the new guard of the ARPChurch. Presiding over the affairs of the frozen and cold congregations of Canada to the sunny and sultry congregations of south Florida, Sims is Clerk and Malphrus is Parliamentarian. The relationship between them is such that they preach at each others congregations, hunt together, and plan the future of the ARPChurch together. Nothing today happens in the ARPChurch without their knowledge and the stamp of their imprimatur.

It’s not well known, but Cardinal Malphrus started off on the side of the Moderator’s Commission in 2008/9. He and Pope Kyle were on opposite sides at the “Snow Synod.” As a matter of fact, as my driver, Malphrus attended a couple of the conventicles that were called before the “Snow” Synod in order to strategize. On one occasion, he even met with the “Moderator’s Commission” and participated, giving the perspective of an Erskine Seminary student.

While in seminary, he campaigned for a call to his home church (Devenger Road Presbyterian Church) as Associate Pastor. The Senior Pastor was older and near retirement but wasn’t of a mind to retire. When asked why he didn’t retire and step aside for Malphrus, he replied, “I can’t. Patrick isn’t mature enough to be a senior pastor.” Conflict developed between the two men. A church split ensued. Unfortunately, I supported the wrong man.

At the Devenger Road congregation, Malphrus discovered rebuilding a congregation after a disruption and growing it again is not easy. During his time at Devenger Road, the congregation plateaued. And it remains plateaued under his successor.

Leaving the Devenger Road congregation just before the Covid Pandemic, Malphrus received and took the call to Old Providence Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Virginia were he is also Clerk of Virginia Presbytery. As pastor of the Old Providence congregation, the church has experienced plateau. According the Minutes of Synod, the congregation is about the same size it was in 2014. As Clerk of Virginia Presbytery, the presbytery has disintegrated into conflict. Sadly, the one pastor in Virginia Presbytery who befriended him, stood with him, and fought for him was betrayed by Malphrus. In disgust, this good man left the ARPChurch and returned to the PCA.

As of late, it seems Malphrus has become weary with his role as pastor of the Old Providence congregation and Clerk of Virginia Presbytery. His eyes have turned to South Carolina and Florida. I was told his interest in the Skylyn Drive congregation wained when he learned they could not meet his salary expectations. When the Lake Wales pulpit came open, he inquired of me how he could get his name before the search committee. I am sure when the Lake Placid and Bartow congregations open again, Malphrus will look to the Sunshine State, for these congregations are looked on as “plums” and bases of prestige from which to play the game of thrones that is called the ARPChurch.

As Moderator of General Synod, Malphrus drank deeply into the cup of ecclesiastical politics. He envisions the ARPChurch in his own image. Pawns can be moved. For example, Bill McKay was chosen as moderator by Malphrus because he was opposed to Outreach North America as much as he was. And how do I know this? He told me.

When the office of Parliamentarian came open, there was no doubt Malphrus wanted the position. One year as Moderator is only a sweet taste of power. Parliamentarian is a sumptuous feast of power in the General Synod for years, if the political strings are controlled properly. Indeed, this is the ARPChurch where the toast of beer is spelled nepotism.

The Cardinal Bishop’s legacy is betrayal of friends.

Cardinal Matt Miller

Well, what is a Pope if he doesn’t have a College of Cardinals? Second in the College of Cardinals is Matt Miller, Dean of the Holy Basilica in Greenville (aka, Central Services).

For 10 years, Miller was the pastor of the Greenville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. When Miller arrived in Greenville, with a sweater wrapped around his shoulders and a loose hanging tie around his neck (via Joe College), he heralded himself as the undoubted conservative, Reformed, and evangelical preaching-voice in Greenville and the ARPChurch. In his years as pastor, he led his congregation to a high level of plateau and called it renewal.

Cardinal Dean Miller never loses an opportunity to opine on his family’s wealth. You see, his father is a surgeon. He has a brother who is a surgeon. He has a brother who is a very successful real-estate developer. His grandmother left him a small fortune. His wife is a dentist. He is a “trust-baby.” He once told me if he wanted a PhD his father would pay for it.

However, the Cardinal Dean seems to have suffered as the pastor of the Greenville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. The attendance never really matched the numbers of his predecessor (Neely Gaston, by whom he measured himself in numbers and despised as theologically tainted). Exponential growth was expected! It did not materialize. The Greenville congregation did not become the conservative, Reformed, and Presbyterian flagship of Greenville.

It is fairly well known that when Miller left Greenville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church he was frustrated. In a conversation with me, he said, “I left because of you. You once told me, if I ever got to the place where I wanted to preach them to hell instead of heaven, I needed to leave. And that is where I am.” He added, “Now, I had rather hear a sermon than preach one.”

From the outside, it seems the Cardinal Dean doesn’t want anything to do with an Associate Reformed Presbyterian congregation in Greenville. The Millers attend Downtown Presbyterian Church (PCA), where I’m told his wife and family are members. One can only wonder why he remains in the ARPChurch!?

After leaving the Greenville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Miller provided pulpit supply for a PCA congregation and attempted to raise funds for and students for an Erskine Seminary campus in Greenville. He failed in the project. Parading as an Associate Reformed Presbyterian, Miller now owns and operates the C. S. Lewis Institute of Greenville. He also continues to work and work and work on a British PhD.

The PhD was supposed to be finished this past December. Upon completion of the PhD, he was to assume an administrative and teaching role at Erskine Theological Seminary in January. I wonder if he is to be assigned to teach seminary students on the fine art of plateauing a congregation, preaching congregants to hell, and listening to sermons rather than preaching sermons?

Although the Cardinal Dean has yet to finish his PhD dissertation, it has been posted in the ARP Magazine that he has been hired at Erskine Seminary without it. He has friends in high places. Once again, how does one spell “nepotism”?

The legacy of the Cardinal Dean: once held sacrosanct in the ARPChurch, Miller single-handily ripped out Matthew 18.15-17 from the New Testament canon and the remembrance of the ARPChurch.

Cardinal Nate Frazier

A newcomer to the game of thrones in the ARPChurch is Dr. Nate Frazier, the pastor of Kings Cross Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. Returning in mid-2010 after 4½ years in Scotland where he sampled his way through all the famous distilleries and worked on a PhD at the University of Edinburg, Frazier is smart and cunning. In the Papal Court of Pope Kyle, Frazier is the Cardinal Consigliere. He is a serious and dangerous man!! Most probably armed with a handgun!

Out of seminary, the Cardinal Consigliere moved from Due West to Tuscumbia, Alabama, to become the Assistant to the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Tuscumbia (PCA). After a couple of years and unable to manage conflict with the Senior Pastor, he and his wife moved to Scotland to pursue a PhD. While in Scotland, he attended St. Columbia’s Free Church until he came into conflict with the pastor.

Delighting in telling stories about an uncle who was a “made man” in the Philadelphia mafia, the Cardinal Consigliere sought a teaching post when he returned from Scotland. At Erskine Seminary, then Dean and VP Neely Gaston, reneged on a promise. A position in Texas with RTS fell through. A church planting opportunity outside of Philadelphia was refused. Finally, the position of pastor at the Craig Avenue/Tabernacle Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (and renamed Kings Cross Presbyterian Church) was taken.

Cardinal Consigliere Frazier once told me that gathering and growing a congregation was simple and easy. All one had to do was open the Bible and teach and the people would come. When the Cardinal Consigliere went to the Kings Cross (formerly Craig Avenue/Tabernacle) Church, the congregation was an older congregation of about 200 and with money in the bank. After 13 years of opening the Bible and teaching the multitudes have not come, the congregation is now reporting 50 members, and running a large deficit. Indeed, finding, gathering, and growing/renewing a congregation is not a simple thing!

The shadow of the Cardinal Consigliere’s uncle has fallen on him. He is mean. When he was in seminary in Due West, he delighted in sharing the following story about John Carson who was president of Erskine at the time. The Cardinal Consigliere didn’t like Carson. He said Carson compromised to Neo-orthodoxy. He said he sold his soul to get his PhD. He said Carson returned from Scotland without his dissertation approved. He said that in order for Carson to get an approved dissertation Randy Ruble (who was then Dean) step-in and brought Thomas Torrance to Due West for six months in order to guest lecture and help Carson rewrite his dissertation.

Like Pope Kyle, the Cardinal Consigliere is a practitioner of the art of Two-facedism. While in Scotland, he was one of the finish-editors of ARPTalk. In those days, he often made suggestions and made contributions. He was also the author of a major article (but, unwilling to have his name on the article, the Editor of ARPTalk signed the article for him).

It has recently come to my attention that Frazier has been promised the position of Bible Professor at Erskine College after Dr. Bill Evans retires. That is, Pope Kyle is expanding the duties of the Cardinal Consigliere to include Intellectual Legate. So, how does one spell “nepotism”?

The legacy of the Cardinal Consigliere: all dressed up with a PhD and nowhere to go.

In a conversation in Due West in 1998, I asked two friends who are dead now and who were legacy leaders in the ARPChurch the following question: “What keeps the ARPChurch from growing?” As best as I can remember the words, they said:

We failed to develop forward looking leaders. We tell people what we were in Scotland. We celebrate who we were. We are so busy looking back, we failed to look forward. Failing to look forward, we become petty, protecting a long-lost heritage. We don’t know who we are now, what we stand for, or where we are going. Our focus is a little kingdom that is shrinking. We fight over little and call it much! We became a church led by ecclesiastical Lilliputians.

These are my thoughts,

 

Charles W. Wilson

Going Down Part One Chuck Wilson ARPTalk ARP Talk

Going Down — Part #2a

Going Down Part One Chuck Wilson ARPTalk ARP Talk

ARPTalk (166): Going Down, Part 2a continues ARPTalk (164) — that is, reasons why the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPChurch) is a stone’s throw from death. And, if not dead, it is now a micro-denomination of about 25 healthy congregations.

For 50 years, I (and others) dreamed a dream of the ARPChurch as a significant and influential denomination in the world of Reformed and Evangelical Presbyterianism. Like the movie, that dream is gone with the wind, and I am sad! — and I hope I’m wrong!!

The next point is an analysis of the present leadership.

LEADERSHIP INDICATORS: Going Down!

In 2009, Nathan Frazier wrote the following about Erskine, saying, “Erskine is like a diseased person” (“A Call to Action,” p. 1) (https://arptalk.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Frazier-Nate-A-Call-to-Action.pdf). The same can be said of the ARPChurch. Doubtlessly, the leadership of the ARPChurch is diseased. And, if the head is diseased, the body is doomed.

In 1976, Ted Engstrom wrote the following about leadership in the church. He wrote that the church needs leaders

. . . who cannot be bought; whose word is their bond; who put character above wealth; who possess opinions and will; who are larger than their vocations; who do not hesitate to take chances; who will not lose their individuality in a crowd; who will be as honest in small things as in great things; who will make no compromise with wrong; whose ambitions are not confined to their own selfish desires; who are true to their friends . . . who are not ashamed or afraid to stand for truth when it is unpopular . . . and who say ‘no’ with emphasis, although all the rest of the world says ‘yes.” (Ted Engstrom, The Making of a Christian Leader: Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1976, 120)

If denominational leadership is an indicator of denominational integrity and future, expect a wintery future! On the basis of what I have seen and experienced (and I was an insider), the present leadership in the ARPChurch is moribund and so self-absorbed as to be unable to see past ecclesiastical ambition and prestige. The ARPChurch is led by those who have overseen congregational decline/plateau, who manage nepotism, who hold political savvy as being two-faced, who gossip and whose word can’t be trusted, and who have a twisted sense of dignity which is used to stifle dissent.

Most people think the moderator of General Synod is the Pope of the ARPChurch. In reality, the moderator has little ecclesiastical power. The moderator serves one year, and his role is moderating the meeting of General Synod and the meetings of the Executive Board for the year he is moderator. After that, he is just another face in the crowd.

If there is a Pope in the ARPChurch, the Pope is the Principle Clerk of General Synod (Clerk); that is, if he desires and seizes the role. However, in the 51 years I was connected with the ARPChurch, no one had the chutzpah — UNTIL NOW. In the past, Clerk was an avocation, a side-hustle; not a job. Tragically, Kyle Sims seems to think Clerk means he has been appointed Pope.

Who is Pope Kyle?

Having a lackluster ministerial career, but living in a haze of self-infatuation since his election to Clerk, the new Clerk of the ARPChurch presents himself as a Pope-like figure. In the last meetings of Synod, he has spoken ex cathedra, constantly interrupting the Moderator and the flow of the proceedings, to the point I heard delegates quietly muttering: “Kyle, sit down, be quiet, and do your job as Clerk!” (and, NO, I was not one of the delegates). Amazingly, as one who identifies himself as a Protestant, a Calvinist, and a non-Roman Catholic, he exercises the authority to cast people out of the church. Is that not Pope- like?

Where did the ARP Pope come from?

First of all, as pastor of the yoked parish of Hickory Grove/ Smyrna, not much happened there. Standing nearly seven feet tall, he once bragged on the floor of Synod he was the tallest and largest ARP on earth. Preaching at the Smyrna congregation shortly after Sims departed for Lancaster, a teenager commented to me, “I liked your sermon! You don’t look like a giant stork in the pulpit.” Teenagers can be brutal!

According to the 2005 Minutes of Synod, when Pope Kyle arrived in Lancaster as pastor of the First Lancaster church in 2005/6, the congregation reported 259 members. As he leaves, he leaves the congregation with 120 members and an attendance under 70 in the sanctuary and 6 in the nursery (as reported in a recent bulletin I have). In 2004, I supplied the pulpit of the Lancaster congregation on three occasions. When I preached, there was a full choir and a nearly full sanctuary. What has happened to the congregation? As noted above, the congregation is down to 120 members and an attendance under 80. As Pope Kyle leaves Lancaster, he’s not leaving, rather he’s ESCAPING FROM A COLLAPSING CHURCH. The only thing to say for the ARPChurch is this: if this is leadership, don’t expect much. Well, as sad as it sounds, if you can’t grow a church, try leading a denomination.

Sims once told me he is the most politically astute man in the ARPChurch. On a Banner of Truth road-trip to Messiah College in Pennsylvania in 2008, I spent a week with him recounting his political exploits when he worked as a political intern during his college days. I was left asking: why didn’t he go into law and become a Republican politician? 

In awe, I watched Pope Kyle  work  the  corridors  of  Erskine. He is now the new Director of Seminary Admissions and Church Relations. His wife is a member of the Erskine Board, and a daughter is an  Erskine College  employee. Can someone  spell the word “nepotism?”

However, to be fair, I guess Pope Kyle is about the best the ARPChurch has to offer.  Regrettably,  the  ARPChurch  is  lacking in capable leaders who are willing to serve. I think the parable of judgment in Judges 9 fits the ARPChurch and the rise of Pope Kyle.

“The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ But the olive tree  said  to  them,  ‘Shall  I  leave  my  abundance,  by  which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?’ And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come  and reign over us.’ But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’ And the trees said to the vine, ‘You  come  and  reign over us.’ But the vine said to them,  ‘Shall  I  leave  my  wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?’ Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’”

I am not a prophet or a seer, nor the son of a prophet or a seer, but the muse of prediction is upon me. I predict the reign of Pope Kyle to be “fire” on the ARPChurch — a fire of judgment. Well, maybe not! Maybe this is just a story about a fool told by a fool who knows too much about the religious chameleon-like characters inhabiting the ecclesiastical environs of the ARPChurch, for I lived too long in that parched land.

Pope Sims’ legacy: he has the power to cast people into hell.

These are my thoughts,

 

Charles W. Wilson