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