The ARP Church in 2024

The ARP Church in 2024 by Chuck Wilson ARP Talk ARPTalk

According to the “Statistical Report” (pp. 164-193), in the 2023 Minutes of the General Synod, the health of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPChurch) is in freefall. Warning lights are flashing and storm flags are flying. Does anyone care? It is no stretch to say the leadership of the denomination is unconcerned and focused elsewhere — flittering away as they are Facebooking in a fantasy land of self- importance.

Though not an exact depiction, the photograph above is an uncomfortable representation of Sunday morning attendance in most congregations.

According to the summary of presbyteries (p. 164), the membership of the ARPChurch has declined from 26,871 to 23,130. The most important indicator for health and size is “Average Weekly Attendance.” Up from a Covid-low of 10,371 to 12,771, the Sunday morning size of the ARPChurch is less than 13,000 congregants. Membership numbers are often inaccurate; however, the number of people reported in pews and chairs is fairly accurate.

Reporting numbers about congregations in the ARPChurch is a challenge. At least 68 congregations either did not report or past reports were used in the “Statistical Report.” What does this mean? (1) Does it mean no one in the congregation took responsibility for the report? (2) Does it mean the report was so dismal no one wanted to mail the report? (3) Does it mean the pastor doesn’t trust the folks at the Greenville office and doesn’t want them to know what he and his congregation are doing? Notwithstanding, below is an analysis of what is found in the “Statistical Report.”

Many ministers in the ARPChurch say they believe worship is the most important business of the local congregation. Well, if people present is an important indicator, business is failing and near bankrupt in the congregations of the ARPChurch!

The following is a list of the two congregations reporting the largest weekly attendance in each presbytery:

  • CANADA: (1) Grace Presbyterian Church, 175; (2) Covenant Reformed Presbyterian  Church, Covenanters Presbyterian Church, and Trinity ON ARP Church, 75;
  • CATAWBA: (1) First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, 1050 (2) Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, 225;
  • FIRST: (1) Gastonia ARP Church, 352; (2) City Church of Asheville, 225;
  • FLORIDA: (1) North Creek Presbyterian Church, 190; (2) Lake Wales First Presbyterian Church, 154;
  • GRACE: (1) Christ Covenant Church, 447; (2) Hope Chapel ARP Church, 190;
  • MISSISSIPPI VALLEY: (1) French Camp Presbyterian Church, 125; (2) New Albany Presbyterian Church, 120;
  • NORTHEAST: (1) Church of the Atonement, 156; (2) Good News Presbyterian Church, 130;
  • SECOND: (1) Greenville ARP Church, 240; (2) Oconee Presbyterian Church, 141;
  • TENNESSEE-ALABAMA: (1) Fayetteville ARP Church, 125; (2) New Days Mission, 120;
  • VIRGINIA: (1) Redeemer ARP Church, 140; (2) Old Providence ARP Church, 136.

Regrettably (and this news has not been and will not be reported in the ARPMagazine, for negative news is verboten), the Oconee Presbyterian Church (the most dynamic and fastest growing congregation in Second Presbytery, and the congregation having the second highest Sunday attendance at 141) withdrew from Second Presbytery and the ARPChurch on December 3, 2023 (and presently the Sunday attendance is 180).

Of the 266 congregations in the ARPChurch, only 41 reported an average Sunday attendance of 100 or more. That is, only 15% of the congregations of the ARPChurch have an average attendance of 100 or more.

I think the most depressing statistic reported in the “Statistical Report” is this: of the 266 congregations of the ARPChurch, 208 congregations did not report a single adult profession of faith. That is 78% of the congregations of the ARPChurch did not see a single adult profession of faith.

An analysis of the “Statistical Report” also reveals that 99 congregations have an average Sunday attendance of 55 or less. Unless a congregation is a beginning church-plant, these congregations are on the verge of collapse. The demographic factors to overcome in order to see revitalization and renewal are a hill too high for most of these congregations. These 99 congregations represent 37% of the congregations in the ARPChurch.

Who is responsible for such a dismal showing?

Because the ARPChurch is 200 years old, a few of these “skeleton” congregations are “legacy” congregations. That is, the congregation was founded 200 or more years ago. Because of population migration and other such factors, a large building with an old graveyard is left “high-and-dry” in the middle of Nowhere, USA, with a greatly diminished membership to maintain a historic building and care for a large graveyard. A thriving community has disappeared, leaving a few homes scattered in a national forest.

However, the above does not explain the congregations which are drying up in the midst of populated areas. For example, how is it there is in Charlotte, NC, a congregation reporting an average Sunday attendance of 20 when it sits in a forest of occupied homes? This is not made-up. The data for the “Statistical Report” are totaled and submitted by someone in the congregation.

Frankly, the responsibility lies with the ministers of the ARPChurch. Some congregations are so depleted they need to be closed and replanted; nevertheless, the maxim remains applicable: “a local congregation succeeds or fails because of pastoral leadership.”

Everything Begins With Pastoral Leadership

If the maxim, “Monkey see; monkey do!” is true, then the future of the ARPChurch is bleak. Name the present leaders of the ARP Church. Which ones have had a stellar middling career in evangelism, church growth, and renewal? Certainly, one cannot name the present Stated Clerk of the General Synod. His last year at the Lancaster First ARPChurch saw no adult professions of faith, no baptisms of any kind, a loss of membership, and an average weekly attendance of only 55. The statistics regarding other leaders are also disappointing. So, once again, if the maxim of “Monkey see; monkey do” is true, what is expected of run-of-the-mill pastors?

Going Forward Backwards

Not having a ministry plan for the present or the future, many ministers in the ARPChurch obsess over what they call the history of the ARPChurch. A candidate for the ministry is expected to know the story of the Associate Presbytery (i.e., the “ Succeeders” ) and the Reformed Presbytery (i.e., the “Covenanters”) in Scotland. A candidate is also expected to know (1) dates in the history of Scotland like 1733, (2) names like Ebenezer and Ralph Erskine, and John McMillan and Thomas Nairn, (3) places like Gairney Bridge, (4) ecclesio-political acts like the Patronage Act, and (5) theological debates like “the Free Offer of the Gospel.” But for what reason? Remember all that is mentioned is from Scottish history. And, since the ARPChurch was founded in 1822 in the USA, none of these people, dates, and events from 300 years ago in Scotland is significant in the identification and future of an American denomination called the ARPChurch in 2024. It seems the history of the ARPChurch in America has not been noteworthy, and its future is uncertain.

Over the years, I have wondered why Associate Reformed Presbyterians were obsessed with the history of Scotland and Scottish denominations. Is it an inferiority complex? Is it because there is so little of which to boast in America? Or, is it because they are still attempting to untangle the issues of 18th Century Scotland as if those issues were salient today? What does Scottish ecclesiastical history have to do with the present and future of the ARPChurch in the USA?

Many of the present ministers in the ARPChurch were educated at RTS-Charlotte. If the reader took a course or two from Frank Kik, do you remember an admonition that went something like this: the problem for some of you is you want to preach sermons about the gospel to Puritans who died 400 years ago!?

With heads buried in the sand, presbyteries fail to ask important questions like these to men being examined for ordination: (1) You are being called to a congregation of 92 members, a congregation which has a Sunday morning attendance of 41, and a congregation which hasn’t seen an adult profession of faith in recent memory: what are your plans to change the death trajectory of the congregation, and how are you going to implement your plans? (2) You are being called to a dying congregation: are your plans to collect a salary for as long as the congregation has money, read more theological volumes, and hope for a more prestigious call? (3) So, you want to attend seminary and become a minister, but you have never led someone to faith in Christ: what do you think a minister is called to do?

If one goes forward backwards, one will never see the present or find the future (and ARPs are expert at going forward backwards). If ministers attend presbytery and synod meetings and talk endlessly about the Great Commission, church planting, and church renewal, but nothing happens, then what is the problem? Has the gospel failed? Jesus promised to build His church no matter the obstacles (Matthew 16.18). Is Jesus unable to keep His promise to the ARPChurch? Did He lie to the ARPChurch?

What’s the problem? Is it because many pastors attempt to sanitize ministry in philosophical-theological inquiry rather than a purposed outreach of hard work that comes along side the non-Christian and leads him to Jesus? Is it because many pastors dream of recapitulating an 18th Century Scottish ministry model and repristinating Puritanism, and, therefore, they have become insensitive to and clueless about the challenges of 2024?

More pointed: is it because pastors become religious social worker-pastors rather than prophets of the gospel? What part do religious social work-pastors have with Jesus and His disciples, with the seventy disciples Jesus sent out (Luke 10), with Paul, Barnabas, and Silas, with Timothy and Titus, and with Peter, James, and John? Even more pointed: what part do our religious social worker-pastors have with the Erskine brothers, the Succeeders and Covenanters, and with the Puritans who were willing, in Jesus’ name, to work hard, undergo persecution, be rejected from congregations and lose livelihoods, and, yes, many were also willing to brave the stormy waters of the Atlantic Ocean in small, wooden ships in order to dream dreams of “a city on a hill” in a new land? These men brought bags full of souls to Jesus, while we bring broken buckets full of NO adult professions of faith to Jesus in 2023.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is correct, are the ministers and elders in the ARPChurch insane? If “insane” is not the proper word, what is the proper word?

I think the 2023 Erskine College football season works as a metaphor for the ARPChurch in 2024. In 2023, the Erskine football team was 0-11. The season was so terrible, I suspect there was a discussion about changing the name of the team from The Flying Fleet to The Aeronautical Disasters. What is the answer to the problem? Well, one might begin with firing the coaches and hiring new coaches!

In Conclusion

For a group of people who speak much about the role of the Ten Commandments in the life of the believer, does years of discussions by ministers and elders at presbytery and synod meetings constitute a violation of the Third Commandment? Has the name of the God of the Bible been taken in vain with years of sermons, investigations, reports, and discussions about the imperative of the gospel and the Great Commission which have led to a declining denomination, shrinking congregations, and relatively few adult professions of faith? We sing “Onward Christian Soldiers,” and go nowhere. We sing “Christ Shall Have Dominion,” and, on our watch, we have led in the regress of Christ’s Dominion.

Some will say, “Don’t despise the day of a small beginning!” Well, I don’t! However, after 200 years, the ARPChurch is way beyond the day of beginnings. What I see is a day of no beginning.

Has Christ who cares for the lampstands of the church extinguished the flame of the ARPChurch (Revelation 1.12-20 and Matthew 5.14-16)? Is the condition of the ARPChurch in 2024 that of a flameless lampstand?

With a few remaining thoughts, I am

Charles W. Wilson

The Rise of the CARPChurch

ARPTalk Welcome to the CARP Church The Rise of the CARPChurch Reverend Chuck Wilson

When I was a boy, I fished a lot with Daddy in the lakes of Central Florida. This wasn’t sport fishing. Daddy fished for food: bass, crappie, bluegill, warmouth, sunfish, catfish, and, occasionally, he brought home a soft-shell turtle or a small gator. All these were cleaned and fried for the table — and the eating was good!

Early one Saturday morning in the spring of 1959, Daddy got up early to go fishing with Homer Brown at a lake south of Winter Haven, somewhere below Mulberry. I didn’t go because 3:30 AM was too early and a 60 mile ride was too far. Daddy and Homer returned late mid- morning with a long string of fish, and with a huge carp caught by Daddy.

Now, for you who are uninitiated, carps are “mud-suckers” that are all bones, scales, and uneatable.

Daddy was undeterred when Homer warned him, saying, “Sherman, that thing is nasty and not worth keeping. It’s all bones and tastes like something a buzzard wouldn’t touch.”

Daddy was resolute! His motto was, “If I catch it, I eat it!”

When Daddy cleaned the carp, it was all stink and bones. When he fried the crap, Mama said she was gong to leave him, warned him she would kill him if he couldn’t get the stink out of her kitchen, and then she left and didn’t return until long after dark. When I bit into the fried carp, it was too foul for a dog’s palate!

A METAPHOR

The story above is a metaphor for what has taken place in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Ecclesiastically (that is, governmentally), the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church has devolved into the Catawba Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (CARPChurch).

Other than the Moderator and Vice-Moderator (who are elected annually and exert little influence), the officers of General Synod are Principal Clerk (Rev. Kyle Sims, Catawba Presbytery) Reading Clerk (Rev. Mark Miller, Catawba Presbytery); Bill Clerk, (Rev. Ben Glaser (Catawba Presbytery); Parliamentarian (Rev. Patrick Malphrus, Virginia Presbytery); Treasurer (Mr. Jamey Dagenhart, Catawba Presbytery), and Rev. M. J. Denning (Archivist, First Presbytery). The ecclesiastical “movers-and-shakers” are, obviously, the “Clerks.” They set the agendas. They control information and events during the year through the Executive Board. They are the bishops of the CARPChurch (and the Principal Clerk and the Parliamentarian are the Cardinals). Whatever the CARPChurch is or isn’t, these humble servants of God wield the powers of direction. They view themselves politically and not pastorally — that is, they are politicians and not pastors.

Interestingly, Patrick Malphrus is not a member of Catawba Presbytery; rather, he is the pastor of a congregation in Virginia Presbytery. Notwithstanding, he is counted in the number of Catawba, for he identifies himself with “the Catawba boys” and longs to be a part of Catawba Presbytery (if only a gerrymandering of the presbyteries can be arranged which allows for the inclusion of the Old Providence congregation in Catawba Presbytery, or if he can get a call to a Catawba congregation which can afford him. He longs to return to the Carolinas).

Once upon a time, the ARPMagazine was the information highway of the ARPChurch. Now, in the time of the CARPChurch, the ARPMagazine is the Ministry of Propaganda for the CARP leaders. It is totally under the control of the Executive Board which is dominated by the “Catawba boys.” The Editor is a nice lady, who is a member of the Lancaster congregation in Catawba Presbytery. This is Kyle Sims’ former congregation. And, as Kyle Sims once said, “The Editor of the ARPMagazine will do as she is told!” Well, I suppose that is a true statement, since the ARPMagazine is under the thumb of the Executive Board.

The CARP boys are delusional. They actually think the CARPChurch (aka, the ARPChurch) is influential. They look on their roles as important to the religious life of the United States. Actually, the role of the CARPChurch is not even a footnote in the religious life of the US.

There are a number of ways of looking at the influence of the CARPChurch. (1) The CARPChurch has a membership of only 26,900 congregants (and, as everyone knowns, this is an inflated membership). Regardless, using the 26,900 membership, the CARPChurch is 0.00007881% of the US population. (2) There are about
120 million Protestants in the US, which means the CARPChurch is 0.0002%. (3) Of the approximately half million members in NAPARC, the CARPChurch represents 0.054% of NAPARC.

Here’s a sobering question: if the CARPChurch (aka, ARPChurch) were to disappear this evening, would anyone know it or miss the CARPChurch at the rising of the morning sun? With the exception of the leaders of the CARPChurch, would anyone even care? Only the CARP bishops! They would be lamenting in sackcloth and ashes, saying,

“Fallen! Fallen! is our emaciated and ghastly painted church!
Woes to us! Woe to us! for she whom we led to calamity and dressed in rags and gilded with yellow paint and encrusted with zircons (purchased at the Dollar Store just outside of Bonclarken) has been brought to ruin.
What can we do? What can we do? There is no one to honor us as humble servants of the great CARP!” (2 Revelation 17.82)

The leaders of the CARPChurch obsess over little, and are only capable of less. Which of them has had notable success in pastoral leadership — that is, in church growth or church planting? Incompetent leadership leads to disaster! If the CARPChurch were a carp fish, it would drown in the turbulent waters of Lake Bonclarken for not knowing how to swim!

RAMBLIN’ MATT

In 1962, the smooth sound of Nat King Cole’s voice covered the air waves of America with the lyrics of “Ramblin’ Rose,” which go like this: “Ramblin' rose, ramblin' rose / Why you ramble, no one knows / Wild and wind-blown, that's how you've grown / Who can cling to a ramblin' rose?”

Matthew Miller is the “Ramblin’ Rose of the CARPChurch”. Over the years, he has desired a teaching position at a seminary. A position at Erskine Seminary was offered to him a couple years ago, contingent on him finishing a PhD program. Failing to complete the PhD program in the allotted time frame, he was provisionally hired last January, and, immediately, given a sabbatical to finish his PhD program by June. He was expected to be ready for full-time responsibilities by July.

On July 31, the following email was sent to the Erskine faculty, staff, and Seminary Committee of the Board of Trustees from Dean of the Seminary Seth Nelson, the subject: “Announcing Full-Time Faculty Change”:

I regret to announce that Rev. Dr. Matthew Miller has resigned as Associate Professor of Pastoral and Historical Theology and Director of the ThM Program, effective August 31, 2023. Dr. Miller has been serving both as a faculty member at Erskine Seminary and as the Director of the C. S. Lewis Institute in Greenville over the last year. During this time his responsibilities with the C. S. Lewis Institute have unexpectedly grown, bringing him to a point where he needed to decide between Erskine and the C. S. Lewis Institute. After much prayer and counsel, Dr. Miller has concluded that the Lord is calling him to deepen his commitment to the expanding ministry of the C. S. Lewis Institute for the foreseeable future, thereby necessitating his resignation from Erskine Seminary.

While a member of the Erskine Board (from 1998-2004), I learned to read Erskine gobbledygook. It’s difficult, but I will attempt the translation and meaning of Nelson’s email.

One, this may mean Miller has failed to complete his PhD dissertation; two, this may mean Miller’s dissertation was rejected; three, this may mean (that since Miller was given multiple academic responsibilities at Erskine Seminary) he has found work highly irritating to his hands and odious to his general nature. For certain, the necessity for a small paycheck from Erskine Seminary is not needed in an affluent household where he is a “trust baby” and his wife is a medical professional.

One thing is for certain, the verbiage regarding conflict between his academic responsibilities at Erskine Seminary and his responsibilities as Director of the C. S. Lewis Institute in Greenville is gobbledegook. For goodness sake, the C. S. Lewis Institute is a highfalutin book club!

Well, at the beginning of this section, I wrote Matt Miller is “the Ramblin’ Rose of the CARPChurch.” With apologies to Nat King Cole, I was wrong about the “rose” part. Matt Miller is “the Ramblin’ Flake of the CARPChurch.”

I’m told “Flakey” Matt is often seen on the sidewalks of Greenville, at the far end of the West End where the “ragged people go” and the homeless people hangout, ramblin’ around, muttering to himself, blithering, “C. S. Lewis! C. S. Lewis! Don’t you wanna join my book club on C. S. Lewis? C. S. Lewis! C. S. Lewis is what you need!”

Poor boy! He has a lot to learn, and I hope he never learns it!

By the way, have you noticed there hasn’t been a word in the ARPMagazine about Matt Miller’s withdrawal/removal from the faculty of Erskine Seminary? As Kyle Sims says of the editor of the ARPMagazine, “She will do as she is told.”

MORE NEWS FROM ERSKINE

(1)

I don’t think they meant to do it, but in the Erskine board’s report to General Synod, the level of the endowment was accidentally revealed. One has to do a little math, but it’s easy. The relevant paragraph reads:

A portion of Erskine’s 2022-23 revenue comes from contributions raised through the Advancement Office and investment resources from the Endowment. As of February 2023, the funds for the fiscal year 2022-23 that have come through the Advancement Office ($1.4 million) and from the Endowment ($1.1 million, a 6% endowment draw) reflect diligent fundraising and the exercise of care in financial stewardship. As part of the stewardship pillar of the plan, the Institution is returning to its internal stewardship policy of a 5% Endowment draw for the fiscal year 2023-24, with the goal of reducing the draw even further in the future.

So, a $1.1 million draw was taken from the endowment for operational expenses, and that represents a 6% draw on the endowment, then the endowment was about $18.4 million. Now, reduce the $18.4 million by the $1.1 million draw, and the present endowment is about $17.3 million.

Wow! It wasn’t long ago the Erskine endowment was over $40 million. No wonder Erskine is once again sanctioned by SACS. The last time around, the SACS auditors warned Erskine not to draw more than 5% on the endowment. That warning was ignored.

When Erskine board leaders talk about “diligence,” it’s a smokescreen meaning nothing. All the gobbledegook about Erskine complying with SACS’s directive for a 5% draw on the endowment is political misspeak and misdirection to keep math-challenged ministers pacified in their stupor.

(2)

As most readers of ARPTalk know, Rev. Kyle Sims is now the Director of Seminary Admissions and Church Relations. His role is finding and attracting students to attend Erskine Seminary.

This past June in Memphis, he set up a booth at the meeting of the General Assembly of the PCA. As the photograph to the right reveals, the crowd of students inquiring about Erskine Seminary at Memphis was a bit less than overwhelming. It is reported Sims could be heard saying, “Don’t you want to attend Erskine Seminary and be a minister like me?” I don’t think many wanted to be a minster like him. I don’t think extra help had to be secured in Due West to process the applications which poured in from Memphis! I don’t know why Sims didn’t order the posting of this photograph in the ARPMagazine!?

Unfortunately, Sims is beating a dead-horse . The seminary of the CARPChurch (aka, ARPChurch) is the seminary from which he graduated. Yes, RTS-Charlotte is the seminary of the CARPChurch. At the meeting of the RTS-C alums at Synod, the speaker announced that RTS-C is “the seminary of the ARPChurch,” and his announcement was welcomed with an applause of agreement. I wonder if Sims was present?!

I don’t know why Sims took the Erskine job. In the past, he said Erskine Seminary is a lost cause and should be closed in order for the college to survive. Well, I suppose he needs something to do in order to occupy his time. I understand he has inherited some money and doesn’t need a job.

(3)

There has been no announcement in the ARPMagazine regarding the closing of RUF-Erskine. Sadly, with the resignation of Jonathan Cook to take the call to Young Memorial Church in Anderson as Senior Pastor, the ministry has come to an end. There may be an effort to find a replacement for Cook, but, with all the toxic challenges at Erskine College and the Due West community, no one in his right mind would seek or attempt the role. The role of RUF would have to be revamped from nurture of Christian students to hard evangelism, and RUF is not structured in that manner. Besides, RUF has larger fish to fry than little Erskine College.

The ministry of RUF-Erskine has always been tenuous, and the ministry survived only because of the tenacious efforts of Paul Patrick and then Jonathan Cook.

The opposition of the administration and the Erskine community were poisonous to the ministry. In a small college community where about 95% of the students are athletes and 90% of the student body is non-Christian, a ministry like RUF (which attempts to minister to Christian students) is untenable.

As far as ARPTalk is concerned, Paul Patrick and Jonathan Cook are worthy of a big THANK YOU and a tip of the hat.

WHAT’S WRONG?

A cataloguing of what’s wrong with the CARPChurch is long and exhausting. Let it suffice for me to share two items I have recently seen and one from not so long ago.

FIRST. What’s wrong? I recently read a conversation between two senior ministers bemoaning the decline of Sunday evening services as a reason for the decline in evangelical churches today. Well, if a minister can’t fill a Sunday morning worship service, why does he think he can persuade congregants and others to attend an evening service?

TWO. What’s wrong? According to one minister, the problem is that babies and toddlers are excluded from the worship service. I suppose a large sign needs to erected in front of the church building, reading, “Babies and Toddlers Welcome in Worship.”

By the way, this isn’t a novel idea. There is a large community church of over 3,000 within two miles of where I live, and babies and toddlers are present at all three of the Sunday morning services. Perhaps the absence of babies and toddlers (crying or not crying) is not the problem for falling attendance. The pastor who was advocating for babies and toddlers should have been advocating for people. His sanctuary on Sunday morning is nearly empty.

THREE. What’s wrong? This story comes from the recent past. I attended the installation service for a prominent minister, and the preacher that evening chose a Psalm as his text. In his talk, he said nothing that would have offended an Orthodox Rabbi. He quoted Calvin and other Christian theologians. However, except for the beginning and ending prayers, the name of Jesus wasn’t mentioned. There was nothing about Jesus. And a no Jesus sermon is no sermon. It is just a motivational talk. Zig Ziglar would have done better. You see, Calvin isn’t the Savior of sinners; rather, Jesus is the only name whereby sinners must be saved. You see, a no Jesus sermon is a no Gospel sermon. And no Gospel sermons empty congregations.

A WARNING FROM 1986: KADESH-BARNEA

Monte Campbell, an attorney from Bartow, Florida, was a “blue- blood” Associate Reformed Presbyterian. No one would have dared to challenge his credentials as an ARP.

As the retiring Moderator of General Synod in 1986, he said the following in the Moderator’s Keynote address.

It has been a real excitement to me to read the minutes of the Presbyteries as they have come across my desk and see the activity in regard to new church growth that has captured the attention of every Presbytery. And well that it has, for Dr. Charles Chaney points out in his book, Church Planting at the End of the Twentieth Century, that the answer to evangelizing and discipling some eighty million people in the United States who claim no church affiliating is not to be primarily through existing churches. New churches are needed. Nowhere is that more evident than the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

No longer can we afford to sit back, like the “wallflower” at a “prom,” and wait on those who would come to us. In the early church, it was only until the Apostles were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit did Christ tell them to wait in Jerusalem. Once they had received that power, he told them to go. Do we truly believe that the ARP Church is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit? Then the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church must seek out those souls He has dedicated to our care. Right now, if we were the only church in the world directed by the Holy Spirit and having exclusive access to God’s blessing, the world of evangelism would be in pretty dire straights[emphasis added], Sometimes we even act like we are ashamed or embarrassed about what we stand for. It’s time for the ARP Church to be at the front of the battle to save souls with our identifying colors flying high for all to see and to know who we are and what we are.

I am convinced that God has prepared this Church for that task. While the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church has in the past had to circle its wagons to protect its heritage, in doing so, it has kept the faith. It is now time to move on with that faith secure, bright and alive. Let us not be guilty of blocking the advance of Christ by the failure of our expectations.

I couldn’t help but think back to another time in the history of God’s people, when He had prepared them and their mission and told them to go. In thinking of that time, I was tempted to select, as the title for this talk, the name of that place [Kadesh- Barnea] where God told the children of Israel that the promised land was theirs and to take it — where they failed simply because they didn’t trust Him. . . . (Minutes of General Synod, 1986, pages 4-5).

What Monte Campbell warned of and feared has come to pass!! The ARPChurch sitting at Kadesh Barnea, unwilling to go and waiting to die.

Few there are in the ARPChurch today who have a vision for church planting. Few there are in the ARPChurch today who have successfully planted a new congregation. Few there are in the ARPChurch today who have successfully revitalized an existing congregation. Unfortunately, none of the bishops of the CARPChurch have experience in planting a congregation. They don’t do it; they don’t know how to do it; and they don’t like those who can do it. And, you know, one can’t lead to where one hasn’t been!

A CONCLUDING WORD

Some of you who read ARPTalk think I am mean, evil, and divisive. Some of you even doubt I’m a Christian. Notwithstanding, I was able to plant and grow congregations in five states. How did I do that? Did I do it in the name of Beelzebub? Did I accomplish church planting, growth, and renewal on the basis of my mean, evil, and divisive spirit? No, I did not! Not knowing much about Calvin or the theological nuances and niceties of the Westminster Larger Catechism, I preached Jesus Christ the Savior of sinners and asked people to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and, believing in Jesus, they found life through His name. And, to my amazement, God, in spite of my many sins and weaknesses, used what I preached. (2 Corinthians 4.5-7).

For 50 years, I served the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church faithfully. I planted congregations and grew them. I sought to be a change agent.

I hate watching the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church devolving into the Catawba Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. The CARPChurch is a cadre of ambitious church politicians who are more interested in their political aspirations and comfort than filling the pews of congregations or seeing new congregations planted, or longing to see men and women and boys and girls come to a saving knowledge of Jesus.

Do you remember the beginning story of the carp fish? Well, a carp is an uneatable fish. The corollary follows: the CARPChurch is an unsavory church!! It’s a church sitting at Kadesh Barnea waiting to die.

With a few remaining thoughts, I am

Charles W. Wilson

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

On Saving My Own Soul Chuck Wilson ARPTalk

On Saving My Own Soul

On Saving My Own Soul Chuck Wilson ARPTalk

The most self-condemnatory question ever asked was asked by
Pilate when Jesus was brought before him.

The questions is, “What is truth?”

“What is truth?” The Moderator of General Synod sent out the following email today (May 22, 2023, see below).

The purpose of this email is to offer an update on the recent activity of the Executive Board of the General Synod. On May 22, 2023, the former Reverend Charles (Chuck) Wilson appeared before the court in order to stand trial for charges made against him. I am saddened to report that before the trial commenced, Mr. Wilson read a statement in which he renounced the court's jurisdiction and withdrew from Gospel ministry.

According to the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Book of Discipline chapter 8.1, "When a member or minister is under discipline and wishes to withdraw his membership rather than face the censure of the Church, the church court shall act by removing his name from the roll which is the theological equivalent of excommunication without judicial process."

Sadly, Mr. Wilson has imposed the highest form of church discipline upon himself by excommunicating himself from the Church of Jesus Christ. Please pray for Mr. Wilson and all those involved in this sad situation.

Bill McKay, Moderator Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

“WHAT IS TRUTH?”

One, McKay is correct that I refused to stand before the Inquisition court of McKay, Kyle Sims, Patrick Malphrus, David Lauten, and Ken Wingate. I am convinced that this so-called court is corrupt, and I am convinced it violates Scripture, the directives of the ARPChurch, and the Confession of Faith, XXV:4 (“The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. . .”). Conscience will not allow me to submit to something so unscrupulous and unprincipled.

THIS IS THE TRUTH!

Two, I have NOT “withdrawn from the Gospel ministry”; I withdrew from ministry in the ARPChurch. I am still the Reverend Doctor Charles W. Wilson. My credentials are elsewhere. McKay misuses the Book of Discipline, 8.1: "When a member or minister is under discipline and wishes to withdraw his membership rather than face the censure of the Church, the church court shall act by removing his name from the roll which is the theological equivalent of excommunication without judicial process.”

  1. I have never been under “discipline” — that is, sanction.
  2. I did not withdraw under “censure.”
  3. Of my own choosing, I chose to withdraw from the ministry of the ARPChurch.
  4. I have not chosen to excommunicate myself from the Church of the Lord Jesus or from the ordained Gospel ministry; rather, I have chosen a different venue from which to work.
  5. I do not want to be a part of an ecclesiastical organization led by the likes of Bill McKay, Kyle Sims, Patrick Malphrus, David Lauten, and Ken Wingate.
  6. According to Revelation 18.4, I have chosen to come out of what I consider to be a modern-day Babylon.

THIS IS THE TRUTH!

Finally, who is Bill McKay?

McKay seems confused as to his allegiances: when Synod’s then Moderator wrote to all pastors and congregations encouraging them, out of obedience to Holy Scripture, to continue meeting during the Covid pandemic, McKay, in a letter to the then Vice Moderator, sought to initiate charges against the Moderator at that time. McKay claimed that the Moderator’s letter spoke in opposition to “Her Majesty’s Government.” Apparently, McKay considers Her late Majesty’s Government to be a higher authority over the church than Holy Scripture. Needless to say, the Vice Moderator at that time wisely chose to disregard McKay’s request and no charges were initiated. As a result, the vast majority of Associate Reformed Presbyterian congregations continued to meet in faithfulness to Scripture. However, in the Canadian Presbytery, McKay made himself infamous. He informed the Canadian authorities that one of the Canadian congregations was meeting, and the results were the pastor was arrested, and both the pastor and the congregation left the ARPChurch.

THIS IS THE TRUTH!

For the record, below is a copy of my statement which I read before the Executive Board — a Board that I deem, at best, a Kangaroo Court, and, at worst, an Inquisition Court.

We are here today because Matt Miller, with whom I have had significant disagreements and conflicts, decided to weaponize the then-private estrangements within my extended family for his own ends. Using the ire and jealousies of two alienated and malleable daughters, they have committed themselves to the notion that the home of Chuck and Erlene Wilson was a house of horrors. They have transmogrified me into a rage-a-holic who was either shouting and cursing or making sexual innuendos for their entire childhood, in a home in which Katie lived until she was 26 and Sara lived until she was 22. They have caricatured their mother as a scheming enabler unwilling to protect her children. On the other hand, the other three children raised in our home have consistently told a very different story of love, laughter, faith, and safety.

Well, Tanisha, Gayle, and Matt would have told the story of love, laughter, faith, and safety if the Investigators (and particularly the lead Investigator, Ken Wingate) had done their job as prescribed in the Book of Discipline and actually spoken to ALL the witnesses. Not only did the Investigators refuse to speak with Tanisha, Gayle, and Matt, they refused to speak with witnesses from the gym, even when given names and phone numbers. However, these witnesses would NOT have affirmed the Investigators’ preconceived narrative.

Many of these allegations against Erlene and me involve alleged incidents which were supposed to have occurred more than 20 and even more than 40 years ago. Erlene and I take exception to all their allegations. Indeed, they did not happen! And we have two witnesses from the White Oak Church who will swear to our integrity: a long-time friend and our former babysitter. These women were constantly in and out of our home and knew the inner workings of our home. Furthermore, from Seneca, I have a neighbor, who with his wife and three daughters, lived in front of us, and none of them ever saw or heard anything like what our daughters allege.

Nevertheless, there is a huge fissure in our family with Katie and Sara on one side, while Matt, Tanisha, Gayle, Erlene, and I are on the other. And this fissure arose because of differences, conflicts, and jealousies arising after 2000, when all children were grown-and-gone from our home.

It is no secret I have a quick temper and sharp tongue. Many of the times I spoke too harshly were situations where I still believe I was right, but that was obscured by the way I expressed myself.

Because of the necessity for and the devastation of harsh and wounding words, I will end this. If I were to cross-examine my daughters, I would shatter them with my words. Then the rupture is irreparable for Katie and Sara; Tanisha, Gayle, and Matt; my wife and me. I cannot live with that. They are still my children.

I am a realist. Humanly speaking, for my wife and I, there is little chance of reconciliation with our daughters, or between our daughters and the other three siblings. If I cross-examine them, there is no chance of reconciliation.

If my cardiologists are correct, I don’t have long to live. I don’t want to end my life in a public squabble with my daughters. There can be no winner, just an unseemly spectacle. This fight, with the aid and manipulation of Matt Miller, they started. I’m ending it! I wish my daughters peace.

As far as Charge #2 is concerned: If this trial were to proceed, I would show you that the Investigators have violated clear Scriptural requirements and the Book of Discipline by fashioning a charge on the basis of ONE witness. They spoke to ONE person and ran with her allegations.

  • That ONE witness testified that I had run-ins with people at the gym where I have been a member for 30 She only mentioned ONE person specifically. That gentleman is a friend and is prepared to testify that he and I have NEVER been at odds; and, in fact, we have been friends for more than 15 years.

  • I am prepared to bring the owner of the gym to tell you about my conduct there, and he and the former owners repeatedly renewed my membership for 30 years ― a strange thing to do if I were the menace described in charge #2. The owner is also prepared to tell you the first thing he did when he purchased the gym was this: “I fired Meredith, and it was the best first thing I ”

  • I have another half dozen gym members who are prepared to testify to my conduct and reputation in the Included is a prominent retired Baptist pastor, a retired Clemson PhD in forestry, and a married couple who became members of the Oconee Presbyterian Church because of their friendship with me begun at the gym.

  • This fired gym employee sold a cartoon version of Chuck Wilson and the Investigators bought it, too zealous to let the facts get in the way of such a good story, as they ran helter- skelter to a predetermined and prejudged

This process has been tainted and corrupt at every juncture. You appointed Investigators, two of whom have been on very opposite sides of issues in the ARPChurch and whose fairness to me could be reasonably questioned. They never should have been asked to serve in this matter. Once that mistake was made they should have refused to serve.

This matter was declared an emergency by the Executive Board on October 24, 2022 ― two-hundred and eleven days ago! Thirty-five of those days were to accommodate my Advocate’s surgery and recovery, but how did the other 176 days constitute an “Emergency?”

At the beginning of this process, I was skeptical that I could get a fair trial. Every step taken by the four men who constitute the Execute Committee of the Executive Board has only strengthened my belief. While I maintain that I am NOT guilty of the charges before you, I am 77 years old, and I am tired of playing games with you when the fix has been in from the beginning.

With these words, I withdraw from and renounce the authority of Second Presbytery to oversee me as a minister called of God and by His Spirit — effective immediately. Under Christ’s Authority, I also denounce and withdraw from the jurisdiction of the Executive Board, and, asking God to judge between us, Erlene and I leave you to your own devices and your Kangaroo Court.

Finally, I want to remind Mr. McKay of something he may have forgotten; Martin Luther was condemned by an ecclesiastical tribunal at the Diet of Worms. Both Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine were condemned by their presbytery in Scotland, and J. Gresham Machen was suspended from the ministry by his presbytery. Thank you for putting me in such good company.

These are my thoughts,

 

Charles W. Wilson

Going Down Part One Chuck Wilson ARPTalk ARP Talk

Going Down — Part #1

Going Down Part One Chuck Wilson ARPTalk ARP Talk

When I last saw my cardiologist, there was good news and bad news. The good news was he assured me I wasn’t dead, yet. The bad news was he assured me his diagnosis regarding my amyloidosis-wild and congestive heart failure hadn’t changed, and his prognosis regarding my death remained the same. He said the Vyndamax (which was recently released by the FDA) is retarding the migration of bone proteins to my heart; nevertheless, the damage to my heart is extensive and continuing.

In other words, I’m going down. Death by heart attack, stroke, or both is not an intellectual discussion for me; rather, it is an ongoing reality.

GOING DOWN is a genuinely apropos metaphor for the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church’s (ARP Church) condition today. As one looks at the ARP Church, all the major institutional indicators reveal the denomination is going down. This does not mean the denomination is deceased; however, the indicators reveal the no return point has probably been crossed.

It is my plan to analyze the major indicators: (1) the financial; (2) the numerical; (3) the leadership; (4) the missional; and (5) the educational.

In this issue of ARPTalk, I will tackle the financial and numerical.

FINANCIAL INDICATORS: Going Down!

Mr. Brian Such is the Director of Finance for General Synod. A member of an independent congregation in Greenville, SC, Mr. Such seems to have more concern for the financial welfare of the ARP Church than the members of the Board of Stewardship or General Synod meeting in Bonclarken. As warnings of the pending collapse of Social Security are ignored, the warnings of the financial collapse of General Synod are ignored by the Board of Stewardship and General Synod. Let me illustrate: (1) the Denominational Ministry (DM) for 2023 is $2,528,900; (2) General Synod is 259 congregations; (3) 166 congregations are pledging (something) to the 2023 DM budget; 94 congregations are pledging nothing (and are expected to give nothing); (4) of the pledging congregations, 24 congregations (9%) are pledging $2,035,500; the rest of the pledging congregations (91%) are pledging $493,383. Nevertheless, unless the economy tanks, revenue will probably be a little more than the expected $5.5 million. December is a wonderful month for giving, and remember congregations with a preponderance of senior members have more monies to give.

What does this mean? Well, it means (1) most of the 259 congregations in General Synod have little confidence in the direction, the future of the ARP Church, or the leaders who are leading the denomination, and (2) most of the congregations of the ARP Church are so financially weak and depleted of members they are unable to give or so distrusting of and disinterested in the denomination they have functionally become independent congregations. And, if you didn’t catch the math, this means the General Synod is a bit more than 24 healthy congregations.

What does this portend? As the title of this article says: Going Down!

NUMERICAL INDICATORS: Going Down!

The numerical decline in the ARP Church is alarming. There are at least 59% of General Synod’s congregations on the verge of closing, or they are so small they are little more than a Sunday morning Bible study. Twelve to twenty-five (12 to 25) people in worship does not a congregation make!

Since the “Statistical Report” in the “2022 Minutes of Synod” is so fouled-up by Central Services in Greenville as to be undecipherable, I am using the “Statistical Report” in the “2021 Minutes of Synod” to illustrate the numerical decline of General Synod. As a result, there is a discrepancy of 4 in the total number of congregations: 259 (as reported by Mr. Such in his report to the Board of Stewardship) and 255 (as reported in the “Statistical Report” in the “2021 Minutes of Synod).

Unless a congregation is a mission plant, congregations with a membership of 75 or fewer are “dead-and-don’t-know-it- yet” congregations. Older congregations with a membership of 75 or fewer members have an attendance of about 35 to 40 in worship, with attendance declining — they are hanging on for the sake of the building, the graveyard, and somewhere to go on Sunday morning. Normally, a mission congregation with a membership of 75 has an attendance more than the membership, with the attendance increasing.

The following is an analysis of the “Statistical Report” of the “2021 Minutes of Synod.”

  1. Canada Presbytery: 7 congregations out of 9 have a membership of 75 or fewer: the viable count is 2 congregations.
  2. Catawba Presbytery: 27 congregations out of 47 have a membership of 75 or fewer: the viable count is 20 congregations.
  3. First Presbytery: 27 congregations out of 48 have a membership of 75 or fewer: the viable count is 21 congregations.
  4. Florida Presbytery: 9 congregations out of 20 have a membership of 75 or fewer: the viable count is 11 congregations.
  5. Grace Presbytery: 12 congregations out of 18 have a membership of 75 or fewer: the viable count is 6 congregations.
  6. Mississippi Valley Presbytery: 21 congregations out of 26 have a membership of 75 or fewer: the viable count is 5 congregations.
  7. Northeast Presbytery: 20 congregations out of 31 have a membership of 75 or fewer: the viable count is 11 congregations. (NOTE: with Northeast Presbytery being an Anglo- Korean presbytery, their reporting is unreliable, for the language and cultural barriers are a challenge to overcome in reporting.)
  8. Second Presbytery: 16 congregations out of 37 have a membership of 75 or fewer: the viable count is 21 congregations. (NOTE: this count does not reflect that 4 congregations have been closed recently, the Oconee Presbyterian Church has been released to transfer to Calvary Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA), and two mission congregations have been particularized.)
  9. Tennessee/Alabama Presbytery: 13 congregations out of 16 have a membership of 75 or fewer: the viable count is 3 congregations.
  10. Virginia Presbytery: 7 congregations out 12 have a membership of 75 or fewer: the viable count is 7. (NOTE: presently the Virginia Presbytery is described by one of its pastors as a “dumpster fire,” and no one really knows what is going on.)

For the General Synod, the total looks like this: 152 congregations out of 255 have a membership of 75 or fewer: the viable count is 103 (maybe) and declining. Remember 24 congregations support 61% of the budget.

Now, why is the ARP Church in a membership crisis?

Consider the following:

(1) The General Synod is aging — no, it’s very old! Congregations with young couples with babies and children are rare. As a pastor friend quipped, “We started a young couples class and called it ‘Sixty-five and Under.’” Indeed, as I have visited congregations in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, I have observed old buildings with extensive Sunday School facilities, but the condition of the rooms revealed they have not been used for years. These congregations are dying.

(2) For whatever reasons, young people are fleeing the congregations and denomination of their parents. Certainly, demographic change has not been kind to the ARP Church; still, even in population growth areas, numerous congregations are declining (i.e., see the history of the Tabernacle and Craig Avenue congregations going from two congregations to one congregation to the Craig Avenue Tabernacle Church/Kings Cross Church, and from a 1,000 members to 50 members in an ocean of people). Also to be noted, in the past when Associate Reformed Presbyterians migrated to other places, they took their Associate Reformed Presbyterianism with them and planted new congregations. Today, the young people who are leaving and relocating to other vicinities jettison their Associate Reformed Presbyterian identity before they get out of town.

(3) Here’s a question for those whose congregation is in decline: if you are in Charlotte and on the north side of the street and on the south side of the street is a PCA congregation, why would a church-hunter want to attend church with you? Another way to put the question is this: why would someone want to be an ARP Church today? That is, what are the distinctives of the ARP Church? As I speak with Associate Reformed Presbyterian ministers, their default response is to list how the ARP Church is not the PCA, which, in spite of all its conflicts over social issues, is growing, while the ARP Church hasn’t grown since 2008. These ministers insist the PCA is on the verge of a great split, and, as they say, “We don’t want to have any part of that!” Somehow they fail to notice the PCA has issues which are serious enough to fight for and split over, if necessary, but the ARP Church is too moribund to fight, too lacking in theological vigor to arouse itself, and too rotten to split. Well, this sort of thinking does not advance a good reason to be an Associate Reformed Presbyterian, does it?

Associate Reformed Presbyterian ministers prat about muttering nonsense about how, if the PCA splits, the ARP Church is the logical place for the conservatives in the PCA to land. Therefore, the presence of the ARP Church must be maintained for the sake of the homeless brothers migrating out of the broken PCA to the ARP Church. These Associate Reformed Presbyterian ministers are self-deluded and know nothing of the culture of the PCA. The conservative congregations in the PCA are afraid of the ARP Church’s policy on property ownership, and they are offended at and reject the ARP Church’s view on women deacons as unbiblical. For some odd reason which I don’t understand, in spite of the fact Associate Reformed Presbyterians do not enforce the policy on property ownership, they will not change it. And with regard to a change regarding women deacons, the leadership of General Synod is terrified by the threat of the 3100 member First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, SC, to leave if there is a change in the policy. Brothers, don’t expect an influx of PCA congregations! It ain’t gonna happen!

A few years ago, when a committee of the General Synod attempted to come up with a theological distinctive for the existence of the ARP Church, the committee members nostalgically returned to the denomination’s roots in Scotland. Borrowing from history, the free offer of the Gospel was set forth as the great distinctive for the ARP Church today. Well, as it has turned out, that wasn’t helpful, and the church continues to decline. Generally speaking, Associate Reformed Presbyterian ministers can only talk about the free offer of the Gospel. It’s not something they can do!

So, what is a good reason to be an Associate Reformed Presbyterian? I have been an Associate Reformed Presbyterian for 51 years, and I do not have a satisfying answer to my question, nor have I heard a good one explained to me. I guess the only reason I have remained an Associate Reformed Presbyterian is because I’m old, lazy, and dumb as a rock and don’t know any better!

(4) Another complexity to the question of why someone would want to join the ARP Church is the naïveté of most Associate Reformed Presbyterians. That is, Associate Reformed Presbyterians think all congregations are like their congregation. So, to be an Associate Reformed Presbyterian is to be like them. They are loyal to their local congregation and not the denomination. Such parochialism does not produce healthy congregational growth. It has been years since most Associate Reformed Presbyterian congregations have witnessed an adult baptism occurring because someone in the congregation lead a person to the Lord Jesus. Associate Reformed Presbyterians don’t do conversions! I know of one congregation which was so bold at the beginning of last year to pray every Sunday for ONE public profession of faith and baptism during the year (and their prayer was answered, and they were so amazed that God answered and so encouraged they have asked for more this year). To illustrate this point, I call your attention to the 3100 member First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, SC, which, in spite of their ability to secure “rock star” Reformed preachers, grows not by professions of faith but by transfers. According to the “2021 Statistical Report” only 3 members were received by profession of faith and baptism. However, the First Presbyterian Church of Columbia plays a special role in the ARP Church and the state of South Carolina. The congregation has been called “the Republican Party of Columbia in Prayer.” And it fits! Associate Reformed Presbyterians are so pleased the Governor of South Carolina is an Associate Reformed Presbyterian!

(5) In June, all the prophets of the ARP Church go on pilgrimage to Mount Bonclarken for holy convocation. Since 1973 I have been amongst the prophets, preachers, and seers, listening to their prayers. God doesn’t hear! Silence and decline! Or is there something else here? Has God answered in judgment? IN JUDGMENT, has God turned the fertile and watered plain of the House of the ARP Church into a barren land of sand? A denomination of only 24 congregations bearing 61% of the financial weight of the denomination is not singing “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah” because it rolls around in increase, prosperity, success, and acclaim. Are the bitter words of Elijah in 1 Kings 18.27 appropriate to be heard here? “Cry louder to the god to which you are praying. Perhaps he is in deep contemplation. Perhaps he is in the bathroom relieving himself. Perhaps he is vacationing in a distant land. Perhaps he is asleep and needs awakening.”

Finally, let me share with you some research I gathered on what constitutes an unhealthy congregation or denomination. And most of these points are obvious. There are more, but let me share seven with you.

One, there is a nostalgic over-emphasis on what the congregation or denomination was. And usually the people and leaders are misremembering what they were. Actually, the bygone days were not that good, for these folks magnify the good and forget and sugarcoat the bad. And, for what it’s worth, for many Associate Reformed Presbyterians, the concerns are the old building and graveyard. That is, “My grandfather bought the bricks for the sanctuary, and three generations of my people are buried in the graveyard.”

Two, growth by conversions and adult baptism is non- existent. There are many reasons why conversion growth is the most important growth. At this point, let one suffice: new converts are usually excited about their new found faith and church, have many non-Christian friends, and are not reticent about sharing their faith and asking their friends to attend church with them.

Three, there is no room for change. The ideas of new people are not welcomed. As I was once told, “We don’t want people who are not like us.” As an older church member once said to me, “Chuck, do you know these new people who have come into our church are not Calvinists?” My response was, “Yes! Thank God! It gives me something to do.” What I did not say was, “And neither are you a Calvinist.”

Four, there is no sense of direction. There is no sense of where the church is going. The attitude is, “We want to stay the way we are!” The first hymn at Sunday morning worship is “Misty Water-colored Memories of the way We Were.”

Five, an unwillingness to risk. This, of course, involves money. The budget for the new year is what we gave last year. “If we step out in faith for ministry, what will God do among us?” is never asked, for it terrifies them. A corollary to this is the savings account in the bank. Often the savings account is looked on as a talisman — a substitute for God. The concept of generosity before budget is as foreign to these folks as rocks from Mars.

Six, there is excuse making. When asked why the congregation or denomination is not growing, the answer is the Pharisee’s response: “We are not like those sinners who don’t do it the way we do it!”

Seven, it helps to like each other. I have preached in Associate Reformed Presbyterian congregations where the people on the left side of the sanctuary didn’t like the people on the right, and the people on the right side of the sanctuary didn’t like the people on the left. This reminds me of the old cigarette commercial: “Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight that switch!” Nevertheless, both sides were proud of being Associate Reformed Presbyterians. However, to be fair, this malady is infectious and is found in all evangelical denominations of which I know.

Going Down!

These are my thoughts,

 

Charles W. Wilson