ARP Church Family ARPTalk Reverend Chuck Wilson Synod

Dysfunctional Family (1) A Two Part Analysis of the Meeting of General Synod

ARP Church Family ARPTalk Reverend Chuck Wilson Synod

DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY (1)

A Two Part Analysis of the Meeting of General Synod

The meeting of General Synod last Thursday and Friday (October 22 and 23) sparked my imagination. In the beautiful sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, SC, we heard numerous delegates speak of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as "family." Well, are we family because we are small (and, indeed, we are small and very scattered)? Are we family because so many of us are blood-related (and such was the case and much more when I became an Associate Reformed Presbyterian in 1972)? Are we family because so many of our ministers are graduates of Reformed Theological Seminary (but most of us who are RTS grads don't know each other)? So, what kind of family are we? Perhaps, the cartoon above is an uncanny representation of who we are - like the Simpsons, we are a portrait of a dysfunctional family.

Retiring Moderator's Address

Retiring Moderator Leslie Holmes' sermon informed us we are a dying denomination, and he challenged us to evangelism (specifically to adult baptisms) and church planting. According to the statistical reports of our presbyteries for 2018 in the Minutes of General Synod: 2019, we are a denomination of 22,393, we had 146 adult professions of faith, and this means we are NOT doing adult baptisms because we are NOT leading non-believers to the Lord Jesus. Doing the math, it takes 15.34 of us to lead an unbeliever to the Lord Jesus. Frankly, our record is terrible - and it has been terrible for a long time. A closer examination of the statistics reveals the record is worse than what I report, for I was kind and allowed for the fudging of the numbers in the official reporting. The truth is we don't lead unbelievers to the Lord Jesus. Frankly, I am not sure we can lead hungry cats to day-old tuna!

According to Former Moderator Holmes, our record of planting churches is even more dismal. In the last 10 years, we have attempted 98 church plants and only 14 have been "particularized" as self-sustaining congregations. Our batting average is .143 (and, according to Holmes, a careful examination of the records reveals the average is only 11%). In contrast, consider this from https://www.christianpost.com/news/study-reveals-state-of-u-s-church-planting.html, "Debunking claims that most new church starts fail within the first year, the study showed that survival and success are markedly greater than realized. The latest research suggested that 68 percent of the roughly 4,000 churches planted each year are still functioning four years later."

As a Baptist minister friend once said to me, "The only way to join the average Baptist church is to be born-into-it or married-into-it." Well, that describes us, doesn't it?

The Report of the Blue Ribbon Committee

Because so many were shocked by its conclusions, the report of the Blue Ribbon Committee took Thursday afternoon, Thursday evening, and a good part of Friday morning. At this point, the dysfunctionality of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as a family showed up in technicolor.

When someone says to me, "I'm an Associate Reformed Presbyterian!" I ask, "What do you mean? (1) Do you mean you are a member of a congregation affiliated with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, (2) are you referring to one of our presbyteries, (3) are you speaking of one of our boards or agencies, (4) are you saying you enjoy vacationing at Bonclarken, or (5) do you mean you attended Erskine College and fond memories continue to linger in the pathways of your mind? Which Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, for we are many?! On the General Synod level, our boards and agencies are independent kingdoms with each having its own 501c3, and they hold their resources as their own and zealously guard their independence. For many of us, it seems our boards and agencies think the General Synod exists for them, and they have forgotten they were created by and are servants of the General Synod.

The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church is in the midst of an existential crisis, the which has not occurred since the aftermath of the Civil War. After years of mismanagement, our ministers' retirement fund is greatly underwater at 13 to 14 million dollars. Presently, according to the actuary, the fund has about 56 million dollars and needs at least 70 million dollars to fund benefits in 2050. According to the actuary, we need an immediate infusion of 5.5 million dollars to recapitalize the fund (and that may not be enough to avoid significant reductions in retirement benefits in the years around 2050).

What are we going to do?

Well, one thing we are GOING TO DO is allocate 20% from the Denomination Ministry Fund to the Retirement Fund till kingdom come. And that's not enough or long enough! Some are saying this action may cause congregations to refrain from giving to the DMF. Well, okay! One of the refrains I hear is how much Associate Reformed Presbyterians are a family and love their ministers. If congregations abandon the DMF because of General Synod's action of taking 20% out of the DMF yearly in order to recapitalize the Retirement Fund, then I am forced to say all the pious rhetoric about family and "loving our ministers" is just hooey.

One thing we are going to do is IGNORE the recommendation of the actuary to reallocate 5.5 million dollars from our boards and agencies to the Retirement Fund as a onetime infusion of monies into the Fund. The motion was voted down. Our dysfunctionality became apparent. It was interesting to watch the advocates of Outreach North America circle their wagons to protect the assets of the Sovereign Kingdom of ONA in the byzantine realm of 918 South Pleasantburg Drive. It was as though the poor boys were protecting the Holy Grail. In an emotional tizzy (which was wondrous to behold), these champions of ONA (who were members of, or former members of, the board of ONA) asserted reallocation of funds by General Synod from ONA's assets to the Retirement Fund was unethical and tantamount to breach of trust and misuse of funds. They demanded ONA's resources are inviolate! But here's the general principle in giving: if a gift is made to a church or an eleemosynary organization and the gift is used by the donor for a tax deduction, the gift cannot be restricted by the donor; however, if a gift is made to a church or an eleemosynary organization and the gift is not used for a tax deduction, the gift can be designated and cannot be used for any other purpose without the donor's permission. Well, we are at a point of crisis. Remember gifts to ONA were also made to the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Sadly, the operating principle of many of the members of the board of ONA at this meeting of General Synod was self-interest and not the future of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. And let there be no misunderstanding: we are in an existential crisis - the future of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church is at stake. Young ministers who are capable of being church planters are unsure of us, for they are unsure we can care for their futures. Without young ministers who are willing to take on the challenge of church planting, the future for both the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and the Sovereign Kingdom of ONA in the byzantine realm of 918 South Pleasantburg Drive are a footnote in a church history book. A friend once described his congregation in this manner: "We are old; a good flu season and we are out of business." That describes us too, doesn't it?

Well, let me give you some "good news": Synod voted to make a way for new ministers to opt out of the Retirement Fund and create and be in charge of the destinies of their retirements with options for defined contribution plans.

Now, let me give you some more "good news": General Synod voted to create a committee to examine the assets of General Synod in order to find 3 million dollars for a one time allocation of funds to aid in recapitalizing the Retirement Fund. This doesn't fix the problem, but, in good "ARP form," it kicks-the-ball-down-the-road for others to find a solution. Also, a motion to begin a capital funds campaign for the recapitalization of the Retirement Fund was approved. This will help ministers who are many years invested in the Retirement Fund. Now, will we own the capital funds campaign? As I remember, our last capital funds campaign went thud!

How Did We Get Here?

The following motion was adopted: "That the moderator appoint a Select Committee composed of six members: (1) an active minister; (2) a retired minister; (3) two laypersons who are attorneys, and (4) two laypersons who are accountants; and from these six members appoint a chairman. The purpose of this Select Committee is to investigate all matters which contributed to and triggered the Retirement Fund Crisis. The select committee shall report back to the 2021 General Synod with its findings and recommendations. The Select Committee shall be given full authority to examine all documents necessary for this investigation."

Over the years, when it came to our Retirement Plan, we acted in a paternalistic manner toward our ministers. The attitude was this: "As a theologian, you don't know anything about financial programs; so, trust us to find experts who will take care of your retirement." Why did our ministers buy such demeaning nonsense? A minister who has mastered Greek and Hebrew can master counting and the nomenclature of retirement planning.

What happened? The Board of Benefits failed our ministers. Be assured, no one pilfered funds, but grievous mistakes were made by the former actuary and others.

A minister said to me, "It's the ministers fault!" He said he recommended an accountant from his congregation who was elected to the Board of Benefits. The accountant resigned in frustration, saying, "The ministers won't listen to reason!" Really? In the last 30 years, was this accountant the only person to see a looming disaster on the horizon? I have gone back and read the minutes and recommendations of the Board of Benefits to General Synod for the last 30 years. There is not a word of warning from anyone until 2013, and then we were assured the problem was fixed. Where was a voice of warning? If I had been a member of the Board of Benefits in the last 30 years and had seen this disaster forming, General Synod would have heard me screaming at the top of my voice. So, how was General Synod to respond if there was no warning?

The above motion which launches an autopsy of the Retirement Fund crash is not made to punish, but it is made to give warning. Hopefully, unless we are dumber than a box of rocks, we will have enough sense to take heed to the findings of the Select Committee and avoid a second crash.

Now, for the sake of transparency, I want the reader to know that none of this impacts on me. I am 75, and I will not live long enough for this to be a problem for me. Someone asked me, "Why do you care so passionately?" It's the right thing to do! The men who will be retiring in 2050 are young enough to be my sons. As I care for my son's future, I also care for their futures. If you look, I think you will find this concept somewhere in the Bible.

Palpable Distrust

The word "palpable" was used often at General Synod this year. I think it describes the level of DISTRUST among us. When the motion was made to continue the hiring freeze executed by the Executive Committee earlier this year until the report of the Committee on Restructuring has been presented to and acted on by General Synod, I am sure the folks who are deeply invested in the Kingdom of ONA were offended by it. It was the only vote where there was a call for division (and that means a standing count was taken). One of the people who voted against the motion for the freeze said to me, "I guess we spoke louder." He was referring to the voice vote which seemed close and the Moderator upheld the "Yeas" for the freeze. The standing count was not close. He realized the call for a standing count was a mis-calculation by the ONA people and it revealed the lack of trust in General Synod for ONA. However, the vote for the freeze was not just a statement of distrust of ONA; rather, it was also a statement of distrust of ALL the Sovereign Kingdoms scattered throughout the byzantine realm of 918 South Pleasantburg Drive in the administrative maze of ARPdom.

As I said at the beginning, my analysis of the meeting of General Synod is in two parts, and I expect to have the second part available in a couple of days. I close part one with this observation: in a dysfunctional family, abuse, neglect, and failure are sanctioned; IT'S THE TALKING ABOUT THEM THAT IS FORBIDDEN. Hence, the eleventh commandment of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church: "Thou shalt not speak disparagingly of anything Associate Reformed Presbyterian." QED: we are dysfunctional.

These are my thoughts,

 

Charles W. Wilson

Questions and Answers by Chuck Wilson ARPTalk Associate reformed Presbyterian Church

Questions and Answers

Questions and Answers by Chuck Wilson ARPTalk Associate reformed Presbyterian Church

Recently, a number of friends have asked me about the goings on which are presently so troublesome. I have been encouraged to share my thoughts. So, I said, "Email me your questions, and I will see what I can do." Below are a few of my responses to friends' questions. I have given my friends noms de plume.

QUESTION ONE: (Richard) "Am I correct in thinking what we appear to be seeing in America today is a conflict being fueled by differences between world views (Biblical, which has a vertical perspective, verses postmodernism, which has a horizontal perspective)? The current, most robust version of postmodernism is referred to as "critical race theory." Is this conflict being actively used by those who wish to destroy the present governing structure in order to establish one of their own?"

Richard, you simultaneously state the question and answer it. So, my answer is Yes.

Your question focuses on the vertical-horizontal conflict, and that shouldn't surprise the Christian who believes and takes the Bible seriously, believing it is authoritative in all matters of faith and practice. So, I begin by asking: has God spoken to mankind, and is the Bible the record of God's interaction with mankind by stories and precepts which we are able to understand and give response? And the response becomes key, for it means what is recorded in the Bible is authoritative. The Christian's vertical understanding stands in opposition to postmodern man's horizontal understanding.

The Bible says God made all things. The postmodern man says the universe happened into existence "billions and billions of years ago" (Sagan).

The Bible says man is created by God in God's image. The postmodern man says man is the product of an evolutionary process which is continuing.

The Bible says man is a creature who is responsible to God, the Creator. The postmodern man says God did not create man; rather, "man is the measure of all things" (Protagoras) and "I think therefore I am" (Descartes), and, therefore, there is no one to whom man is responsible (except the all-knowing priests of academia and the bearded sages who compose the forum of the polis).

The Bible says man is a sinner who has rebelled against God, who is separated from God, who is always going astray from God, and who is in need of being saved by a Savior who is Jesus Christ. The postmodern man says man isn't a sinner, he doesn't need a savior, and, if he does get broken here and there, he is most capable of mending himself (Melville: "Heaven have mercy on us all - Presbyterians and Pagans alike - for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending").

At the core of and fundamental to postmodernism (and this vertical-horizontal conflict) is atheism. Simply put, atheism is an intellectual proposition in contrast to theism. Theism says there is a God. Atheism says there is NO God. However, as I have dealt with atheists, atheism is NOT an intellectual discussion to be calmly debated. Atheism is a howling, visceral, angry, and accusing tirade at God, and it goes something like this: "Damn you God! Why did you make me thus? I don't like the way my world is! I hate you and your commandments. I hate you because my life is imperfect and you haven't made it perfect. Because you won't do what I want, I denounce you, saying. 'There is no God!' I am my own God. And, by the way, I also hate all those who believe in God! I also hate the church. All churches need to be closed for being places of hate-speech. Christians are dangerous to the public good." As I said, I have found atheism to be a burning fire, consuming all before it in irrational rage as it congratulates itself on its self-exaltation to God-hood.

Now, Richard, as "critical race theory" is a postmodern solution which is a horizontal solution standing in opposition to a Biblical and vertical solution, it is not only destructive to our governing structure but to our Judeo-Christian culture. The story for the self-proclaimed oppressed goes like this: whether governing, economic, educational, religious, historical, racial, or social, it must be demolished and effaced, for these are the institutions of slavery, inequality, and and poverty. And, from my perspective, it seems the entire arsenal of the weapons of anarchy is opened for use by the mob. But what will the mob have achieved after the conflagration? An ash heap! But, eureka, all are equal in the ashes of death!


QUESTION TWO: (Wayne) "As a white Christian, should I apologize for the death of George Floyd?"

Wayne, what role did you play in the death of George Floyd for which you should apologize?

The canonization of George Floyd as a martyr has been fascinating to watch. In the Roman Catholic Church, individuals are recognized as "saints" because of incredible acts of devotion to God and extraordinary good deeds to others. Of course, this is oversimplification, but it certainly excludes Floyd from sainthood.

Floyd was a serial criminal who was incarcerated numerous times. On the night of his death, he was arrested for attempting to pass counterfeit money, which is an act of theft. The passing of counterfeit money by a US citizen is an act of treason, for it undermines trust in our currency and thereby destabilizes the monetary system. Probably, he was also involved in conspiracy, for he obtained bogus money from someone who was printing and selling it. Floyd was also "under the influence." When confronted by the police, he resisted arrest. Indeed, Floyd was not a man known for devotion to God and good deeds to others. He is no martyr! He is no saint!

Now, of course, the policemen involved in the arrest of George Floyd mishandled the situation. They violated their oath to protect the public to which they had solemnly sworn - and Floyd was a part of the public. In my opinion, they became just as lawless as Floyd in their treatment of him. In my opinion, a man was killed without due cause or process. I think they disgraced their badge and uniform. And, I think, their callous treatment of Floyd ignited the outrage and riots which followed.

Notwithstanding, I wonder, in the evening, before getting in bed, is there a young black woman who prays, "Lord, give me a son who will grown up and be just like Saint George Floyd?"

Wayne, as a white man who is a Christian, you have nothing for which to apologize in the death of George Floyd. You did nothing! Wayne, you live in Eagle Lake, Florida!


QUESTION THREE: (Ken) "What is driving this sudden outbreak of protests and riots?"

Ken, make no mistake, this is not a "sudden outbreak." This movement is well-planned, well-coordinated, and well-funded. Ken, it is an election year! The "sudden outbreak" was waiting for a spark. George Floyd was the spark - the opportunity.

As I have watched the media's accounts of the riots, I have asked the following questions: (1) How did the rioters get there? (2) Since so many of their signs seem to have been printed ahead of time, how did they do that apart from a planned and coordinated effort? (3) Do these people not have job responsibilities? and (4) Who pays for the food and travel?

Recently, in little Walhalla, SC, we had protestors at our monument to Confederate war dead on West Main Street. It has been interesting to watch the story unfold. Just before media vans arrive with their cameras, buses arrive with protesters to begin the spontaneous rally. I know I am naturally suspicious, but one is left asking, "Is this spontaneous protest coordinated?"

Remember, Wayne, this is an election year. The hatred of the members of the Democrat Party for President Trump is rabid. Do not forget the chant Maxine Waters began immediately after the election: "Impeach 45! Impeach 45! Impeach 45!" Having failed at impeachment, the new stratagem is: "Get rid of Trump by any and all means available! If necessary, burn down the country!"


QUESTION FOUR: (Jim) "As a member of a PCA church, I am disturbed by the leadership of the Gospel Coalition which is so influential in our General Assembly. Gospel proclamation seems to have been replaced by social activism. One of the calls we hear is for the church to support reparations for slavery. What do you think about reparations for slavery?"

Jim, are there former slaves alive to whom reparations can be given? Some people have been hoodwinked by the foolishness of those who are eaten up with "White guilt," or should I say, "Black envy."

I am one of the few people alive today who has actually met and spoken with a former slave. I was 10 years old and in the fifth grade. The gentleman I met was 100 or 101 or 102 years old (for he wasn't sure of his birthday). Providentially, his memory had not faded, and his stories enthralled me. He died a few months later.

I am intrigued by the idea of reparations. My people sailed from Portugal to West Africa to buy my people from my people in order to transport my people to the American colonies where my people were waiting to buy my people from my people. Some of my people owned slaves, some of my people were slaves, some of my people went north and became abolitionists, and some of my people ran north for freedom. When the Civil War exploded, some of my people marched south to fight for the freedom of my people, and some of my people fought to keep my people slaves. After the Civil War, in 1867, at 65 years old, my great, great, great grandfather, a plantation owner, who changed sides at the end of the war, became a scalawag and a Republican, and married the last of his three wives, a woman of whom it was said "she had Creek Indian blood,"- code which explained her dark skin and made it possible for them to wed in South Carolina. The story is a tapestry of twists and turns; however, as young men, their two sons moved to south-central Georgia in order to "pass." According to an ancestry test, I have 6% slave DNA. I don't want reparations; however, if 6% qualifies me for a check of any amount, I will take it. Trying to figure out what I am is a labor in hyphenations; however, according to the old South Carolina "one drop" law," I am a "white Negro."

By the way, Jim, if my pastor is a proponent of reparations or is partnering with the Gospel Coalition (which should be called the Social Gospel Coalition), I think I would find a new church to attend.


QUESTION FIVE: (Hank) "What is the role of the individual Christian in all this? Are we as an individual Christians called to be passive subjects to whatever administration God puts in place, or are we called to be protestors who resist? What are our 'marching orders?'"

Hank, unlike the love-song, Love Is A Many Splendored Thing, your question is a monstrously splintered thing which you must have picked up at "Complicated-Я-Us." I too have purchased many items there.

Of course, the obvious and simple answer is Speak out!There is no such thing as a private Christian (Matthew 10.33). The Christian's vertical relationship with God informs him of his horizontal relationship with others (Christians and non-Christians).

However, I think you are asking a more knotty question. I think you are anticipating the demise of the United States as a democratic republic which cherishes freedom under law and the rise of the People's Socialist Republic of America which compels conformity, state-worship, and exalts in the tyranny of the people. Aren't you asking, "What does the American Christian do when an oppressive God-hating, Bible-hating, Christian-hating, and church-hating government gains political ascendancy in the United States?"

Hank, here are six choices for you to ponder: (1) flee to another country where Christian faith is not oppressed; (2) continue to worship in opposition to the government's dictates, counting both your freedom and life small things in order to witness Christ with your actions and life (Philippians 3.8); (3) become a "silent" Christian who secretly attends underground conventicles and pray you are never discovered; (5) become a "private" Christian who hides his faith.

The sixth choice is for the man who will not quietly pack everything he and wife have in a suitcase, go to the train station at the appointed time, and get on a boxcar in order to take a trip to the reorientation camp where the ashes of the crematorium fill the air. This sixth choice is for the man who understands freedom of religion and the exercise thereof is not free; who understands freedom of religion and the exercise there of is not safe; who understands freedom of religion and the exercise thereof is not guaranteed in a sin-torn world filled with God-haters; who understands freedom of religion and the exercise thereof must be defended and laid claim to by each generation of Christians; and who understands freedom of religion and the exercise there of is not for the entitled, the timid, and the uninformed Christian who views his faith as cultural baggage to be opened or left closed.

Hank, you and I are old, but we're not too old to learn new lessons and relearn old ones. Our homework: (1) what does the Bible teach? and (2) what are the lessons of our history?

Hank, do you know the differences between the American Revolution and the French Revolution? The French Revolution was the anarchy of the mob which embraced atheism, rejoiced in lawlessness, and bathed itself in the blood of the victims of the guillotine (as did the leaders of the National Socialist German Workers' Party who also loved the work of the guillotine).

The American Revolution was different. May I suggest you read about the doctrines of lesser magistrate, interposition, and nullification? (And it may surprise you to learn the politicians of Massachusetts were the first to seriously discuss secession from the Union https://www.wbur.org/radioboston/2012/06/15/new-england-succession.)

The American Revolution was not the actions of a an atheistic mob. The American leaders were well-read and focused on the nature of law and the origin of law. And, Hank, since you are a Presbyterian, it may surprise you to learn the leaders of the American Revolution were reading and were greatly influenced by Scottish Presbyterians and, particularly, John Witherspoon. Horace Walpole, the Prime Minister of England, said, "Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson!" Walpole said this because Witherspoon was so highly regarded as a thinker and clergyman, college president and professor, and personal mentor to the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and framed the Constitution.

(As a side thought: I think it is fair to say Witherspoon was more influential in the development of our doctrine of the freedom of religion and the exercise thereof than any of the other Founders. Freedom-loving people owe him great respect.)

The French Revolution was a mob of anarchists and atheists who loved blood and destruction and brought forth a twenty-two year series of wars which nearly wasted Europe. The American Revolution saw a group of legislators come together from the Thirteen Colonies who were concerned for rights, laws, and government in order to forge a new nation, saying, "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Hank, you asked, "What are our 'marching orders?'" Well, when an oppressive government arises which attempts to abridge our God-given right to the freedom of religion and the exercise thereof, the Declaration says, "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them . . . they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." In such an unpleasant circumstance, organize and stand ready to fight for freedom. A person who is willing to stand and defend his God-given freedoms may be killed, but he will never become a slave. "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

As usual, I am running long. I will leave other questions and answers for another day, God willing.

These are my thoughts,

 

Charles W. Wilson

Floccinaucinihilipilification ARPTalk ARP Church Wilson Returning Payment Protection Program Money

What’s in a Word?

Floccinaucinihilipilification ARPTalk ARP Church Wilson

As a lover of long words, a long word describes my thinking in this post. In a time of financial uncertainty, watching the churchmen who run Central Services in Greenville applying for a government loan instead of appealing to God's people in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church is gut-wrenching. Does this reflect a distrust of the people in the pews? Has the ARP Center become the Vatican of Greenville? Have the various boards and agencies distanced themselves so far from the people of the pews they have become parachurch organizations? And, like parachurch organizations, are their own agendas and continuation the foremost priority? Have they lost their role as servants of Christ's people in the congregations? Like politicians in Washington, do they think they know better than the people they claim to serve? As I said, what I am watching is gut-wrenching. What I think about it is floccinaucinihilipilification. Now, that's a word. What's in a word?

If you know me well, you know I love long words. If you have never seen, heard, or attempted to pronounce floccinaucinihilipilification (FLOK-si-NO-si-NY-HIL-i-PIL-i-fi-KAY-shuhn), you are not alone. Though the word is rare, the late Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina (who had a biting sense of humor) was fond of using it. According to the dictionary, it is the longest non-technical word in the English language. The word describes the act of considering something valueless, useless, or worthless.

Update on the Executive Board: Parliamentary Tyranny

In the last issue of ARPTalk, "The Noble and the Ignoble," April 14 (https://arptalk.org/the-noble-and-the-ignoble/), I reported the Executive Board of General Synod had called an "emergency" meeting in order to hear a motion to apply for the federal government's Payroll Protection Program Loan (PPP), just in case there is a future financial emergency and Central Services is unable to pay salaries. Unexpectedly, after vigorous discussion, in a divided vote, the motion to apply was adopted 9 to 7. We have been reduced to begging the federal government for money! I suppose the God of the Bible who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and all the treasures of gold and silver is unable to provide!

There are many of us who believe the Executive Board's vote to apply for the PPP loan is wrongheaded, disingenuous, and tramples on the consciences of their brothers who cannot reconcile why any faith-based organization, let alone an evangelical denomination, would actively seek to entangle itself in the regulating fetters of the federal government's anti-Christian and God-hating bureaucracy. The federal government's agenda which promotes abortion on demand, gay marriage, and LGBT ideology cannot be squared with the publicly stated positions of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church on these issues (https://arpchurch.org/learn/what-we-believe/). Clearly, the terms of the PPP loan application state participants MUST abide by federal policies.

If a sum of about $350,000 is so essential to the operation of Central Services in Greenville, why has no appeal been made to God's people in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church? Where is the appeal by the Executive Board? Why has news of this crisis not appeared in the ARPMagazine? The silence is deafening!

Compounding this debacle, is a second meeting of the Executive Board which was called to reconsider the PPP loan application. In this meeting, the Executive Board imploded on itself. Declaring, by a vote of 10 to 7, there was no new information to be considered, the meeting was closed. This is parliamentary tyranny. As per parliamentary procedure, a request to reconsider was properly made by a member voting on the prevailing side and ignored. At that point, the issues of an emergency or new information are irrelevant. So, how is this not parliamentary tyranny?

Since the meetings of the Executive Board, if you have watched or read the news, you are aware of well-funded businesses and institutions which have improperly applied for and received the PPP loan. To avoid public shaming and possible litigation, many of them have returned their loan (see the list: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/these-public-companies-are-returning-emergency-loans-meant-for-small-businesses-2020-04-29).

Our Office of World Witness has also declined the PPP loan. As I was informed, their executive committee met and voted to rescind the loan. Good for them! This would have been a fundraising nightmare! Imagine, "MISSIONARIES FOR JESUS VIA FEDERAL FUNDING!"

The ARPMagazine (housed at the ARP Center in Greenville and under the care of Central Services) usually reports on "all things ARP." But not on the Executive Board's begging! Where is the journalistic integrity of the ARPMagazine? Has the editor been gagged, is there a cover-up, or are the blunderings of the Executive Board too unpleasant to report in a Church newsletter? If it were not for ARPTalk, news of this embarrassing episode would not exist.

The Executive Board's actions have aroused the passions of many in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. I know letters of protest are being considered. I know letters of protest have been sent. I know there are conversations about withdrawing financial support to the DMF as it relates to Central Services. Yes, I hope funds are withheld. Here is an unalterable principle: people cannot be compelled to give, and people will not give if it violates their consciences.

Some Thoughts about Boards

The action of the Executive Board has sparked my thinking about the ARP Center and the boards housed there. Has the ARP Center in Greenville become the Vatican of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, holding the keys to the church? Have the Greenville boards become entities unto themselves, functioning as parachurch organizations, led by bishops?

To begin with, are denomination boards detrimental to our Presbyterian system? Often, in our presbytery meetings, we proudly speak of our connectional nature as those who practice a Presbyterian form of government which is ascending. But that is not what we have become. Over the years, our boards subverted our ecclesiology: reversing the flow from ascending to descending. Over a period of time, boards become kingdoms - parachurch organizations which operate according to their own agendas. Each of our Greenville boards has it own 501c3 which is distinct from the 501c3 of the General Synod. Each board has its own employees, accounting system, fundraising mechanism, accountability network, and distinct culture. Once a year, the boards of the Greenville Vatican report to General Synod to inform the delegates how they are the General Synod and to remind everyone how indispensable they are. They, however, function as independent entities the other 364 days of the year - like parachurch organizations. The goal of a board/parachurch organization is its continuation in contradistinction to the health of the denomination which gave it life. The prime example of this is Erskine College and Seminary as Erskine is in relationship with the General Synod. On many occasions, the chairman of the Erskine board has reminded the delegates of General Synod of the board's independence in governance. The only relationship left is a "fig leaf" which ensures financial support - like a parachurch organization fundraising.

Since 1973, I have questioned the role of the Board of Church Extension (then)/Outreach North America (now). Having planted congregations in Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, and Louisiana, (and having read the FOG), I naively though the presbytery was "the essential court" of our system of church government, vested with the "power" to plant, organize, and receive congregations. In my work, I learned a church planter has to navigate through a local steering committee, a provisional session, a presbytery committee, and the Director of Church Extension/Outreach North America, and, though the folks under whom I served were nice and well-meaning people, they did not have the foggiest notion of what I was doing. Later, when I became a member of the Board of Church Extension in the 1990s (and served when we reorganized as Outreach North America), I learned ONA did more than coordinate, recommend, counsel, and assist our presbyteries. I learned ONA subsumed much of the role of the presbytery in church planting. The role of ONA is spelled large. ONA controls who the church planter can be. Financial support from ONA is dependent on presbytery's compliance. And, in recent years, ONA has contributed to the "worship wars." Though I am not a fan of what many call "the regulative principle," I have read our Directory of Public Worship, and the Directory does not champion the ideas of those who embrace "contemporary worship." I am distressed by the emphasis on "contemporary worship" which, in recent years, has flowed out of ONA and created considerable distrust of ONA. When I have relayed my concerns about ONA, the response I have been met with is the chilling idea our presbyteries cannot be trusted to do church planting. Really? Our system is badly broken if we cannot trust our presbyteries. Frankly, if a presbytery is unwilling to grow, it needs to die. However, from my observation, when congregational monies are diverted from church planting in the presbytery to support the DMF's boards and agencies, a presbytery is left destitute in church planting efforts and made to beg the largess of ONA. If I were young again, in spite of the daunting challenges of church planting, I would still be a church planter; however, not in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. I could not abide the frustration! Finally, the acid test for ONA is how the footprint of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church is expanding or contracting. If I owned stock in ONA, I would immediately sell!

I have always admired and been amazed at the Associate Reformed Presbyterians of the late 1800s and the early 1900s. A tiny denomination, with little money and few people, but, with abounding energy, unwavering courage, and a God-sized vision, accomplished the near impossible. Their outstanding work of taking the gospel to Egypt, India, and Mexico is praiseworthy. The monuments to their faithfulness are the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church of Pakistan and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church of Mexico. I am now told the mission of denomination building is passé and imperialistic. Who says? Well, if such is the case, why do we even have an Office of World Witness? It is just another parachurch organization duplicating and reduplicating other parachurch organizations. All I can say is hurly-burly (and don't miss the pun)! Extra large photographs of starving-children will be needed for fundraising!

For years, I have attempted to figure out what CEM does. There is a bookstore in the Greenville Vatican, but Amazon is less expensive, more comprehensive, and faster in delivery. Our ministers in General Synod have multiple degrees, and, unless seminary education is far different now, they have taken courses in Christian education - and, of course, they know how to read and use the Internet which opens to them ALL the resources of the evangelical and Reformed community for Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and small groups. I understand and applaud the work of CEM in Camp Joy, and I also understand the incorporation of CEM in order to protect General Synod from litigation if a child gets hurt. However, is there a more efficient way to do this? Indeed, as I look at CEM, it seems the most important duties for the director are giving a report at General Synod and asking for funding.

I can say more, and I may in a future post, but I am sure I have already stretched the patience and endurance of some of my readers.

In Conclusion

My wife and I were watching the early morning news a few days ago. The Attorney General (AG) of Pennsylvania was saying there must be transparency in government during this time of pandemic.

I said to my wife, "Honey, change clothes! We're going for a ride!"

In the van, I told her to put heaven in the GPS. Well, it was a bit of a drive, but my wife drives fast, and we were there in no time.

St. Peter answered the door when I knocked. He said, "It's not your time! Chuck, why are you here?"

I told him about the AG of Pennsylvania, and said I had never seen a transparent lawyer/politician. I said, "May I see one?" St. Peter told me to go to hell.

Of course, I was disappointed, and it was too far and too late in the day to do what St. Peter said. But, on the way home, I thought to myself, "I'm glad I didn't ask about a transparent churchman."

I began this post asking, "What's in a word?" Actually, a great deal. Words are how we communicate.

I like floccinaucinihilipilification!

I hope this article opens conversations. I really want to see what you think. I know what many of you say in conversations around the table, on the phone, and under the trees at Bonclarken. As the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church continues down the dark and winding road leading to oblivion, will we sit silently, waiting for the inevitable? I do not think it is too late for a change in direction. Do you?

These are my thoughts,

 

Charles W. Wilson

The Noble and the Ignoble ARPTalk ARP Church Applies for a Government Loan Executive Board Chuck Wilson

The Noble and the Ignoble

The Noble and the Ignoble ARPTalk ARP Church Applies for a Government Loan Executive Board Chuck Wilson

On an episode of Arial America about Hawaii, I heard the story of Father Damien of Molokai. Born in 1840 in Belgium, he became a Catholic priest and was sent as a missionary to the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1864.

In those days, leprosy was considered contagious and incurable, and lepers were isolated in leper colonies. The secluded island of Molokai was designated a leper colony by the Royal Board of Health, and lepers were sent to Molokai to fend for themselves as best as they could until death. Without resources to care for the leper colony, the government could only supply a little food.

Volunteering to serve as priest to the lepers on Molokai, Father Damien arrived on the island in 1873. When speaking to the residents of Molokai, Father Damien’s Bishop said that Father Damien was “one who will be a father to you, and who loves you so much that he does not hesitate to become one of you; to live and die with you.”

Father Damien was more than a priest. The community on Molokai was in social and economic chaos. Under his leadership, municipal government was formed, laws were enacted, basic sanitation was developed, hospitals were built, homes were repaired or built, a reservoir for clean water was dug, farms began to produce enough food for the island’s needs, roads were built, schools were established, a church was built, and the critically sick were attended to until death. Father Damien personally cared for his leper community. He dressed leprous ulcers, he made furniture for those who did not have chairs, tables or beds, he built coffins in order to bury the dead with dignity, and he dug individual graves so that the dead were not buried unceremoniously in an unmarked or mass grave.

In a letter to his brother, Father Damien wrote, “I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ.” In 1889, at the age of 49, Father Damien died of leprosy related diseases. In both the Roman and Eastern churches, Father Damien is held a Saint, Protestant missiologists admire his spiritual leadership and humanitarianism, the State of Hawaii remembers him with April 15 as “Father Damien Day,” and lepers all over the world know his name with respect. Father Damien was a man of nobility!

Sometimes, in the midst of a dread crisis, some Christian leaders run to the crisis to help in Jesus’ name — regardless of the consequences. They are noble. Sometimes, in the midst of a dread crisis, some Christian leaders run to the crisis with no thought of asking the government for help, for they are aware Caesar is not God; and unlike Caesar’s coffers, God’s resources are never limited. They are noble. Sometimes, in the midst of a dread crisis, some Christian leaders run to the crisis to help, and have no thought of taking advantage of government monies just in case God’s people will not give or God is found to be impotent. They are noble.

Tuesday last week, April 7, in the midst of our Covid-19 crisis, the Executive Board of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, sitting in an “emergency” meeting, voted 9 to 7, to run to the federal government for $300,000 to $350,000 in financial aid just in case we are unable to pay the salaries of those who are employed by Central Services, the ARP Magazine, and the ARP Foundation. With no pending emergency, without calling on God’s people in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church or praying to the God of the Bible who declares He owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50.10), the members of the Executive Board voted to call on Caesar. Somehow, these sophisticated and urbane churchmen have forgotten the children’s song which goes, “He owns the cattle on a thousand hills / The wealth of every mine. / He owns the rivers and the rocks and hills; / the sun and stars that shine.” I wonder why their mamas didn’t teach them to sing this song?

Now mind you, this call for help to the federal government comes not because we are in financial crisis and cannot pay the salaries of our Synod employees; rather, they are running to the federal government because WE MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO PAY SALARIES AT A LATER DATE — a sum of $300,000 to $350,000! But, at this point, I equivocate: let me say it plainly: there is free federal money available to small businesses; so, let’s get ours — first come, first served! And that describes the actions of the leadership of the Executive Board as ignobly as it clearly is. Instead of calling on God’s people in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church for help, the majority of the leadership of the Executive Board voted to run to the federal government in order to get Caesar’s $300,000 to $350,000 lest we miss out! Do they think Caesar is God? Do they think the God of the Bible will not be found faithful to His people? Are they overwhelmed with fear? Well, maybe they are simply greedy! Or, maybe, just pragmatic! As my children used to say, “Everybody else is doing it!”

As I understand it, this emergency meeting of the Executive Board was called by Roger Wiles, Executive Director of Central Services, in order to inform the members of the Executive Board of and encourage them to apply for the “free” federal PPP loans. At this point, a number of questions arise: (1) Are we in a financial crisis? (2) Why are we not calling on God’s people in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church? and (3) Saying we believe in the separation of church and state, why are we seeking Caesar’s help? Seeking Caesar’s help is a denial of our Scottish heritage. There is a reason our Covenanter and Associate forefathers boarded unsafe, wooden, sailing ships and braved the storms of the Atlantic to settle in North America. Our Covenanter and Associate forefathers were men and women of nobility. Covid-19 has frightened such nobility out of us! Whatever happened to these words from Psalm 56.3. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee”?

My wife and I live in Seneca, SC. On Monday morning, April 13, at 3:30 AM, we were terrified by the winds and the rains of the tornado which devastated Seneca. As the center of the storm roared just over our house, the sound of the wind was like a fast freight train rushing over us; our house shook like we were in the midst of an earthquake; and the rains were like an ocean flooding in on every side. The storm moved at 80 MPH, and the winds in the vortex were announced to be 160 MPH. A little over a mile from where we live, the storm sat down and tore a 12 mile swath of destruction through Seneca. At the time, we were comforted by the words of Psalm 56.3 and prayed, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” We did not pray, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Caesar.”

I understand the Board of World Witness has already applied for the small business loan. The Board of World Witness operates independently from the other boards and agencies in Greenville. Is this not wonderful? We can now send missionaries in the name of Christ AND CAESAR! Is this not a form of syncretism? And why did the Board of World Witness not appeal to the people of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church for help if they are experiencing financial distress?

I also understand Erskine has already applied for the PPP loans. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Erskine is eligible for $587,360.

My sources tell me the discussion on the Executive Board was “odd” and “puzzling.” Remember, at this point, not a single job has been eliminated, no one’s salary has been reduced, and no one has been laid off. The folks representing Christian Education Ministries and Outreach North America informed the members of the Executive Board they have enough resources to cover expenses for this year and next year. CEM has over $1,000,000 in reserves. As a matter of fact, the boards and agencies housed in Greenville have hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in reserve. Central Services has $250,000 in reserves. The folks at Outreach North America informed the members of the Executive Board they did not need the PPP loan. ONA has over $4,000,000 in reserve. And, as far as World Witness is concerned, WW has over $600,000 in reserve.

Individuals on the Executive Board pointed out the federal loans were meant to be used immediately and not banked for a “rainy day.” So, is our Executive Board taking advantage of the situation, and are they opening the church to federal litigation and the shame of being identified as a “hoarder?” Or is this just plain fraud?

Since the vote was recorded, we see there are two groups of on the Executive Board. The Noble Seven who voted against applying for federal money, and the Ignoble Nine who greedily lust for federal money, and, whether they like it or not, they call on Caesar to save us in the financial troubles that may follow the Covid-19 pandemic. The Noble Seven are worthy of recognition and honor. Their names are Bill McKay, Philip Malphrus, Rob Patrick, Leslie Holmes, Tim Phillips, and the representatives from First Presbytery and Northeast Presbytery, Tim Watson and G. J. Gerard. They are a band of principled and noble brothers. And, since the Zoom conference did not go off without a hitch, there may be an eighth vote which was not counted. This has yet to be cleared up.

The Ignoble Nine are NOT worthy of public mention. They are, however, worthy of scorn. They are willing to sell the church for $300,000 to $350,000 in federal money when there is no obvious emergency. Their names may be found by looking in the Minutes of Synod, 2019, pages 284-285 or emailing me.

The unresolved question for me is this: why did the Ignoble Nine vote to take Caesar’s money — and such a small amount of $300,000 to $350,000?

A second meeting of the Executive Board was called for Tuesday, April 14. Certainly, after a few days to reconsider their actions, the Executive Committee would think better of themselves. But the opportunity to get “free” money is too great. Remember the way it works: first come, first served! Get the money while you can!

Here is what took place on April 14: since the matter of reconsidering the vote to apply for the PPP loan is not an emergency, the vote failed 10 to 7. Well, if reconsideration is not an emergency, how was the vote for Caesar’s money an emergency when there is no emergency?

I have a number of questions for those who voted to call on Caesar for the PPP loans.

What evidence do you have demonstrating the unwillingness of God’s people in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church that they will not support the work of our denomination? I am a member of Synod’s Stewardship Committee, and there is no evidence of nonsupport.

How do you expect not to be labeled as opportunists who greedily grasp for all they can get and can all they get? At this time, there is no existential crisis. How is this not hoarding. Indeed, there are small businesses needing this money and some of them are owned and operated by Associate Reformed Presbyterians. There is no nobility in hoarding!

These PPP loans are meant for small businesses. Do you think the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church is a business? God help us if we have come to the place where we think the church is nothing more than a business. Listen, I hope you believe with me that a Christian denomination which cannot support itself by the tithes and offerings of its people is not worthy of existence. Can the soul of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church really be bought for the tiny sum of $300,000 to $350,000?

 

Do you not think when a Christian denomination actively seeks and then receives Caesar’s money this is not a tacit acknowledgement that the government is over the church? How is this not not declaring “Caesar is Lord”?

This is not a small matter; it is most serious. Is not the independence of the church jeopardized? Much blood has been shed and many martyrs made regarding this very issue which has been adjudged so blithely.

The action by the Executive Board on our behalf in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church is a matter of shame.

I say shame on those on the Executive Board who called for this emergency meeting when there is no financial emergency.

I say shame on those on the Execute Board who ignored the fact we have hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in operating reserves and unrestricted funds (all available to our Synod’s agencies) while pretending we are in danger of laying off or furloughing employees.

I say shame on those on the Executive Board who voted on our behalf to accept federal monies without addressing the fact that no one has taken a pay cut. So, how are we different from corporations which took federal bailout monies in 2008 to pay their CEOs? Are we not taking money to pay the salaries of some of our CEOs, Do we not despise such actions and such people?!

I say shame on those on the Executive Board, who, knowing how controversial this issue is, have tyrannically decided, on our behalf, for our denomination to suckle at the great welfare teat of the federal government, making us a de facto ward of the state — and only for $300,00 to $350,000.

I say shame on the majority of the Executive Board for their wanton opportunism, daring to pretend we face a financial crisis. We are taking funds which could be used by small businesses which are genuinely struggling, not knowing if they have a future, while we have hundreds-of-thousands of dollars at our disposal. Remember some of those small businesses are owned and operated by Associate Reformed Presbyterians.

I say shame on the majority of the Executive Board for deeming this a financial emergency when in fact we face a FAITH EMERGENCY: trusting Caesar rather than God! In greed and insecurity, they have ejected our noble heritage as Covenanters and Associates.

I say shame on the majority of the the Executive Board for knowing there are many of their brothers who have serious objections of conscience to taking federal money. Are they not bringing discord to us in a 9 to 7 and in a 10 to 7 vote? Do they think we will remain silent? Yes, for the sake of 30 pieces of silver, their insecurity, and their unwillingness to call on God’s people in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, they have trampled on their brothers. However, all of us are aware the government has no money to give except what it takes from us in taxes or prints. We also know federal money never comes without long strings

I hope you will join me in fervent prayer that, at the meeting of General Synod in August, we will repent and reverse the actions of the Executive Board. In my opinion, the majority of the Executive Board has not well served the Name and Cause of Jesus Christ, the only King and Head of the Church.

Father Damien of Molokai is well remembered as noble. The majority of the Executive Board are not worthy of memory. Ignoble is their name!!!

These are my thoughts,

 

Charles W. Wilson

Synod Report: Thank God for Ax-Throwing!

Thank God for Ax-Throwing

The meeting of General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church this year was at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA. In 2015, at our invitation, the delegates of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America traveled south, to Bonclarken, to meet with us, and this year, at their invitation, the delegates of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church traveled north (or most of us did) to meet with them.

Traveling roundtrip, a total of 24 hours in the backseat of a Lexus, with my knees stuck under my chin was not the high point of the meeting of General Synod. For me, the high points were two: (1) Geneva College and (2) an ax-throwing excursion in Pittsburg. Doubtlessly, Geneva College, tucked away in the rugged hills of western Pennsylvania, is beautiful — and the weather was accommodating for us.

As is my custom, I hung out with a gaggle of young guys. On Wednesday afternoon, when we should have been attending a myriad of boring meetings with the old people, we snuck off to Pittsburg to an ax-throwing joint. And, yes, photographs on Facebook are posted in order to convict the guilty.

Now, I want the reader to know, I did not participate in ax-throwing. There are some things I am afraid to do. It is not wise for a legally-blind man to throw an ax at a wooden bullseye, for the ax bounces back on a miss. My goal was to leave the premises with ten fingers, ten toes, and without an ax sticking out of my forehead. Besides, I am too cheap to pay $35 to throw an ax. Nevertheless, the experience was great fun, the camaraderie with those young men was delightful, and the experience was a high point I will long remember.

Well, this is a report of the meeting of the 2019 General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. What happened? I shall not attempt to cover everything: rather, the significant issues.

ARPTalk Lumberjaxes 2
ARPTalk Lumberjaxes

  1. Special Committee on Denominational Ministry Fund Giving

The task presented to this committee was to study why congregations are reticent to give to the DMF. The answer by the committee was received as information and is now buried deeply in the paper of the minutes where the light of day rarely shines. Actually, the action by Synod is a mercy. Neither the committee nor General Synod understands why we struggle to get our people to give. Guilt manipulation in the name of denominational loyalty does not work. People give when a great vision is put before them. Somewhere in the Bible we read, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29.18). Now, I am very aware the word “vision” refers to Scripture. Indeed, this makes the point. Are the congregants of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church being challenged with a Scriptural-based and God-exalting vision for Christ and His church which seizes the heart, inspires the soul, and loosens the wallet for a God-honoring goal which is so great it is bound for failure if God is not in it? All we seem to do is chide our folks for not financing our bureaucratic agencies in the manner to which they want to become accustomed.

  1. Special Committee to Produce a Directory of Private/Family Worship

Another year was given to do this.

Why? Why are we doing this? Why do we need to slay more trees for paper for new books and study papers on this subject? Why not Google or visit the local Christian bookstore? Here is the best question: What do pastors do?

  1. Special Synod Committee to Study Homosexual Orientation

Outstanding work was done by this committee. The “Position Statement on Human Sexuality” was adopted along with the committee’s “A Brief Explanation of the Statement” as a footnote (see https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1k9DpIpenDfxzQaU--6PFad5f8jz-Mdcu).

The position statement is excellent, and the exegesis is no less excellent.

  1. Special Committee to Review Complaint/Appeal

This is a protracted issue involving a disciplinary action by (old) First Presbytery concerning Rev. Scott Robar. This has turned into a complex mess because so many things have been mishandled. The latest was the losing of Robar’s appeal to Synod last year. A special commission has been appointed to deal with the matter.

Perhaps this commission can figure out how to read and calculate the sequence of procedures in our antiquated Book of Discipline which is not a flowchart. If not, in a couple of years, I feel sure a North Carolina judge can help us in our reading and calculating sequence, and especially in writing a large check.

  1. Committee on Inter-Church relations

In the name of sweet church relationships, why do we inflict such agonizing pain on ourselves. Why insist on hearing from our cousins in NAPARC? Do we not have an official meeting of NAPARC yearly? Interestingly, we are keen on hearing from our cousins in NAPARC, but we ignore our daughters in Mexico and Pakistan. When was the last time a delegate from Mexico or Pakistan spoke to a meeting of General Synod?

Years ago, I voted for the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church to join NAPARC. At the time, it seemed to be the right thing to do. Today, I think I must have left my sane-pills at home. What does NAPARC do? Why are we in NAPARC? I know why NAPARC was founded. When he returned to Jackson, MS, Dr. Morton Smith took about 20 minutes of our Systematic Theology class to tell us. Nevertheless, what does NAPARC do now that we should spend time to hear from our cousins, and we should send delegates to inflict the same pain on them?

Now, give me a reason to spend my time, and I am with you. Actually, I think General Synod should be longer. Instead of reports and greetings, I think there should be some 2 Chronicles 7.14 time with us claiming these words of God: “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven. . . .” In 45 meetings of General Synod, I have never seen such a thing done. Silly me! There are reports to be heard and motions to be made!

  1. Theological and Social Concerns

Once again, we are studying the office of deacon. Honestly, many have never been comfortable with what is or isn’t a deacon. Our vows of congregational obedience are problematic for many. Dr. Mark Ross brought reason and direction to the debate when he argued in favor of the committee’s recommendation to change the vows based on the nature of the office as interpreted by our Standards. He also added that a change will be helpful for those members of General Synod who object to women deacons on the grounds that placing women in the diaconate as the office is now framed places them in a position of authority over men in the local congregation.

  1. Committee on Worship

We have now approved the Book of Psalms for Worship and the Trinity Psalter Hymnal to be added to our “Recommended Psalters and Hymnals” to be published on Synod’s website and to be ignored by many of us.

Before I comment, let me say I am a traditionalist in worship style, a lover of singing the Psalms and traditional hymns, and one who finds most contemporary Christian music and worship styles painful. Brothers and sisters, we are double-minded here. We say one thing and often practice another. And what does it mean when someone says, “We’re going to start a contemporary service”? It means he going to find a guitar, a set of drums, and his version of the “Dixie Chicks” to lead the singing of Christian radio music badly — very badly.

Where I find this divide the most acute is in our church planting. The perception of many is that church planting is being pushed along by those who have a vision for “church” as “contemporary.”

  1. William Dunlap Orphanage

If only all our ministries were administered this well. I know the benefits of this ministry through the Collins Children Home in Seneca, SC, which is about 5 or 6 miles from where I live.

  1. Erskine

I have a friend in the PCA who describes the relationship between the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and Erskine College and Seminary as a love-hate relationship. The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church is unable to do the things necessary to reform Erskine but is also unwilling to let the institution go. Others have referred to the relationship as symbiotic; however, the relationship is not beneficial to either the church or the college. It is a parasitic relationship which is killing both. The relationship is also a crazy-maker. That is, it makes us crazy.

At the 2018 meeting of Synod, the following motion was made and passed: “That the President of the Erskine Alumni Association as an ex-officio member of Erskine College and Seminary’s Board of Trustees be removed from Synod’s Manual of Authorities and Duties (p.45)” (Minutes, p. 510). This year, the following two motions were made and passed: (1) “That Synod reinstate the Alumni President’s position as an advisory, non-voting member of the Board of Trustees,” and (2) “That, in the interest of consistency with all other boards of the church, and in compliance with SACS, Synod make the Moderator’s position on the Board of Trustee as advisory, non-voting member”(https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1k9DpIpenDfxzQaU--6PFad5f8jz-Mdcu).

As I said before, Erskine issues make us crazy. Last year the motion to remove the alumni president from the Erskine board was made with the knowledge of and approval by President Gustafson. Standing near him, I heard him say, “This needs to be done.” Remember the motion was then passed overwhelmingly. Now, a year later, the board asks General Synod to reverse itself and reinstate the alumni president, and, then, in the name of consistency and compliance to SACS, to remove the Moderator of the General Synod from the board as a voting member and give him the status of “advisory, non-voting.”

Who says we are not crazy? How does one know when he is an Associate Reformed Presbyterian? The answer: when the above makes perfect sense.

There is a difference between the alumni president and the Moderator of General Synod. The Moderator is the chief officer of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church which owns Erskine. “Consistency” is a red herring. I have been in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church for nearly 50 years, and the Moderator has always served on the Erskine board as a voting member. I can safely say there is no living person in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church who can remember when the Moderator was not a voting member of the Erskine board. It takes genius to come up with such nonsense. It is pure political hokum.

Well, it has been a while sense we have seen the SACS boogieman brought out to frighten the children of General Synod. The folks at SACS do not give a good tittle whether the Moderator serves on or votes on the Erskine board. As I said, the Moderator has served on the board for more than 50 years with voting status. However, there is something the folks at SACS care about. They care about the $1,708,490 deficit Erskine ran last year.

In the last audit, the warning from SACS was do not make more than a 5% draw from the endowment. Well, here is what has been done. In preparing the budget for this year, a 7% draw was made on the endowment (that is, a 7% draw on an endowment of  about $42 million is about $2.94 million). At the end of the year, how is a deficit of $1.7 million resolved? There are only three possibilities: a very large gift; a bank loan; or another draw on the endowment. If there was a gift, we would have heard about it. Money from a bank is possible because there is a  revolving line of credit; however, I doubt if the credit line is large enough to absorb the whole deficit. The horn-of-plenty is the endowment. This means the actual endowment draw is well over 7%. Now, add this: the Annual Fund failed to reach its goal by $500,000 and the reported earning on investments was about -7%. And this during an up-market!?! So, when do the auditors from SACS return for a peek? And what do we call that day? Doomsday?

So, what is going on? President Gustafson is attempting to find a way to pay the salaries of a shrinking and less than stellar faculty and a growing athletic staff of coaches-and-more-coaches. My sources tell me of the 300+ expected freshmen this fall, only about 40 are non-athletes. Perhaps, Dr. Gustafson should entertain the possibility of getting rid of the entire academic staff; it is not needed and a waste of resources for the athletic programs. The coaches can be paid extra for teaching the academic subjects — like in high school.

In his recent meeting with the alumni in Columbia, President Gustafson announced the need for a new dorm. There is no room for the female students who are being pushed off-campus by the overwhelming number of male athletes — 135 football players and 100 baseball players this fall. But how on earth is a new dorm to be funded? Now, remember the bill for the renovations to Carnegie during the Carson years has yet to be repaid.

To make matters worse, the alumni association is up in arms. As I was told, they do not trust President Gustafson or Paul Bell, the director of the Erskine Alumni Association — and neither do I. At this time, the alums are investigating the formation of an independent association, and my sources tell me it is going to happen. Well, we shall see, but I am not going to bet against them. What will this mean for Erskine? I do not know! This is a field I have never seen plowed.

The situation at Erskine is like going to a dance and finding out all the all girls look like Olive Oil. What a nightmare! One of the members of the Facebook alums described Erskine as “Lost in space.” Either metaphor works.

Well, was there a bright spot in the Erskine report? Yes! The seminary ended the year $28,247 in the black.

  1. Board of Benefits

Since the retirement of Ed Hogan as the Director of Central Services, the retirement fund for our ministers has not had the best leadership. Thankfully, Roger Wiles is giving competent leadership, and he is not afraid to deliver bad news, offer corrections and alternatives, and change personnel.

The retirement fund was greatly impacted by the “Great Recession” of 2008 and 2009. The fall of the market and the lack of timely management of the assets turned an advancing program south (see Index 34: Board of Benefits, “History of Benefit and Contribution Rates,” (https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1k9DpIpenDfxzQaU--6PFad5f8jz-Mdcu).

I served on the Moderator’s Committee on Benefits in 2013. When I asked how often the fund was checked, I was astounded to hear the representative from the board say they were obliged to check it twice a year. After that, Synod was informed if the plan the Board of Benefits was presenting was not adopted the Retirement Fund would be underwater by $14,000,000 by 2019. Well, we adopted the plan, absorbed the pain of reduction in benefits while increasing larger contributions, and are underwater $13,200,000, which means 20% of our active ministers will be without retirement coverage if drastic measures are not taken immediately.

What happened? We are in the midst of the “Trump bump” in the market, which is one of the greatest “bull markets” ever. Well, when the actuary makes a mistake, financial pain follows. The questions now are two: (1) how do we re-capitalize the retirement fund? and (2) do we turn to an alternate plan?

As Rev. Andy Putnam pointed out, we may be on the verge of a “fire-sale.” A plan has to be put together whereby the retirements of those presently retired are protected and the contributions of those presently serving are compensated. The implications to fix this are drastic. What happens if we have to redirect the funds of our boards to the Retirement Fund? What happens if we have to sell one of our hard assets (and our hard assets are the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Center, Bonclarken, Dunlap, and Erskine College and Seminary)? What happens if we have to redirect the DMF for a protracted period? Obviously, all the issues involving the Retirement Fund are going to be painful. And, if we do not know how to fix this mess, there is a Federal judge who does.

Time was bought by the passing of the following motion: “That all matters regarding the Board of Benefits Report concerning the Retirement Plan be referred to a ‘blue ribbon’ committee appointed by the Moderator made up of six members (with the Vice Moderator as a member and Chairman) (1) to investigate and prepare an independent report on all matters relating to the ministers’ retirement plan, (2) to work in cooperation with the Special Committee on DMF spending, (3) to develop a plan for the recapitalization of the Retirement Plan and offer alternative options, and (4) to report back to the next meeting of the General Synod.”

Since Synod, I have received a number of phone calls regarding our retirement plan. The question asked was: “Do we have to participate in the retirement plan?” According to the directives of Synod and our presbyteries, the answer is Yes. The next question was: “What would happen if we chose to do something else?” My answer: “Nothing! You will be fussed at about denominational loyalty; however, at the end of the day, you will not be thrown out of your presbytery, and you can do what you want.”

  1. World Witness

The most controversial matter was an issue regarding the resignation of a missionary. The resignation was disputed by members of First Presbytery. They contended First Presbytery has not dissolved the call of the individual involved.

There is a hard question which needs to be asked of our office of World Witness: what is World Witness doing to advance the footprint of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church? In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, our missionary endeavors advanced the footprint of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church by planting, discipling, and growing the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church of Mexico and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church of Pakistan. Where are such efforts today? Since 1972 when I became an Associate Reformed Presbyterian, I have not seen the footprint of our our denomination advanced by our office of World Witness.

What I have seen is the Office of World Witness become our denominational parachurch. We support others; we do not advance the footprint of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Let me repeat: World Witness has become something like a parachurch organization. It is to be fed; it does not advance the footprint of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

  1. Christian Education

The new editor of The Quarterly, our adult Sunday School magazine, is Dr. Ian Dugid, who teaches at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. This is a good thing; however, it is also a sad thing, for there was no one in Due West, at the college or seminary, found for this job.

  1. Outreach North America

What does Outreach North America do?

In the RPCNA, the director of their home missions is an unpaid volunteer who is the pastor of a congregation. In the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church our director of ONA is paid $167,000 and attends a Baptist church. In the RPCNA, their denomination budget for church planting is less than $300,000 for everything. In the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, we budgeted $537,000 to ONA this year. Both the RPCNA and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church have the same number of active church plants. In the RPCNA, public worship involves singing the psalms exclusively and a cappella (and, according to my sources, this is happily embraced by their young people). In the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, public worship style is a matter of contention.

Once again, why do we need ONA? Church planting is the responsibility of our presbyteries. If our presbyteries are not willing to do the work of church planting, throwing money at a denominational bureaucratic agency is not the solution. It is a waste of precious resources. And, in the case of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, it is the breeding ground for unproductive and protracted conflict.

  1. Memorials

One, we are to study whether Freemasonry is compatible with being an Associate Reformed Presbyterian. As a good friend pointed out, Masonry is similar to Rotary but the vows are secret. He continued, “A better question is whether being a member of the Democrat Party is compatible with being an Associate Reformed Presbyterian. With the views we affirm on abortion and homosexuality, those views would preclude membership in the Democrat Party.” Now, that is insightful. I think this is a better question to study.

Two, voted not to create a position of “Assistant Pastor.” The main difference between an Associate Pastor and an Assistant Pastor is this: an Associate Pastor is called by the congregation and an Assistant Pastor is hired by the Session.

Three, the Moderator is directed to write a letter to the members of Congress, the Supreme Court, the President, and the Canadian counterparts reminding them of the sacredness of life and also reminding them they will give account of their actions before the Lord Jesus Christ. Who can speak evil of this? However, it is a waste of paper.

  1. Election of Moderator and Vice Moderator

The present Vice Moderator Rob Roy McGregor III was elected Moderator by acclamation. His Vice Moderator is Rev. Rob Patrick.

Concluding Remarks

I really enjoyed the ax-throwing excursion. It was a lot of fun. Some of the young men were Associate Reformed Presbyterians and some were Reformed Presbyterians. All of them (some ex-athletes) were bested by the geeky 20-year-old son of an Associate Reformed Presbyterian minister. Righteous!

Synod was not much fun. I do not think our delegates understood the gravity of the issues.

In an extended conversation, I was asked: “Aren’t you praying for God’s blessing on the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church?” I did not know how to answer. I am fearful of asking God to bless what He is judging with withering. A sense of repentance and of changing of direction I do not see.

Let’s go ax-throwing!

These are my thoughts,

 

Charles W. Wilson

President Rob Gustafson ARPTalk Chuck Wilson Betrayal

Betrayal

President Rob Gustafson ARPTalk Chuck Wilson Betrayal

Unless there is great duress, a college board goes in the direction the president desires and sets. With the concurrence of the board’s chairman and input from chief administrators, the president oversees and approves the framing of agendas for board meetings.

The Erskine board meeting in Due West last Thursday and Friday (February 21 and 22) was not an exception to the rule. The outcome saw the fulfillment of President Rob Gustafson’s agenda: the betrayal of those who worked to make him president. That is, the betrayal of those he convinced his vision for Erskine was a Christ-centered college, an Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church controlled college, Christian liberal arts college, and a college which emphasized academics over athletics.

So, what happened at the board meeting?

Two things happened:

  1. the board voted to petition General Synod to restore the president of the quasi-Erskine Alumni Association to the board with “voice” but without “vote”; and
  2. the board petitioned General Synod to remove the Moderator of General Synod from the board as a “voting” member and to redefine the Moderator’s role as one with “voice.” Therefore, making the Moderator of General Synod and the president of the quasi-Erskine Alumni Association equals. These two actions equal betrayal by Gustafson.

Remember the quasi-Alumni Association is an arm of the Erskine Administration which is allowed to function as though it were an independent entity with a mandate to determine the direction of the college of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Remember the Moderator of the General Synod is the chief officer of General Synod, elected by the majority of the delegates at the annual meeting of General Synod. The Moderator of General Synod is the chief officer of the denomination which owns Erskine College, Inc., and the president of the quasi-Erskine Alumni Association is the head of a quasi-organization which has no title to anything which is Erskine. In other words, the Moderator of the General Synod and the president of the Alumni Association are not equals when it comes to matters regarding the Erskine board.

Furthermore, (and I will speak to this again) are the members of General Synod prepared to sanction a board member who is not only a non-Christian but outspokenly opposed to evangelical Christianity? Remember the quasi-Erskine Alumni Association is not a Christian organization. It is a loose association of some Erskine grads (and, yes, many Erskine grads refuse to participate in it, saying, “It doesn’t represent us!”). It is not necessary for their president to be a Christian. Also, (and this is easily established by the comments on their Facebook site) many of the members of the quasi-Erskine Alumni Association reject the traditional values of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church on marriage, sexuality, and abortion. Does this not concern the board? Does this not concern the leadership and faculty of the seminary that a situation may soon arise where a board member does not only reject the basic tenants of our Christian faith but despises them? The 2018 Synod preempts these issues. Dr. Gustafson cheered the action of the 2018 Synod. Why is he now bringing back what he sanctioned and cheered last year? Why is he revisiting a settled issue? Have we forgotten the events that led to the “Snow Synod”?

One can only ask: President Gustafson, what are you thinking? Why are you pandering to the godless? Why are you going to Christ’s enemies for help? Why are you seeking aid and comfort from those who mock evangelical Christian beliefs?

Athletes-Я-Erskine

“Toys-Я-Us” may be bankrupt, but “Athletes-Я-Erskine” is doing well in Due West — so far! Indeed, a student who is not an athlete is not easily found.

What is the prediction for this fall? Presently, a Head Football Coach has been hired and two assistant coaches; and, at least, two more assistant coaches are expected to be hired — and this while the college has no foreign language department (or the expectation of one), and this while there is an inadequate number of faculty members to deal with future enrollment needs, and this while present faculty members (both college and seminary) are awaiting relief from the draconian pay cuts of the Kooistra Days. Amazingly, funds are found and allocated for coaches, coaches, coaches!

Nevertheless, the administration is jubilant with the expectation of 100-plus football athletes this fall, which should bring enrollment to the max of 700. Indeed, whatever is left of the historic “Due West Women’s College” is now a paragraph in the history of Erskine. The female dorms are being prepared to house male athletes. I understand housing off-campus is being sought for female students. Look for a male-to-female ratio of above three-to-one. Effectively, Erskine is a male athletic camp where one can also obtain a college degree — maybe. But, degree or no degree, the average student will leave the environs of Due West with a massive load of student loans.

To provide entertainment for the male-dominated student body, the administration has provided a women’s beach volleyball program. I suppose the beach on Lake Academic, west of the baseball field and just past where the bass boats are moored, will be used for matches (and, if you are not in the know, bass fishing is now a sport at Erskine). It is rumored about a coach has been hired, and she has asked for a barrier of barbwire and Concertina wire be setup around the beach in order to protect her players from the female-starved male athletes. I do not believe the rumors about the building of a wall with gun towers. Now, of course, I am writing tongue-in-cheek; nevertheless, a women’s beach volleyball program is now a sanctioned sport at Erskine. I suppose a coach will be hired. The Lord be praised! This is just precious!

Ruble, Norman, and Kooistra spoke of turning Erskine into an athletic camp; Gustafson has achieved it. But at what personal cost to his soul? Just after Gustafson was elected president, former board member Ms. Dody Morris hosted a dinner in Atlanta for Gustafson to meet friends-of-Erskine, and I attended the dinner. At this meeting, he was asked what needed changing at Erskine. He said a divarication between academics and athletics had occurred whereby athletic programs triumphed and academic program were withering; moreover, he said a reversal of the condition was essential for the survival of Erskine as a legitimate academic institution. Sadly, at this point, Dr. Gustafson appears to resemble a carpetbagger.

As a matter of fact, when Gustafson worked for former President Kooistra, this was one of the issues over which they clashed. As a matter of fact, in my presence (and two others) at lunch in Anderson, SC, Gustafson unequivocally stated if Erskine were to become an athletic camp there was no reason for Erskine to exist. Well, Dr. Gustafson, Erskine has become an athletic camp. Is there any reason for Erskine to continue? Do we now operate Erskine to the glory of God in order to compound athletic programs for less than stellar student athletes because each one brings revenue of about $20,000 per year in order to facilitate the paying of the salaries of some rather unremarkable coaches? Regrettably, Dr. Gustafson makes it difficult to trust his word.

Balderdash

At Synod this year, look for the proliferation of balderdash in the Erskine report. There are two things which will be shoveled on Synod’s delegates like fertilizer on a field in spring. The first is the idea of a Worldview Institute. This is a sort of think-tank for academically-minded students to think Christianly about apologetics, politics, morality, culture, and other subjects. But where are the academically-minded Christian students to be found for such an academically challenging program? At this time, it is very difficult to recruit non-athletes to a campus which is saturated with athletes. The balderdash about the Worldview Institute is about smoke screening Synod’s delegates. It is political candy. Gustafson is well aware Associate Reformed Presbyterian ministers are academically inclined, and a conversation about a Worldview Institute just may divert attentions enough to minimize hard questioning. In the words of the Wizard of Oz, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

The second piece of balderdash is a program which makes it possible for an Erskine student to get both a BA from the college and a MDiv from the seminary in five years. This is a terrible idea if one is actually attempting to prepare ministers for ministry. However, ministry is not what this is about; the program is about grant money. Well, in the words of John Calvin: “Good luck!” I hear the congregations which make up the Erskine Seminary catchment are flooding the seminary office with requests for 22-year-old ministerial candidates.

Pandering

The motion asking General Synod to restore the president of the quasi-Erskine Alumni Association is not only an act of pandering to the loud voices of godless alums, it also is an act of throwing-friends-under-the-bus. Last year when the motion to remove the president of the Alumni Association as a voting member of the board was brought to the floor of General Synod, the motion was not done without the concurrence of and the buoying up by the president. Yes, Gustafson knew what was taking place and said it needed to be done. Permission was asked and permission was given to those who brought the motion to the floor. Remember the motion was passed overwhelmingly, and followed by a standing ovation by the delegates. Why is Gustafson now retracing his steps?

Gustafson and the board are pandering to the members of the quasi-Alumni Association who (by way of their Facebook site) have made it abundantly clear they are opposed to the evangelical faith of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Dr. Gustafson and the board are now pandering to a godless mob in the hope they will give something to Erskine. So, may I be so bold to ask, what has been promised? However, if past performance is an indicator of future actions, they will not give much. One is a fool to trust the promises of these people!

As far as regular members of the board are concerned, they are vetted by General Synod’s nominating committee as to their willingness to serve on the Erskine board and their compatibility with the doctrinal standards of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. I know this to be true because I have gone through the process. Now, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church is asked to accept a board member who has not been vetted by our committee on nominations. Interestingly, the members of the quasi-Erskine Alumni Association do not ask whether their president is a Christian, let alone whether he/she agrees with the standards by which other board members give assent. Essentially, this establishes two levels of board members. In the past, Gustafson has stated it is ludicrous not to expect board members to affirm the standards of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. If that is the case, why is he getting back in bed with the devil?

In these matters, personally, I feel a great sense of betrayal. As readers of ARPTalk are aware, I refrained from writing about matters regarding Erskine for a year. Because of what Dr. Gustafson told me, I felt compelled to give him space to do what he said to me he was going to do. He even said to me that I should not withhold my public comments and analysis if I saw he was leading Erskine in a direction which is contra to what we discussed. Yes, he invited my analysis and dissent. Well, I now feel compelled to write. I feel deep sadness. I feel I have been manipulated by one who called me “Brother!” I feel a great sense of betrayal, as do others who esteemed him highly.

These are my thoughts,

 

Charles W. Wilson

ARPTalk Urbana 18 Celebrates Cultural Marxism Reverend Chuck Wilson

Urbana 18: Cultural Marxism

ARPTalk Urbana 18 Celebrates Cultural Marxism Reverend Chuck Wilson

Since 1946, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship sponsored Urbana Conference has probably been the leading platform in the evangelical Christian community for challenging young Christian men and women to a life of evangelism as missionaries. Held every three years, the most recent Urbana Conference occurred in St. Louis, MO, on December 27-31, 2018.

I attended college and seminary with friends who found their way to the mission field through an Urbana challenge. In the past, I have either given or raised funds for students to attend Urbana. The folks at our Associate Reformed Presbyterian World Witness office encourage our college students who are contemplating a missions career to attend Urbana.

As stated above, Urbana 18 occurred last month. What was the emphasis? Was it a "One Way Missionary" challenge? Do you know about the "One Way" challenge?

Before heading to the mission field, "One Way" people packed their belongings in a coffin and purchased one way tickets to the destinations to which God had called them for ministry.

A. W. Milne (https://walterbright.org/2013/08/07/when-he-came-there-was-no-light-when-he-left-there-was-no-darkness/) was a "One Way" man. He spent 35 years in ministry to the cannibal tribes in the New Hebrides in the South Pacific. When he died, the people to whom he gave his life in ministry for their conversion to Christianity buried him in the middle of their village.

They also erected the following epitaph:

When he came, there was no light.
When he left, there was no darkness.


Urbana 18 - The Promotion Video

A. W. Milne's "One Way" kind of challenge for radical Christian missionary evangelism was not heard at Urbana 18. The emphasis of Urbana 18 was on cultural Marxism.

I learned the following from the video promo for Urbana 18.

  • One, the "Me Too" movement has exposed sexual abuse in the evangelical church, and evangelicals are culpable - even for the abuses of Roman Catholic priests and bishops.
  • Two, in East Asia, certain mega-church pastors have pilfered funds from their congregations for family businesses, and we are responsible.
  • Three, in 1537, Martin Luther wrote On the Jews and Their Lies, and Luther is directly accountable for the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi racism and the Holocaust in the 1930s and 40s, and evangelical Christians should repent of their admiration of Luther.
  • Four, since many of the Afrikaners who developed the political doctrine of apartheid in South Africa were evangelical Christians, white evangelicals in the United States are also to be blamed.
  • Five, all evangelical Christians bear the responsibility for the Rwandan civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi in 1994 since many of the Hutu and Tutsi claimed to be Christians.
  • Six, issued in 1493 by Pope Alexander VI, the Doctrine of Discovery averted a war between Spain and Portugal by dividing the unexplored New World between Spain and Portugal; therefore, all Christians are responsible for the Doctrine of Discovery and its aftermath (and I suppose white evangelical Christians should live in an everlasting state of penance since the Spanish and Portuguese are Europeans).
  • Seven, the demise of the Native American peoples is directly attributable to white evangelical Christians.
  • Eight, since many white Europeans and many black Africans prompted and profited in the black slave trade, white American evangelicals are to be held accountable for slavery.
  • Nine, since some white southern Christians left church services to attend a lynching of a black man, all white evangelical Christians in the South are responsible for such atrocities.
  • Finally, very subtly the following message is communicated: the task of Urbana 18 is to make all these sins and failures known so that socially awaken young people will go and call for the appropriate social, political, and economic reparations and penances necessary for the undoing of all the failures and sins identified. This, therefore, is the role of Christian Missions.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago in the 1950s, a young man by the name of Jim Elliott heard a different kind of call to be a missionary. A call which led him and others to Ecuador and death in their effort to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to an unreached tribe (https://www.crossway.org/articles/jim-elliot-was-no-fool/).


Scott Bessenecker begins his talk with a story about a conversation with a man who was reading Bertrand Russell's Why I Am not a Christian. He asked the reader if he were not a Christian because there are so many messed up people in the church. The man said "Yes!" Bessenecker responded to the man saying the reason there are so many messed up people in the church is because God loves messed up people. The man reading Russell's book did not know what to make of Bessenecker's response. Bessenecker responded, "I don't know what to do with my statement." Indeed, he does not know what to do with the statement. He honestly seems surprised that sin happens in the church and church members are messed up people. He functionally redefines sin as failure to be socially, environmentally, and economically aware. Theologically, he does not know how to define sin, and he certainly does not know the Biblical correction for sin.


Talk Given by Scott Bessenecker on Revelation 18

The follow is a list of things I learned from Bessenecker.

  • One, evangelical Christians do not tell the truth about themselves. Bessenecker then informs us his retirement fund is invested in energy companies which are paying the governments of Syria and Sudan for drilling rights, and then these governments are committing genocide in order to secure the aforementioned oil fields. He says Christians should come out of the Babylon of such economic entanglements; however, after listening to his talk, I am not sure he has taken the advice he gives.
  • Two, using Isaiah 3.14, Bessenecker accuses evangelical Christians of having "the plunder of the poor in your houses." This is a stretch. In the context of Isaiah 3, the prophet addresses the elders and leaders of Jerusalem. Isaiah's condemnation is not a general assessment of the evangelical community of 2019.
  • Three, sin is redefined as abusive global economic forces.
  • Four, it seems the new original sins are racism and patriarchy.
  • Five, the proclamation of the church is "Stop the 'unfettered access to the earth's resources.'"
  • Six, coming out of Babylon equals being content with a simple lifestyle.
  • Seven, the great need of the hour is "kingdom economics." That is, the church needs to push wealth out to the marginalized peoples of the world.
  • Eight, Missions is championing "the marginalized, the incarcerated, the ex-offender, the asylum-seeker, the desperately poor. . ." and the illegal immigrant.
  • Nine, Bessenecker calls Urbana 18 a Missions Conference where the participants are learning what it is to carry the good news of the kingdom of God to the world as he has defined the kingdom of God- a new economy.
  • Ten, the old concept of Missions is a Babylonian-infested gospel which is like smallpox-infected blankets that were given to Native Americans - a gospel of racism, hyper-individualism, patriarchy, environmental abuse, greed, and consumerism.
  • Eleven, Bessenecker informs us of one of his acts of contrition. He did not use his free "Delta Miles" to fly his family to where he was. Yes, coming out of Babylon is uninstalling video games, using public transportation instead of private transportation, not exchanging an old cell-phone for a new one, and by promoting certain people who have been passed by because of their race or gender.

Having started his talk with an illustration about a conversation regarding atheism, I was surprised that Bessenecker's use of the Bible was only incidental, if not accidental. I wonder how Bessenecker's form of cultural Marxism challenges young people to give their lives in Christian Mission?

What is my conclusion? Bessenecker is promoting cultural Marxism over Biblical Christianity. I doubt if he encouraged the participants of Urbana 18 to sing the following words:

Rescue the perishing,

Care for the dying,

Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;

Weep o'er the erring one,

Lift up the fallen,

Tell them of Jesus the mighty to save.


A fellow South Carolinian, Dominique Gilliard spent most of his 25 minutes advocating for prison reform. As a matter of fact, the role of Missions is to reform the prison system. Since the Apostle John, the author Revelation, was in prison when he wrote the Book of Revelation, the Book of Revelation is an appropriate platform for a discussion on race and prison reform.

A fellow South Carolinian, Dominique Gilliard spent most of his 25 minutes advocating for prison reform. As a matter of fact, the role of Missions is to reform the prison system. Since the Apostle John, the author Revelation, was in prison when he wrote the Book of Revelation, the Book of Revelation is an appropriate platform for a discussion on race and prison reform.


Talk Given by Dominique Gilliard

Below is a short list of interesting things I did not know.

  • One, before getting to the meat of prison reform, Gilliard spent eight minutes lamenting that he was too young to have known Martin Luther King, Jr. and to have participated in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. I did not know Martin Luther King, Jr. was a voice for the evangelical community for Missions. I was of the mistaken opinion King admired Mahatma Gandhi over Jesus Christ and held Socinianism over orthodox Christianity. Furthermore, let us not forget that Saint (Archbishop) Oscar Romero has commissioned evangelical Christians to deal with social oppression which is believing in Christ and being converted.
  • Two, the imperial power of the United States is evidenced in mass incarceration. In a large graph, Gilliard illustrated how incarceration has increased by 800% since 1973. The increase is shocking. As I survey the landscape, I see this increase related to the judgment of God for our abortion culture and the many assaults on the nuclear family.
  • Three, "slavery has never been truly abolished" in the United States. Incarceration is a form of exploitative slavery which is morally bankrupt, and the evangelical church is censurable for thinking of black and brown people as super-predators and animals.
  • Four, people are not incarcerated for their crimes; rather, people are incarcerated because they are black or brown or poor or illegal immigrants or mentally ill.
  • Five, the criminal justice system is broken. Many people are housed in local jails because they are mentally ill. As one who has functioned in the world of mental heath, I testify that Gilliard is correct. Mental health facilities are woefully inadequate and underfunded to deal particularly with the problems of people who suffer with the effects of alcoholism and drug abuse, especially when they commit crimes.
  • Six, in Romans 8.38-39, I thought Paul's statement of nothing can separate us from the love of God was an affirmation of eternal security. Gilliard turns Paul's teaching upside down. He informs us the statement is a declaration that God's redeeming love is not thwarted by the heinousness of our sins. Well, yes, that is true; however, that is not what is taught by Romans 8.38-39. He is of the opinion evangelical Christians teach "meritocracy" in salvation.
  • Seven, Gilliard informs us that no one should be defined by the things he has done, unless a person is a racist or something which he disapproves. Well, John Newton who wrote Amazing Grace was an ex-slaver who helped sell many African people into slavery. Should we celebrate him as a "saint" or eternally condemn him as a racist?

In conclusion, I wonder why the folks at InterVarsity chose Gilliard to speak at Urbana 18, their premier conference on Missions, instead of someone like Chuck Colson? Colson was a convicted criminal who spent time in a federal prison. After his conversion, he spent the rest of his life in prison ministry. Colson was able to tell story-after-story of men and women who were converted to Christ in prison. Interestingly, Gilliard told no stories of conversions. Does he have any stories to tell?


Danielle Strickland, a member of the Salvation Army, is a compelling and passionate communicator. She is easy to listen to, and her personal story of conversion is riveting.

Danielle Strickland, a member of the Salvation Army, is a compelling and passionate communicator. She is easy to listen to, and her personal story of conversion is riveting.


Talk by Danielle Strickland

She taught me the following things.

  • One, the words, "Holy, holy, holy" in Revelation 4.8 (and Isaiah 6.3) are not about God's transcendence and otherness. "Holy, holy, holy" is an exclamation of "Holy cow! Woe! Look at God!" Strickland fails to connect Revelation 4.8 to Isaiah 6.5 where Isaiah says "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!"
  • Two, according to Strickland, the beauty of Jesus is He is seen in the faces of everyone. I foolishly thought the beauty of Jesus is seen in His deity, His life, His death on the Cross, His resurrection, ascension, session at the Father's right hand, and soon return. I was left with the feeling she has trivialized Revelation 4.8 and Isaiah 6.3.
  • Three, Hebrews 12.14 reads, "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." According to Strickland, this  "holiness" is not imputed holiness but what is seen in people, even a Muslim girl she met on a plane.
  • Four, the glory of the gospel is "knocking on the dumpsters" of systemic violence, mass incarceration, things which have people stuck in isolation, sexism, patriarchy and working diligently to correct those abuses.

I wonder. Does Strickland know the anthem of the Salvation Army? Every time I have seen a Salvation Army band in a parade the band played a song with these words: "Onward Christian soldiers, Marching as to war, With the Cross of Jesus, Going on before." Whether she knows the song or not, she has lost the message that Jesus is the Savior - the Savior who, by the Spirit of God, has washed, sanctified, and justified sinners who were sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, practitioners of homosexuality, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers who were destined not to inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6.9-10).

To be fair, not all the Urbana speakers were like the ones I have noted. However, good water is made undrinkable by poisoned water. I think of the television commercial for a water filter were a man is invited to drink water which is contaminated by an acceptable amount of lead. No, thank you, I do not want to drink water with any amount of lead!

Sadly, whatever Urbana and InterVarsity are today, these folks have abandoned an uncontaminated call for Christian Missions for an admixture which promotes a form of social Marxism. This is "another gospel" (Galatians 1.6), and it brings not God's blessing but God's judgment.

The glorious old gospel song reads:

We've a Savior to show to the nations,

who the path of sorrow has trod,

that all of the world's great peoples

may come to the truth of God,

may come to the truth of God.

Well, do the folks at Urbana even know We've a Story to Tell to the Nation? What song do they sing?

 

Once the cultural Marxists who call themselves Christians have abolished all the social, political, environmental, and economic inequities they rail against, what then?

 

In Matthew 23.15, Jesus says, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves."

A final question: why on earth is our Associate Reformed Presbyterian Office of World Witness supporting Urbana? Do they not know better?

I know this: I have given and raised my last dollar for students to attend Urbana to be taught cultural Marxist evangelism.

These are my thoughts,

 

Charles W. Wilson

ARPTalk Erskine Theological Seminary Reverend Chuck Wilson

What I Learned at the Seminar on Poverty

ARPTalk Erskine Theological Seminary Reverend Chuck Wilson

On Wednesday, August 26, I traveled to the Greenville Associate Reformed Presbytery Church were Outreach North American was holding a seminary on poverty with Randy Nabors and Will Broadus.

Nabors is pastor-emeritus of New City Fellowship in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Urban and Mercy Ministries Coordinator for Mission to North America for the Presbyterian Church in America. He grew up in poverty in Newark, New Jersey and has extensive experience in cross-cultural ministry and ministry to the poor.

Broadus, an African-American Baptist pastor, grew up in poverty on the Westside of Greenville. He became a Christian at 14, and the story of his pilgrimage is riveting. Having served in East Asia as missionaries, Will and his wife, Becca, moved back to Greenville to plant Reconcile Community Church, which he envisions as a cross-cultural ministry to the poor.

Why Am I Interested in a Seminar on Poverty?

When I saw this seminar on poverty, I wanted to attend it. I was raised in Eloise, Florida, a small citrus-worker and migrant-worker community in Central Florida. Interestingly, I did not know we were poor until I was 12. That year I was bussed to school in Winter Haven, and I discovered my world was larger than Eloise and felt the sting of being thought of as second-class.

My wife was raised in deep poverty. She was one of four children of a single-mom in Richmond, Virginia As a small child, because her mother was ill for a protracted time, she lived in an orphanage. When her mother recovered, she reclaimed her children. They then lived in federally subsidized apartments. At 15, Erlene dropped out of school, lied about her age, got a job as a waitress, and helped her older sister to graduate from high school and her mother to care for her two younger siblings.

My wife is amazing. She tells stories of attending church via the bus ministry of a Baptist church when she was five. At 19, she became a Christian. With the help of her church and Christian friends, she was able to get her GED and attend Bible School and college. I found her in college. She sat on the front row and was one of my students. I married her three years later.

At one time, I wanted to return to my home, to the little church in which I was raised and minister to the people from which I came. However, after graduating from college, graduate school, and seminary, I discovered I could not return. I had changed too much. I could not speak the language of the people from which I came. I also discovered they did not want me to return. As a childhood pastor said, "We want better for you." And, to this day, I do not know what "better" means. As I look back from the perspective of 50 years, I do not like "better."

My career was ministry to small town Associate Reformed Presbyterian congregations, and most of the time I was the church planter and solo pastor. Quickly, I discovered the people to whom I was able to minister where people with an educational background similar to mine. Some of them were financially affluent and some were not, but all of them reflected educational accomplishment. At Fuller Church Growth Seminars, I learned this was called the Homogeneous Unit Principle. Understanding the principle, I was uncomfortable with it and did not see it squaring with the church in the Book of Acts. I was plagued with my inability to reach those who were different. I was never able to fully solve the puzzle of racial and socio-economic blending. So, those who can are a captivating mystery to me.

What Did I Learn?

Well, what did I learn at this seminary on poverty which was sponsored by Outreach North America?

One, I learned not many Associate Reformed Presbyterians are interested in a seminar on poverty. Besides Outreach North America people, people from the Greenville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, there were not many Associate Reformed Presbyterians present. This is not a statement of criticism; it is an observation of the makeup of the audience. Also, after speaking with a number of the participants, I do not think many of them have a personal experience with poverty. Once again, this is not a criticism; it is an observation.

Two, when dealing with words like "justice," "mercy," "social responsibly" and other hot button words, clear definitions are necessary in order to prevent people from talking at and past each other.

Three, I greatly appreciated Nabors and Broadus' emphasis on preaching the gospel to conversion and diligent discipleship of believers. If I understand what they were saying, poverty is a sign of God's judgment. As I heard them, discipleship in the local church leads people out of the life-destroying lifestyles that produce and continue generational poverty. In other words, a form of Christianity which does not transform is not authentic.

Four, I learned the best way to deal with poverty is by planting Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, and Bible-discipling congregations in poor communities. Since poverty is a sign of God's judgment (Deuteronomy 14.4-5), the seed of poverty is spiritual. Government, therefore, is unable to deal with the root issue of poverty. (Actually, government institutionalizes, industrializes, and promotes poverty to a political end.) A local congregation which is Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, and Bible discipling has the transformational tools which enable the poor to overcome poverty. In the words of Randy Nabors, "The local church is God's vehicle for social change." That is to say, the gospel transforms people!

Five, the question, "Why do Presbyterians have difficulty with planting congregations among the poor?" was answered by Randy Nabors. He answered it is because Presbyterian church planters expect to be paid. Well, church planting is hard - and extraordinarily hard among the poor. It calls for indomitable commitment to call and vision. It asks, "What price are you willing to pay? Are you willing to be a tentmaker in order to see your vision accomplished? Are you willing to invest 30 years of your life and count it joy?" Indeed, we look at someone like Randy Nabors who informs us his church has 1100 member and a multi-million dollar budget, and fail to hear him when he says it took him 36 years!

Six, I learned church planting which reaches the poor must take the office of deacon seriously to the point of professionalizing it. It has been my observation that Presbyterians do not know what to do with the office of deacon. In our churches, deacons are the greeters, the ushers, the ones who count the offerings, the ones who frame the budget and argue with the elders over it, the ones who oversee the cleaning and repairs of the church building and the maintenance of the grounds, the ones who open and close the doors on Sunday, the ones who maintain the Mercy Fund, and, lest I forget, the ones who make the coffee and put out the donuts. All of which is the trivialization of the office of deacon. In a congregation which ministers to the poor, the office of deacon is of paramount importance. When the poor attend church, they come with many and various needs and problems to be resolved. Deacons who cannot attend to such needs are a waste of effort. When the poor attend church, they attend with their children who are ignorant of church etiquette (as are the parents), and I can assure you the blending of behaviors between non-churched young people, Christian School young people, and homeschool young people is maddeningly complex. Deacons who cannot attend to such needs are a waste of effort. When the poor come to church and a trained and involved board of deacons is not in place to assist the pastor and elders, the work of the congregation is paralyzed.

When Jesus called Peter, James, and John, He called them to leave their boats and follow Him (Luke 5.1-11); after his healing, the demonic of the country of the Gadarenes asked Jesus if he could follow him, and Jesus said, "Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you" (Luke 8.28-39); and, when Jesus called Paul, He sent him as "a chosen vessel . . . to bear [His] name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel." (Acts 9.15). Certainly, callings are different, and a servant is only responsible to his own master (Romans 14.4). I am no man's master. However, I do admire those who are called to minister in places of poverty in Jesus' name. They go to rescue  people like my wife and I were.

These are my thoughts,



Charles W. Wilson

ARPTalk Erskine College Sports Reverend Chuck Wilson

More Sports Programs Anticipated at Erskine College

ARPTalk Erskine College Sports Reverend Chuck Wilson

More Sports Programs Anticipated at Erskine College

I must begin this issue of ARPTalk by apologizing to our readers. In the last issue of ARPTalk, I announced the following new sports were added at Erskine College: football, acrobatics, E-Sports, lacrosse, track and field, and rodeo. There are, however, other sports programs under consideration. At the time, I was unaware of them.

I informed the readers of ARPTalk that the motion to pass the new sports programs was made by Bobby McDonald, who, when someone objected to not having time to read the many-paged proposal, said the board should adopt the proposal, and the members of the board could read it when they got home. Well, it has taken me some time to obtain a full copy of the proposal. Hidden in the back of the proposal and in small print were the other sports programs which are on the table for consideration. I can now inform our readers that those sports are (1) bass fishing, (2) tractor pulling. (3) catfish noodling, and (4) alligator trolling with nutria in Louisiana.

According to President Gustafson, the justification for sports programs such as these goes like this: "We are attempting to be relevant to the cultural ethos of our target student community." That means, "butts in beds."

Men and Women's Bass Fishing

I understand the conversation among the members of the administration on the possibility of bass fishing was so exciting it bordered on the giddy. It is reported that Clarence's Sporting Goods, Tri-motors Bassemperor Boats, and Fishing Hole Bait and Fly Shops are in discussions with President Gustafson on the possibility of supporting the entire program. In a phone interview with Athletic Director Mark Peeler, he said, "I'm so excited about this opportunity. I can say I am literally in a tizzy. I have even been in the backyard today where I had the manure pile two summers ago digging for and collecting worms for our first tournament! I can't get over that our college that was once known for its liberal arts programs has evolved to the point we have a bass fishing program with scholarships. For all those who say there is no hope for Bubba and Wanda Fay getting a college athletic scholarship, let me tell you we will soon have one at Erskine College! And thank you Tri-motors Bassemperor Boats for the new Titan Emperor Deluxe Edition Bass Boat with heated leather seats. We are mooring it in Lake Academic behind the rodeo stockyard. Go Fleet!"

Men and Women's Tractor Pulling

According to Bobby McDonald, "Tractor pulling is a perfect sport for a college like Erskine which is located east of and about 7 miles from the town of The-End-of-the-Earth, South Carolina. Wilber Ebenezer Braxton Nutts (who usually goes by "Webie") has a large farm southeast of Due West. Webie loves tractor pulling. Years ago, when the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville was the BI-LO Center, Webie attended all the tractor pulling events. He says he lost his hearing because the events were incredibly loud (and being held indoors the sound was intensified); however, loss of hearing has not diminished his enthusiasm for tractor pulling. Webie is prepared to give 100 acres for a tractor pulling arena. He says an open-air space protects the hearing of young people who attend. Webie is also giving 100 acres for parking and the attending venues, and he is building a grandstand that seats 10,000. When I asked President Gustafson about this, he replied, "A big hand and a tip of the hat are due to Webie Nutts."

Possible sponsors are Ford, Dodge, International, John Deere, Coors Beer, Miller Beer, Taylor's Pride Chewing Tobacco, Copenhagen Snuff, Bib Overalls, and, lest I forget, Aurora Cannabis. When Webie Nutts heard about the possible sponsors, he said, "Go Fleet! We gonna have a high time!"

Men and Women's Catfish Noodling

Noodling? Noodling? Noodling? What can I say? Catfish noodling at Erskine College? It staggers the imagination! It is hard to makeup this stuff!

For some unexplained reason, no one is willing to talk about noodling. When I asked an old friend who presently serves on the board about noodling, he said, "Oh, Chuck, our meetings are now like attending a funeral wake!" He then went silent, and all I could hear was my friend sobbing into the phone. Finally, his wife took the phone out of his hands, and, after apologizing for his emotional collapse, hung up the phone.

I have a friend in Cajun country in Louisiana who has been noodling since he was a little boy. His name is Maurice Bourgeois. He and his wife Aimée live just north of the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge and near the town of Krotz Springs. Up on Highway 190, about 2 miles west to Port Barre, Maurice and Aimée own a strip mall called "Maurice's Fishing Camp, Oyster Bar, and Really Good Ethiopian Restaurant, Women's Hair Salon, Discount Liquor Store, One Minute Tax Preparation, Men's Hair Stylist, L'Acadiane Truck Stop, Law Office of François Bourgeois, Very Quickie Fast Grocery Store and Cajun Delights." When I was there, folks called Maurice's chain of stores and offices "Mauriceville," and it is the best place to get a mess of cracklings and boudin, a hot cup of café au lait, and a glazed beignets for dessert.

When I called Maurice and asked him about noodling as a sport at Erskine, he was ecstatic. He said, "It's 'bout time! They been doin' bass fishin' at LSU fer years!" He asked, "Do they have girls' noodlin'?" I told him, "As far as I know, Maurice, noodling will be a sport for both men and women."

Maurice's daughter, Trudimae Yvella (whose first name comes from her maternal grandmother who was born in Arkansas and was a Baptist), is a noodler. She has won numerous tournaments in Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Maurice asked me for Athletic Director Mark Peeler's phone number. Maurice said he needed to know when Erskine is planning to launch the noodling program. He said a scholarship for Trudimae guarantees a women's championship, and he is prepared to buy all the catfish caught in tournaments for Maurice's Fishing Camp, Oyster Bar, and Really Good Ethiopian Restaurant.

Well, I thought I had seen everything in Due West! Noodling! Noodling? I just cannot wait to see Trudimae at work again. The sight of a young woman with her arm up to her elbow in the mouth of a 61-pound catfish is not something one sees everyday! It is a sight one does not soon forget!

Men and Women's Alligator Trolling with Nutria in Louisiana

Now, the sport of alligator trolling with nutria in Louisiana makes ecological and financial sense. A nutria is a giant South American rat which was accidentally introduced into the swamps of Louisiana in the 1920s. Today, the nutria population is so large the nutrias are about to eat all the vegetation in the Louisiana swamps and coastline. They cannot be killed fast enough to eradicate them. No one can find anything the nutria is good for. It is not even good for food. I know; I have tasted nutria. The only thing a nutria is good for is being a 24-hour-a-day eating machine. Anything to help with nutria control is a good idea. So, let us give a high-five to the folks at Erskine for coming up with this idea for a college sport. It is ecologically friendly! Go Fleet!

Alligators were once endangered in Louisiana. However, those days are long past. Today, alligators are an everywhere nuisance. Control of the population is problematic. A sport which helps in alligator control will be profitable nowadays. There is a growing market for alligator meat and a luxury market for the hides for shoes, luggage, handbags, watchbands, wallets, and jackets. This is a money-maker! A cash cow!

I do not know how the sport of alligator trolling with nutria in Louisiana came to be considered at Erskine. I did my best to get an interview; however, everyone was reticent to talk about this. Finally, I found one person who spoke with me, but she said she would talk with me only if I promised to conceal her identity. And, yes, I will keep her identity a mystery. I do not want her to lose her job.

According to my source, in a late night brainstorming session, one of the administrators said he knew someone in Louisiana who had an idea for a new sport that would solve a problem and make a profit. He said, "Instead of following, let's create a new sport and be first for a change." Well, it was late at night!

The next morning a couple of phone calls were made to the Louisiana Fish and Game Department and to other state officials. They were simply beside themselves in glee. Help from South Carolina was on the way! So, alligator trolling with nutria in Louisiana is now under consideration in Due West. As one of the Erskine administrators is reported to have said, "This is a great opportunity. We can launch a new college sport for the Southeast. It now makes sense to begin recruiting in Louisiana. If the target student population in Louisiana is similar to what we have in South Carolina, we have a bonanza of potential students! Go Fleet!"

When I called Maurice Bourgeois and told him about alligator trolling with nutria in Louisiana, he called Trudimae over to the phone so she could speak with me. She was so excited! She said, "Fergit 'bout noodlin', sign me up fer gator trollin'!" Well, maybe she can be a two-sports athlete with two scholarship and get two varsity letters!

When I finally did get through to President Gustafson and asked him how catfish noodling and alligator trolling were compatible with and advanced the Erskine mission as a Christian college, he responded with, "Uh, well, un, and, well, uh, uh, uh, uh. What was your question?" Suddenly, I was speaking with his secretary who said, "Mr. Wilson, Dr. Gustafson is presently indisposed! Can you call him back next year?"

Earlier, I said this stuff cannot be made-up. It is not possible! It sounds too much like something out of a Flannery O'Connor story gone mad in a LSD parlor in Savannah in 1964. I thought Hazel Motes died at the end of Wise Blood, but it seems he recovered and is alive and well in Due West and employed at Erskine College!

Finally, in my last conversation with my unidentified source, I asked her how she was doing. She responded, "Thanks for asking. We are attempting to master the art of selling moonlight to a full-moon night sky as we slide into academic insignificance and the attending fear, anxiety, and depression of those awaiting execution by hanging."

These are my thoughts,

Charles W. Wilson

ARPTalk Erskine College Sports Rodeo Hat Trick Ranch Reverend Chuck Wilson

Football and Rodeo for Jesus at Erskine

ARPTalk Erskine College Sports Rodeo Hat Trick Ranch Reverend Chuck Wilson

A year ago, after conversations with President Rob Gustafson and others to whom I turn for counsel, I put ARPTalk into hibernation. The new administration at Erskine needed the time and an opportunity to put together a plan. Indeed, with the hiring of Dr. Rob Gustafson as President, Dr. John Basie as Provost of the college, and Dr. Leslie Holmes as Provost of the seminary, a new day was upon us - or so we hoped. With hope abounding, many of us asked, "After so many years of missional betrayal, theological deviation, internecine conflict with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, squandering of a lauded academic reputation, and mishandling of financial resources, are we witnessing the rising of the Erskine Phoenix from the ashes of disappointment?" Alas! No! The Phoenix story is a cruel delusion!

Football Ain't Jesus!

When the Erskine board met in Due West on Thursday, August 23, board members were greeted with a dark cloud of disheartening news. (1) Provost John Basie resigned after a short tenure and returned to his job and home in Georgia. (2) Former board member (and former Vice Moderator and former Moderator of General Synod) Steve Maye, who was re-elected to the board this past June at Synod (but after meeting with President Gustafson and others), resigned before the August meeting of the board, conceding Erskine is a hopeless cause. (3) Dr. Ashley Woodiwiss resigned from the college faculty in order to take a position at Lander University, thus dismantling the political science program and finally nailing shut the casket on the hoped-for Drummond Center. (4) A financial hurricane is rapidly closing on Due West and has grown from a category bad to a category awful.

In recent memory, Dr. Randy Ruble is the first Erskine president to broach the idea of resurrecting football at Erskine. Why did he do that? Simple! The recruiting of more students! Potential students were not buying what Erskine was selling academically and Christianly! Money to pay salaries and other expenses was need. Revenue from football players was the way of financial salvation.

Ruble's idea was castigated as ludicrous - an abomination to Erskine's mission as a Christian liberal arts college. The response was, "For a mess of athletic and financial pottage, Ruble is prepared to abandon both Erskine's storied academic reputation as a liberal arts college and her cherished heritage as a Christian college. If Ruble leads the board to do football, Scienta cum Moribus Conjuncta ("Knowledge joined with Morals") is lost forever. Football will lead Erskine into the abyss of academic insignificance, athletic ineptitude, and religious irrelevance."

Under President David Norman football was a taboo subject. While there were other issues, football was the undoing of both Acting President Brad Christie and President Paul Kooistra. This was the attitude: "We will not go there! We will not abandon Erskine as a Christian liberal arts college. Football is not a savior but a devil. Before we do football, we will shutdown Erskine!" Right now, Christie and Kooistra must be laughing themselves silly! I would be!

Well, if football were not a good idea for the administrations of Ruble, Norman, Christie, and Kooistra, why is it now a good idea for the administration of Rob Gustafson? Indeed, I asked this question of various individuals. I asked, "What has changed? How has football now become the the athletic-Jesus who will save Erskine from all her financial sins?"

Here is a collage of the answers I received: "Well, Chuck, you just don't understand. We trust Rob Gustafson. He's truly a good man. Unlike Ruble, Norman, Christie, and Kooistra, we can trust him to do the right thing. He will use football to get us financially stable, then we can return Erskine to her roots Christianly and academically. We can also use football as an evangelistic tool. Yes, let us all rise and cheer: FOOTBALL FOR JESUS! Besides, we are out of options. We don't know what to do. We are a failure as a Christian liberal arts college and are unable to sell our present product. There is noting left to do but close if football can't save us. May the football-Jesus save us!"

Well, these people to whom I have spoken are right that Erskine is a failure as a Christian liberal art college. They are also right that they cannot sell Erskine academically (for they can only recruit about 40 to 60 non-athletes a year). Now, all their former tough-talk about how they had rather close Erskine before embracing football is meaningless bluster and all the pitiful "Jesus-Jesus" talk about evangelism-through-football is nonsensical blithering.

What is the present condition of Erskine? Well, Erskine is like a man in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital who is on life-support and the family is unwilling to pull-the-plug. The signs of impending death cover him. He is jaundice because his liver has failed; his neural oscillations (brainwaves) are flat; his skin is covered with necrotizing lesions; his heart relies on a LAVD; he breathes on a ventilator; and he has black patches of uremic frost because of kidney failure. Whatever the heroic measures taken, this man cannot be saved from death. He is dead! The only things left to do are pull-the-plug and give the corpse a decent burial. In spite of all the arguments otherwise, the Erskine patient is dead! The heroic measure of football is no savior!

No question, President Gustafson is a good man. I like him. I respect how he stood up to Paul Kooistra and told him football and the sports model would not save Erskine. However, he has been given an impossible hand to play. Even now, he agrees that football is no savior - a pathetic "Hail Mary pass" in the last two seconds of a lost game. So, why is he turning to football? The answer: DESPERATION! Desperation drives men to do desperate things. Money is needed to pay salaries and other expenses. Erskine is broke! It is so hard to pull-the plug on a dream when it dies! And who wants to be the president who closes Erskine?

Yippie Ki-Yay, Buckaroos!

Presently, Erskine College is a failure. In spite of President Gustafson's longings for something different, Erskine is nothing more than a very expensive Sports Camp, providing a 13th year of high school sports (and nothing else) for a few naive athletes who have limited athletic ability and meager understanding of what the burden of $20,000 in tuition debt will do to their future; a debt which (as many of you are aware) will haunt a person to the grave. And, sadly, these young people will walk away from Due West with nothing to show for their Erskine experience but debt.
As of the August board meeting, here are the board-approved athletic offerings: baseball, softbalL, basketball for men and women, E-Sports, golf for men and women, CROSS COUNTRY for women, soccer for men and women, tennis for men and women, track and field for men and women, LACROSSE for women, volleyball for men and women, acrobatics for women, football, and RODEO.

As of this writing, according to the Erskine directory, the number of academic faculty (both full-time and adjuncts) is 49. The number of athletic staff is 19, but this number does not include the coaches needed for football and the other programs added (nor does it include part-time athletic staff). At this writing, the ratio of athletic staff to academic faculty is 29%, and, of course, this does not take into account athletic staff to be hired for new sports programs (and with an anticipated 150 football players, as a friend and former football coach says, "It will take at least five grown men just to keep them from killing and pillaging!"). With new coaches for football and other new sports programs (acrobatics, E-Sports, lacrosse, track and field, and rodeo), the ratio of coaches to academic faculty will be much higher. Indeed, the academic nature of Erskine is fading faster than Alice's Cheshire Cat. Indeed, Erskine is a Sports Camp with a want-to-be college! By the way, if it helps in finding a head football coach, I understand Urban Meyer may be available.

In more than one way, Erskine has become a rodeo, even with clowns. It is amazing the dumb things people say when they are desperate. According to Athletic Director Mark Peeler,

. . . The critical next step is to identify a head coach who will be thoroughly committed to our mission.

We will not compromise the college's mission or 'The Fleet Way' with the addition of football. We will integrate all aspects of this program with our core values-first and foremost we are Christ-centered. . . . (https://erskinesports.com/news/2018/8/24/general-erskine-bringing-back-football-for-2020-season.aspx)

Unfortunately, there is not enough sugar and mayonnaise in South Carolina to turn Peeler's words into chicken salad. Well, Athletic Director Peeler, let me ask you a question: is that what Erskine is doing now with the athletic programs you oversee? Do not bother to reply. No! is the answer. Your pronouncement is clown-like. Yippie Ki-yay! Go Fleet!

Well, what can we expect for this year's Freshman class? As usual! This year's class will be about 200 students (or 203 as reported on Facebook by a board member). The class is very athletes-heavy. I understand the number of non-athletes is about 50. From multiple sources, I also understand at least 40% of the class was accepted probationally. That is, 40% of the class is academically-at-risk, so do not expect to see them long. As usual, expect the retention rate from Freshman to Sophomore to be terrible at 60% or less - and look for less. Historically, from Freshman to graduation in four years, the retention rate is less than 50%, and I predict this class will not improve the percentage. This is easy to find; all one needs to do is look at the Freshman class size and compare it to the number of students who graduate four years later. Well, what do you expect when coaches do the recruiting? Besides, Erskine College has nothing to offer Christian students who are looking for a Christian liberal arts educational experience at a distinctively Christian college.

Now, with regard to the "Fleet Way" and the "college mission," Coach Peeler, what percentage of students fit the college's mission? Do you have any idea? Is it 60%, 50%, 40%, or lower? As an outsider looking in (but also as a former board member and one who knows a great deal about things-Erskine), I would say lower. Let us do a survey and see what we get! As you know, mission-fit students in Due West are as rare as a Wooly Mammoth. Indeed, this athletic recruiting emphasis is succeeding in driving away non-athletes and students who fit the mission.

In conversations with a number of former board members, when I informed them of football and rodeo, they said, "Chuck Wilson, you're making this up!" One even accused me of lying! When I assured them I was telling the truth, they said, "This is crazy! Why did we waste our time? Our dream of Erskine being the premier Christian liberal arts college in the southeast is gone! Erskine is dead! Our dream is dead!"

What Happened?

I think a sign needs to be erected outside of Due West, reading Dante-like, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here!" It is amazing how Erskine sucks all reason and good sense out of people.

I know Bobby McDonald. We have been partners in a number of conventicles regarding Erskine where we dreamed the dream of Erskine being the premier Christian liberal arts college in the southeast. In my presence, he has ridiculed the idea of football at Erskine as destructive to Erskine's mission as a Christian liberal arts college. So, how did McDonald come to make the motion for football and the other new sports programs? It is easy. Desperation seduced his reason and principles and extinguished the fire of courage. He became Mr. Faintheart.

We often hear of the "Erskine way" in Due West. I suppose the most painful thing for me to learn was the plan for football was formulated in secret and not distributed to the members of the board prior to the meeting. And this to the glory of God??

I call this the politics of disingenuousness. It is the good ol' Erskine way! Yes, business as usual!

Football, rodeo, and the other sports programs were not on the agenda. A large and complicated document was dropped on the trustees unexpectedly. Then Mr. McDonald said, "Here's the plan, let's adopt it!" When some board members complained they needed time to read a long and complicated document and asked for the vote to be postponed until the October meeting of the board, their concerns were brushed aside. Mr. Faintheart, the Nancy Polosi of Due West, responded that the board members should adopt the plan and read it when they got home! There is no excuse for such a maneuver! I have called Mr. McDonald. He did not answer. Well, at this point, I would not answer a phone call from Chuck Wilson, either.

A Financial Crisis Waiting

The "Trump Run" in the stock market has been good for Erskine. The Erskine Endowment stands at $41 million-plus. The problem is Erskine also has a debt-load of about $16 million-plus. That means the debt-to-cash ratio is about a whopping 40% and growing. And what I pen is actually a sanguine assessment! If I held the paper on Erskine's debt, I would be nervous and formulating a plan to recall the loan. Also, this means the actual monies Erskine has available is about $25 million. Now, $25 million is not a small sum, but now comes the pressure of football and other new sports programs (and let us not forget rodeo). And, yes, unexpected expenses will arise, and they will not be small. The kicker with the $25 million is that much of it is restricted monies. Here is the question: what is actually available for use? Three or four million dollars?

The financial news gets worse. From those who know, there is a $200,000-plus loan coming due this fall. I understand the "get-out-jail-free" cards whereby payment can be postponed have been used! Do the members of the board understand the seriousness of this? If the folks in the administration are unable to get refinancing (and that is adding more interest debt on interest debt), the board meeting in October will be a doozy. So, whose worried about the salaries of a of a bushel basket of new coaches? By the way, the salary of a good high school head coach is about $100,000, and are the assistant coaches going to be paid? By the way, at the high school where my son coaches, there are 13 football coaches (and they do not deal with 150 players).

And the news gets worse. Do you remember when Erskine was put on probation by SACS? One of the concerns of the SACS auditors was the long-term practice of large draws on the Endowment. The SACS auditors cautioned draws of no more than 5%, and the board concurred. Then how is it that the last draw was 7%? And I predict the draw this year will be 10% or higher. Alas! where else can the administration find a money tree apart from the Endowment? Good heavens, what is going to happen when the SACS-man cometh for an audit?

I asked an old friend to read my assessment of Erskine's financial plight. Like me, he is a former board member, and, like me, he was a member of the board's finance committee. He said, "Chuck, it is far worse than what you write! You have painted a rosy picture!" Well, I suppose I have grown soft! This is the most emotionally draining ARPTalk I have written. Perhaps I am mellowing in my dotage. This is for certain, I take no joy in these words.

Something Positive

Well, do I have something positive to say? Well, yes, I do.

Provost of the Seminary Leslie Holmes distributed a book of sermons by the seminary's faculty, entitled, Celebration. The first chapter is by Dr. Holmes and is a defense of Six Day Creation. I did not think I would live long enough to see someone write a defense of Six Day Creation at Erskine Seminary or College.

A Proposal for a New Day

I cannot take claim for the following proposal as mine. In a conversation with an old friend, he reminded me of something I had forgotten. He is the inspiration for what follows.

When I found my way into the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1972, the Dunlap Orphanage was still active. At the time, Dunlap was the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in ministry to orphans and other special children.

A few years later we found it necessary to close Dunlap in 1978. The closure of Dunlap, however, did not mean the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church had abandoned this ministry of mercy. The method of ministry changed.

Assets were turned over to General Synod and invested in order to provide for a new manner of ministry. Today, Dunlap "provide[s] care, support, maintenance, and education of orphaned, or fatherless or helpless, or needy children, and to support projects related to such children" (Dunlap, bylaws).

As I remember, many of us were disillusioned when we closed Dunlap as an active orphanage. However, the ministry of Dunlap evolved, continues, and is now greater and farther reaching than imagined. Last year, Dunlap distributed nearly $166,000 to nine ministries: 3 in MS, 4 in SC, 1 in Ethiopia, and 1 in Pakistan. Dunlap went from a small parochial ministry in Tennessee to an international ministry; from a failed ministry to an expanding ministry. Dunlap went from helping 40 or 50 children to helping hundreds - or even thousands. In my opinion, Dunlap is a noble and most effective ministry, far exceeding what was originally envisioned.

What is my plan?

I advocate the closing of Erskine in Due West and the selling of the properties before all resources are expended, attempting to resuscitate that which is failed and dead. Indeed, when a Christian liberal arts college is turned into a sports camp, it is dead!

However, I am not advocating for the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church to give up on education; rather, I am proposing a Dunlap-like solution.

The buildings and land are worth something to someone. After all debts are settled, a sum of $25 million remains. After an equitable settlement with the seminary, a sum in excess of $20 million would probably remain. Turn the assets over to General Synod for investment and the establishing of an Erskine Scholarship Fund for Associate Reformed Presbyterian students seeking to attend a Christian liberal arts college. At present there about 40 Associate Reformed Presbyterian students at Erskine. An Erskine Scholarship Fund has the potential of helping far more Associate Reformed Presbyterian students and without pilling up A huge load of loan debt on A student.

Whatever you may think of my plan, is it better than football, E-Sports, and rodeo, buckaroos?
These are my thoughts,

Charles W. Wilson
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