When the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP) met from June 5-7, 2012, at Bonclarken Conference Center in Flat Rock, NC, discussion was dominated by one thing: Erskine.
Erskine refers to Erskine College and its related Erskine Theological Seminary in Due West, SC, governed by a Board of Trustees whose relationship with the ARP General Synod has been strained in recent years.
Founded by the ARP in 1839, Erskine has a long Reformed tradition that has survived nearly 175 years, including financial ruin caused by the Civil War. The strain in recent years has arisen from a perceived drift from the school’s Reformed moorings. Recent controversy centers specifically on who has authority to remove Board members, an issue that was not resolved at the 2012 General Synod.
The denomination currently has the authority to secure Board members, and the 2011 General Synod had asked that the Board change its by-laws and charter to allow for denominational dismissal of Board members “with cause.” In February of 2012, the Board of Trustees did not acquiesce to that request. It was reported at the 2012 General Synod, however, that the Board has since received additional information and a new ad hoc committee has been formed to study the matter.
The 2012 General Synod’s prolonged discussion and complex actions on the Erskine issue included re-voting and a challenge to the moderator. Unity came on this divisive issue following a two-part motion by a former moderator, Steve Maye. The first part commended Erskine for its willingness to study the issue further and to report its findings at the 2013 General Synod. The second part asked the moderator to appoint a committee to similarly study the matter and report to Synod in 2013. The motion was “overwhelmingly approved,” according to Daniel Wells on the Aquila Report ((http://theaquilareport.com).
“Mr. Maye gave a moving speech of his love for men who may oppose him on these issues. He concluded that if we can’t see Erskine become a faithful institution after a year, then the two institutions should separate and let Erskine be Erskine and the ARP Church be the ARP Church so that peace would reign,” Wells wrote. “Thus, the Erskine story will continue for at least another year with Synod funding an institution that is currently in search for its identity as either an agency of the church or as an external body with a historical affiliation with the ARP Church.”
A highly publicized comment from the recent ARP General Synod originated in retiring moderator Andrew Putnam’s “Wolves” sermon (based on Acts 20:28-32) at the opening service, in which he said that “there are wolves in this very room” seeking to “pervert the gospel.”
As incoming moderator, Dr. Steven Suits chose the lordship of Christ as Synod’s theme. “There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “And we have no higher calling than to know him as Lord and to make him known as Lord.”
In other business, the ARP 2012 General Synod approved an amended overture affirming Adam and Eve’s unique creation and rejecting evolutionary theories regarding their origin. An unusual recommendation to dissolve a presbytery was referred to the Executive Board for reconsideration.
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 8-9 of the August 1, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.