A friend recently wrote to me on Facebook (on my wall) to inquire as to my thoughts on the recent goings on between Erskine College and Seminary on the one hand and the ARP denomination on the other. I answered his inquiry off the top of my head more or less, and he commented back. His comments are the best part of the dialogue and worth reading. I thought I would post the exchange here - with his permission of course.
from Kim Payne to me:
Joel, I was wondering if you would give me your thinking about the current mess with Erskine. I have always appreciated your thought process and would like to add it to my personal deliberations. Thanks.
from me back to Kim:
Kim, Thank you for asking me this question. To some degree I think that the present mess is the result of many many years of tension between the ARP Synod on the one hand and the Erskine Board and faculty on the other. The long standing ARP tendency to dance around issues at Synod and Presbytery out of fear of seeming contentious is coming back to bite the Synod I believe. And there is the all to common passive-aggression that goes with this tendency - the "nice" and seemingly submissive public posture and then the dogged behind the scenes effort to oppose what was decided in public.
Also, as I think to some degree that we each have that feeling (which comes to being non-born-and-bred ARP folk) of not quite having a dog in the fight. In other words, in the necessary "fight" over the direction of Erskine, the old guard, on either side, communicates subtly that this is a family feud, and if you don't have a hundred years or so in the "family" then it's kind of not your fight. It's easy just to yawn and block it out of the mind. It starts all to feel so, well, trivial.
For my part Kim I have never really believed that it was the role of the Church as the Church to be in the business of undergraduate education. Perhaps it is the business of Christian citizens but not the Church proper. Thus over the last 21 years of my experience when Erskine seemed to be, well, resistant and adversarial, I have just felt that we as a Synod should cut them loose and let them sink or swim as an independent institution. I have never really understood the long suffering on the Synod's part.
Nor have I ever understood the mission of the seminary. It has seemed too me that there has been an undercurrent of fear or anxiety over the financial solvency of the school, thus the need to keep it open to the approved list for the UMC and PCUSA and so forth. I don't know how it is possible for the school to remain in harmony with our standards and be approved by the UMC. Makes little sense to me. On the other hand, I am not inclined toward a strict theological party line (with reason). After all, I bypassed the opportunity to go to RTS and went to Regent College instead. So, personally, I don't have a personal vision regarding a strong reformed/presbyterian emphasis. It has just galled me that Erskine Seminary has been so brazen regarding the General Synod. Childish I think.
As to the College, I think Erskine would thrive if it took more seriously the integration of Faith and Learning from a more consistently Biblical perspective. I know lots of evangelical folks like to diss Wheaton or Calvin these days, but I'd rather see Erskine go that route or similar than be where it is now.
However, if the Synod's view of inerrancy requires that undergraduate science classes teach from the standpoint of a "literal" six day view of Genesis 1, then I don't see the College having academic credibility (I don't think the real "literal" view supports the young earth "literal" view). I think there is some cause for concern there.
In the end what really bothers me most of all right now is the lawsuit, and the lack of firm action in light of it. This lawsuit has had the exact effect that the Apostle Paul said that such lawsuits would have. I think it is scandalous to say the least and that Mitchell needs to go, quickly. If he is a member of an ARP church he needs to be disciplined. I don't know the man, but when you taker public actions (such as a lawsuit - even if you drop it) you invite public opinion. So, in the end, if it were up to me, I'd cut both institutions loose and let them find their own way. Joel
Kim back to me:
Thanks Joel. You and I are of like mind which is really scary or good, not sure which. In my background I would use Covenant college as the standard measurement for integration. Belhaven, Geneva and Grove City would also be helpful. As I told the coming moderator, I have no clue how not to integrate my disciplines. It is just a part of what I am and what I've been taught. However, some would say indoctrinated.
I believe the Genesis deal is a contrivance of those who are creating fear that EC become a bible college or Bob Jones. I do know there would be some heat and light from this as there is in the PCA now but I don't think it is "just" 24 hr. that is being demanded. If so, I too would have a problem with it.
You and I both are red headed step children to EC etc. I have never felt so disrespected as I have in reading some of the vitriol hurled at the ministers in this battle. Respect of the ministers was one of the hallmarks I found as I moved into the ARPC. I know it may be a vocal small minority but it is disturbing.
I would not be sad to see them go. To me, they are the sacred cow that made the temptation to be nice so appealing. I understand history, by not really having one. I know how important roots are. Yet, I can't help but see the "Idolatry" that Chuck Wilson is speaking of. Offensive, yet true.
Oh well, in a couple of weeks I will gather a couple of good friends near to me and go get a beer and bitch or marvel at how things are working. I am hopeful with the new president. I do hope he is a man who will not falter in staying the course. It is encouraging to hear the full board voted unanimously.
Now, if only we could get to the point of getting rid of the lawsuit. It has truly been an embarrassment to me and to the Lord and the church. I'm sure we can work to the other side of this morass but I do fear the fallout as it pertains to our unity (of which it may have been a false unity) and our ability to move forward with the Gospel as our cry and not "Erskine or nothing else".
I appreciate you my friend. I wish we had been able to be closer over the years but I still love you and your family. Be well and blessed. Take care. Kim"