Tuesday, March 2, 2010

3 March 2010

Presbyterians Week Headlines

[1] Christian Observer Highlights for March 2010

[2] Erskine Theological Seminary Called Out by Former Trustee for Admitting Non-Christians to DMin Program
(Extended Article)

[3] Syriac Catholic Church Patriarch Accuses Iraqi Government of Complicity in Recent Mosul, Iraq Murder of Ten Christians

[4] Family Research Council President Tony Perkins Disinvited to Speak at 25 February USAF Prayer Luncheon due to Perkins’ Criticism of Obama Efforts to End “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

[5] Seven Christians Arrested in Asmara, Eritrea, for Praying Together in a Private Home

[6] Botswana Dutch Reformed Church Woman Pastor Establishing New Church

[7] Traveler’s Journey Blog Article Highlights Dutch Reformed Church History in Sri Lanka and Features Photos of Historic Church in Galle

[8] Books on Atheism and Satanism Found in Raid on Texas Church Arson Suspect’s Home

[9] Presbyterian Church in Ireland Elects New Moderator

[10] Pulitzer Prize Winner and Calvinist Novelist Marilynne Robinson Interviewed in February 2010 Christianity Today

[1] Christian Observer Highlights for March 2010

New articles in the Christian Observer for March 2010 include:

-- Falling on Deaf Ears? — Why So Many Churches Hear So Little of the Bible – by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - writing about contemporary impatience with the Word of God leading to sermons that reflect congregational concerns rather than exposition of Scripture;

-- Original Sin and Education – by Christian Observer Contributing Editor Dr. Joe Renfro – how belief or unbelief in the doctrine of Original Sin influences educational philosophy; and,

-- A Lunch Bag That Was Multiplied – by Karen Gonzalez of ASSIST News Service - how God used the death of a missionary couple’s son to launch a program that feeds malnourished children in Central and South America a nutritious lunch and the Word of God;

plus, regular features including weekly Sabbath School Lessons and weekly Westminster Shorter Catechism Lessons by Christian Observer Assistant Editor Dr. Robert LaMay, and Daily Devotionals from T.M Moore.

+ Christian Observer, Post Office Box 1371, Lexington, Virginia 20110, christianobserver@christianobserver.org

[2] Erskine Theological Seminary Called Out by Former Trustee for Admitting Non-Christians to DMin Program
(Extended Article)

One of the factors likely being considered by the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP)’s called synod meeting of 2-3 March 2010 (for the purpose of presenting and acting upon the recommendations of the ARP Moderator’s Commission on Erskine College and Seminary) is documented in an article by former Erskine Trustee, the Rev. Dr. Charles W. Wilson, published 26 February 2010 in Dr. Wilson’s ARPTalk Blog titled “Erskine Seminary Now Matriculating Jewish, Mormon, and Islamic Clerics
into the DMin Program!
,” in which Dr. Wilson takes the Erskine Board of Trustees and the senior administrators of Erskine Theological Seminary (ETS) to task for admitting non-Christian clerics to the ETS DMin Program.

Dr. Wilson begins by quoting the ETS mission statement, “The mission of Erskine Theological Seminary is to educate persons for service in the Christian Church,” asks “How does helping to advance the careers of Jewish, Mormon, and Muslim clerics work to advance the cause of the Christian Church?,” and concludes “[T]he administrative leaders of ETS have jettisoned the stated mission of ETS.”

Dr. Wilson next cites the academic requirements (p. 81 of ETS catalog) for the ETS DMin program, which include the prerequisite of an MDiv degree from an accredited seminary or equivalent, questions whether, e.g., Muslim Imam training meets the required prerequisites, expresses concern that ETS’s accreditation is being endangered, and concludes that “the mission and the academic standards and protocols that make for a viable and respectable seminary have been jettisoned by the very people who have been called to protect them.”

Dr. Wilson next recalls serving on the Erskine Board of Trustees in 1998 when the DMin program for U.S. Army chaplains (from which the non-Christian chaplain DMin candidates have come) was begun, stating that the original contract with the U.S. Army, “had specifications that protected the mission and academic requirements of ETS,” and that “[t]he Army personnel at Fort Jackson who met the purpose statement and the academic requirements of ETS were admitted into the program.”

Wilson next references several subsequent contracts signed with the U.S. Army and asks: “Were these documents seen and authorized by the Board? What were the specifications? Who signed the documents? Did someone act on his own initiative in disregard of Board oversight? Was the General Synod of the ARP Church made aware of the specifications of these contracts? Who authorized the signing of these contracts? Why were the ARP Church and the seminary of the ARP Church not protected? The current Executive Vice President of ETS [H. Neely Gaston] has often publicly claimed ownership of the MEDCOM program? What has he wrought?”

Dr. Wilson next states that “…the witness of the ARP Church has been put out for public ridicule,” describes the issue as “aiding and abetting the cause of false religions,” and concludes that “our brothers and sisters in our Reformed and evangelical community see this clearly and are dismayed at us. This is not engaging the culture! This is aiding the enemy!”

Dr. Wilson states that non-Christians have been admitted to the ETS DMin program as far back as 2005, asking why the trustees and the senior ETS administrators have done nothing about the issue. Wilson asks: “Why have the chief administrators of ETS done this thing? Is it because they are theologically inept? No! Is it because they have knowingly and willfully betrayed the Christian faith? I hope not! Is it because they need a bag of money to support the institution? Yes! There it is! Money! They have sold the birthright of the ARP Church for a mess of pottage,” concluding that “…the educational services of Erskine Theological Seminary have been rented out to the highest bidder.”

Dr. Wilson asks several other pertinent questions including why sacrificial gifts to ETS given by Christians are being used in this way, why ETS is conforming itself to the inclusive policies of secular institutions, and whether this issue is honoring ETS, the ARP Church, and most of all Jesus Christ?

Dr. Wilson next recalls the orientation meeting of the Erskine Class of 2004 Board of Trustees, when in a condescending manner the board members were told by the Erskine President and Board chairman to not meddle in ETS details or the institution’s day-to-day affairs, but to stick to “big picture” matters. Wilson states that the Trustees have followed these directions for the past forty years to Erskine’s great detriment.

Dr. Wilson concludes the article by recalling the question asked throughout the article: “How do we respond to this?,” reminds the readers of the Apostle Paul’s righteous anger “…when the truth of the gospel and the saving uniqueness of Jesus Christ were being compromised or betrayed,” and prays for Godly wisdom and courage for the ARP Church when the time comes to address the subject issue.

Dr. Wilson then expresses “…an overwhelming sense of sadness over what ETS has become, and remorse over how we in the ARP Church have allowed this to happen,” and avers “Let us, in due time and with God’s help, do what needs to be done. But in the meantime, let us grieve and repent of our failure as a General Synod to oversee this once-proud seminary properly.” Wilson closes: “How should we respond? Weep.”

[Editor’s Note: A 2 March 2010 evening dispatch from delegate Don Clements published in the Aquila Report : http://theaquilareport.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1585:arp-called-synod-meeting-starts-in-a-snowstorm&catid=50:churches&Itemid=133

says that the major recommendation of the ARP Moderator’s Committee is to completely replace the current Erskine Board of Trustees with a smaller group of sixteen members, and that the bylaws be revised to contain “more effective policies to prevent further failures regarding financial integrity, conflicts of interest, integration of faith and learning, board training, and other issues identified by the commission. These policies must align with Synod’s Philosophy of Christian Higher Education and Erskine’s current mission statements. These revised bylaws shall be adopted by the full board at its May 2010 meeting, and subsequently presented to the Synod for adoption at its June 2010 meeting.”

Please read the referenced Aquila Report article, as this summary is quite brief and is missing many details due to publishing time constraints, and the Moderator’s Commission Report contained in the dispatch explains much more fully the recommended restructurings.]

+ ARPTalk Blog, wilson6114@bellsouth.net

+ Associate Reformed Presbyterian Center, 1 Cleveland Street Suite 110, Greenville, South Carolina, 29601, 864-232-8297, Fax: 864-271-3729

+ The Aquila Report, c/o Metokos Press, 211 Main Street, Suite 108, Narrows, Virginia 24124, 540-726-8223

[3] Syriac Catholic Church Patriarch Accuses Iraqi Government of Complicity in Recent Mosul, Iraq Murder of Ten Christians

A 27 February 2010 Assyrian International News Agency article titled “Iraqi Government Accused of Complicity in Christian Murders,” reports that Syriac Catholic Church patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan on 24 February 2010 sent a letter to the Iraqi prime minister accusing Iraqi government officials with complicity in the murder by Islamists of ten Christians in Mosul, Iraq, since 14 February 2010, including the killing of a Christian father and his two sons in front of his wife and daughter by an armed commando who came into their home.

Hundreds of the 15,000 remaining Christians in Mosul
are fleeing the city for their lives.

As of 28 February 2010, United States military forces fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom have lost 4380 soldiers killed.

+ Assyrian International News Agency

+ Open Doors USA, Post Office Box 27001, Santa Ana, California 92799, 949-752-6600, Fax: 949-752-6442, usa@opendoors.org

+ Icasulties.org

[4] Family Research Council President Tony Perkins Disinvited to Speak at 25 February USAF Prayer Luncheon due to Perkins’ Criticism of Obama Efforts to End “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

In a 26 February 2010 article titled “Air Force Retracted Invitation for Conservative Leader to Speak at Prayer Luncheon After He Criticized Obama's Position on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'”, Cybercast News Service writer Peter Winn reports that the Chaplain’s Office at Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George's County, Maryland, retracted an invitation to Family Research Council President and former U.S. Marine Tony Perkins to speak at a 25 February 2010 Prayer Luncheon after Perkins criticized U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama’s efforts to end the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell" military policy on homosexuality.

The Chaplain’s Office said Perkins’ comments made many who planned to attend the prayer luncheon uncomfortable, and that the Chaplain “wanted the luncheon to be inclusive for the entire base community.”

+ Cybercast News Service, 325 South Patrick, Alexandria, Virginia 22314, 703-683-9733

+ Family Research Council, 801 G Street Northwest, Washington DC 20001, 202-393-2100, Fax: 202-393-2134, Contact Page

+ Andrews Air Force Base, 1535 Command Drive, Suite AB-210, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland
20762, 301-981-1110

[5] Seven Christians Arrested in Asmara, Eritrea, for Praying Together in a Private Home

International Christian Concern (ICC) reported 23 February 2010 that Eritrean security officials on 18 February 2010 arrested seven Christians in the nation’s capitol of Asmara for praying in a private home, then took the seven to an unknown location.

ICC reports that the predominantly-Islamic country of Eritrea has imprisoned 3000 Christians for exercising their religious freedom, that the imprisoned Christians are kept in underground dungeons, metal shipping containers, and military barracks, and that several of the Christian prisoners have died due to torture and a lack of medical attention.

+ International Christian Concern, 2020 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest #941, Washington DC 20006, 800-422-5441, Fax: 301-989-1709, superadmin@persecution.org

[6] Botswana Dutch Reformed Church Woman Pastor Establishing New Church

A 25 February 2010 Daily News article by Aron Moreeng titled “Reverend Kgosiemang Establishes Church” describes how the Dutch Reformed Church in Botswana (DRCB)’s first woman pastor, the Rev. Mmonie Kgosiemang, was dismissed in 2008 from the church she pastored after it was alleged that Kgosiemang was not cooperating with the church congregation.

A group of congregation members had previously and unsuccessfully fought in the courts for the pastor’s dismissal, maintaining that the DRCB constitution does not allow women to be ministers.

A classroom in the Isang Primary School in Mochudi, Botswana, is the current home of the seven-month old New Revelation Church (NRC), now led by Pastor Kgosiemang. A recent benefactor to NRC, Mrs. Baba Whisler, says that the classroom where NRC currently meets is not conducive for church services. Mrs. Whisler is working to raise funds for a new church building through her acquaintances in the United States.

+ Daily News, Department of Information Services, 37795 Wellie Seboni Drive, P/Bag BR 139, Gaborone, Botswana, 267-365-3500, dailynews@gov.bw

+ Dutch Reformed Church in Botswana, PO Box 853, Mochudi, Botswana, 267-57-77204, drcbadmin@botsnet.bw

[7] Traveler’s Journey Blog Article Highlights Dutch Reformed Church History in Sri Lanka and Features Photos of Historic Church in Galle

A 17 February 2010 article in the Traveler’s Journey Blog titled “Dutch Reformed Church” provides a brief history of the Dutch Reformed Church in Sri Lanka and features two photographs of the historic Dutch Reformed Church in Galle, Sri Lanka, which currently holds services in the Sinhala Tamil and English languages.

+ Traveler’s Journey Blog

+ Dutch Reformed Church in Sri Lanka, 363 Galle Road, Wellawatte, Colombo 6, Sri Lanka, 94-1-236-0861, Fax: 94-1-258-2469, cnj@eureky.lk

[8] Books on Atheism and Satanism Found in Raid on Texas Church Arson Suspect’s Home

A 1 March 2010 article in the Religion News Blog titled “Arson Suspects Grew Up Together in Texas Church” describes the two suspects arrested for a fire at Dover Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, and who are suspected in connection with nine other arson church fires and three attempted church break-ins in Texas since 1 January 2010.

Suspect Jason Robert Bourque, nineteen, was an Eagle Scout and high school debate champion. Police found weapons and books on atheism and Satanism when the home where Bourque was arrested on 21 February was searched. Suspect Daniel George McAllister, twenty-two, was arrested in San Antonio,
Texas, on the same day.

The two men are childhood friends that attended First Baptist Church in Ben Wheeler,
Texas. Both are charged so far with one count of felony arson, each is being held on US$10 million bond, and both face possible life terms in prison if convicted.

+ Religion News Blog, Contact Form

[9] Presbyterian Church in Ireland Elects New Moderator

A 2 March 2010 BBC News article titled “Rev Norman Hamilton New Presbyterian Moderator” reports that the Rev. Norman Hamilton, pastor of the Ballysillan Presbyterian Church in north Belfast, Northern Ireland, was nominated 2 March 2010 by eleven of nineteen presbyteries to be the next moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and will assume the post on 7 June 2010 when the current moderator, the Rev. Dr. Stafford Carson, finishes his term.

The BBC describes Mr. Hamilton as “a well-known evangelical, considered by some to be on the progressive wing of evangelicalism,” who “became a significant public figure as a result of his mediation work in the Holy Cross dispute [2001-2002] in north Belfast.”

+ BBC, 201 Wood Lane, London W12 7TS, England, Fax: 020-8008-2398

+ Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Church House, Belfast BT1 6DW, Northern Ireland, 028-9032-2284, Fax: 028-9041-7301, Info@PresbyterianIreland.org

[10] Pulitzer Prize Winner and Calvinist Novelist Marilynne Robinson Interviewed in February 2010 Christianity Today

The February 2010 issue of Christianity Today includes an interview by Virginia Tech Professor of English Thomas Gardner titled “Marilynne Robinson, Narrative Calvinist,” which begins with Ms. Robinson describing her early-in-life strong sense of God’s presence and the people who taught her Presbyterianism in her childhood.

Gardner’s interview discusses several of Robinson’s books, including her 2006 publication of John Calvin: Steward of God's Covenant, where Gardner writes that Robinson shows “…the Reformer has been hidden under a caricature, known only as "an apostle of gloom dominating a gloomy city," his legacy one of "repression and persecution." Robinson instead finds three liberating themes in Calvin's thought, and in the preface and an earlier collection of essays, The Death of Adam (1998), she articulates how they impress upon her literary vision.”

Please read Gardner’s Christianity Today interview, and discover this remarkable author, Marilynne Robinson, and how her mature Reformed understanding of the Word of God is utilized in writing books from a perspective acknowledging a Sovereign God in every facet of one’s existence.

+ Christianity Today International, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188, 630-260-6200, Fax: 630-260-0114, mwhite@christianitytoday.com