Wednesday, May 27, 2015

27 May 2015

“But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.” [Ezekiel 33:6]

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” [Ephesians 6:12]

Presbyterians Week Headlines

[1] Two South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church Pastors on Trial for Their Lives in the Islamic Republic of Sudan

[2] World Renew Disaster Response Services Set to Respond to Texas Floods

[3] A Wish Granted: A Preview of the Erskine Board Meeting

[4] Majority of PCUSA Presbyteries Approve Directory for Worship Amendment 14-F Allowing Ministers to Perform Homosexual Marriages


[1] Two South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church Pastors on Trial for Their Lives in the Islamic Republic of Sudan

A 27 May 2015 The Christian Post article by Stoyan Zaimov titled “Two Presbyterian Pastors Face Death Penalty in Sudan, Persecuted for Their Christian Faith” reports that the Rev. Yat Michael and the Rev. Peter Yen Reith of the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC) (sister church of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church) are on trial for their lives for charges of espionage and blasphemy in the Islamic-majority Republic of Sudan.

Commenting upon the trial of the two pastors, SSPEC pastor the Rev. Tut Kony said:

“This is not 'something new' for our church. Almost all pastors have gone to jail under the government of Sudan. We have been stoned and beaten. This is their habit to pull down the church. We are not surprised. This is the way they deal with the church.”

+ The Christian Post, National Press Building, 529 14th Street Northwest, Suite 420, Washington DC 20045, 202-347-7734,

+ Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, Post Office Box 57, Khartoum, Sudan, 249-11-776-807

[2] World Renew Disaster Response Services Set to Respond to Texas Floods

After nearly a foot of rain fell on Houston and nearby parts of Texas on Monday night, World Renew Disaster Response Services (DRS) has deployed an early response team that was in the area to begin to make critical contacts, assess flooding, and gauge damage to homes and businesses in affected areas.

“We are in contact with government officials, community representatives, and other voluntary organizations that respond to disasters,” says World Renew DRS Director Ronald Willett. “As the flood water recedes, we will be working to coordinate within the response. We’ll focus on reaching out to those who are elderly, disabled, live in poverty, and are without insurance, or are otherwise unable to recover from a disaster like this on their own.”

In its current Spring Storms 2015 response, World Renew DRS is assisting homeowners after an April tornado in Fairdale, Illinois, and two tornadoes that hit Moore and Tulsa, Oklahoma, in March 2015. Just two years ago, a devastating EF-5 tornado hit Moore, killing twenty-four people and injuring 377 more.

This month’s heavy rainfall in Oklahoma and Texas creates a different type of threat, Willett says.

The national weather service issued a flash flood emergency when 11 inches of rain fell in Houston during Memorial Day alone, bringing the total rainfall in some parts of Texas to twenty inches since May 1. Rivers, spillways, reservoirs, and dams are at flood level in Hayes County, Corpus Christi, South Texas, and along the Oklahoma-Texas border. Some homeowners in Wichita were evacuated last week, and about 100 homes in Nueces County were cut off by a release of water from the Wesley Seale Dam. In all, more than 1,000 homes are thought to be under water in the storm area, thirty-one people have died and many more are missing.

In addition to early response coordination, World Renew DRS is exploring the need to deploy rapid response volunteers into the flooded areas as soon as they are accessible. These initial volunteers help homeowners by clearing trees and debris from their property, providing basic roof repairs, and checking on the safety of residents in their homes. More rain is expected in Texas later this week after a four-year drought.

“We will be sending a second early response team next week,” Willett says. “These will teams provide contact points with residents and representatives as the response progresses in Texas and Oklahoma.”
Give today to support World Renew's response to the floods in Texas and Oklahoma:

Or mail your check, marked "Spring Storms 2015", to...

World Renew US
1700 28th Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49508
Tel: 1-616-224-0740

World Renew Canada
3475 Mainway
PO Box 5070 STN LCD
Burlington, ON L7R 3Y8
Tel: 1-800-730-3490

World Renew is a Christian non-profit organization based in the U.S. and Canada and affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church in North America. World Renew has more than fifty years of experience in development, disaster response, and justice education with people who live in poverty. World Renew is a member of InterAction, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, and the Canadian Council for Christian Charities.

+ Christian Reformed Church in North America, 2850 Kalamazoo Avenue Southeast, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49560, 616-241-1691, Fax: 616-224-0803

[3] A Wish Granted: A Preview of the Erskine Board Meeting

Last year (the 2013-14 school year) Erskine ended the year (1) with two gay student-athletes outing themselves on the internet, (2) with coaches buying student-athletes at eighty-percent-plus discount rates, (3) with a pitiful and failed attempt by certain members of the board to hire a Baptist minister as president of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church’s college and seminary, (4) with the chairman of the board resigning in a huff at the May meeting of the board, (5) with a financial crisis that would lead SACS to place Erskine on “probation” status, and, (6) positively, with the hiring of Dr. Paul Kooistra as president.

The 2014-15 year began (1) with a gay Erskine student announcing his intention to marry his gay partner this summer in Charleston, South Carolina, (2) with a declaration of financial exigency, (3) with deep cuts in faculty and staff positions and steep reductions in salaries, (3) with a reshuffling of the seminary, (4) with serious questions as to the viability of the seminary - especially, the Due West campus, (5) with the elimination of the modern language and Bible departments at the college, (6) with Erskine being officially placed on “probation” status by SACS in December, and (7) with a sound Biblical statement on human sexuality that captured and continues to draw national and international notoriety.

The 2014-15 year ends (1) with a college graduating class of only eighty-nine May grads and twelve others for January and August (representing a retention rate of fifty percent), (2) with a seminary graduating only sixteen MDiv students from the Columbia campus and none from the Due West campus, (3) with the majority of the faculty looking for positions elsewhere (and, at this point, I know that quite a few faculty and staff members are leaving voluntarily), (4) with a lawsuit by former Erskine professor Bill Crenshaw finally coming to trial in June, (5) with the strong possibility of other lawsuits being filed by disenchanted former faculty members, (6) with total revenue presently less than last year (in spite of an outstanding Annual Fund campaign), (7) with a financial crisis still looming, with cuts of at least $800,000 mandated by the board and SACS this summer, (8) with Erskine still under the Damoclean sword of loss of accreditation by SACS, (9) with the homosexual controversy continuing in a May 21, 2015, internet article in Sportsnsite (, and, (10) with President Kooistra after a year still not having communicated to the ARP Church and the Erskine community his vision for Erskine College & Seminary.

According to the official calculations by the development people at Erskine, currently, there are about 1,450 donors to the Annual Fund. Remarkably, only eight percent (about 880) of 11,000 alums give a dollar or more to Erskine annually. The secular alums say the reason alums do not contribute to Erskine is because they are firmly opposed to the ARP Church’s ownership of Erskine and insistence that Erskine College & Seminary reflect the evangelical and Reformed values of the ARP Church. I say the reason so many do not contribute is because they saw through “olde Erskine’s” hypocrisy. They saw the deceptions up close. Recruits were told Erskine was a “Christian college” and when they arrived on campus they realized they were the victims of “bait-and-switch” recruitment tactics. So, they got their degrees and did not look back or remember. And, for the inquisitive, this is what I have been told by many alums.

The long and hard-earned academic reputation of Erskine College as a top shelf liberal arts college has been lost, and Erskine is now a jock college where most students are athletes. Secular alums and others say they will not recommend Erskine to their children because the price-to-value ratio is not there academically. Belhaven College, Covenant College, Anderson University, and North Greenville University have become the college choices of many ARPs who are looking for a college where the academic and spiritual are conjoined. An ARP minister who is an Erskine grad told me last week that he is sending his child to Furman University instead of Erskine because (and, with his permission, I quote) “I am not going to send my child to a college that is half-assed academically.”

The rumor in Due West is that through the EC Foundation the elite of “olde Erskine” are campaigning to get back on the board by promising large gifts to President Kooistra. The rumor is that former board member Dr. Richard Taylor is leading this charge. And, yes, this is the Richard Taylor who, while a board member, sued the ARP Church in secular court after the “Snow Synod” and cost the ARP Church over $100,000 in legal fees. But where was the largess of these people in the past? Erskine has been in financial distress for years. I am reminded of Proverbs 25.14, which reads, “Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.” Indeed, that well describes these folks! Indeed, they want back on the Board, and they are arrogant enough to think they can buy their way back.

Witness the following Erskine video from 1987: This was posted on the “Alumni for Erskine” Facebook site. This posting was provided by Mr. Buddy Ferguson, Director of Annual Fund and Alumni Affairs at Erskine. Clearly, his loyalties are with “olde Erskine.”

The secular alums want Dr. Kooistra and the members of the board to see this video ( This video reveals what “olde Erskine” was like. Well, Dr. Kooistra and all the members of the board are on the mailing list of ARPTalk. The wish of the secular alums of “olde Erskine” has been granted!! But do they really believe this video that paints Erskine as a Christianless college will impress a man who is a committed evangelical Christian? Richard Taylor and the elite of the EC Foundation who succeeded in making Erskine a Christianless college during their time at Erskine do not have a large enough bowl of green pottage to buy the soul of the Paul Kooistra who taught me at RTS/Jackson in 1976!

Well, did you watch the “olde Erskine” video?

What a failure for and distressing caricature of a Christian college!

I think the end of the video speaks volumes for the vacuous nature of “olde Erskine.” The video ends with three minutes of blank screen and static for sound, signifying the emptiness and the intellectual and spiritual incoherence of “olde Erskine.”

I well remember Bruce Ezell’s presidency as an ineptocracy. He had no use for the ARP Church and evangelical Christianity. Interestingly, in the video, he does not describe Erskine as a Christian college; rather, as far as he was concerned, Erskine was no more than “affiliated with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.” At Ezell’s Erskine, the God of the Bible was absent. His departure was not pleasant. He did not have a presidential portrait in the Founders’ Room until Randy Ruble commissioned Robert Wilson, Jr. to paint one at the beginning of Ruble’s presidency. This was more than fifteen years after Ezell’s departure. The board he served did not commission a portrait and no one on the board volunteered. Indeed, not many appreciated his stewardship.

The description of Erskine in the video as a “family” (and by other secular alums) is getting tiresome. Like many of you, I do not care for the word “family.” I have attended too many family reunions. Too many of those characters are crazy, strange, and need to be medicated, institutionalized, or imprisoned for everyone’s sake. My response is this: “Deliver me from family.” And, having communicated with many of the “olde Erskine family,” I say the same thing with regard to them. I do not understand their obsession with Hogwallopism (and, if you want to know what Hogwallopism is, see O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Pete Hogwallop’s exchange with Ulysses Everett McGill just before the baptism scene).

I am more than amused and amazed that former board member and former Erskine Alumni President Steve Southwell continues to post on the “Alumni for Erskine” site. He is cheeky. Are the secular alums aware that he voted in favor of the recent changes to Erskine’s bylaws? These changes weaken the alumni’s influence on the board. I wonder how he explains his support of the changes - or, perhaps, his unwillingness to oppose the changes!!

The slate for the board meeting this week is full. Obviously, the pivotal item is the new budget. As noted above, a cut of $800,000 is necessary in order for the Erskine budge to reach the five percent draw on the endowment mandated by SACS.

Academic programs have been cut to the bone. As noted above, the modern language and Bible departments have been eliminated. The music program is crippled with the loss of key faculty members. One can only wonder what the summer will bring!! Is the goal for programs to be driven by adjunct teachers, and will such a plan enhance Erskine as a stellar teaching institution? In the past, the language on the floor of General Synod is for Erskine to be known as “an outstanding Christian Liberal Arts college.” What are Dr. Kooistra’s plans to achieve this goal? Or, is Dr. Kooistra redefining the academic mission of Erskine without consulting the ARP Church? Does he see Erskine College as something other than “Christian Liberal Arts?”

The discouragement on the faculty is palpable. Twice this year the faculty has presented written documents to the administration expressing the concerns of the faculty members that Erskine has become athletically driven. With a discount rate near ninety percent for athletes and sixty-one percent for non-athletes, faculty members should be concerned. According to my calculations, the present athletic program is financially unsustainable. Academically, the athletic emphasis has negatively impacted the retention of students. Witness the May graduating class of only eighty-nine students which, from freshman to senior years, represents a fifty percent retention rate.

Recruitment continues to be problematic. The goal for this fall is for 220 freshmen, but, according to my sources, the number for the fall is presently about 190 students. Obviously, this means that thirty students need to be recruited between now and August. What is the plan? Will there be a return to the past method of sending Coach Kevin Nichols to recruit thirty more athletes by buying them so that there will be warm bodies to fill bunks in the dorms - and at what financial sacrifice? And what will happen when these student recruits and their parents realize the precarious current state of Erskine? Will they decide even at this late date to go elsewhere?

The divide between the seminary and many in the ARP Church regarding the MEDCOM Army chaplain’s DMin program continues. The mission of the seminary does not allow for the matriculation of non-Christian clerics; however, regardless of the mission, this has been and is done. In spite of all the rhetoric to the otherwise, this is being done not for evangelism but for the $300,000 the Army pays in tuition fees. Indeed, without this $300,000, the seminary would close its doors immediately. Nevertheless, even with the Army’s money, the seminary continues to run a deficit. Currently, the Due West campus is not viable: the FTE this year is only five, and there was not a single Due West MDiv grad last week. Clouded with uncertainly, the Columbia site is barely viable. Rent free in Columbia so far, what happens when the folks at First Presbyterian Church ask for rent (as it has been discussed!) commensurate with the space used by the seminary? Sadly, as the seminary of the ARP Church, Erskine Theological Seminary is now as irrelevant to the ARP Church as Erskine College is irrelevant to the ARP Church. As an Erskine Seminary graduate, the last sentence is very painful to write!

Is it time for the members of the Erskine board to join with the members of the board of Sweet Briar College ( With a student body about the size of Erskine’s but with an endowment of close to 90 million dollars (compared to Erskine’s 38.2 million endowment), the board members of Sweet Briar College made the painful but necessary decision to close the college with dignity. Do the Erskine trustees have this foresight or will Erskine College & Seminary die a slow and painful death without dignity?

+ ARPTalk Blog, 864-882-6337,

+ Erskine College and Theological Seminary, 2 Washington Street, Due West, South Carolina 29639, 864-379-2131, Fax: 864-379-2167,

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

[4] Majority of PCUSA Presbyteries Approve Directory for Worship Amendment 14-F Allowing Ministers to Perform Homosexual Marriages

In a 17 May 2015 video, Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons made a video announcement stating the following:

“Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

“It appears from unofficial voting tallies that amendment 14-F of the Directory for Worship in the Book of Order has been approved by a majority of the presbyteries. The approval allows Teaching Elders wider discretion in whose weddings they may conduct and Sessions wider discretion in whose weddings it may host. That discretion could include same gender marriages in states where that is permitted.

“It is important to note that the determination of what couple a Teaching Elder will marry has and will continue to be with that Teaching Elder. Likewise, the determination by a Session as to whose weddings a congregation will host remains solely with the Session. There is nothing in the amendment to compel any Teaching Elder to conduct a wedding against his or her judgment, nor a Session to host one against its judgment.

“The Book of Order in F-3.0105 encourages us to exercise mutual forbearance toward each other when we differ. That forbearance should show itself in respect and genuine care for each other. As a church the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has received much grace from God in Jesus Christ. We should extend that grace to each other in all gentleness as we live into this chapter of our common life.

“There will be additional resources to help us understand and dialogue about the approved amendment soon at”

+ Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202, 888-728-7228, Fax: 502-569-8005