Wednesday, May 31, 2017

31 May 2017

“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


The Moderator for the 2017 General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) is to be the Rev. Robert McCurley, minister of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) congregation in Greenville, South Carolina, USA.

Mr. McCurley (44) was born on a U.S. Army base in the Reformation city of Augsburg, Germany, where his father was stationed for a few years as a linguist in army intelligence. His father subsequently became a minister and Rob grew up as a son of the manse. Conversion at age seventeen brought great changes and eventually led to a call to the ministry.

He studied at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, South Carolina, USA, gaining a M.Div. and was ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. His first charge was the OPC congregation in Bristol on the Tennessee/Virginia border. He entered the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) in 2002 and served in Smiths Falls, Ontario (Canada) from 2002-2005. He later moved to the new preaching station in Greenville, South Carolina and became its minister when a year later the preaching station gained the status of a recognised congregation.

Rob has been married to Jeannette for twenty-one years. They have five children: Calvin (20), Genna (18), ,Alexander (16), Thomas (14), and Sammy (8). Calvin is studying electrical engineering at university. The other four are home-schooled. He is a widely-travelled visiting preacher, having received invitations to preach in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Russia and various places throughout the U.S.

He is currently completing a ThM degree in the field of 17th century Reformed Scholasticism.

In his free time, he enjoys reading and time with the family.

The Board of Trustees of Erskine College and Theological Seminary has announced the appointment of Interim President Dr. Robert E. Gustafson, Jr. as 17th president of the institution.

“The Presidential Search Committee is convinced, after observing Dr. Gustafson’s seven months as interim president, that his gifts and abilities perfectly fit Erskine’s current needs,” Board Chairman Sam James said. “Our committee unanimously presented him to the Board of Trustees for approval.”

Gustafson began his work as interim president Nov. 1 upon the retirement of Dr. Paul Kooistra, Erskine’s 16th president.

Interviewed during the first few weeks of his tenure as interim president, Gustafson noted “the resonance of my leadership experiences in secondary education with the college environment,” saying, “Although I worked with students preparing for the college and university world, the daily routines, challenges, and issues of a head of school at that level are strikingly similar to my task at Erskine.”

As head of school at the Stony Brook School, Stony Brook, New York, for fifteen years, Gustafson was responsible for oversight of a $9 million annual operating budget and more than 100 faculty and staff members. He also served for five years as head of school at Jackson Preparatory School, Jackson, Mississippi.

“Rob Gustafson is a visionary leader with a history of effectiveness in Christian education,” Board Vice Chairman Tom Hellams said. Hellams, who headed the Presidential Search Committee, called Gustafson “a dedicated Christian with a pastor’s heart, a deep thinker, and a lifelong learner, ready to address the challenges of Erskine College and Theological Seminary.”

Erskine’s newly appointed president was educated at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va., where he received the bachelor of arts degree in religious studies; Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Mass., where he was awarded the master of theological studies degree; Columbia University Teachers College, New York, N.Y., where he was the recipient of a Klingenstein Fellowship Grant and earned a master of arts degree in educational administration; and Erskine Theological Seminary, where he received a doctor of ministry degree.

Gustafson and his wife, Marjorie Graham Gustafson, are the parents of two children.

Plans for Gustafson’s inauguration as president will be announced at a later date.

+ Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, 918 South Pleasantburg Drive Suite 127, Greenville, South Carolina 29607, 864-232-8297, Fax: 864-271-3729

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

Meeting last Thursday and Friday (May 25 and 26, 2017), the May meeting of the Erskine board was eventful, exciting, and promising. I pray it portends a bright future for Erskine. Certainly, the hearts of many board members were cheered by the events. As some described it: “It was the best board meeting I have attended — ever!”; “It is the first time I didn’t drive away from Due West frustrated and fearful for Erskine’s future;” and “I felt so good I stayed for lunch on Friday and didn’t get sick.” Well, it is a new day in Due West, and it is a good day for singing a song.

President Robert (Rob) E. Gustafson

Dr. Rob Gustafson, who was confirmed as Interim President at the March meeting of the board, was elected Erskine’s seventeenth President. President Gustafson’s credentials as an evangelical Christian are impeccable. The only criticism I have heard is from a couple of cranky students who were in a lather of emotional dyspepsia: Dr. Gustafson forgot their names! Imagine the indignity!!! Well, many of us suffer from the malady of name-forgetfulness!

As I survey the landscape in Due West, my heart sings, and let me tell you why. First stanza of my song: President Gustafson is an evangelical Christian who embraces our Philosophy of Christian Higher Education, is a member of an Associate Reformed Presbyterian congregation, and is unashamedly an inerrantist when it comes to the authority of the Bible. Second stanza: Dr. Leslie Holmes, the Provost of the Seminary, is an Associate Reformed Presbyterian minister who whole-heartedly espouses the theological commitments of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and has dedicated his life to an evangelical renewal of Erskine Seminary which sees the General Synod reaffirming the seminary as “our seminary.” Third stanza: Dr. R.J. Gore, the Dean of the Seminary, is an Associate Reformed Presbyterian minister who has soldiered faithfully and suffered much for an evangelical and orthodox renewal of both the college and seminary. Fourth stanza: Dr. John Basie, the Provost of the College, embraces our Philosophy of Christian Higher Education, knows the evangelical community well, (formerly an Associate Reformed Presbyterian) is planning to reunite with an Associate Reformed Presbyterian congregation as soon as he and his family settle, and can be expected to rebuild the college faculty to reflect clearly and embrace our Philosophy of Christian Higher Education. Fifth stanza: Mr. Sam James, the Chairman of the Erskine Board of Trustees, is a member of an Associate Reformed Presbyterian congregation and a solid evangelical who desires to see Erskine return to the mission the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church set for her (

The vote for the President was eighteen FOR, NONE against, and five abstaining. I mention this because of the furor of indignation which erupted on the secular alums’ FACEBOOK site when a communiqué from Erskine resulted in the ARP News reporting, “The vote of the trustees was unanimous” ( I suppose the communiqué should have read, “The vote of the trustees was unopposed.” According to Cliff Smith, the article has been corrected; however, I wonder how this got past his attention. Is he not in charge of communications coming out of Erskine?

For understandable reasons, three members of the board were unable to attend. The five members abstaining were Angie Grooms (the alumni representative), Jim Augustine, Chris Bethea, Rex Casterline, and Ann Marie Tribble. Good grief!! Why be a lampoon-like of Willy Wonka who agrees to serve on the Erskine board and then abstains from the vote for the President? There is no item of business more important than the vote for the President. One can only assume the abstainers OPPOSE President Gustafson, for they did not articulate their reasons for abstaining. If these people cannot support President Gustafson, they should resign from the board and not lurk in the dark like some kind of vampire-creature waiting to pounce. Their behavior is irresponsible. The only thing they can bring to the table now is a toxic attitude toward President Gustafson and his administration. As a former board member is fond of saying, “There is a special place in hell for board members who vote ‘I abstain.’” Indeed, a board member who does not know whether to vote YES or NO on the election of the President needs to go home!

From an Athletic to an Academic Focus

Since the time of former President Randy Ruble, at the end of the academic year, if recruitment goals were not met, coaches were sent forth to find warm bodies to fill dorm beds. This practice is how it came to pass the baseball team has a roster of 100 or more players. It is the policy of “Any dude’ll do! Don’t worry about the student-athlete’s chances of academic success!” This partially explains Erskine’s severe retention problems the last ten years.

According to President Gustafson, this policy is no longer tolerated. If the Freshman class is smaller, it will be smaller. Academic standards will no longer be sacrificed for a larger headcount. Perhaps, there is hope for Erskine College living up to her proud academic heritage. I hope so! The path will be challenging and treacherous. Hard days lie ahead for Erskine College. In order for Erskine to get healthier and regain her reputation for Christian Liberal Arts and academic excellence, she will get smaller before she grows.

Financial Considerations

The financial outlook for Erskine is not as bleak as many prophesied for 2016/17. A $100,000 deficit is expected. As I understand it, Erskine has a line of credit to cover this. The difference this year which is heartening is Chairman Sam James is dedicated to repaying loans. Well, time will tell!

The Annual Fund is down, but overall giving is up. Thanks to the “Trump Rally,” returns on the Endowment are strong. I hear the yield (excluding fees) is expected to be around ten percent.

Erskine Seminary Recovering

Provost of the Seminary Leslie Holmes is an Irishman who is a first cousin to the Energizer Bunny. A conversation with him is exhausting, and one is left wondering, “Does he sleep?” Below is some of what he reported to the board.

One, this time last year the seminary had twenty-five new students. This year the seminary has sixty-seven new students (and four are currently in the pipeline). Dr. Holmes’ goal is seventy-five new students by the time the Fall semester begins.

Two, the Rev. Matt Miller, former Pastor of Greenville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, has been hired to establish the seminary’s presence in Greenville. Mr. Miller has extensive personal, business, ecclesiastical, and political contacts in Greenville. He is not lazy or lacking in the energy and resources needed to accomplish his tasks. Personally, I expect to see good things come out of Mr. Miller’s efforts.

Three, Provost Holmes announced a new scholarship in memory of Dr. James (“Jim”) T. Corbitt who died May 1. He was a church planter, Moderator of General Synod, and Outreach North America director for ten years. This scholarship is intended to assist Associate Reformed Presbyterian students at Erskine Seminary pursuing church planting. Monies are being sought for this project, and I encourage the reader to consider donating to it.

Four, during former President Paul Kooistra’s time, he slashed the salaries of seminary professors by thirty-five percent and more in some cases. Dr. Holmes reported to the board he is attempting to raise $70,000 for salary relief for FY2017/18. This means a one-time bonus of $10,000 for each of the seven full-time professors. He reported he has already raised pledges or donations of $50,000. May I encourage you to participate in Dr. Holmes’ effort?

Five, Provost Holmes made it clear to the members of the board that Erskine Seminary is the seminary of the Associate Reformed Church, period! Present professors who are not Associate Reformed Presbyterians are encouraged to become Associate Reformed Presbyterians. Future professors who are not Associate Reformed Presbyterians will become Associate Reformed Presbyterians or they will not be hired. Erskine Seminary is about the mission and the theological integrity of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and not about employment for itinerating academics. In Dr. Holmes’ words, “If you’re not Reformed in your theological perspective, if you’re not an inerrantist in your understanding of the Bible, and if you’re not pro-ARP Church, then you are not on the faculty of Erskine Seminary.” God bless you, Dr. Holmes!!!

A final word regarding the seminary: I continue advocating for the separation of the seminary from the college and the relocation of the seminary to Greenville. As long as the seminary and the college are conjoined, the seminary has no way to control its financial destiny. As long as the seminary is located in Due West, the seminary is a 1956 cover photo on the Saturday Evening Post. It is a caricature of a quaint Protestant monastery ensconced in a little, out of the way, southern town and on the way to nowhere in particular. As long as the seminary is conjoined to the college, the seminary does not have a board whose first concern is the health of the seminary. As long as the seminary and the college are one institution, the college and the seminary are in continuous conflict for the same dollar. The present relationship is not working! It will not work!

Swamp Draining Underway

Years ago, a friend who is a consultant on raising beef cattle invited me to ride with him to look at a herd in Southwest Georgia. I noticed the cattle were small. I asked, “What’s wrong here?”

“New blood!” he responded. “A new bull is needed!” he continued.

If ever there was an ingrown institution needing a new and different kind of leadership, Erskine is the institution. The attitude of Belk Hall has been, “Presidents come and go, but we remain in charge! The President serves us; we do not serve the President!” Well, those folks in Bell Hall need to go. Bring in a new new staff with no connection to “old Erskine” and loyal to the new President.

President Rob Gustafson, Provost of the Seminary Leslie Holmes, Provost of the College John Basie, and Chairman of the Board Sam James are unlike anything Erskine has experienced in my forty-five years as an Associate Reformed Presbyterian. They are “new blood.” Frankly, there is not a single Erskine employee on former President Paul Kooistra’s Leadership Team who needs to be retained.

As I hear it, a number of “old Erskine” faculty members are not returning. Others are franticly pursuing employment elsewhere.

A new CFO is needed. It is no secret Greg Haselden has lost the confidence of the majority of the board and many donors. Now, before someone accuses me of hinting at malfeasance, I am not. As I said, it is a matter of confidence. Too many conflicts have occurred. A new face is needed. A new CFO opens doors for new donors — and perhaps regaining others.

There needs to be a shakeup in the Alumni Office. It is no secret Buddy Ferguson is in the pocket of the secular alums and no longer effective. Before the meeting of the board, a number of board members reported they received phone calls from alums asking them not to vote for President Gustafson. As one Erskine insider confided to me, a phone campaign was mounted out of Belk Hall to stop the election of President Gustafson. Well, does this explain why five board members abstained in the vote for the President? Well, if a campaign was launched, it was a failed effort — the equivalent of lighting a wet firecracker. As it looks to me, the “old Erskine” folks in Belk Hall sent forth steers, saying, “Go and reproduce!”

When there is talk of change and renewal at Erskine, the first thing we hear from the secular alums is “I hope the President will be positive in what he does.” Being interpreted, this means, “The President better not implement changes which reflect the vision of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. We don’t want too much Christian faith stuff. Just give us three dollars worth of Jesus! Give us enough of Jesus so we can sound religious but not enough of Jesus to change us!”

As it is now constituted, the Alumni Association needs to be reconstituted. The secular alums have nothing to offer a faithful Erskine. If they do not get their way, they threaten to withdraw their money and support from Erskine. Well, good! It is time start over! I think there is a Biblical passage which sums up these folks: “They went out from us, but they were not of us” (1 John 2.19).

Finally, if the employees in Belk Hall are not “pro-ARP Church,” are not behind the vision of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church for Erskine, and are unwilling to support President Gustafson fully, they need to find other employment.

The Due West swamp needs draining! It looks like the draining is underway!

+ Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, 918 South Pleasantburg Drive Suite 127, Greenville, South Carolina 29607, 864-232-8297, Fax: 864-271-3729

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

24 May 2017

“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


Dear Mr. President,

You are an extraordinarily busy man in the world's toughest job so below is a quick read.

Congratulations on your rapid success in securing the freedom of U.S. Citizen charity worker, Aya Hijazi, Mohamed Hassanein (her husband), and four other aid workers who were incarcerated on false charges in Egypt. You have demonstrated when someone really cares in the leadership saddle, matters of justice can be spurred toward favorable results in a timely fashion.

Now I pray you will quickly secure the release of the American citizen Pastor Andrew Brunson, who is imprisoned in Turkey on the basis of false charges of aiding in terrorist plots against that nation. This is an urgent matter. With your God-given gifts at leadership and negotiation, I hope you will cut through all the mud-like excuses that unnecessarily slow things down in the DC swamp.

On behalf of Andrew's wife, Mrs. Norine Brunson, her family, and friends, I request your decisive help. By faith, we thank you in advance for a job that we know will be well done.

Commendations again for your success with the release for Aya Hijazi among others. Amazing work!

And thank you for any and all help in the cause to free Pastor Andrew Brunson.


Rev. Dr. William Allen Church

Ambassador at Large for Humanitarian Concerns-National Clergy Council, Washington, DC

Rev. Dr. Church is a Christian Activist, a Biblical Ecumenist, Missionary to the Iranian Diaspora, Chairman of the Joint Academic Commission for the National Clergy Council, a Reformed Presbyterian Pastor, and Stated Clerk for The Reformed Presbyterian Church-Hanover Presbytery. He and his wife, Debbie, reside in Manassas, Virginia. He can be reached at

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

10 May 2017

“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


New Christian Observer articles for May 2017 include:

-- Mission in Korea: Then and Now – by Christian Observer Contributing Editor David Brand – A story about American missionaries in South Korea in the mid-1960’s;

-- Education and the Victimhood Mentality - by Christian Observer Contributing Editor Dr. Joe Renfro – Shaping the culture through teaching victimhood;

Plus, links to ReVision devotionals on the Fellowship of Ailbe website by Christian Observer Contributing Editor T.M. Moore.

The following is excerpted from “Texas Lawmaker,”, Apr. 29, 2017: “Rep. Randy Weber delivered a prayer at Wednesday’s ‘Washington—A Man of Prayer’ event, which was organized to honor the life of America’s first president, George Washington. It commemorates the events of April 30, 1789, when, after being sworn in at Federal Hall, President Washington, accompanied by Congress, proceeded to St. Paul’s Chapel where, as one of his first official acts, the president offered a prayer of dedication to God on America’s behalf, the event website outlines. ...  

During the ‘Man of Prayer’ event, as Weber took the podium, he asked—like Christ taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9-13—that the Lord’s will would be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. ‘Lord, Ty Kingdom come. Thy will be done on Earth here in the halls of Congress. In our nation’s capital, Lord, may Your will be done.’ Weber then proceeded to outline the ways that God’s will is not being carried out in the United States. ‘You say in Your word [that] the man who meditates on Your word is like a mighty oak tree.

Blessed is he who meditates on it daily,’ he outlined, referring to Psalms 1. ‘But Lord, we have endeavored to kick Your word out of public schools. We have endeavored to take the Bible out of classrooms, the Ten Commandments off the walls. Father, we think we’re so smart. We’ve replaced Your word and Your precepts with drug-sniffing dogs, with metal detectors, with uniformed police officers in our schools. Father, we’ve trampled on Your holy institution of holy matrimony and tried to re-write what it is, and we’ve called it an alternate lifestyle. Father, please, please forgive us,’ Weber prayed, becoming tearful, his voice breaking. ‘Lord, we have gone to killing the most innocent among us. Your servant Moses warned in Deuteronomy 30:19 for us to choose life so that we and all our descendants might live. [B]ut Father, we’re killing our descendants and we’re calling it a choice. O God in Heaven, forgive us, please. Lord, forgive our sins. Father, help us to get back on Your precepts, on Your path, to a true understanding of Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, Lord, let that please be us. Don’t remove Your hand of protection from us, Father, please. Lord, forgive us our manifold sins. In Your great mercy, bring us back to You.’”

+ Way of Life Literature, Post Office Box 610368, Port Huron, Michigan 48061, 519-652-2619,