Called Meeting of
the Associate Reformed Presbyterian General Synod
The rare called meeting of the ARP General Synod on March 2 – 3 at the Bonclarken Conference Center, Flat Rock, NC, will no doubt be remembered not only as a historic occasion, but also for the snow storm that caused some delegates to stay home. A fast moving storm system swept across the Blue Ridge Mountains, bringing heavy snow and high winds on Tuesday resulting in around five inches of snow.
Delegates who waited until afternoon to make their way up the mountain found that the roads were becoming treacherous. Some slipped and slid a little, while other had to be pulled out of ditches. After successfully making the trip, many wondered if there would even be a quorum present to vote.
The reason for the called meeting by the Moderator of Synod, Dr. John R. de Witt, was to receive and act on the findings and recommendations of the Moderator’s Commission on Erskine College and Theological Seminary.
The meeting convened in the Bonclarken Chapel at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Prayers were offered up and Principal Clerk Ron Beard declared that there was a quorum present. Commission member Ken Wingate presented the approximately 30-minute report. He stated, “Erskine is often referred to as a “family,” and as a family, we need to talk about some “sore” issues – then move forward in peace and unity.”
He emphasized focusing on Erskine’s place in a noble tradition of higher education – and responding to the question, “Why have a called meeting?” He pointed to the fact that reporting on the issue as soon as possible was beneficial for the institution, and so the new president of Erskine can effectively lead the college and seminary without this issue “looming” in the background.
“We are here today to talk about weak spots,” he said. “But there are many bright spots. Today, let us choose to build up this house, instead of tearing it down, citing Ephesians 2:4.
The evening worship service included a message by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, pastor of First Presbyterian Church (ARP), Columbia, SC. He asked the question, “What Does Jesus Want Most Of All?” (John 17:20-26).
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
The morning session began on Wednesday with special thanks to Chip Sherer for all the preparations made by he and the Bonclarken staff to make the meeting possible. Appreciation was also expressed to Tom Patterson for providing the organ accompaniment for Synod’s worship in song.
Synod opened in the Bonclarken Chapel with 204 ministers and 80 ruling elders present. The worship service was led by Vice Moderator Stephen Maye. “Give preference to one another in honor,” he said. “Conduct business today ‘quorum Deo’ – in the presence of God. Don’t compromise your principles. Hold to your convictions, but as gentle men.
“Care about the truth of the Gospel. Truth without doctrine is not biblical love. Every one of you has stood before the almighty God and people and you have taken a sacred oath for the peace, purity and prosperity of God’s church. Let us conduct God’s business here today with passion and zeal. Lord, give us godly wisdom and resolve the issues presented today to your glory.”
The Synod sang “All Christians Rise and Sing.”
The morning business session began at 9 a.m.
The principal clerk declared a quorum to be present.
The business session began with the reading of the four recommendations of the special commission. As the recommendations of a commission need no second, the recommendations were put before the Synod for consideration.
Joseph Patrick, vice-chairman of the Erskine College Board of Trustees, offered prayer and addressed the Synod with the board’s response to the commission’s report.
The Rev. Ray Cameron spoke to the Synod with regard to the “Resolution” adopted by Erskine’s Board of Trustees, Feb. 19, 2010, in response to the commission’s report.
Mr. Patrick presented the Board of Trustees response to specific charges made in the commission’s presentation.
Bill Patrick, counsel to Erskine College, presented further arguments with regard to the Board’s position.
Mr. Wingate continued to answer questions from the floor.
After the question and answer session ended, statements were heard from: Erskine College Board member Lisa Robinson Senn; Erskine President Randal T. Ruble; Alvin Sell, father of two Erskine students, and Erskine Student Government Association President Jessica Gregg.
The afternoon session began at 1:15 p.m. with a prayer, led by Reading Clerk Charles Edgar.
The Principal Clerk declared a quorum to be present.
Woody O’Cain, vice president for Enrollment; Daisy Smith, president of the Erskine College Student Christian Association; and Erskine professor Dr. William Evans presented their statements.
The following recommendations were presented and a motion carried to take the recommendations item by item.
1. Restructuring the Board: The bylaws of the Board of Trustees shall be revised by a committee of five members: current board chairman Scott Mitchell, current board vice-chairman Joe Patrick, and Commission members, Bill Marsh, Roger Wiles, and Ken Wingate. These bylaws shall include: that the composition of the board shall be 16 members (five classes of three plus the current Moderator) and 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.
Recommendation #1 – Restructuring the Board was opened for debate.
The recommendation passed 204 to 68.
2. Replacement Interim Board: The current trustees shall be removed and replaced by the following individuals: William Anderson, William L. Barron, John Basie, Adam Bloom, Julia T. Boyd, William S. Cain, Raymond Cameron, Fredrick Carr, James T. Corbitt, Dixon Cunningham, Joseph W. Donahue, Charles B. Evans, William B. Everett, William R. Folks, David R. Johnston, Morrison V. Lawing, Marlo L. McDonald, William C. Marsh, Steven J. Maye, James F. Mitchell, Scott Mitchell, Paul D. Mulner, Deborah Neil, Joseph H. Patrick, Gordon S. Query, Glen Robinson, George S. Robinson, Steven Suits, Roger N. Wiles, R. Boyce Wilson. The interim board will also include the four ex-officio members per the current bylaws. The Moderator of the ARP Church shall convene the interim board.
Recommendation #2 – Replacement Interim Board was open for debate.
Following a failed amendment, another amendment carried to add the following sentence to
Recommendation #2: The current Board shall be commended for their work to date, and
assured that dismissal is not based on personal failure, but systemic problems.
The recommendation, as amended, passed 173 to 96.
3. Nominations Process: The revised bylaws shall strike the second sentence of Article II, paragraph 3 of the current bylaws regarding nominations to Synod’s committee on nominations. Likewise, the following portions of the “Guidelines For Committee on Nominations” (Manual of Authorities and Duties, 2008, p. 84-85) shall be changed: guideline 5 shall be amended to read, “Prospective nominees are contacted to confirm their willingness to serve.”; guideline 8(h) shall be removed. Nominations for Erskine trustees shall be made annually by a special committee consisting of the then-current moderator and the four immediate past moderators, based on the new criteria for trustees. The recommendations of this committee shall annually be presented to the General Synod at its stated meeting.
Recommendation #3 – An amendment was proposed and adopted to strike “Nominations”
from third sentence and replaced with “Recommendations;” and strike “General Synod at its
stated meeting from the last sentence, replacing it with “Synod’s Committee on Nominations.”
The recommendation as amended passed on a voice vote.
4. Criteria for Trustees: The special committee for the nomination of Erskine trustees will adopt the following criteria for potential trustees: The board must consist of individuals who are competent, engaged, and independent. Trustees shall include individuals who are knowledgeable in different areas such as accounting, business, education, ethics, finance, law, ministry and theology, and who subscribe to the mission of Erskine College and Seminary as set forth in its mission statements. Such individuals should be able and willing to be adequately engaged in the life of the institution to guide and monitor its achievement of the stated mission. Such individuals must be sufficiently independent of the administration and faculty to bring a healthy balance of support and oversight. All trustees must subscribe to Synod’s definition of an evangelical Christian.
Recommendation #4 – to strike the word “nomination” from the first sentence and replace with
The recommendation as amended passed by a voice vote.
The meeting adjourned with a closing prayer by Rev. John Cook, and the benediction was pronounced by Dr. de Witt.