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Guest Editor’s Message – Dean Turbeville Writes . . .

Saturday, May 1, 2010, 0:11
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[Dear Readers – The May 2010 Christian Observer Editor’s Message is presented by the Rev. Dr. Charles Wilson, Editor of the ARPTalk Blog and the Rev. Dr. Dean Turbeville, Pastor of the All Saints Presbyterian Church (Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP)) in Charlotte, North Carolina. Both of these Teaching Elders continue to fight the good and Godly fight for the future of Erskine College and Theological Seminary, which has seen a great battle arise between secularism and biblical faithfulness since the March 2010 called meeting of the ARP General Synod, the synod decisions reestablishing authority over Erskine and its Board of Trustees, and the subsequent usurpation by the secular courts of the authority of the ARP church courts. The following message from Dr. Turbeville to Dr. Wilson was published in ARPTalk 29, Article 5, on 29 April 2010. – Bob Williams, Managing Editor]


[ARPTalk] Editor : Dr. Dean Turbeville, a former Erskine Board member, is well known in the ARP Church. He is the Pastor of the All Saints Presbyterian Church (ARP), Charlotte, NC  —  Charles W. Wilson


Dear Chuck,

As men like to say in the South, you and I have “knocked heads” at times over tactical issues in our common concern to see our denomination and her agencies reformed according to God’s Word. However, I don’t write to you today to criticize you, but to thank you. Your reportage, while occasionally spiked with colorful language and humor, has been indispensable in keeping the men of our Synod informed regarding the mischief that has been done in our name at Erskine College and Seminary.

And you and I both know these are not trivial matters. In an age soaked in media-hyped scandal – scandals involving athletes, TV personalities, and politicians – we now have a real Scandal of the first order. While we might all but expect unbelievers to fall into wicked behavior, we now have a case involving ordained officers of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As far as the civil court goes, it is true that the lower court judge’s legally inexplicable decision will certainly delay the reform of our college. Still, whether by legal appeal or by sheer persistence through a much slower process, it would seem that our Synod yet has the ability to recover these institutions for the Kingdom. However, I am not most concerned about the issues surrounding the civil-court decision now, or even the ongoing issues on the campuses of the schools.

Of much more concern to any faithful ARP minister or elder must be what happens in the courts of the Lord’s Church. And what word can we use for what has happened but “scandal?” For over thirty years, faithful men in our Synod labored entirely within our form of government to see changes at Erskine. Questions were raised, prayers were uttered, memorials were passed, and admonishments were made. While much of it proved ineffective, it was honorable and constitutional action. Yet, within a week of losing their effective control of the college, liberals in the ARP Church trampled upon the scriptures by suing their own denomination in civil court! Again, we might have expected as much from unbelievers. But that officers of the church would even consider doing such a thing is almost unthinkable to me. Each of these elders (and a minister at the seminary) took these or similar vows, among others:

Do you accept the government, discipline, and worship of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church?

Do you promise to submit in the spirit of love to the authority of the session and to the higher courts of the church?

Do you promise in all things to promote the unity, peace, purity and prosperity of the church?

Of course, beyond the scandal that these solemn ordination vows were shattered is the even greater scandal that Holy Scripture was violated. I am struck by the Apostle’s aggrieved tone in his language in 1 Corinthians 6: When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?…So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. (emphasis added)

Yet, our own seminary professor had no shame in doing just this! As for his public defense of his actions, we note that the Apostle’s reference to “trivial cases” does not refer to those cases which the seminary professor deems trivial (thus allowing him to sue the saints for those reasons he deems important enough). No, Paul is clearly contrasting the comparatively trivial matters over which brothers sometimes argue with the weightiness of those matters which will be judged when the saints “judge the world,” verse 2, and “judge angels,” verse 3.

Our seminary professor should have known better than to try to carve out an exception for himself. Neither do elders have any right to do so. Chuck, back when I was in the PCUSA, I worked with several evangelical renewal groups within the liberal denomination to try to see change come. We were fighting grotesque distortions of the Gospel: same sex marriage, endorsement of partial birth abortion, open worship of the “goddess” Sophia, and a complete denial of substitutionary atonement in presbytery examinations. Yet in all those years of laboring for change, I cannot recall a single instance in which taking the denomination to civil court over any of these heresies was even discussed, much less done. Yet in our self-confessed “conservative, reformed” denomination, the “sue-the-church carousel” began spinning within a matter of days after the overwhelming decision of Synod to change the Erskine Board of Trustees, as the suit progressed with three different sets of plaintiffs. What an unwarranted effort this was to undo the will of God as expressed by his appointed church court! If a prophet were in our midst, perhaps he would say what another once did: Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate.(Jeremiah 2:12). Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet, and there is a heart-breaking aspect to this as well; namely, what a low and unspiritual view of the church is operative in these actions by supposed servants of God’s people! The Lord’s view of the church is that it is “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:9). To view your own church as an adversary at law instead of the Bride of Christ whom you are sworn to protect and nurture is deeply ignorant at best, and in all cases blasphemous toward the Bride’s Groom (James 2:6-7). Moreover, it is also rebellion against the King of Kings, and as such constitutes ecclesiastical treason when done by one of His sworn servants. And that would include those ordained men who administer these institutions and who allow (encourage?) this counter-insurgency against the church to be led by people they are in a position to check.

Chuck, we must pray now for the repentance of these men, for as you correctly asserted in your last issue of ARPTalk, at root, this is an issue of idolatry. And we are all subject to the danger of idolatry, not just those who worship at the shrine of “old (liberal) Erskine” or “academic respectability.” I must guard against making my own ministry an idol, and you with your on-line publications. Yet, we would want others to warn us if we evidenced signs of distorted loyalties and personal pride. And so we as a Synod should do no less for these rebellious men. And if, after such loving confrontation, they still will not repent of their sins and lay down their arms, they must be removed from the church and its leadership (1 Corinthians 5:5,13). If we are willing to discipline local sinners in our congregations, we must be no less willing to discipline men who hold positions of authority in the church or those who have “Dr.” in front of their names.

Thank you again for not letting the church slide into forgetfulness regarding her mission in the world and the stewardship of her own agencies. May God refine our gold in this crucible of struggle and crisis!

These are my thoughts,

Dean Turbeville

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