The Rev. Andrew K. Putnam, Moderator of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) General Synod, spoke to Erskine College and Seminary students, faculty and staff Feb. 14 at the Due West ARP Church.
Putnam, who said he has worn many hats, outlined his connections with Erskine—as a graduate of Erskine Theological Seminary, as an ARP minister, as this year’s moderator of the school’s founding denomination, as a member of the Erskine Board of Trustees and as the father of Erskine College sophomore Katie Putnam.
While he was in seminary, Putnam lived in Due West for more than three years and even served as a police officer, working third shift. He joked about some of the activities that job entailed.
“I was the one who chased horses through town at 2 a.m. in the patrol car with the blue lights flashing,” he said. “I got to know what goes on in Due West after midnight.”
The first portion of Putnam’s address focused on “what the ARP Church wants for Erskine.” Stressing that he could not speak for all members of the denomination, he stated first what he believes the ARP Church does not want. “Clearly, it is not the desire of Synod to turn Erskine into a Bible school.”
But, he added, neither does Synod wish Erskine to become just another small liberal arts college where “if you want to find God, He’s in the Bible department.”
At Erskine, there should be “a seamless fusion of Christian faith and education,” he said.
“We want Erskine to be Erskine,” Putnam added. “We want Erskine to be something special.”
For the second portion of his talk, the moderator took as his text Matthew 28:18-20, often called “the great commission,” spotlighting verse 19—“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”— and drawing attention to one word in the verse, “Go.”
Calling on a little of what he learned in his Greek class at seminary, Putnam said the word “Go” in verse 19 is “not an imperative, not a question—it’s an aorist participle,” so that the meaning is more like “as you are going,” or “as you go.”
The moderator urged students, “As you are going about your life, make disciples…Wherever you’re going, model Jesus Christ.”
“There are great things going on at Erskine,” the moderator said, and thanked the faculty, administration, alumni and donors. “When we get this right, can we imagine the impact we’ll have on this world?”
Putnam said his daughter Katie recently went on a short-term medical mission trip to Kenya, and wore Erskine shirts while she was there. When she got off the bus in the place she was to work in a clinic, a missionary saw her shirt and said, “Erskine! My wife went there.”
The Erskine experience should give students “education to excel and the faith that goes with it to make you a whole person,” the moderator said.
“You can fulfil that ‘great commission’ in ways you can’t even begin to imagine—’as you go.'”
Erskine Chaplain Paul Patrick conducted the worship service, and the Erskine Gospel Choir sang “I’ll Fly Away,” accompanied by alumna Tobe Frierson, interim director of admissions. Assistant Professor of Music Dr. Brad Parker served as pianist.