At its 2013 annual meeting earlier this week, the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church voted to approve several recommendations that reaffirmed the historic relationship between Erskine and its founding denomination.
The primary motion under consideration was a proposal to adopt language for an amendment to the Erskine charter. The proposed change language, which was drafted jointly by the Synod’s Special Committee on Synod-Erskine Relations and a committee of the Erskine Board, mirrored language approved by Erskine’s trustees at its May 2013 meeting.
The Synod committee made seven recommendations in all (outlined below), five of which dealt directly with Synod-Erskine relations. Only one (recommendation five) was made known to the Erskine board prior to Synod’s meeting. Recommendation six addressed uniformity of policy across all of Synod’s boards and agencies. A seventh recommendation regarding Erskine Theological Seminary was amended by the committee and requested trustees to consider its content.
After all the votes had been taken, the delegates of Synod offered a standing ovation for the reaffirmation of the relationship and the work of both the Synod committee and the Erskine trustees.
“I believe these results are good for Erskine. The relationship issues we’ve been addressing for several years now appear to be largely resolved,” said David Conner, chairman of Erskine’s Board of Trustees. He went on to add, “I’m pleased that the Board’s proper role was recognized by the Synod, both in regard to the charter proposal and the governing of the seminary.”
Overview of recommendations from Synod’s Committee on Synod-Erskine Relations:
Recommendation 1: Gratefully acknowledged the 175-year relationship between Synod and Erskine, affirmed Erskine as a valuable agency of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and covenanted to “maintain a close working relationship with ongoing financial, spiritual, and educational support for the institution.”
Recommendation 2: Requested the Board of Trustees of Erskine to adopt a similar statement.
Recommendation 3: Encouraged the Erskine Board of Trustees in its presidential appointment to “search for and hire an individual whose qualifications include a personal profession of faith fully and enthusiastically in line with Synod’s Definition of an Evangelical, subscription to the Standards of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and the educational qualifications, experience, personal skills, and fundraising background to accomplish the stated mission of the institution.”
Recommendation 4: Reaffirmed the Committee on Nominations in “selecting quality trustees who are competent, engaged and independent, and who meet the other qualifications currently required for Erskine board members.”
Recommendations 5: Approved the revision of the Erskine charter “to fully incorporate the charter change language approved by the Erskine Board of Trustees on May 24, 2013.”
Recommendation 6: Created a “uniform policy applicable to members of all its boards, agencies, and committees.”
Recommendation 7: Referred matters of consideration regarding Erskine Theological Seminary to the Erskine Board of Trustees.
One of the primary concerns critics of the proposed charter change have expressed is how Erskine’s accreditors will view the move. Erskine’s Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Brad Christie is not overly concerned on that front. “While the matters we are currently addressing with SACS do not relate directly to governance, this likely strengthens rather than jeopardizes Erskine’s standing,” he said.
While acknowledging that not everyone will be pleased with this outcome, Conner believes this step can lead to a stronger Erskine. “The language of this proposal is specific and provides safeguards and due process for all parties. The way in which this has developed has also helped to clarify and strengthen the board’s governance of Erskine. I am greatly encouraged about Erskine’s future.”