Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Erskine Issue in a Nutshell

Inside Higher Ed has published an article here on the issues at Erskine College and Seminary. The piece is quite revealing, in that the attitudes of those opposed to denominational oversight of the denomination's institution are clearly revealed.

Take, for example, William Crenshaw, tenured professor of English at Erskine College. He says, "There are elements of the church that want to purge the college and church of everyone who doesn't think as they do." In other words, Prof. Crenshaw believes that the ARP should not be allowed to define it's own identity by setting standards of belief. To paraphrase, "You (ARP) do not have the right to say what we (Erskine) believe or teach."

Prof. Crenshaw goes on to say, "We can't put dogma before questioning and still be an educational institution." In other words, the religious beliefs of the ARP are secondary to the "questioning" he does in the ARP's educational institution (Erskine).

The article goes on to attribute the following of Bradley Christie, faculty chair and professor of English: "Faculty members, he said, would welcome an effort by the board to attract more resources to the college, and welcome ideas from the board and the church. But as to the [Erskine Commission's] report's suggestion that the faculty are in need of much more guidance, he said that 'faculty never feel that way anywhere.'" In other words, the ARP is appreciated when they give us resources, but don't tell us what to do!

This sentiment is echoed by Robert Elsner, associate professor of psychology at Erskine, when he expresses hope that the Commission and action by the ARP would be an opportunity to improve the college, but not "in the sense of being told what to do."

After all, as another (unnamed) professor said "this campaign was not in fact coming from people who really understand church teachings, but from those who think they do." Make no mistake, peons of the ARP: this professor knows better than you! After all, he has a PhD and you don't. We are "extremists" who want Erskine to actually teach the doctrines of the ARP, according to this anonymous professor. He's not sure want the ARP wants, "except control."

There you have, in a nutshell, the whole Erskine controversy. We have professors who receive a paycheck from our denominational funds telling us we don't get to tell them what to teach. They are the ones with the PhDs. They correctly understand the teachings of the church. They have the freedom to do as they wish at their college and seminary.

In less than 48 hours, we could have a decision from the ARP as to how it will move forward with this problem. Will these professors who mock the ARP with their mouths while their hands extract cash from the ARP be allowed to continue to do so? Or will the ARP remind Erskine that, in fact, the ARP owns Erskine, funds Erskine, defines what Erskine is, and therefore has the right to enforce its own standards at its own institution?

Only time will tell.

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