Christian College Trustee Withdraws Suit Against Founding Denomination

The chairman of Erskine College and Seminary's board of trustees has withdrawn his lawsuit against the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in compliance with the decision of the school's executive committee.

Though the Erskine executive committee, in a motion approved last Thursday, said it "believes the actions of General Synod … were unjustified and violated the applicable laws of the State of South Carolina, the Erskine College Bylaws, and the governing documents of the ARP Synod," it said "for the unity, peace, purity, and prosperity of the church we are instructing the chairman to withdraw the legal action."

"We do not intend to bring further legal action," the committee added.

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The actions that led to the suit included the General Synod's dismissal of 14 members of Erskine's 30-member board and appointment of 14 more to form a new, interim board that would be tasked to revise the school's bylaws.

The synod had stepped in to make the change after a specially formed committee presented a report on what it found as it investigated reports of doctrinal drift among the faculty both in the liberal arts college and in the denomination's seminary.

Shortly after the report was made public, the denomination's highest court voted 2-1 to replace the existing board of the college and seminary with a board more likely to reflect the denomination's more conservative stance.

While the school was established by the Associate Reformed Synod of the South as an academy for men in 1839, it has since grown to become its own organization and today reportedly receives only about two percent of its income through the denomination.

Still, the denomination took up the task of intervening in the direction of the 170-year-old school – a move that led not only to a lawsuit from board chairman Mitchell, but also one from the Erskine College Alumni Association and the board members that were removed.

In a report this week, Hendricks said the college was aware that the Alumni Association and three Trustees have hired counsel and that counsel has filed suit, but made clear that the move is independent of any action by the institution.

"That suit is seeking much of the same relief sought in the earlier suit," he commented.

Hendricks also said in conjunction with the new action filed, a temporary restraining order was issued that would preclude the moderator of the General Synod of the ARP Church from convening the interim board.

Despite all the legal action, controversy, misreports, and the probes by the school's two accrediting bodies, Hendricks said the college and seminary are going about business as usual.

"Erskine has not changed over the past two weeks - only the amount of attention we've received in the media," he reported.

Located in Due West, S.C., Erskine College presently has 40 full-time faculty and nearly 600 students.

Its president since 2006, Randall T. Ruble, is coming to the end of his tenure and on July 1 will begin his second retirement.

The school, meanwhile, is still in the process of seeking its fifteenth president, who the school says - among other requirements - will be "an evangelical Christian with a personal commitment to reformed principles as expressed in the Westminster Confession and the Larger and Shorter Catechism."

The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, which founded Erskine, is a small theologically and socially conservative denomination considered to be one of the oldest denominations in the United States.

Some 30,000 members in over 200 congregations make up the church body.

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