Some alumni of Princeton Theological Seminary have objected to the school’s inviting Dr. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City to deliver a lecture on church planting and receive the Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life.
The objections center, not on Keller’s qualifications or fitness for the award, but on the stance of Keller’s denomination on women and LBGTQ people serving as elders and lead pastors. Princeton Seminary is the flagship institution for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and welcomes women and LGBTQ people to train for ordained ministry in the local church. However, Dr. Keller is ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), which holds to complementarian gender roles and traditional marriage.
Traci Smith, a Princeton Seminary alum and PCUSA pastor in San Antonio, expressed her outrage over the invitation in a March 10th post on her website. She says of Keller, “Spoiler alert: Rev. Keller is arguably the most influential pastor of a denomination that is very clear in its assertion that women should not be ordained to ministry. He (and the denomination he serves) is also very clear in its exclusion of LGBT people.” Then she continued, “an institution designed to train men and women for ministry shouldn’t be awarding fancy prizes to someone who believes half the student body (or is it more than half?) has no business leading churches. It’s offensive and, as I have taught my four and five year olds to express, it hurts my feelings.”
Princeton Seminary President Craig Barnes responded with an email to the seminary community. In it, he reaffirmed their commitment to being “an affirming place of preparation for service to the church” and stated that the Seminary “clearly stand in prophetic opposition to the PCA and many other Christian denominations that do not extend the full exercise of Spirit filled gifts for women or those of various sexual orientations.”
The PCUSA is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States, but its membership declined 37 percent from 1992 to 2013 while the PCA, founded in 1973, continues to be one of the nation’s fastest growing denominations. The PCUSA’s decline continued in 2014 and 2015, losing 5.25 percent and 5.70 percent of its membership, respectively.
Dr. Keller planted Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City in 1989 and the church has grown to more than 5,000 weekly attenders at three campuses in Manhattan. He also leads Redeemer City to City, which has worked to plant over 250 churches in almost 50 cities. Keller announced last month that he would retire from the church in July to focus on leadership in other ministries and pending congregational approval, each of the church’s three campuses will become separate congregations.
Photo courtesy: Wikipedia
Publication date: March 21, 2017