Dr. Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, was slated to give a lecture on British theologian and missiologist Lesslie Newbigin and receive the Abraham Kuyper Award for Theology and Public Life at Princeton Seminary. Today, Princeton Seminary President Craig Barnes announced that the school would not present the award to Keller, but would still invite him to give a lecture.
In an email to the Seminary community Barnes said the decision reflected a concern that presenting Keller with the award would be confused with an endorsement of the Presbyterian Church in America’s teaching that the office of elder is limited to men. Princeton Seminary is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), which is committed to ordaining women and LBGTQ people into the ministry.
Barnes faced mounting pressure in recent weeks from alumni to rescind the invitation. Rev. Traci Smith, a PCUSA pastor in San Antonio, wrote on her blog on March 10, “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.”
Barnes heard her concerns and others like them and responded by not giving the award, but allowing the invitation to lecture to stand. “We are a community that does not silence voices in the church. In this spirit we are a school that can welcome a church leader to address one of its centers about his subject, even if we strongly disagree with his theology on ordination to ministry. Reverend Keller will be lecturing on Lesslie Newbigin and the mission of the church – not on ordination.”
Smith welcomed the news, calling it “a great compromise.” “Well done, President Barnes. I appreciate this response, and you. This is the right move. Yes to academic freedom. Yes to listening to others whose opinions are different from our own (no matter how distasteful they may be.) No to giving large fancy prizes that can be confused with endorsement.”
Photo courtesy: Wikipedia
Publication date: March 22, 2017