Greenville Seminary Inaugurates New President

Simpsonville, SC (March 12, 1998)-More than 400 attended the inauguration of Dr. Joseph Pipa as President of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The ceremony, held in Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church, marked the first time that Greenville Seminary has had a President.

During the day, five seminars were presented to a full house in the church's auditorium. Dr. Morton H.. Smith, the founding dean of both Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS, and of Greenville Seminary, gave an "Introduction to Old School Theology and The Division of 1837." Dr. David B. Calhoun of Covenant Theological Seminary spoke on "Old School Theology and The Southern Seminaries," concentrating especially on Columbia Theological Seminary which had been founded in South Carolina's state capital before migrating to Decatur, GA, in the 1920s. Dr. T. David Gordon made a controversial presentation entitled, "Old School Presbyterianism and The Social Issues." In it, he maintained a radical posture on the Southern doctrine of the spirituality of the church. Dr. C. Gregg Singer, who will be 88 years young in June, recounted, from memory, "The Impact of New School Thought on the Modern Church." Dr. Douglas F. Kelly of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte addressed "Old School Theology and Southern Presbyterian Preaching."

At the evening installation service, the seminary students marched in, followed by a long line of academic gowns adorning a distinguished group of representatives of the seminary community, other academic institutions, and denominations. Representing the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), with which Greenville Seminary has the most affinity and identification, was Dr. Paul R. Gilchrist, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly. The official representative of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), another denomination with which the seminary has close ties, was Dr. George Knight.

Dr. Pipa, who has been a pastor, an employee of Great Commission Publications, and a faculty member of Westminster Theological Seminary in California, assumed seminary vows for the new post, pledging himself to strict subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. He later gave a message, entitled "An Uncommon School for Uncommon Times." In his speech, President Pipa spoke of Greenville Seminary's Old School commitment to full subscription to the Westminster Standards. He also stated: "We believe that in her better days, the church preached the gospel, planted churches, and worshipped in a way that was consistent with her confession. Thus, while not questioning their motives or sincerity, we stand opposed to the proponents of church growth measures who seek to build the church upon a business or cultural model."

Founded in 1987, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary was designed to meet the need for a PCA-oriented seminary in the Carolinas. It was originally named for James Henley Thornwell, the famed 19th century Southern Presbyterian theologian; but the threat of a lawsuit from Thornwell Orphanage, Clinton, SC, an institution associated with the mainline Presbyterians, led to the current name.

The seminary was founded with the express purpose of training men for the gospel ministry. Even its post-graduate programs of Th.D. and Th.M. degrees have been geared in an ecclesiastical rather than strictly academic or professional direction. Besides the standard M.Div. degree, the seminary offers the B.D. for those who have not completed an undergraduate program. A certificate program for the training of ruling elders is also offered. And the school admits special students to certain courses. However, no woman is admitted to the M.Div. program nor allowed to take specific courses designed for ministerial training, such as homiletics (preaching).

Greenville Seminary has mentored programs in far-flung places, such as the Canadian province of New Brunswick and the state of Washington. Its publishing arm, now known as The Southern Presbyterian Press, has featured both new works (including large volumes and shorter treatises) and older out-of-print works (focusing especially on Southern Presbyterianism).

The creation of the post of President is one of several marked departures from past practice by Greenville Seminary. In the last year, the school, for financial reasons, has had to abandon its original commitment to providing free tuition to any PCA or OPC ministerial candidate. The seminary, which initially stated its goal of maintaining a "ministerial institute" model and not acquiring huge endowments or property (so that, if the school apostasized, there would be no great financial loss), is now planning to obtain property. And, Dr. Pipa announced that, although there will still be no seeking of state accreditation, the institution is investigating the possibility of developing private accreditation.

[President Pipa has indicated that the acquiring of the property was a matter of stewardship, in that buying the building cost only $300,000.00. If the school had built a new building adjacent to an existing church building, the cost would have been about three times as much. Moreover, he stated that there will be a congregation (Agape OPC) which will be using the facility.-Ed.]

Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary

PO Box 9279

Greenville, SC 29604