GPTS Conference 2018

This is the second year that I’ve attended the Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (GPTS) conference. It is held at Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church, a large and rather dashing church in Greenville, SC.
My current church is a financial supporter of GPTS and it is the seminary I would most likely recommend to prospective ministry students. GPTS, like Sangre de Cristo Seminary from where I graduated, is accredited by the Association of Reformed Theological Seminaries (ARTS). The seminary, to my knowledge, is strongly confessional; that is, it supports subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms. My only concern with GPTS is the influence of some of the Van Tillian errors upon the school, such as support of the well-meant offer of the gospel. I had to avert my eyes at the conference book tables whenever I came upon a Sinclair Ferguson volume.
Well, the 2018 GPTS conference featured a number of speakers including many of the seminary’s faculty. Guest speakers included, most prominently, G. K. Beale and Joel Beeke.
I found last year that attending all of the speeches was quite taxing and so this year decided to attend only some of them and take longer breaks in between.
On the first day I heard Ian Hamilton and G. K. Beale speak. I briefly spoke with G. K. Beale before his speech; basically just long enough to give him a free copy of my The Presbyterian Philosopher. As Dr. Beale holds the J. Gresham Machen chair at Westminster Theological Seminary he might find interest in the book which prominently features the history of Machen and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Outside of the lectures I talked with Andy Webb, Erwin Morrison, C. N. Wilborn, Daniel Jarstfer, Jared Dillingham, Wayne Rogers, Kerry Belcher, Dean Walker, Eric McCall, Paddy Cook, Roland Matthews, and Andy Wortman. From the used book section I picked up a $1 copy of Gordon Clark’s A Christian View of Men and Things in good condition.
It was a tough day for me in some personal ways. My mom has been in the hospital for over a week now with complications due to diverticulitis. Though she is improving, I continue to have concern for her. Then, leaving in the morning for the conference my wife and I found that our car wouldn’t start. I think it is a dead battery, but we didn’t have time to check and took our other vehicle instead. And during Dr. Hamilton’s speech I was fidgeting too much and even accidentally slipped my wedding ring off which fell on the floor. Well the Woodruff Road Church has sloping floors and the ring rolled a few rows forward. I had to wait till the speech was over to recover it. Despite these temporary setbacks, I made it through the day unscathed.
On the second day of the conference I heard Ryan Speck, Michael Barrett, and Joseph Pipa speak. In addition to talking to some of the same people that I spoke with on the first day, I made an effort to talk to more people. I talked with Morris McDonald, Kirk Fearing, Dr. Pipa, Ben Westerveld, Scott and Melanie Schallenberger, Cilas Menezes, Logan Shelton, and Steven Cook. Having conversations with other Christians is my favorite part of the conference.
I might possible be the worst speech listener in the world, for I can hardly recall much specific about the speeches. I was distracted by my own goals for the conference including selling copies of my books, handing out literature for my Appalachian Trail missionary work, and promoting the speech I’m giving soon at Reedy River PCA.
As for the PCA, there is a tense relationship between the denomination and supporters of GPTS, some of whom are in the PCA. With the latter strongly confessional and the former more evangelical than Reformed there are differing visions for the denomination. I found outspoken opposition to the PCA majority in a number of conversations I had. It seems to me that if the conservatives are going to turn the tide in the denomination they need GPTS and its supporters to play a lead role.
Addition 3/15/2018: It must be noted that the Calvary Presbytery of the PCA, which includes churches in South Carolina around the Greenville area, has made 5 of the 16 overtures for the 2018 PCA General Assembly. These include Overture 1 on the “Solemnization of Marriage” and Overture 7 which would reduce the fee that ruling elders pay for attending the General Assembly and in turn promote ruling elder participation and with that a more confessional or at least conservative direction for the denomination.