A New Jersey seminary has officially rescinded an award that was to be given to the Rev. Tim Keller, one of the nation’s most revered Christian preachers and thinkers.
Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, caught the ire of students and alumni at Princeton Theological Seminary — a school affiliated with Presbyterian Church (USA), a progressive denomination — over his own denomination’s views on the ordination of gays and women, The Washington Times reported.
So, plans for the seminary to give Keller, who is affiliated with the more conservative Presbyterian Church in America denomination, the Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness have been scrapped over fears that giving him the honor would be seen as an “endorsement” of his worldview.
Keller will reportedly still speak on campus on April 6 at the Kuyper Center’s annual event.
The award is traditionally given to a “scholar or community leader whose outstanding contribution to their chosen sphere reflects the ideas and values characteristic of the Neo-Calvinist vision of religious engagement in matters of social, political and cultural significance in one or more of the ‘spheres’ of society,” according to the Kuypner Award website.
Princeton Theological Seminary president Craig Barnes responded to the controversy in a letter to students and faculty on Wednesday, saying that, though many on campus with concerns over Keller embrace “academic freedom,” they feel the prize would show an endorsement with Keller’s view that “women and LGBTQ+ persons should not be ordained.”
“Those who are concerned point to Reverend Keller’s leadership role in the Presbyterian Church in America, a denomination which prevents women and LGBTQ+ persons from full participation in the ordained Ministry of Word and Sacrament,” Barnes wrote.
To ensure people know that the seminary isn’t endorsing the Presbyterian Church in America’s views on ordination, the school agreed simply not to award the prize this year. The decision not to give the honor to Keller comes after Princeton Theological Seminary previously referred to him as “an innovative theologian and church leader, well-published author, and catalyst for urban mission in major cities around the world.”
Barnes seemed to indicate that a balance had been struck amid intense debate: While the school wouldn’t silence the voices of those in theological opposition by banning or preventing people like Keller to speak on campus, the award would not be granted.
“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,” he wrote. “Reverend Keller will be lecturing on (British theologian) Lesslie Newbigin and the mission of the church – not on ordination.”
There have been an array of reactions to the news thus far. Here’s just a sampling:
Would Abraham Kuyper even be able to receive the award given in his name? https://t.co/6TQSyS2198
— Michael Guyer (@msguyer) March 22, 2017
Pathetic and shameful. Further evidence, were it needed, that orthodoxy is the new heresy. https://t.co/hIAuVenI5M
— James Anderson (@proginosko) March 22, 2017
— Kenneth Kovacs (@KenKovacs) March 22, 2017
— Ligon Duncan (@LigonDuncan) March 22, 2017
If you can't give an Abraham Kuyper award to Tim Keller, who can you give it to?
— Daniel Darling (@dandarling) March 22, 2017
The only people who could now receive the Kuyper award are those that don't hold his beliefs. https://t.co/SzrxHFTYcY
— Phillip Bethancourt (@pbethancourt) March 22, 2017
And columnist Jonathan Merritt voiced his belief that “conservatives haven’t cornered the market on fundamentalism.”
It should be noted that, though Keller has been careful about his handling of contentious social issues, he did pen a point-by-point defense of traditional marriage back in 2015.
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