(By Leonardo Blair, The Christian Post). A week after disgruntled Princeton Theological Seminary alumni complained that Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, should not receive the school’s Kuyper Prize because of his church’s position on the ordination of women and LGBT individuals, the seminary decided Wednesday not to give the award this year.
“I have … had helpful conversations about this with the Chair of the Kuyper Committee, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Reverend Keller. In order to communicate that the invitation to speak at the upcoming conference does not imply an endorsement of the Presbyterian Church in America’s views about ordination, we have agreed not to award the Kuyper Prize this year,” M. Craig Barnes, president of Princeton Theological Seminary, wrote in a statement Wednesday.
The Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life is awarded each year 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. A condition of the prize is that the recipient deliver a lecture on a topic appropriate to the aims of the Abraham Kuyper Center for Public Theology.
Keller, 66, started Redeemer in 1989 with his wife, Kathy, and three young sons. For more than 20 years he led the diverse congregation of young professionals that has grown to a weekly attendance of more than 5,000. He also serves as chairman of Redeemer City to City, which starts new churches in New York and other global cities, and publishes books and resources for faith in an urban culture. In over 10 years, they have helped launch over 250 churches in 48 cities.
On April 6 at the Princeton Seminary campus in Miller Chapel, Keller was slated to collect the Abraham Kuyper Prize and deliver a lecture on church planting.
About a week ago, however, Princeton Theological Seminary alumna Traci Smith complained in a blog post that she doesn’t believe Keller should be honored because of the Presbyterian Church in America’s position on the ordination of women and LGBT individuals.
A Seminary Snubs a Presbyterian Pastor, By Case Thorp, the Wall Street Journal
The gathered storm, the love of Jesus and Rev. Tim Keller, by Viola Larson, Naming His Grace blog
A Kuyper Prize?, by William B. Evans, The Ecclesial Calvinist blog
Princeton Seminary Reverses Course, Won’t Award Tim Keller, by Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism
Read Craig Barnes entire statement:
Update on the 2017 Kuyper Lecture and Prize
President Barnes addresses concerns raised within the Princeton Seminary community
March 22, 2017
Dear Members of the Seminary Community,
On March 10 I sent a letter to the seminary community addressing the emerging objections to the Kuyper Center’s invitation to the Reverend Timothy Keller to speak at their annual conference and receive the Kuyper Prize. 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.
As I indicated in my previous letter, it is not my practice to censor the invitations to campus from any of our theological centers or student organizations. This commitment to academic freedom is vital to the critical inquiry and theological diversity of our community. In talking with those who are deeply concerned about Reverend Keller’s visit to campus, I find that most share this commitment to academic freedom. Yet many regard awarding the Kuyper Prize as an affirmation of Reverend Keller’s belief that women and LGBTQ+ persons should not be ordained. This conflicts with the stance of the Presbyterian Church (USA). And it is an important issue among the divided Reformed communions.
I have also had helpful conversations about this with the Chair of the Kuyper Committee, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Reverend Keller. In order to communicate that the invitation to speak at the upcoming conference does not imply an endorsement of the Presbyterian Church in America’s views about ordination, we have agreed not to award the Kuyper Prize this year.
However, the Kuyper Center’s invitation to Reverend Keller simply to lecture at their conference will stand, and he has graciously agreed to keep the commitment. 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.
I want to thank all who have communicated with the administration of the seminary as this important conversation has unfolded on campus. We have heard many heartfelt perspectives from both sides of the debate. It has been a hard conversation, but one that a theologically diverse community can handle.
In the grace and love of Jesus Christ, we strive to be a community that can engage with generosity and respect those with whom we disagree about important issues.
M. Craig Barnes
Princeton Theological Seminary