After prestigious award rescinded, church leader still lectured at Princeton Theological Seminary
Reverend of church that excludes women and LGBTQ persons from leadership drew ire from PTS community
In a gesture that symbolized the ideological fracture in the reformed Christian community, Princeton Theological Seminary rescinded its prestigious $10,000 Kuyper Prize from original recipient Reverend Timothy Keller for his affiliations with the Presbyterian Church in America, a denomination that does not holy orders to be conferred on women and LGBTQ persons. The Seminary did not retract its invitation for Keller to speak at the Kuyper lecture last week, however.
While Keller has publicly shunned the evangelical label due to its political and fundamentalist connotations, he has also criticized mainline Protestant Churches that adopted socially liberal positions. In 1989, Keller founded the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, which he described as neither mainline nor fundamentalist. With a 5,000-strong membership, Redeemer remains affiliated with Presbyterian Church in America, which has expressed commitment to “the sanctity of human sexual relationships” and described homosexuality as a sin. PCA also denounced abortions.
Keller expressed his views on homosexuality in a blog post in 2013.
Word of Keller’s selection as the Kuyper Prize recipient immediately sparked heated dialogue among PTS affiliates.
Reverend Traci Smith, a graduate of the seminary, noted that Keller has been very clear in excluding LGBT people and women.
“This is a giant lecture with a giant whoop-de-doo factor. There’s a place for common ground, but unless Rev. Dr. Tim Keller is prepared to argue for the ordination of all the women students of Princeton Theological Seminary, then The Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life is not that place in my opinion… It’s offensive and, as I have taught my four and five year olds to express, it hurts my feelings.”
In a letter sent to the Seminary community in early March, President Craig Barnes noted that his institution stands in “prophetic opposition” to the PCA and other Christian denominations that are not inclusive of women or those of various sexual orientations.
“We know that many have been hurt by being excluded from ministry, and we have worked hard to be an affirming place of preparation for service to the church,” he letter reads.
After intensified conversation among the community, in a subsequent general media statement, Barnes announced the seminary’s decision to not award the Kuyper Prize this year. Yet, he also explained his decision to retain Keller as the lecture speaker.
“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.
Barnes later indicated that Keller had initiated a proposal to set the prize aside.
Despite being dropped from the honor, Keller agreed to speak and delivered his remarks titled “church planting” last week.
During his lecture, Keller spoke about the offense of the cross.
The Princeton Theological Seminary is currently considering significantly downsizing its student body due to financial considerations.