Tuesday, November 29, 2005

RC Sproul Jr's Highlands Ministries

RC Sproul Jr's Highlands Ministries -- Highlands Study Center

We've been told by RC Sproul Jr. that St. Peter Presbyterian Church has a "ministry" called the Highlands Study Center (now known as Highlands Ministries). As the name implies, some kind of "study" goes on at the Highlands Study Center, and the people who "study" are called "students."

No original thought involved -- RC Sproul Jr just attempted to copy his father's Ligonier Valley Study Center, RC Sproul Sr's original ministry founded in Ligonier, PA in 1971 with the generous financial aid of Dora Hillman, the woman RC Sproul Jr less than affectionately refers to as "the white witch." There were, however, significant differences between how the Ligonier Valley Study Center and the Highlands Study Center were run. For one thing RC Sproul Sr is sober and he has a work ethic.

We're not exactly sure what gets studied at the Highlands Study Center because no one wants to talk about it. Every once in a while we'll actually see a young lady or young man at various St. Peter Presbyterian Church functions who says they're studying at the Highlands Study Center.

We've asked what they're studying and they'll usually say, "I get to read RC's books. He tells me to read a book, and then at the end of the week he'll get together with me and say, 'Do ya have any questions?' He doesn't ever have a lesson or lecture or anything like that, but I get to ask him questions. I had to come from many miles away to get here, but it's really worth it to get to ask RC questions about his books, and the best part is that I get to party with RC. I've really learned a lot... I guess."

One of the only things we have been able to figure out about the Highlands Study Center is that a lot of booze gets consumed there. Multiple "students" have commented that the best reason to "study" at the Highlands Study Center is the beer, and RC Sproul Jr is proud to publish that fact:
ETC: "What were your favorite experiences?"
Mark: "After much anticipation I was able to partake of both RC's home brew and Laurence's salsa." A Conversation On Conversation, Every Thought Captive

"While at the Study Center, we ate good food and drank good beer. We had good conversation about leadership, world views, and kingdom building (and good food and good beer). Thankfully we were able to return home with some wisdom and practical ideas for our roles as Kingdom builders for our own ones (and perpetuate the myth that the best reason for a stay at the HSC is for the home brew)." Kingdom Here, Every Thought Captive
Benny HinnOther "students" have been equally motivated for "study" by RC's home brew, and by some accounts RC's "holy brew" even has miraculous curative powers:
"After the shower, one of the other less important reasons to study at HSC is the ample supply of RC's famous homebrew. As I write this, I must confess that this reason would belong on the 'more important reason' list were it not artificially divorced right now from fellowship. I was once sick for a week and my poor health was beginning to take a toll on me, but after I had one of RC's homebrews, I was miraculously restored to health. Benny Hinn himself couldn't have healed me quicker than that holy brew." Showers Of Blessing, Every Thought Captive
Some people think Highlands Ministries is just a fundraising scam to pay for RC's brewery and line RC's pockets (cha-ching), but those are just the cynics. Below is a photo, taken by Steven Sitler, of RC's brewery and beer cave. Steven Sitler was a Highlands Ministries "student" and resided in RC Jr's home the summer of 2003. The empties in front of the bathtub aren't being saved to return to the store (Virginia doesn't have a deposit law). They're waiting to be refilled with RC's homebrew. The stove is used in the brewing process and apparently the bathtub has something to do with brewing too. Or maybe it's for making gin? In addition to RC's basement brewery the "students" are also boarded in RC's basement. RC's children's bedrooms are also located in the basement. Aside from diddling children at Highlands Ministries, Steven Sitler greatly appreciated RC's generosity in letting him consume an unending supply of his homebrew. 
RC Sproul Jr's basement brewery
RC Sproul Jr's brewery (photo by Steven Sitler, pedophile)

Some people think that RC just uses the young women "students" as domestics and the young men as yard workers, but that seems a bit cynical too. The young ladies and young men get to live in the basement of a celebrity preacher man, a great honor for any young person! Sure, they wash his dishes, cook his meals, babysit his kids, wash his cars, rake his leaves and mow his lawn; but it's all in exchange for the incomparable privilege of basking in RC's celebrity preacher man aura. There's just no way that could be mere indentured servitude.

Even though we don't often see any actual living breathing warm-bodied students at the Highlands Study Center, er, in RC's basement, we know there must be some kind of studying going on there with some kind of students. After all, people have been donating six-figures every year to the Highlands Study Center, so we know all that money must be going toward some kind of worthy cause, not just into RC's back pocket.

About the only thing we ever actually do see the Highlands Study Center do is publish a Credenda Agenda-wannabe magazine called Every Thought Captive. Every few months a few dozen subscribers are subjected to a new edition of Every Thought Captive (we call it ETC). Many subscribers never bother to read it (it can get a little bizarre entering RC Jr's world), but being the thrifty agrarians that we are, we'd never just toss them out. We've discovered that if you roll a few ETCs up together real tight and tie them off with a couple of pieces of dental floss (Frank Zappa™ brand preferably), they burn almost as well as those compressed sawdust fireplace logs. The pages of ETC also come in handy for lining rabbit hutches and other small animal pens. 

RC always has a Top Ten list in the back of Every Thought Captive. It's really insightful stuph. The November/December 2005 issue had this RC Top Ten List of things RC is thankful for. #4 is especially ironic:
RC Sproul Jr's Every Thought Captive

RC really digs "authority." Some people call him a "control-freak," but those are just the cynics and former members that we've shunned.

Sure, RC's into stuff like Gary Ezzo "blanket training" and "self-comforting" infants, but that doesn't really make him an abusive control-freak, does it? Some people might say it's "abusive" to force an infant to stay on a blanket on the floor by hitting the baby with a wooden spoon every time it attempts crawling off the blanket. But RC says it's just about "taking dominion." 

All that "taking dominion" really means is that RC is the boss over our lives and we passively submit to his authority. As long as everyone happily submits, no one gets hurt. It's really a pretty good deal, just as long as you never try and get out. We're known in the area as "The Hotel California of churches." You know, a "You can check in anytime you want, but you can never leave" sort of church. A lot of churches in SW Virginia call us a "cult," but we have a hard time seeing why they think that.

Still, "Being Under Authority" is clearly not one of RC's "Things I'm Thankful For." It's got to be a typo. RC isn't under anyone's authority, especially the Presbytery's authority. Probably what he meant to say was, "Being In Authority" or "Being The Authority." 

Or maybe what he really meant to say was "Being Under The Influence."

According to a new posting on the Highlands Study Center web site, "The Highlands Academy conducts classes for area homeschoolers and anyone else who is interested in attending. The Highlands Study Center is once again offering classes. . ." Golly, that sure is nice that they're "once again offering classes." Folks were starting to wonder what had become of "The Highlands Academy." What with RC's busy brewing schedule for the last few years it's understandable why he'd have so much trouble giving up an hour and a half once a week for any of those homeschool kids in his church.

RC sure has a great sense of humor! "The Highlands Academy." What a hoot! RC figures by having multiple department names it'll sound like there's some actual "academic" departments, and maybe even some actual "academic" instructors (besides just himself) that do some actual "academic" instruction to some actual "academic" students. 

RC hasn't taught a class to home schoolers for at least two years. Then this web site shows up exposing what a sham the Highlands Study Center is and RC all of a sudden decides, "I ought to do some kind of teaching or something that at least looks like teaching. Let's see, are there any rubes around here I could teach? Oh yeah, there's all those St. Peter homeschool kids. I'll teach them!"

RC's $85,000 salary, plus $4,000/mo. ministerial housing allowance and a generous benefits package (totaling over $150,000/yr), isn't enough to satisfy his expectations of just compensation for a famous preacher man. So RC's charging those St. Peter kids $50/student/week for a 1 hour class per week.


Kelsey said...

Could someone please explain the blanket training thing? What's that about? I've never heard of that before.

RC 2.0 said...

Kelsey, the blanket training question has come up often enough to where it made sense for us to address it in an article. See RC Sproul Jr and Child Abuse Allegations.

Tom S. said...

In the summer of 2003 Steven Sitler would have only been 18 or 19 years old. The drinking age in Virginia was and still is 21. Was it common for Sproul Jr to serve alcohol to underage folks?

Ex- St. Pete member said...

Tom S. yes, alcohol consumption by underage kids was commonplace at St. Peter Presbyterian Church functions. We're talking teens and even pre-teens. No "pastor" has every outdone RC on throwing wild parties. The wildest party of all was the annual Reformation Day celebration.