PORTLAND, ME - When Michael Saylor graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary in 2004, he knew that getting his first pastoral position would not be easy. Michael grew up in the PCA, and desperately wanted to remain in his home denomination. There was only one problem: Michael is a closet Arminian.
According to Rev. Saylor, "I love the PCA. That is where I was baptized, that is where I came to know the Lord, and that is where I was called to seminary. However, I just can't buy into all of the Calvinistic teachings. When I read the bible, I see a God who loves all of mankind and offers salvation to all people. God is not arbitrary or capricious. He would never override man's free will or destine anyone for Hell. All I need to look at is John 3:16 to tell me so."
Rev. Saylor was called to Lakeside PCA near Portland, Maine in early 2005. Things apparently went well for the first two years or so. TBNN has learned that during that time Rev. Saylor had the habit of preaching mostly topical sermons, pulling scripture from all over the bible. Trouble began in middle of this year when several members of the body asked Rev. Saylor if he would preach through some of Paul's writings.
"I knew I was in trouble when that happened," said Saylor. "What was I supposed to do? The people really wanted it. My difficulty is that Paul was so big on God's sovereignty in his writings. I tried to pick the least 'Reformed' Pauline epistle I could find."
The problem for Saylor is that he preached through Philemon in about one month. The church members liked it so much that they specifically requested that he next preach through Ephesians. That's when things really started to get interesting.
Lakeside member Wallace Daniels said, "We were all looking forward to Ephesians. Rev. Saylor had done such a mighty job with Philemon. But when he began preaching on Ephesians 1:1-6 it got weird in a hurry. The poor man seemed so nervous and hesitant. We were all anticipating a wonderful message about the sovereignty of God and His spiritual blessings for His adopted sons and daughters. That's not what we heard."
Several eye and ear witnesses have told TBNN the same thing. The pastor began the sermon by talking about the love of God for the whole world. Then he discussed the clause, "he chose us in him before the foundation of the world." Rev. Saylor talked for a few minutes about how the key to this clause is the words "in him." He said that what Paul was really saying was that anyone who chose God in Him (meaning in Christ), would then be elected by God to salvation. By that point in the sermon most of the church members were confused.
Wallace Daniels said, "We just couldn't follow his argument. The biblical text is so clear there that God chose us. When he said that we chose God it just didn't make any sense to us. Honestly, I don't know if we heard much more of what he preached because we were so lost."
Things went from bad to worse at Lakeside later that same week. Several members of the congregation stumbled upon Rev. Saylor's blog, entitled "Closet Arminian Pastor-Blogger." The posts mostly fell into three categories: why Arminianism is biblical, why Calvinism is not biblical, and why complete freedom of the will is so important.
Since this all occurred, in July of this year, Saylor has been "in hot water" at the church. He has apparently tried to explain to the body on repeated occasions why it doesn't really matter if he is an Arminian and they are Reformed. After all, he says, "it doesn't really affect the gospel at all."
Mrs. Francis Ralph, a Sunday School teacher at Lakeside, reported, "The pastor managed to make it through Ephesians. It was difficult for all of us. After that, he preached a few topical sermons - that was a bit of a relief. I'm not sure what will happen next. I've also heard that he shut down his blog altogether."
We have discovered a potential problem on the horizon: the body has asked Saylor to preach through Romans. No one knows what to expect next.