"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The PCA and Race Part 1: Confused in Chattanooga

“For the sake of the peace and purity of Christ's Church, and in preparation for the 44th General Assembly, the Committee encourages sessions and presbyteries prayerfully to consider any and all sins of racial prejudice and to pursue a proper course of action humbly, sincerely and expeditiously. (Matthew 5:21-25; Ephesians 2:1-22, 4:1-32)” - Grounds of the Overture Committee of the 43rd General Assembly for referring a Personal Resolution on Race to the 44th General Assembly.

This is an introduction, which is partly in response to the expressed desires of the 43rd General Assembly. I want to take some time over the next year to read, learn, talk, think and especially listen about an issue that was before the last session of the Assembly. So, first, a short introduction may be necessary about what that issue was about:

At the final session of the 43rd Assembly there was a desperate effort to somehow reverse the unanimous recommendation (80 to 0) of the Committee, even by members of the Committee that originally filed a minority report, then withdrew it, then regretted withdrawing it. Originally the delay on the measure was passed unanimously after conferring with several members of the the AAPF (African American Presbyterian Fellowship) a new group in the PCA. However, some of that group did not agree and believed action was needed now.

Confused yet? You aren't alone. I would say confusion was my dominant state while listening to speaker after speaker passionately oppose what had been a unanimous decision regarding the overture. What was this overture that was submitted to this Assembly to consider?

Personal Resolution On Civil Rights Remembrance

Whereas, last year and this year mark significant anniversaries in the Civil Rights movement: 2014 was the sixtieth anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education and the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and Freedom Summer, and 2015 was the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and the Selma-to-Montgomery March; and

Whereas, many of our conservative Presbyterian churches at the time not only failed to support the Civil Rights movement, but actively worked against racial reconciliation in both church and society; and

Whereas, the 30th General Assembly adopted a resolution on racial reconciliation that confessed its covenantal, generational, heinous sins connected with unbiblical forms of servitude, but failed to deal with the covenantal, generational, heinous sins committed during the much more recent Civil Rights era (cf. Daniel 9:4-11); and

Whereas, the 32nd General Assembly adopted a pastoral letter on “the Gospel and Race” that was produced under the oversight of our Mission to North America committee, but that also failed to acknowledge the lack of solidarity with African Americans which many of our churches displayed during the Civil Rights era; and

Whereas, our denomination’s continued unwillingness to speak truthfully about our failure to seek justice and to love mercy during the Civil Rights era significantly hinders present-day efforts for reconciliation with our African American brothers and sisters; and    

Whereas, God has once more given our denomination a gracious providential opportunity to show the beauty, grace and power of the gospel of Jesus Christ by showing Christ-like love and compassion towards the greater African American community.

Be it therefore resolved, that the 43rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America does recognize and confess our church’s covenantal and generational involvement in and complicity with racial injustice inside and outside of our churches during the Civil Rights period; and

Be it further resolved, that this General Assembly recommit ourselves to the task of truth and reconciliation with our African American brothers and sisters for the glory of God and the furtherance of the Gospel; and

Be it finally resolved, that the General Assembly urges the congregations of the Presbyterian Church in America to confess their own particular sins and failures as may be appropriate and to seek to further truth and reconciliation for the Gospel’s sake within their own local communities.

TE Sean Lucas
TE Ligon Duncan

How had the Overture Committee responded?

Due to the gravity and complexity of racial sin, and sympathetic with the need to pursue corporate and personal repentance over it, the Committee believes that:
  • A perfected version of the resolution would effect particular denominational, regional, and local church repentance more particularly, and could include specific suggestions with regard to the nature of the fruit of such repentance (Matthew 3:8; II Corinthians 7:10; WCF5, 6);
  • More time for Dr. Lucas’s research to be disseminated and studied by the church would also help effect a more particular and heartfelt repentance (cf. WCF1);
  • Time for our African-American brothers to visit with the Overtures Committee in next year’s Assembly will further perfect the language and allow our repentance to be more heartfelt and accurate (cf. WCF 15.2)
  • These matters of corporate repentance ought to come through lower courts of the church rather than by personal resolutions. [It is important to note that personal resolutions have special provisions in the RAO for people without access to the courts of the PCA or in case of emergency. (Cf. RAO 13–2; RAO 11–2: “Communications from individuals shall not be received by the General Assembly, unless they originate with persons who have no other access to the Assembly.”)]
For the sake of the peace and purity of Christ’s Church, and in preparation for the 44th General Assembly, the Committee encourages sessions and presbyteries to prayerfully consider any and all sins of racial prejudice and to pursue a proper course of action humbly, sincerely and expeditiously (Matthew 5:21–26; Ephesians 2:1–22; 4:1-32).

Next: Why I am Confused...

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