Repentance and Racial Injustice

Our family just returned from our denomination’s General Assembly in Chattanooga, TN. It was a very full week of meetings, seminars, and worship services. Of course, it was also a delightful time to catch up with colleagues and old friends. I was encouraged by the spirit of brotherhood that pervaded the entire assembly.

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The highlight of the week was being there Thursday night for a debate on a motion made by two prominent pastors in the denomination. The motion was a statement of corporate repentance of our church’s sins against our minority neighbors, especially during the Civil Rights era. During the debate, one of the twelve original founders of the PCA confessed his own personal sin of negligence and disregard toward the plight of African Americans during that period. What a beautiful example of God’s grace at work, even these many years later.

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Ultimately, it was decided that more effort should be put into bringing a motion next year with perfected language including practical steps our churches can take toward real repentance. This delay proved dissatisfying for some. Following an extended time of heartfelt prayer and “unofficial” corporate repentance, hundreds of commissioners (myself included) lodged a formal protest concerning the 43rd General Assembly’s action on the personal resolution on civil rights. Here is the text of the protest:

We the 43rd General Assembly of the PCA (the undersigned) understand that repentance is not merely a statement, but steps of faithfulness that follow. Allowing that more time is needed to adequately work on such a denominational statement, but also the need for action now, we 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. We commit ourselves to the task of truth and repentance over the next year for the glory of God and the furtherance of the Gospel. We urge the congregations of the Presbyterian Church in America to confess their own particular sins and failures as may be appropriate and to seek truth and repentance for the Gospel’s sake within their own local communities.

What a blessing to see God at work both here in Orangeburg and in the larger body of the Presbyterian Church in America to work toward racial reconciliation through the Gospel!

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