Last month, the Presbyterian Church in America officially repented of its members’ involvement in racial discord in the Civil Rights era and beyond, including “the segregation of worshipers by race; the exclusion of persons from Church membership on the basis of race; the exclusion of churches, or elders, from membership in the Presbyteries on the basis of race; the teaching that the Bible sanctions racial segregation and discourages inter-racial marriage; the participation in and defense of white supremacist organizations; and the failure to live out the gospel imperative that ‘love does no wrong to a neighbor’ (Romans 13:10).”
Jemar Tisby, who is the director of the African American Leadership Initiative and Special Assistant to the Chancellor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, explains what encourages him about the PCA’s resolution.
The problem with not having an explicit statement repudiating racism, especially during the Civil Rights Movement, as a Southern Presbyterian denomination is that African Americans and other ethnic minorities will always wonder, “Are these folks still cool with racism?” That’s putting it bluntly, but there’s truth to it. As a black person in an overwhelmingly white branch of the church, I have to constantly evaluate whether I’m truly welcome here or not. A strong statement repenting, not just of racism generally, but the more recent lack of vocal support for racial equality during the Civil Rights Movement, is necessary because silence about the matter tacitly communicates either support or indifference.
One charge related to the PCA is the view by some founders and members that racial segregation is a biblical directive. Continue reading Babel Was Not a Model for Segregation
I confess that far too often I have fallen into the heretical idea that it’s “me and Jesus,” which leads to the conclusion: If I am faithful, I know His pleasure; if I am unfaithful, I experience His loving but painful discipline. There have been many times in my life, when because of a particular unconfessed sin from which I have not repented, I have experienced with the Psalmist “my bones wast[ing] away . . . [and] groaning all day long. For day and night [the Lord’s] hand was heavy upon me [and] my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer”(Ps. 32.4).
But far too seldom, until of late, have I understood that it isn’t just “me and Jesus.” Only in my old age have I begun – and I have only just begun – to realize that as part of a covenant community the sins of my people are also my sins, and that I am responsible before God to confess these sins, to ask His forgiveness, and to repent both personally and corporately of such sins, to turn from them, and to return once more to the way of the Lord.
Dr. Caines, who has been my pastor for many years, writes about his reluctance to accept responsibility for the negligence of God’s people in defending and uplifting those who suffered various abuses during the civil rights and Jim Crow eras.
While I would assume that some in my church in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s spoke out against injustice and prejudice, the overwhelming majority in my church and its leaders seemed more concerned about the possibility of whites and blacks intermarrying than about blatant injustice and mindless prejudice. In fact, some even twisted the Scripture to defend the “ways thing are.”
Part of his thinking comes from the idea that my Christian life is just a matter between me and Jesus, that I come to the garden alone for Jesus to walk strictly with me. Sure, he is walking with others too, but all of us are walking with him individually.
The growing pains in the Evangelical church today are in America’s race problem and the issues of social justice. I heard a pastor this year say Jesus’ message was largely one of social justice, and if I hear that term with political ears, I reject it. If I hear “social justice” and think “social gospel” and all the bad theology that has been woven into that, then I can’t help but reject it, but if I understand “social justice” to mean loving one’s neighbor, then I can accept it, maybe not as my primary choice of words, but as an understandable choice.
Believers today need to come to grips with the particulars of loving our neighbors, rejecting the political hostility and individualism that may feel natural to us. How much has personal comfort (ignoring real sacrifice) become our standard for judging God’s will for our lives?
A few days ago, a pastor in my denomination and his daughter were arrested for demonstrating in the St. Louis metro area on the anniversary of the shooting of Mike Brown. I believe he was trying get a petition heard by a federal marshall. They were arrested for obstructing entrances that were already obstructed by official barricades. They talk about it with Jamar Tisby here. This is moving. I encourage you to listen to this.