General Assembly

Colin Peters on June 28, 2016

As I announced on Sunday morning, our denomination's annual summer meeting (General Assembly) took place in Mobile, AL last week. John Buerger, Jeff Murray, Jim Pocta and I all attended as commissioners, and it was a very encouraging and productive week. Among several important actions the Assembly took the most notable was to adopt (overwhelmingly) a statement regarding our denomination's "corporate and historical sins, including those committed during the Civil Rights era" with respect to race relations. The four of us as commissioners to the Assembly were and are fully supportive of this action. Among most congregations, ours included, there may be a wide range of reactions to this. So I'm doing something here that I've never done before - and may never do again! - post a blog. It's not exhaustive, so please don't parse my words or expect answers to every question. At the end of this post I've included some links to some of the pertinent materials. You would do well to check them out.

When I discovered and joined the PCA in 1991, having been primed by RUF on my college campus, race relations was not on my mind. It did not occur to me that it might even be a problem. That might describe you. "Why act on this now? I wasn't there. Leave the past in the past. We're not like that anymore. How can 'we' repent of what others did? The Civil Rights era was before the PCA was founded, so how is the PCA even connected to these things?" All reasonable as first impressions probably, but look a little deeper and you might be surprised.

When the PCA was formed in 1973 it was done so with the expressed intent to be "faithful to the Scriptures, true to the reformed faith and obedient to the Great Commission". Racial reconciliation for Civil Rights era events was not a pressing matter in the minds of PCA founders. It seems they weren't opposed to it, but they weren't thinking about it either. Leading men and leading churches though had concrete history to consider (read this short article - other examples abound in a couple of the links below, especially in Dr. Lucas' book). And that history is filled with divisive actions that contradict the gospel itself. As a denomination we are bound to one another for better and for worse. We share our history, and it's necessary and right to acknowledge it. Our African American brothers and sisters at the Assembly don't want to be stuck on the past. But they do want their white brothers and sisters to go back with them, agree on what was there, and move forward together. That's what this statement is intended to do.

Personally, I'm very happy to see this happening. It's right. It's good. It's gospel. And it's a good step towards greater maturity for our denomination. It's also a faithful exhortation to all of us to be more self-aware, to repent where we need to repent, and to love our brothers and sisters more effectively. I hope you'll take some time to see the links below...

2015 Personal Resolution: Dr. Ligon Duncan (former pastor of First PCA, Jackson MS and now Chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary) and Dr. Sean Lucas (pastor of First PCA, Hattiesburg MS and Professor of Church History at RTS) gave us direction with this last summer. The 2015 Assembly referred this resolution to the 2016 Assembly so that presbyteries would have a chance to consider and speak to it before any action.

Reasons Behind the Resolution: A 45 minute video interview of Drs Duncan and Lucas about their thinking on this matter.

Overture 43: Unanimously adopted by Potomac Presbytery in March of this year, this was selected by the Assembly's Overtures Committee to serve as the platform uniting over 40 overtures related to this topic. The Overtures Committee would modify and expand on the "be it resolved" statements to build the application out more thoroughly.

Adopted Version: The expanded "be it resolved" statements brought to the Assembly by the Overtures Committee and overwhelmingly adopted.

Pastoral Letter: This is actually Overture 55 which was not adopted, but it contains a long Pastoral Letter from Mississippi Valley Presbytery which is commended in the Adopted Version.

For a Continuing Church: A serious - but very readable - exposition by Dr. Sean Lucas on the historical details that have led to this moment in our denomination.