|Jim's handwritten notes for his closing remarks|
PERSONAL RESOLUTION ON RACE AND THE PCA
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 M. Lucas
TE J. Ligon Duncan III
REASONING ATTACHED TO REFERRING RESOLUTION ON RACE FROM TE'S LUCAS AND DUNCAN TO THE 44TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY
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.”)]
PROTEST CONCERNING THE 43RD GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S ACTION ON THE PERSONAL RESOLUTION ON CIVIL RIGHTS
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.
THE CLOSING REMARKS OF MODERATOR JIM WERT (AS RECOUNTED BY HIM)
I did not have specifically in mind our final debate concerning repentance and action on the matters of historic racism in our denomination. They were intended more generally. But I do think they apply. Here's the gist of what I said, for any interested:
I first noted that some of my brothers were returning to places of home, comfort and peace -- they were headed back to the Shire. For most, they were likely returning to challenge, uncertainty, attack, paths requiring faithfulness and resilience, and occasional sanctuary -- they return to the Wilderlands, or Moria, or perhaps Rivendell for a season. But there are some who are probably heading back to places of despair, hopelessness, fear and barren ground -- they return to find themselves in Mordor. This may be the case for some returning to areas where racial tension have been particularly acute lately, like St. Louis, or Baltimore. Especially for any in this last group, I offered this realization from Sam during his journey through Sauron's wasteland:
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
I then reminded my brothers that our situation was better. Our star is not remote or inaccessible, but is the bright Morning Star present with us. Because (and only because) Jesus goes with us and in us can we hope to face our Mordors with strength and courage enough to overcome.
(*) I'm, of course, joking. I made a D in Latin.