Friday, September 23, 2016
What are we to do about injustice? How should the Christian respond? There are so many questions and issues involved. Complicating these questions are the political perspectives many have, which are not always Christian but may pose as such. From these political perspectives sometimes charity is lost in evaluating the involvement of other believers in matters that have become emotional to many of us. Can I be emotionally engaged in matters that I think are crucial while maintaining love for those who seem apathetic or even opposed to my way of thinking? I would hope so, but I see many fail at it and it both disappoints and worries me. Mostly my worry is that I am tempted to go off on folks in the same manner.
It is important to me to try and be “Christian” in the way I think, the way I feel, and in what I do. Part of my “doing” is how I speak or write about things, and how I respond to criticism. I have found Facebook especially to be a rather poor place to engage in debate. Blogging and articles aren’t immune from spite and put-downs, as well as one sided arguments that set up straw men and paint with a broad brush. We seem to make statements and not listen, we assume, we smear by association even if there is no actual association with personas or ideologies we despise. Name calling, ad hominem arguments, assuming motive, and acute sensitivity to slight are common hazards.
Deciding matters of criminal justice by watching incomplete videos on the internet is bound to get our hearts and mouths in trouble, even if what appears to be the case makes our blood boil. We have real trouble in this country, we have real life and death stuff happening every day, and it will not be solved no matter how insulting, adamant, vociferous, mocking, sarcastic, or caustic our supposedly right on target comments might be.
I am in favor of protests to call attention to injustice. I am thankful for those with the bravery to lead such non-violent protests. I don’t believe such protests are an attack against good policing or good police officers. I am never in favor of violence. I am in favor of protests that protest violence. I am opposed to brutality by public officials. If your argument is in fact that you are for police brutality I am wondering what your definition of it is, how you can say you are a real American who believes in the ideals of our Constitution, and how you would feel if it happened to you? The idea that injustice only happens to bad people is, well, both simply historically and factually wrong but also carries with it the idea that bad people don’t really deserve justice. Brutality is not justice, it is extrajudicial punishment, and once it is allowed society declines all the way to a time when folks just end up “missing.”
I am opposed to police training that cares more about making sure supposed perpetrators are dead than in seeking to diffuse potentially violent escalation. I am in favor of legislation that doesn’t allow police officers to use their fears as a defense after they have killed unarmed individuals. Self-defense has to mean there is or was a legitimate threat, and to use deadly force means that deadly force was in fact threatened not supposed; not imagined, not implied due to someone being uncooperative. I am opposed to police training that doesn’t create leadership to handle confusing situations so as to prevent every officer from pulling a gun and shooting in unison, especially when some are using Tasers and another is using bullets.
As a citizen, as a father, as a man who understands a little bit about authority both in the church and the military I have a visceral response to disobedience; which means I think you should have your ass kicked. But I don’t do that, and I don’t think the police should do it either. I think those that execute the laws have to be the first to obey them. I say this, if for nothing else, then for their own protection.
At the same time I know that our cities are in trouble because they are full of people who aren’t used to obeying anyone in authority. They don’t obey their parents, they don’t obey teachers, and they don’t think they have to obey the police. They assume if they cuss, yell, and tell authorities not to touch them they can prevail. They think if they argue hard and long enough authority will have to let them go. Our urban schools have way too many children who act in such manner, or without manners. Many of these same folks will not mouth off to a gang banger, and that is because they know there is no restraint from that quarter.
I believe in protests against gang violence too. I believe in protests against bad parenting that teaches children not to respect their elders, teachers, or those in authority. The jails are full of such folk who thought they could live with no compliance, now restrained by cuffs, chains, bars, and wire.
I am opposed to cities having more in their budgets to settle cases out of court for police brutality than spending that money for more and better police training, and the hiring of better police officers. How can you tell us that we can’t afford better when we are spending millions to pay off families for our “mistakes?”
I am opposed to the idea that every criticism of police officers or policing is an attack against the police. I am absolutely committed to loving police officers, to supporting them, to encourage them, to even physically protect them if I have to do so. I will always try my best to respect and obey their commands, even if I am not sure why they are giving them. I also understand that they work for me, that my taxes pay their salary, and that I will hold them politically and judicially accountable for whether or not they are doing the job, and doing it right, for which I and my fellow citizens have hired them.
This of course is a feeling of power, arising from my “white privilege.” I assume I have alternatives in the law, in political organization and leverage. This is where protests in the street have to arrive, at a place of enfranchisement, at a place of political leverage where not only dialogue can take place but real accountability. It cannot be a gun against the guns of the police, but it can be the firing of Chiefs, the changing of policies, the disciplining and firing of rogue or racist officers, or the ousting of those politicians who allow misbehavior to continue.
I am also in favor of trying to learn to be patient with those who continue to hold onto the idea that there are no problems, no real injustice, just unruly people who get what they deserve. I am trying to learn that patience but I confess it is difficult.
I am also trying to learn patience with those who think that somehow we can arrive at a day when no one will make any mistakes, when there will be complete justice, when no one will be abused. I don’t think “we” can arrive at such a day but I do think such a day can be delivered to us, when Jesus comes down to give us a new heaven and a new earth.
I believe injustice is a constant human condition, though not one to be tolerated. So, I expect there to always be some sorry or bad news, I expect there to always be victims, and always some people that are righteously angry about it. I put my hope in a God who will ultimately change us and everything for the better. I put my realism into the idea that we live in a sinful and mean world. I put my energy in trying to make it, the world and my smaller place in it, a little more just every day.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
A few thoughts on ideas raised about finding a spouse at New City.
By Randy Nabors
(These are just my very earthly opinions, with some Scriptural thoughts thrown in, so feel free to disagree and criticize with my very man centered observations.)
As a pastor it has always been a concern of mine about the ability of our young people to find a godly spouse and to marry. Marriage is under attack in our society and New City is affected by the reality of that attack.
· In poor communities the rate of marriage and the model of marriage seems to be negative. Although the statistics show that most people in the world will find a spouse, our American inner city context is a marriage wilderness.
· The availability of “good” men is low, due to poor education, dysfunctional behavior, drugs, prison, and early death. Homicide is still one of the leading causes of death for African American males under the age of 30. The rising rate of homosexuality is also a factor.
· A good man might be one who treats himself and others with respect, who has the ability to work, works, and is faithful when he makes a commitment.
· Finding a straight good man who is also a Christian, and thus qualified to marry a Christian woman, is even harder to find. Finding such a man who is also a leader is an even greater challenge. One word of hope, they are out there, and even some who are not ready are going to get saved and made ready.
In addition to the endangered species of marriageable men is the complication of being in a place where they can be met, and where a relationship might begin, and where such relationships lead to marriage. This of course is not the primary function of the church, and no matter how the discussion goes that principle must be kept in mind. Our culture in general finds it hard to create safe places for relationships to begin and be nurtured. School, work, social activities, relatives of friends, the military, church, and even the internet are all places where people meet but they don’t have the coherence traditional societies used to have for courtship and marriage. As a pastor this has caused me to pray for good match-ups. As a father this has given me great concern and pushed my prayers for my children, especially my daughter.
Believe me, many older people notice those who are single and pray for them to find a good spouse. Some of us have actually tried our hand at match making, with decidedly mixed results. Nothing could horrify my own children more than that. Some of us have felt pretty frustrated especially when we see a not only good, but a great young woman, who wants to get married and eligible men seem to do everything but pursue them. Men walk around treasure and don’t see what they are missing and too often choose cosmetic jewelry instead of diamonds. We can and do pray, we might even try set ups, and we sometimes have been more direct and made suggestions. As I said, the results have been mixed. My point is that this is not something only the singles have noticed. I grant also that some don’t seek marriage, nor do we suppose that they should, if they have the gift to remain single.
Churches are problematic in being the place of meeting a spouse. Many traditional churches especially in the black community have more women than men, and this of course reflects the realities mentioned above. This gives the advantage to men of course in being selective for a mate. Churches are also very much like small towns or small colleges, where once a relationship is begun everyone becomes aware of it. This creates pressure against anonymous or deliberate pursuit of a relationship since the penalties become high for failure and once it has failed a lot of people will know. This certainly affects men who are afraid of commitment and who would rather have the deal settled in their own minds, and within the relationship, before they feel pressured to be public about it. This is one reason young men in our church often look outside of the church for a prospective mate. Not always, but often.
Young men in the church tend to look on young women, if they look on them without objectifying and lust, as sisters. Men are visual creatures, they can’t help but look for whatever their estimation of beauty might be, and being a friend or having a good personality will not automatically make them think romantically. Guilt about women not finding mates will not make them look on young women as potential mates for marriage. Some of these things are more biological than intellectual.
Another cultural reality is the delay many young adults experience in marriage. This was not always so, but today many people are pursuing education and careers, and marriage is put off. Unfortunately the statistics are not good for women who wait on those relationships. In the meantime young men are suffering in this culture with a heavy dose of ego weakness in an American world of female competition. Men have an emotional challenge is relating to any woman with whom they might feel is competitive with them. They tend to walk away rather than engaging in any head on competition. Men naturally take competition as a precursor to violence and it takes maturity not to give way to it.
Our culture, and African American culture in particular, has a great many very strong women. They are encouraged to be so in this culture. In contrast we have an overabundance of very insecure men. What is ironic is that many of these seemingly competent and assertive women don’t necessarily feel as strong as they appear. Wouldn’t it be great if women could be as strong, and ambitious, and successful as they dared and hoped while good men never felt intimidated by them and could love them while cheering them on?
We are in the context we are in and getting mad at the church is not going to change that. In a church that celebrates marriage and family it can tend to make singles feel even worse. One of the dynamics of the modern church, and Chattanooga in particular, is the whole tendency for young adults to rush to new churches where they think they are going to meet other singles like themselves. They leave the churches of their parents and create new “generational” congregations, where they will all grow old together unless they learn to be multi-generational. New church plants are to some degree “meat markets” for singles, like a new bar or club might be. This is crude but I think it has an element of truth to it.
Another tendency is the temptation to just let go, find somebody, have sex and have a baby, then repent and get back in church to raise that child. The biological urge is incredibly powerful, and it keeps pastors working overtime due to sin, relationships, guilt, etc.
One dynamic in an inter-racial church like New City is the reality of seeing inter-racial couples. Most people will marry within their race, though the rate of inter-marriage between various races has skyrocketed since I was married in 1971. It was about 1% of the population then and it is a bit more than 10% of the population today. However, the chagrin and anger from black women when one of our black young men becomes attached to a white young woman is real, no matter how wonderful that woman might be. Even black women married to white men don’t like it as black men (in this particular instance) are seen as community assets, not simply as individual agents.
Getting past the flirting game, getting past a sense of competition for dominance in a possible relationship, sometimes deceives men into thinking the demure polite young woman is not actually as opinionated and willful as every other woman might be. My observation and opinion is that loud, verbal, and unintimidated women can be just as needy, lonely, and even as ready to be led as the quiet ones if they are convinced a man loves them and respects them. However, the outer shell of looks and personality are what men tend to deal with more than anything else.
I have seen men and women in our church who were (or are) desperate for a relationship. The more desperate they get the greater rejection from those they might feel acceptable seems to be the case. Obviously one of the spiritual struggles here is idolatry as the wrong response to the Biblical mandate to multiply and replenish the earth. We have a God given desire and it can’t be met, so a very good and wonderful thing becomes an idol. Now, at the same time I have met women who wanted to be married and succeeded, yet couldn’t get pregnant. That desire has sometimes been even more overpowering than the desire to get married. Probably no anguish is so clearly exampled in Scripture and mirrored in life.
What happens when you achieve your idol, your desire is satisfied, and the reality is corrupted, evil, and disastrous? God forbid, but it is a caution about any idolatry. It is like the rape of Tamar, whose rapist had to have her but after he did he despised her. Let it not be for those who earnestly, sincerely, and from a God-given desire want a godly spouse.
So let me ask, if you are tired of waiting, what options do you have? Wait on the Lord! If you are mad at our culture, what options do you have? Seek to change the way our people think, seek to change the statistics, point out the truth. And, wait on the Lord! If you are not content, you haven’t learned to be content, and are mad at the church that it can’t deliver up what you need then it might be an option to go find a church that gives you better options. Okay, but I surmise you might still need to learn contentment even if you don’t really want to, as you would rather apprehend what you think you need. There is no escape from what God wants you to do and learn. You must learn to trust him, you must learn to pray, you must learn to stop complaining, you must pursue godliness and not sexual immorality, you must give up your grip on your idols, you must learn to wait on the Lord. And, as you seek his kingdom, may God give you the desires of your heart.
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
While the news seems to carry no recent story of police shootings, or police being shot, I want to make some comments unrelated to an immediate or current situation. I know that there will be future killings which I believe to be inevitable; though deplorable and tragic it is nevertheless fairly predictable.
As a Christian, and as an American, I am vested not only in the concept of justice, but in its practice. I want our country to be great, and I want each local municipality to be great in the living out of the values of our country, of equal justice under law, where police departments are created, supported, and held accountable by the citizens that pay for those services and who are entitled to the fair and equitable provision of those services as Americans. I believe we need great policing in every place, and not just that which is adequate, and certainly not that which is corrupt or incompetent.
I believe in the administration of justice through those ordained to that task in our various levels of government. I believe they deserve our respect, our support, our encouragement, our prayers, and even our protection so that they might carry out their duties with integrity, diligence, and under law.
One of the reasons I become so disturbed when I see or hear of an unjustified killing by a police officer or government official is that I believe it puts police officers at risk in general. It is part of American history and lore that when sheriffs, marshals, or city constables became oppressive or bullies, the populace would take measures into their hands to get rid of them, even to the point of violence. I believe the Earp brothers had this experience. This was much easier to do in smaller towns or cities compared to today’s large municipal cities and counties where policing can be more impersonal and even fairly anonymous.
When citizens fear for their lives, or have the idea that any police officer can be dangerous to them, Americans have not casually abided with that atmosphere. The current situation between African American communities versus police is not an atypical American scenario, from the perspective of history. Obviously in our current American situation African Americans are the community that feels the threat, and some individuals in that community have begun to consider some kind of retribution for what they fear has been oppressive and selective violence.
As a Christian, as a citizen, I cannot and do not condone violence against anyone, especially those who are in authority. The criminal, outrageous, and insane retaliation against men and women while doing their duty, most of whom had nothing to do with incidents in other states, is a shame and threat to all of us. We are a nation under law, and neither individuals nor groups should be allowed to take the law (or the law of revenge) into their own hands. Such talk of revenge and violence on social media, or even in private conversations, should be immediately rebuked and rejected by everyone.
There are legitimate reasons for African Americans, and all people, to be upset about targeted profiling, abusive conduct, gratuitous violence and even murder at the hand of police officers. African Americans who have gained much in the last fifty years have come to the conclusion that their lives should matter just as much as anyone’s. It is enraging to them that their lives might still be considered disposable by authority or the wider society. The use of authority to be oppressive is one of the most heinous insults to a fair and just democracy. The idea of America is to oppose governmental oppression; it is how our nation was created.
Police officers carry out an incredibly difficult task in often hostile environments, if not solely at moments of conflict with potentially dangerous individuals. If they are to do their job well they must be very well trained, and trained in techniques that are not simply based on their own self-defense and personal protection. We don’t train our officers as well as we should. We don’t pay them as well as we should. We don’t have enough of them. One other thing, we have not done a good enough job of holding them and their departments accountable for how they are doing their job.
Maybe this a good opportunity for change, maybe be we can gain from the ashes, and tears, and funerals. How much training do we give officers in defusing conflict, rather than simply gaining control of the situation, or of escalating the violence until they have the suspect under complete domination? If ever there was a time for more courage from officers instead of following their training to take down suspects until they are helpless or dead, it is now. This means I think some of the training is wrong, and has had the wrong emphasis.
How much have we trained our citizens that the police work for all of us, and that it is our job in a democracy not to let them become their own fiefdom? Police unions are not the authority on justice or citizen rights, they speak to defend union members. Police are usually given the benefit of the doubt by Grand Juries, Prosecutors, and criminal juries. It is very difficult to convict them if a jury can be convinced an officer feared for his life. We ought to train them well enough that fear ought not to be such a believable and easy defense. Why has fear become such a universal defense for killing people, both for people like Zimmerman, and for officers?
Good people doing the best they can still make mistakes. Some officers have done all they can to refrain from using force but sometimes the people they are confronting give them no choice. Things can happen so quickly and predicting how a person will respond, even to legitimate commands, is unsure. This is of course where the community has to be understanding of the dilemma an officer might have been in and all of us must close our ranks around them and support them. They are our police. However, because they are ours and do not exist independently, where there has been abuse, profiling, needless and escalating confrontation, gratuitous violence such as body slamming, knees in the back, beatings even when handcuffed, electric shocks as punishment and shootings while subdued or in the back, then officers need to face the consequences of their criminal actions.
When the larger community sees officers facing justice, and the system actually holding them accountable, then confidence grows, trust is reestablished, and respect for authority is maintained. In this world we are never going to stop all evil, either from real criminals or from failed policing. We can stand up against it, and we must, if are to maintain the agreement between the citizens who create police departments and those in turn who police them. It is not true that the police are the only defense of the people from evil. The people themselves are that protection through the agencies they create, support, and hold accountable.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
One wishes to be able to say something helpful and meaningful in the time of death, in the time of violence, in the time of injustice, and in a time of polarization. There are others of course who think the unbridled expression of their anger and frustration is legitimate, who seem to think that because they gain applause due to what they say, or social media market share, that what they say is actually profound. Notwithstanding that some of these sentiments are filled with passion, many of these sentiments take us nowhere but to further alienation and conflict.
We live in a time of slogans. We live in a time where the benefit of the doubt is no longer part of the salary package. We live in a time of attributing base motives to every action and word, especially if its source is from what we perceive as the opposition Our age seems to be one where we refuse to give a generous allowance that things our opponents say might actually be true or correspond to reality.
As a follower of Jesus Christ we hold to the idea of truth, in fact we hold to the idea of absolute Truth. This means we think what is true is true for everyone and people cannot legitimately define reality according to their own subjective perspectives, although we understand that perspective is important. That is not the same as saying that reality is relativistic. We seek to judge all ideas, thoughts, and words with a sense of realism, that we live in a real world which has real events, but we also judge with the idea that God’s values are the standard to which we hold all others.
Sometimes this commitment to Truth nails us in our own hypocrisies, it exposes our own unfortunate tendencies to eclipse the truth, it illuminates our own self-deceptions. If one agrees to turn the light on in a dark room it means everything in it is exposed. The light is a better place to be even when it shows us things we might not like to admit or face.
We live in an age where people wearing dark and cloudy glasses keep pointing out the faults and discrepancies in the houses of their neighbors, which are equally dark. If we are going to have peace with our neighbors we are going to have some dialogue built on a willingness to have light expose our own thinking. We are going to have to listen, we are going to have to learn, and we will need patience in the process.
We live in a society (and one might see this as a mark of progress that victims actually get to have any voice at all) where those who have been offended, the victims and/or the oppressed, call us to an immediate recognition of their plight, to a speedy restoration of their rights, the remediation of the circumstances in which such injustice has taken place, and possibly to retribution.
Righteous justice (as the offended might define it) is the defeat (anything from exposure, indictment, conviction, condemnation, or elimination) of those they have designated (or who have acted) as their enemies. They sense and feel no other compulsion but one of re-establishing justice and are prompted to self-defense. This compulsion, built on actual personal experiences of attack or attacks on group-identity solidarity, may be born out of insult, maybe fear or pride, or born out of a need for vindication. Whatever it is born out of it can grow into hatred.
Those who (and especially those who) are facing real injustice cannot be blamed for the feelings they have. The true victim of injustice always has the moral high ground against the oppressor. Yet, if the narrative in which victims arrange their story is one of revenge rather than a restoration to the equilibrium of justice and/or true reconciliation, then more conflict, struggle and war seems to be the (usual) inevitable outcome. We are brought back to "an eye for an eye" until we are all blind.
Sometimes victims have little choice as to how they arrange their story. If their oppression leads them to be full of self-loathing, if they feel trapped, if they have no outside hope and feel that the way they are treated by others, (especially by authority and those with power) actually defines them, then it will be extremely difficult for them to interpret the circumstances of their existence as one of dignity. The indignities they experience will push past the safeguards of their constructed identity and equilibrium and they will feel dangerously exposed and vulnerable.
If the pain of their hurt causes them to hate, and that hate causes them to respond in ways that are violent, illegal, and vindictive then they move from victim to predator, from morally wronged to being wrong.
Those who are accused of perpetrating injustice but internally resist a conscientious vulnerability tend toward self-righteousness; a defensiveness that inevitably leads to the blaming of the victim. Once the mental designation of those claiming victim-hood as an ideological enemy has been made, then every complaint from them about any incident can be thus dismissed or deflated and given no sense of legitimacy. It is hard to have a conversation that brings about progress in relationships with these kinds of attitudes.
Faith allows us to arrange our story in a larger context. We are able to see beyond immediate conflict with people or groups. We are able to see beyond our own helplessness in the face of power or violence. With faith, and that not of the escapism kind but rather that of an intimate knowledge and relationship with the Sovereign King of the universe, we are able to see our very personal (but limited) story as part of something much bigger.
All of us like to hold onto the tangible. The material gives us a visible sense of place, belonging, control, security, and even a possible future. Our bodies, marriages, families, houses, vocations, and communities seem to give us a sense of permanence. So, who in all of the world’s history has been able to hold onto those things? The sports world uses terms like, “unforgettable,” “greatest game in history,” even “immortal.” Really? The question is simply how many years will it take before none of us remembers the players, or the game?
If our story is not arranged in the Immortal God, then no one will remember our names either. But, and here is the hope in the midst of violence, some of us do belong to God. Belonging to God is permanence, it is dignity, and it is significance. Belonging to God means His will trumps all the decisions of mankind, and I am safe in that will. The hatred, oppression, or violence of others, though surprising, cannot take me out of God’s story. Attack me, rob me, debase me, kill me, I win if I am hidden with Christ in God. This faith gives people amazing courage (and hope) to pursue justice for themselves and others.
This is not to say that we should put up with injustice, or oppression, or hatred and its attendant violence. These are condemned by God and should be condemned by society. It should be resisted by everyone, both individually and corporately. Our goal is the equilibrium of justice, brought about by truth, repentance, forgiveness, and love.
Every call to hatred should be opposed, every excuse for an oppressive use of force should be intellectually dismantled. Every rationale for a failure to treat people humanely, no matter their color or profession, should be rebuked in whatever forum we see or hear it. We must not stand idly by while people build an apologetic for the abuse or murder of others, and it may put us at risk to be that kind of peacemaker. Peace is worth the risk, the life of another is worth the risk, and love demands we take that risk.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
We want to praise the Lord for the wonderful things he does. We were praying for the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America as they were considering a public confession concerning racism, both during the time of Civil Rights and even up to today, and a commitment to struggle against it. In the Lord’s mercy such an Overture was passed as they (we) met down in Mobile, Alabama. I take this to be a very good thing for our denomination, and an evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst.
It doesn’t mean racism is ended, for that kind of sin is very human and will plague us until Jesus comes back again. Yet, it is good for the Church to try to come to grips with it in both its history and its present existence. One of the challenges I think we all have is to decide to love people who perpetuate racism through either their ignorance, but especially through their obstinate defense of it. Often they don’t see what they are doing, or failing to do, as sin.
It can be hard for people to see that something they are not doing is actually sin; we call these “sins of omission.” It is the standing by and doing or saying nothing that often leads to the perpetuation of injustice.
“Rescue those being led away to death, hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?” (Proverbs 24:11-12)
In my opinion much of the sin for which the founders of the PCA and even continuing into the life of the PCA are culpable, in regards to racism, is a sin committed by omission. That sin particularly is failing to hold individuals and congregations to accountability for their racist attitudes and actions. One of the objections to the overture was that the PCA has no official statements or actions of racism so therefore there is nothing for the whole denomination to repent about. Ironically, there was even the call that if anyone has sinned they should be held to account through church discipline according to our standards. How peculiar this demand is when the history of our denomination shows very few instances of such discipline, and in one case I know about, when discipline was sought, how much abuse was suffered by some of the Pastors who brought the action.
Evidently, to those who say we should now bring discipline, there must have previously been no racism in our congregations, or in the individuals who make them up, since we haven’t found anything to discipline. One major point in seeking the Overture is that there has been an obstinate refusal to see racism as sin, and therefore a resistance to go after individuals or churches who perpetuate it through discipline in the church courts. The evidence of this neglect is overwhelming, and it is damning evidence against the PCA. This has resulted in some having felt comfort in the church to hold such attitudes and conduct themselves in ways that have damaged persons of other ethnicities and brought dishonor to the name of Christ in our denomination.
What this action of the PCA has done is a corporate way of distancing ourselves from, and even renouncing, what many African American and ethnic communities have considered to be the reputation of some local PCA congregations (and thus the denomination). Those reputations may have lingered from before the PCA existed, but many churches and the buildings (which are the public reputation and geographical landmark) in which they worship, surrounded by ethnic communities, have publicly exhibited racism and exclusion. The building in which my congregation worships in Chattanooga, Tennessee had that very reputation until 1990, (the year we took it over) well into PCA years. Where was the cry for discipline against that congregation then?
One congregation (which told me this story) in South Carolina, came into the PCA after the First Presbyterian Church in their city (from which they divided,) decided to racially integrate. They were welcomed by the local PCA Presbytery, in the guise of leaving a liberal church. That congregation no longer rejects African Americans, hallelujah! Yet this action of General Assembly now acts as a means of renouncing that determined act of segregation. Again, hallelujah!
The plea of some not to repent as a denomination but rather to pursue in discipline specific individuals is a perverted call to engage in a “witch hunt.” Surely this is not what they want, and this is not what I desire. I know some of our founders will die never having realized the extreme meanness (let alone horrible exegesis and terrible Biblical interpretation) of their arguments for segregation, nor the shame they have brought the church they loved so much, nor the offense and stumbling block they have caused brothers hoping they could join a fellowship of Reformed believers but wondering about our latent hypocrisy.
This repentance helps set us right in acknowledging our attitudes, statements, and actions (of either omission or commission) were and are wrong, while in patient love we leave the judgement concerning some of our founders to God. Hopefully, moving on from here, our church courts will hold individuals, and congregations, accountable. We are waiting for Jesus to smooth out all our blemishes and make us a radiant bride, we claim no perfection until then, but we are grateful when he holds a mirror up to our face and we see things we should have faced long ago.