PCA Hotly Debates Delaying Formal Acknowledgement Of Racism And The End Is EPIC

The debate on the Personal Resolution On Civil Rights Remembrance at the PCA General Assembly

We went into a time of prayer. And prayed and prayed and prayed. And then we prayed some more. Men poured put their hearts God, praying for repentance and transformation – expressing sorrow and grief for the sufferings of our Black brothers and sisters and acknowledging our sin as a part of it. Men wept and confessed sins. I have no memory of the GA taking such a large block of time for prayer.

 

Editor’s note: Go here to read the personal resolution on Civil Rights Remembrance here.

Mississippi Teaching Elders, Drs Sean Lucas and Ligon Duncan entered a personal resolution at the beginning of the Assembly which acknowledged the involvement of our denomination (and our predecessor denomination) in promoting racism and failing to act to support the goals of the Civil Rights movement. It encouraged us to seek repentance and carry this message to our local churches. The resolution was referred to our Overtures Committee for a recommendation.

The OC, after a great deal of debate, many hours, and consultation with some of our Black pastors, decided 80-0-0 to refer the resolution to the next GA for “perfecting” of the language and the addition of concrete suggestions to congregations to help them understand what the fruit of this repentance might look like. Much reasoning was attached to the referring which expressed support for the resolution and hope for substantive change.

When this recommendation from the OC hit the floor of the GA, it become apparent that the brothers were not going to immediately defer to the unanimous vote of the OC (in itself a highly unusual thing). Many brothers wanted us to act now. One brother said, “It is never good to delay confession of sin.” The problem was that according to the rules of our Assembly, the only thing that we could do was to send the overture to the next GA or ask the OC to take the matter back up (at 10 pm on the last night of the Assembly). Many brothers made speeches expressing a deep desire to deal with this at this year’s GA, but finding a way to accomplish something like that was elusive. Several Black PCA pastors (but not all), spoke in favor of deferring for a year.

We stopped and prayed for direction from the Lord.

Time was extended (by vote) for debate many times. The motion to send the overture to the OC for a midnight meeting failed. It became apparent that the Assembly’s only option was to send it to the next Assembly for perfecting. The moderator suggested that if someone were to enter a “protest” which expressed repentance for racism, then others could sign on to it and it would become a part of the record of the Assembly – not as an action of the GA, but as an action of the signers. Debate continued. The moderator declared that he was going to call for a time of open prayer after the debate. The GA voted to send the overture to the next GA.

We went into a time of prayer. And prayed and prayed and prayed. And then we prayed some more. Men poured put their hearts God, praying for repentance and transformation – expressing sorrow and grief for the sufferings of our Black brothers and sisters and acknowledging our sin as a part of it. Men wept and confessed sins. I have no memory of the GA taking such a large block of time for prayer.

One of the last two remaining founders of our denomination stands and confessed his sin, particularly indifference. He was disappointed that we were not taking action this year. A man stood up and made a “protest,” expressing confession of sin and hope for repentance. He turned in his protest and the Assembly began to move forward with our Moderator’s closing remarks. As he began talking men began filtering down to sign the “protest.”

As a preface to his remarks the Moderator held up his tie and explained that it was made from the actual material of the elvin cloaks from The Lord of the Rings. It did appear so. He then gave a biblical exhortation using extended imagery from The Lord of the Rings, including a long read selection by and about his hero, Samwise Gamgee. Meanwhile, the line of men to sign the protest (really a statement repenting of racism) had grown longer than the convention hall itself as a large majority of the men present (many hundreds) signed the document.

It was a beautifully surreal and epic moment, repenting of racism to a reading of Tolkien. God is good.

Travis Hutchinson, is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and serves as the Upper School chaplain at Chattanooga Christian School in Chattanooga, Tenn. This article appeared on his blog.