Last week brought more bad news about the state of race relations in America. The deaths of two black men shot by police in Louisiana and Minnesota unleashed a fury that culminated in the death of five Dallas police officers on Friday, from the gunpoint of a former sniper. There is little doubt that we have a serious problem in our country.
Yet in the midst of the bad news, some good news arrived in my inbox. I received a report that the 44th General Assembly of the PCA overwhelmingly approved something called Overture 43, "Pursuing Racial Reconciliation and the Advance of the Gospel" (included below). The purpose of this post is to briefly inform you of this overture, so I’ll refrain from any major commentary until we’ve had more time to process it and work toward acting on it.
What it is: Overture 43 is a corporate confession of all past and present race-related sin committed by the PCA. Essentially, we, the Presbyterian Church in America, both individually and corporately, do hereby acknowledge and confess our former and ongoing participation in active and passive racism, and seek forgiveness for our wrongdoings from God and our fellow men and women, committing to the pursuit of racial reconciliation in all areas of life, through all possible means.
What it is not: It is not the final step. It is one step on the lifelong road of love and reconciliation.
Why: Corporate confession of sin is thoroughly biblical, and has been taught and blessed by God from Deuteronomy to Nehemiah to the Lord’s Prayer. As a people who have participated in racist acts and systems, and as Christians who are to pursue holiness and root out evil from our midst, we are bound to acknowledge, repent of, and right our wrongs.
What it means for us: At the very least, we are called to repent of our own racial sins. Beyond that, we have to consider the best course, and take concrete steps toward racial reconciliation in our community.
Next steps: Please pray for the elders of our church and presbytery as we discuss what this means for us, and take action. Let’s talk about what this means together, and move toward others.
As Amended and Approved by the 44th General Assembly
"Pursuing Racial Reconciliation and the Advance of the Gospel"
Be it resolved, that the 44th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America does recognize, confess, condemn and repent of corporate and historical sins, including those committed during the Civil Rights era, and continuing racial sins of ourselves and our fathers such as 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); and
Be it further resolved, that this General Assembly does recognize, confess, condemn and repent of past failures to love brothers and sisters from minority cultures in accordance with what the Gospel requires, as well as failures to lovingly confront our brothers and sisters concerning racial sins and personal bigotry, and failing to “learn to do good, seek justice and correct oppression”; and
Be it further resolved, that this General Assembly praises and recommits itself to the gospel task of racial reconciliation, diligently seeking effective courses of action to further that goal, with humility, sincerity and zeal, for the glory of God and the furtherance of the Gospel; and
Be it further resolved, that the General Assembly urges the congregations and presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in America to make this resolution known to their members in order that they may prayerfully confess their own racial sins as led by the Spirit and strive towards racial reconciliation for the advancement of the gospel, the love of Christ, and the glory of God; and
Be it further resolved, that the 44th General Assembly call the attention of churches and presbyteries to the pastoral letter1 contained in Overture 55 as an example of how a presbytery might provide shepherding leadership for its churches toward racial reconciliation; and
Be it finally resolved, that the 44th General Assembly remind the churches and presbyteries of the PCA that BCO 31-2 and 38-1 provide potent and readily available means for dealing with ones who have sinned or continue to sin in these areas.