“Therefore 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… and the failure to live out the gospel imperative that ‘love does no wrong to a neighbor’ (Romans 13:10)…”
The leaders of the second largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States approved by majority vote this corporate statement of confession and repentance of racial sins on June 23, 2016. These words put forth during its General Assembly, the highest denominational meeting of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), stand in stark contrast to the dark history of the Christian movement’s founding.
In 1973, the PCA broke from the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) of the South over alleged theological liberalization of the denomination. However, the conservatism espoused in the PCUS that became the soil for the foundation of the PCA was often mixed with a defense of Southern ideals and preferences. Dr. Sean Michael Lucas in his book, For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America, illustrates quite convincingly that a representative bastion of Southern Presbyterian conservatives conflated doctrinal and theological conservatism with the status quo of the South. Pastors, professors, and leaders in the church at best remained silent on racism and discrimination. At worst, they spoke openly in defense of racial segregation and anti-miscegenation views.
The PCA’s admission, confession, and repentance of the sins of its founders and continual racial sins is profound, and a testimony to the work of God in the life of the church.
Since the approval of Overture-43, the title of the resolution, conversations surrounding racial justice and diversity have slowly come to the forefront of the denomination. Many voices that were once on the margins have shifted center stage.
Faithfully Magazine spoke with four members of the PCA who have been active and vocal regarding racial justice and diversity in the church: Dr. Alexander Jun, Mrs. Barbara Jones, Pastor Lance Lewis, and Pastor Duke Kwon. Each of these individuals reflect on what they were thankful for this past year and what they are hopeful and prayerful for in the future regarding ongoing conversations on racial justice and diversity.
Duke Kwon, pastor of Grace DC in Washington, D.C., has spoken and written about racial justice in a variety of avenues, including The Witness: A Black Christian Collective and The Gospel Coalition.
Over the years, Pastor Kwon has become more convinced about the need to speak up on the issues of racial justice and diversity. This past year, Kwon was asked to speak for the Leadership Development Resource (LDR) Weekend conference in Saint Louis, Missouri, on the topic of “Speaking the Truth in Love.”
Lance Lewis is pastor of Soaring Oaks PCA in Elk Grove, California, where he has been serving since the summer of 2013.
Born and raised in West Philadelphia, Pastor Lewis entered pastoral ministry in the PCA in 1990, and much of his ministry has focused on redemptive ethnic unity, which he firmly believes is a “direct blessing and benefit of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Pastor Lewis has written about, spoken on, and given various presentations about this topic throughout his ministry.
Dr. Alexander Jun, a Korean American, is a PCA elder and Azusa Pacific University professor. Jun was elected Moderator of the 2017 General Assembly, the first non-White Moderator of a predominantly White denomination. “That was hugely encouraging. I had people I didn’t know–Korean Americans and other people of color–telling me they were excited for the denomination and emotional themselves when they saw me up there.… I also saw a lot of Anglo brothers tell me how encouraged they were.”
Barbara Jones currently leads efforts toward diversity at Mission to the World (MTW), the mission sending agency for the PCA, and within diverse Reformed communities at large.
Over the past 24 years, Barbara has assessed, coached, and led ministry teams around the world. She is presently pursuing a Master of Divinity at Reformed Theological Seminary-Atlanta, and enjoys writing, speaking, mentoring, and being an encourager.