“A Denomination Hungry for Reconciliation: Grace, Race and the PCA” by Sean Michael Lucas, byFaith, October 19, 2015; “Tied in Knots: Americans Try to Redefine Marriage” by Alan Dowd, byFaith, October 12, 2015.
by Dr. Ralph Blair
(PDF version available here.)
Even after the Civil War, in 1867, R. L. Dabney, a major Presbyterian theologian of the Old South, now considered a forebear of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), ended his 356-page “biblical” defense of slavery and attack on abolition by asserting: “Our people are now oppressed with present sufferings and a prospective destiny more cruel and disastrous than has been visited on any civilized people of modern ages. [But,] let the arrogant and successful wrongdoers flout our defence [sic] with disdain: we will meet them with it again, when it will be heard; in the day of their calamity in the pages of impartial history and in the Day of Judgment.” Evangelical historian Mark Noll notes: The slavery conflict “pushed theologians down the roads on which they were already traveling rather than compelling them to go in new, creative directions.” How typical!
Lucas, a PCA minister and Dabney scholar, reports that in 2002, PCA’s 30th General Assembly “named our sins from 1861-65 [but] not our more recent sins from 1961-65”. So, he calls the PCA to “confess our church’s covenantal and generational involvement in and complicity with racial injustice inside and outside of our churches during the Civil Rights era”. He argues: “Those recent sins of commission and omission – preventing blacks from worship in our congregations, … ‘biblical’ defenses for segregation, defending White Citizens’ Councils … need to be confessed and repented [so we can] see more clearly our own present-day failures to love our black brothers and sisters well and to use our positions and power to benefit them more than ourselves.” That, “too many (white) people ask, ‘Haven’t we confessed enough?’ and ‘Shouldn’t they confess too?’ demonstrates,” he says, “a general lack of understanding, imagination, and compassion”. Lucas admits: “It was disappointing to hear my fathers and brothers make arguments against the resolution. Not to know our history on these issues [is] not to be quick to recognize how they continue.” So, just how “hungry for reconciliation” is the PCA?
Outlawing slaves’ marriage and interracial marriage, and, even after Loving v Virginia (1967), ranting over race “mongrelizing”, now link to antigay rants propped up with other Bible verses. Lucas simply fails to note this link, but to Dowd, it’s not possible to connect these dots since he blasts marriage for same-sex couples. Once again, the roots are culture-based and stem from a self-righteous refusal to live Jesus’ Golden Rule.
Dabney’s views now disgust his Presbyterian heirs in the “pages of impartial history” he failed to foresee. Dowd’s views disgust many of his own evangelical contemporaries. All of this disgust reflects empathy freed from ignorance and outworn political agendas. Read more →