In a Thursday-morning seminar called, “The PCA, Race, Remembrance, Repentance, Reconciliation, and Rejoicing: A Personal Journey,” Sean Lucas and Ligon Duncan shared their stories of coming to understand the PCA’s racially-tinged past and what they did about it.
Duncan grew up in a Southern Presbyterian family, and his father was a ruling elder in a church that chose to join the newly-formed PCA. While he never heard Presbyterian leaders articulating outright racism, he now knows that some of the godly men who helped to form the denomination did promote segregation.
Duncan said it is important for the PCA to come to grips with its past in part because of an “unprecedented resurgence” in Reformed theology in African American communities. As more African Americans join PCA churches as members and elders, the denomination must speak to the issue of racism.
There have also been a number of academic publications that have leveled charges of racism against the denomination. Duncan said some of these charges are patently false and should be refuted. But some of the charges are true and should be acknowledged without defensiveness.
Lucas shared his own story of growing up in a culture where politics, religion, and race were tightly intertwined. As Lucas studied the history of the denomination as a historian, he could not escape the heavy undertones of racial segregation that permeated Southern Presbyterianism.
“We need to tell the truth about then so that we can go forward together [with our African American brothers], shoulder to shoulder,” Lucas said.
During the Q&A session, Duncan and Lucas addressed many aspects of racial reconciliation, including why the denomination should repent of the views and actions that were not held by everyone in the denomination then and certainly do not represent the denomination now.
Duncan and Lucas agree that because of the relationship of the church, the actions of some of the church fathers are important to everyone.
“Because we are a church, the actions of some affect all of us,” Duncan said.