In 2016, the 44th General Assembly created the PCA Unity Fund as a tangible means of its commitment to a more racially and ethnically diverse church.
Following an appeal for presbyteries to prayerfully “consider any and all sins of racial prejudice,” the Assembly passed a historic resolution acknowledging that while repentance is an essential first step toward racial reconciliation, it is not the only one (Overture 43, 44th General Assembly).
On that basis, the Assembly created the Unity Fund as a practical strategy for promoting gospel reconciliation and diversity within the PCA.
The Unity Fund is intended to raise up leaders from diverse ethnic backgrounds by providing grants to educate, train, mentor, and develop minority leadership within the PCA. At present, a mere 1 percent of the 4,882 teaching elders in the PCA are African-American, 0.8 percent are Hispanic, and 10 percent are Korean/Korean-American.
Scott Bridges, Unity Fund development coordinator, describes it as a gospel initiative and fruit of repentance flowing from obedience to the second Great Command to love our neighbors as ourselves. Further, said Bridges, “We believe the PCA can thrive in developing diverse leadership in accordance with the Bible and the Reformed faith as a means of fulfilling the Great Commission.”
Paul Hahn, coordinator of Mission to North America (MNA), sees the urgency of fostering minority leadership as two-fold, in terms of planting new churches in ethnically diverse neighborhoods and encouraging existing PCA churches to flourish.
Hahn notes ongoing demographic shifts in neighborhoods that historically have been predominantly white, as well as those taking place in the country as a whole. “We need leadership that reflects that diversity,” said Hahn.
To achieve this mission, the Unity Fund seeks to promote several objectives by providing:
- Seminary tuition subsidies to qualified minority candidates
- General Assembly expense subsidies for underrepresented minority ruling and teaching elders and licentiates
- Compensation expense subsidies for minority members serving as assistant pastors in a PCA church for the first two years of their ministry
- Historical research expenses subsidies to explore the role that Reformed minority scholars, theologians and pastors have played in church history
- Resources and support for minorities interested in pursuing missions with Mission to the World and Reformed University Fellowship
To date, the Unity Fund has already received $155,000 in donations. Those funds have allowed the Unity Fund Board to review and approve 12 applications for financial assistance from African-American, Asian, and Hispanic candidates.
The application period for the 2019-2020 academic year opens in September 2018. Teaching Elder Alex Shipman, chairman of the Unity Fund, oversees the application process. In addition, Shipman is charged with building a $5 million endowment that will enable this initiative to extend to future generations. “We’re laying the groundwork for my sons, and my grandsons, to know that there’s a place for you here,” said Shipman.
Unity Fund board members request prayer that these efforts will go far beyond the boundaries of merely giving financial assistance, and become a means of reconciliation, healing, and growth together with the grace of the Gospel.
Bridges points to the Grace DC network of PCA congregations as an encouraging example that this model works. In a video on the MNA website, Dr. Irwyn Ince, director of GraceDC Institute for Cross-Cultural Mission and vice chairman of the Unity Fund subcommittee, says, “I really do think and believe that as this fund grows, it will multiply the opportunity for African-American and other ethnic minorities to receive training, and to be placed in ministry contexts in the PCA that will enable our denomination to grow and to flourish, and to look and be like the Kingdom of God is in all its fullness and diversity.”
Further information, including how to contribute to the Unity Fund, is available at https://pcamna.org/unity-fund/.