Most Presbyterian elders are familiar with names such as Thornwell, Dabney, and Palmer, but far fewer have heard of Theodore Wright, Samuel Cornish, or Francis Grimké. That’s because the first three men were Caucasians; the latter three were African-Americans.
At the 2017 General Assembly, PCA elders will have the opportunity to learn the stories and contributions of African-Americans in Presbyterianism. Pastor and historian Dr. Sean Michael Lucas will present “Lost Legacies: African-American Fathers and Brothers in Presbyterian History.”
Today’s pastors can learn valuable lessons from African-American Presbyterian pastors who have gone before, and Lucas wants to share these stories with his fellow elders. These African-American pastors offer many lessons not only on the African-American experience, but also on faithfulness in ministry and other pastoral issues.
Lucas hopes that attendees will learn more than a few new names. “I also hope that these [African-American] ministers might provide us with new ways of thinking about pastoral ministry, minority experience in a majority-church culture, and the ways in which the spiritual mission of the church bumps up against the systemic realities of racism.”
While African-Americans historically created their own denominations, Lucas noted that African-American Presbyterians did not. They maintained a connection to the white Presbyterian church “in an effort to foster reconciliation and fidelity to the Gospel — often at great personal cost,” Lucas said.
Today African-American brothers still pay a price for maintaining their connection to a predominantly white denomination, and learning lessons from history can inform the way the denomination proceeds with racial reconciliation.