As the newly elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church in America, I have no hierarchical power, no mandate as spokesman, no authority to intervene in the affairs of our denomination’s churches or presbyteries. My role is to assure the meetings over which I am called to preside are constructive, irenic, fair and conducted in an orderly way. That’s pretty much it.

But I do have a voice. And a heart. And the latter is broken over the senseless, tragic and hateful events which occurred last night in Charleston at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

I have been watching the news and twitter feeds. I have been praying. I have been interacting with the clerk of my own Presbytery, Randy Schlichting, and with our first Presbytery Moderator, Mike Higgins. So I say this: Today I weep, I repent, and I remain hopeful. Again. Yet. Still.

I weep because evil counts the event of June 17 at Emmanuel AME in Charleston as a victory. I weep because the forces of darkness in the hearts of men and women who hate those of other races claim success. I weep and grieve with the families of those who have suffered injustice and anguish. I weep because those who hate do not know hope. I weep.

I repent of my inclinations toward indifference, and busyness and minimization; my preferences to avoid rather than confront systemic issues in our culture and in my own heart which have fertilized the ground from which such unspeakable acts can spring. I repent of the comfortableness of assuming that others, like “the authorities”, can deal with such evil, leaving me untouched and unmoved and uninvolved. I repent of presuming I am invulnerable to hate.

I also remain hopeful. I remain hopeful because we are the Church. Sons of Adam and daughters of Eve from every tribe and race and people, united in Christ. I have hope for a better day to come. A richer day. A sweeter day. And I know, I am convinced, I am even more certain today, that I — indeed that we — are called to love in the midst of weeping and repenting and hoping. I will not be deterred, because Jesus has called us and He will empower us to bless those who wound us, to help those who are downtrodden, to minister to those in pain. And we will. We will because He is able. I pray the Lord will continue to convict us of our indifference, to unite us in Christ, to gird our hearts and to quicken our steps as we, city by city, neighborhood by neighborhood, family by family bring the good news of the gospel to the world in word, deed and with our very lives. I ask that He would bring justice to bear and that He would use His means, even ever so severely, to deal with those who have acted with such malignant hatred.

What can men do against such reckless hate? Ride out. Ride out with me to meet it.

Lord, have mercy.

Jim Wert is a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church of America, and the moderator of the 43rd General Assembly

4 Responses to Weeping With Those Who Weep

  1. Howie Donahoe says:

    Thanks Jim. I’ll ride out with you.
    And perhaps one stop along the ride could be this. Perhaps now’s the time for our many South Carolina PCA churches to lead the effort, or at least renew their effort, to get their legislators to take the confederate flag off the front lawn of the SC State Legislature. As an example of its strangeness and offense, all flags were at half-mast today, except that one. How very, very odd and tragic. The SC House has 78 Republicans and 46 Democrats, and their Senate has 28 Republicans and 18 Democrats. Shouldn’t be too hard to get this done.

  2. Jo Wright says:

    “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” ~ Galatians 6:10

    As we pray for believers all around the world (our brothers and sisters in Christ–the “household of faith”), we pray and grieve also for those at Emanuel AME Church who are also part of our family in Christ. May God give us the strength and courage to ride out to meet hatred and injustice wherever we find it.

    Thank you for your thoughtful piece–I was praying that this awful act would not go unnoticed–or uncommented upon–by the PCA. – Jo Wright, Camp Hill, PA

  3. Carla Mellon says:

    Thanks so much of this article. I was in Charleston the night this occurred and the following 2 days. The emotion was palpable. It was not possible to ride by the church and not weep. I Am so thankful for the witness of the many people in Charleston as they have demonstrated to the world (both in the church and out)in a powerful way what love and forgiveness really looks like.

  4. Lin Crowe says:

    Under the leadership of our moderator, Rev. Glenn McDowell, the Fraternal Relations Team and the Coordinating Team of the PCA’s Philadelphia Presbytery have issued a condolence letter to Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC and to the leadership of the A.M.E. as well as to Mother Emanuel’s sister congregation in Philadelphia, Mother Bethel A.M.E. The letter can be read in its entirety on the Presbytery’s website at: