Though Overture 4 has been the pattern for nine overtures growing out of last year’s Lucas-Duncan personal resolution, several other responses have emerged.
Overture 1, submitted by Heartland Presbytery, calls for all members and especially officers in the PCA “to determine if there be any unconfessed and unrepentant sins of partiality, favoritism, or prejudice among them.” It provides examples, including “tolerating members of groups organized for the segregation, exclusion, and/or harm of people based on their ethnicity” and “speaking and/or preaching in favor of prejudice and segregation that leads to the disunity.” Those who discover such sins are called to confess them and seek forgiveness. In addition, all congregations of the PCA are called to reach out to all with the Gospel regardless of race or ethnicity and work together to strengthen the unity of our denomination, as a part of the one Church in Christ, “founded not on culture, ethnicity, or class.” Teaching elder Tim Rackley, clerk of the Heartland Presbytery, said the presbytery wrote the overture based on a report from its commissioner to the 2015 General Assembly Overtures Committee.
In an explanatory note to Overture 16, Blue Ridge Presbytery says it built upon the previously submitted overtures by adding more specificity. For example, Blue Ridge calls for the PCA to “recognize and repudiate our church’s covenantal and generational involvement” in systematic racial injustice during the civil rights period.
With Overture 1 it calls individuals to confess sins of prejudice and seek forgiveness for them, though it provides a substantially different list of sins to consider. The overture also calls the PCA to lament the decades it took to address the issue and its failure to preach and embody the full truth of Scripture on race-related matters. It calls on church courts to include questions about how the Gospel addresses issues of race and integration in the examination of candidates for office and licensure, and calls on the Assembly to remind sessions and presbyteries that sins of racism are subject to church discipline. Furthermore, it calls on the denomination to pursue the practical steps of reconciliation found in the paper “The Gospel and Race,” produced by the MNA Committee in 2004.
Overture 18, from Heritage Presbytery, is nearly identical to Overture 4 but adds four additional resolutions. Two of these call for the General Assembly to denounce specific teachings that have been used to support the racial superiority of one group over another. The other two exhort pastors and congregations “to seek to understand and declare the whole counsel of God in regard to cultural diversity, and promote a spirit of inclusion.” Heritage also added four duties drawn from the Westminster Larger Catechism’s exposition on the Ten Commandments.
Overture 11 from Calvary Presbytery makes no reference to a specific period when our forebears participated in racial injustice. The rationale for Overture 11 consists of three clauses that outline a biblical basis for racial equality. These are followed by a five-clause resolution. The first two reject race-based slavery and legalized segregation as being “wicked, immoral, prideful, arrogant, and against the clear teaching and spirit of the New Testament.” The last three clauses call for the repentance of all who have been involved in the promotion or continuance of racial segregation, or who have been apathetic or indifferent to racial injustice, and to seek reconciliation with Christians of all ethnic groups “for the glory of God and the furtherance of the Gospel.”
These overtures will be considered by the Overtures Committee, which will recommend an answer to each for the General Assembly.