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, sees the urgency of fostering minority leadership as twofold, 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 expense 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 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 2019-20 academic year opened 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. Unity Fund board members request prayer that these efforts will go beyond the boundaries of financial giving, and become a means of reconciliation, healing, and growth together with the grace of the gospel.
Bridges points to the GraceDC network as an encouraging example. In a video on the PCA MNA website (pcamna.org/unity-fund), Irwyn Ince, vice chairman of the Unity Fund subcommittee, says, “I 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 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 pcamna.org/unity-fund.