“We Want the PCA to Reflect the Diversity of the Church in Heaven”
By Nancy Franson

Illustrations by Marta Signori

Raising up minority spiritual leaders not only represents a paradigm shift in the PCA; it’s the vision that motivates Scott Bridges, PCA Unity Fund development coordinator, to continue the work of moving the denomination closer toward reaching people of all tribes and languages.

In 2016, the PCA’s General Assembly created the Unity Fund. By developing minority leaders, its three objectives are being realized:

The target — We want the church on earth to reflect the glorious diversity of the church in heaven as portrayed in Revelation 7:9.

Its ethos — We need new and deeper ways to love our neighbors as commanded in Matthew 22:38-39.

Its commission — Expand our ability to fulfill the Great Commission by making disciples of all the people in our communities as described in Matthew 28:10.

In 2018, with donations of $155,000 in hand, the Unity Fund opened the seminary scholarship application process for minority candidates. From those funds, 12 candidates from African American, Asian, and Hispanic backgrounds were awarded financial assistance to support their efforts in pursuing gospel ministry.

So, what impact has the Unity Fund had since its inception? At present, barely 1% of PCA teaching elders are African American; 10% are Asian; only 0.8% are Hispanic. To attract and support more minority leaders to serve within the PCA, the Unity Fund’s current focus is to:

1. Provide scholarships to men of diverse minority backgrounds seeking ordination in the PCA as ruling elders or teaching elders.

2. Provide additional General Fund support for scholarships to any minority individual who may not be a candidate for ordination but is called to serve in the PCA.

3. Provide General Assembly scholarships for underrepresented minority ruling and teaching elders and licentiates.

While the Unity Fund has future goals in view, efforts thus far have already produced encouraging results. To date, 314 seminary scholarships have been awarded. Scholarships for students on an ordination track have increased from $1,100 to $3,300. The fund has awarded 46 scholarships enabling current ruling and teaching elders to attend General Assembly.

Perhaps most significant, however, is the increase in number of minority spiritual leaders who have graduated and are actively serving in the field. In 2020, the PCA ordained a record number of African American candidates — six in total. The following year, seven candidates were ordained, breaking the record yet again.

Why does this matter?

“More Pastors Who Look Like Me”

Willie Addison, a Unity Fund recipient, currently serves as associate pastor at Christ Church Intown in Jacksonville, Florida. Addison developed a heart for youth as he served for 10 years as a bivocational youth pastor and police officer. Sensing a call to full-time ministry, Addison started a church plant in a denomination that did not require him to hold a master’s degree.

However, after several years of full-time service, Addison decided to pursue a master of divinity degree and subsequently enrolled at Knox Theological Seminary. While watching chapel online, Addison noted that he seemed to be the only African American student in attendance.

He decided to reach out via Facebook message to the speaker, who connected him to Wy Plummer, the PCA’s African American Ministries coordinator. Plummer connected Addison with Dave Abney, Christ Church Intown’s founding pastor. That connection led to an invitation to join the Christ Church staff.

In addition, Addison became aware of the Unity Fund’s existence, applied, and was awarded a scholarship to continue his studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Jacksonville. He recently graduated and was ordained in the PCA.

According to Addison, the Unity Fund’s availability not only helped him personally, it also helped Christ Church financially.

Addison now serves on the Unity Fund board and spoke about his experience during a breakfast at the 2022 General Assembly. He hopes to encourage minority students and seminarians to become more aware of and involved in the General Assembly.

But more than that, said Addison, “I want to see other people who look like me be able to obtain a degree and be ordained in the PCA.”

More Candidates to Bridge the Gap

Joshua Kim is a third-generation Korean American who attended Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. He currently serves as an English-speaking ministry pastor at Eden Presbyterian Church of Oregon. Eden is the only Korean PCA Church in the Pacific Northwest known to have any type of English ministry.

Kim is grateful to have applied for and received support from the Unity Fund while attending seminary. “As a Korean American, finances are one of the most challenging obstacles for young people considering seminary, especially for children of immigrants,” said Kim.

As a recipient of Unity Fund scholarships, Kim was able to graduate from seminary without debt — a benefit to him and to the church he serves.

Beyond his personal experience, however, Kim believes it is in the PCA’s best interest to invest in minority Korean spiritual leaders. By way of explanation, Kim recalled Korean American churches’ unique history in becoming part of the denomination.

In 1982, a number of Korean churches requested to join the PCA and were given provisional permission to do so. After officially joining the denomination, these churches continued to operate within Korean presbyteries that remained separate and independent of those defined by geographic location.

Kim believes this separation has led to a large sector of minority members within the PCA who remain unseen by the denomination as a whole. Through access to the Unity Fund, Kim suggests that a sizable number of Korean American candidates could be called into broader PCA ministry, thereby helping bridge this gap and create greater unity within the denomination.

More Boots on the Ground

Alejandro Romero is now completing his licensure exams at Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Boston, where he was first introduced to Reformed theology and the PCA.

Following graduation, Romero received a call to Resurrection Community Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he served as director of outreach and discipleship.

Romero is a first-generation American whose parents came from Mexico. He arrived at Gordon-Conwell from a background in the Assemblies of God Church. While in Boston, he and a friend visited a number of area churches, including First Presbyterian Church Northshore in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where he was impressed by both the quality of the preaching and worship.

Romero is now being trained as an Army chaplain at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. It was there, from the Presbyterian and Reformed Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel, that he learned about the Unity Fund.

From Romero’s perspective, churches that support the Unity Fund not only support the efforts of minority students, but they also receive return on their investment. “In serving seminary students, the impact comes full circle,” said Romero. “Those students come back around to serve their congregation and develop new churches and ministries.”

More Laborers for the Harvest

As he continues raising awareness and support for the Unity Fund, Scott Bridges highlights that his target is nothing short of fulfilling the Great Commission.

“We are about incarnating and putting feet on the Word of God,” said Bridges. “I am relentlessly focused on doing what I can to raise up laborers for the harvest, and the Unity Fund has moved us closer to the goal of all tribes and languages being reached.”  

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