Results tagged “race” from Reformation21 Blog

The Statement on SJ&G Explained: Article 12, Race/Ethnicity


[Editorial Note: This is the twelfth post in a series of posts in which we have invited the authors of "The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel" to expound upon the statement's affirmations and denials. We encourage our readers to take the time to read through our prefatory editorial note at the beginning of the first post prior to reading through subsequent posts in the series.]

Statement 12: 


WE AFFIRM God made all people from one man. Though people often can be distinguished by different ethnicities and nationalities, they are ontological equals before God in both creation and redemption. "Race" is not a biblical category, but rather a social construct that often has been used to classify groups of people in terms of inferiority and superiority. All that is good, honest, just, and beautiful in various ethnic backgrounds and experiences can be celebrated as the fruit of God's grace. All sinful actions and their results (including evils perpetrated between and upon ethnic groups by others) are to be confessed as sinful, repented of, and repudiated.

WE DENY that Christians should segregate themselves into racial groups or regard racial identity above, or even equal to, their identity in Christ. We deny that any divisions between people groups (from an unstated attitude of superiority to an overt spirit of resentment) have any legitimate place in the fellowship of the redeemed. We reject any teaching that encourages racial groups to view themselves as privileged oppressors or entitled victims of oppression. While we are to weep with those who weep, we deny that a person's feelings of offense or oppression necessarily prove that someone else is guilty of sinful behaviors, oppression, or prejudice.


In 1 Samuel 16:6-7, we read, "When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, 'Surely the Lord's anointed is before him.' But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.'"

This section of scripture explains the problem too many of us have. We look at the outward appearance of others and pre-judge them. We will use appearance, or height, or wealth or any of the wrong things with which to evaluate others. And this is not surprising when you consider that Samuel made the same mistake with Saul and was about to do so again with Eliab, the son of Jesse.

Because of the institution of slavery in America, race and ethnicity have been the focus of many tensions in our society. What are race and ethnicity? Are these important concepts, or should we focus our attention on other things? How should we as followers of Jesus Christ view these things? Many believers will point to Genesis 10 as if this is the origin of race and ethnicity. Nonetheless, the Bible does not explicitly state this to be the case. Rather, this is something that many read into the text.

So what is race? This is a question that many people just take for granted. They assume that race is color and differentiation of the human species. Merriam Webster defines race as "A: a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock. Or B: a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits or characteristics."1 These definitions are all fine, well and good, but most people assume that there is something more to the subject.

In any case, numerous scientists will tell you that the whole idea of race is a myth. According to Megan Gannon, a writer for Scientific American, "Racial categories are weak proxies for genetic diversity and need to be phased out."2 Michael Yudell, a professor of public health at Drexel University explains,

"It's a concept we think is too crude to provide useful information, it's a concept that has social meaning that interferes in the scientific understanding of human genetic diversity and it's a concept that we are not the first to call upon moving away from."3

This point is made even stronger by Svante Paabo, the director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany,

What the study of complete genomes from different parts of the world has shown is that even between Africa and Europe, for example, there is not a single absolute genetic difference, meaning no single variant where all Africans have one variant and all Europeans another one, even when recent migration is disregarded."4

Elizabeth Kolbert reports in the Race Issue of National Geographic:

Over the past few decades, genetic research has revealed two truths about people. The first is that all humans are closely related- more closely related than all chimps, even though there are many more humans around today. Everyone has the same collection of genes, but with the exception of identical twins, everyone has slightly different versions of some of them. Studies of this genetic diversity have allowed Scientists to reconstruct a kind of family tree of human populations. That has revealed the second deep truth: In a very real sense, all people alive today are Africans.5

The science of race is getting louder and clearer all of the time. Race is at best an overblown social construct that has been harmful to our society. It is a concept that is best forgotten.

On the other hand, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word ethnic as "of or relating to large groups of people classed around common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background."6 Unfortunately, we find the use of that pesky term "race," once again. The term "race" can muddy up the concept of ethnicity. While race might not be a thing, ethnicity definitely is.

Regardless of what these terms mean, we as followers of Jesus Christ have to remember that all people are made after the image of God. As such, regardless of what their ethnicity might be, we should treat all equally. All too often, we forget what Galatians 3: 27-28 tells us "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." In other words, ethnicities should not matter to the Christ follower. James 2:1 reminds us to "show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." Paul also taught us to "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves."7 If we did these things, there would be a lot fewer problems in the Church and perhaps society at large.

Still, we fail to treat others as we should. Why? Because, sin makes us weak and even worse, it makes us stupid. Consequently, we show favoritism or we show contempt for people, based on their ethnicity. With the concept of race comes the concept of racism and the belief that some are better than others. The Social Justice Movement among Evangelicals today places a great deal of attention on race and have created the concept of "wokeness" to emphasize that all should be cognizant of the problems of race. To be sure, there are disparities in this fallen world that we live in. Until Christ returns and does away with sin, we will continue to struggle with scarcity and racism and the other effects of the "Fall." We need to remember that "God has chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those that love him."8 Perhaps, rather than bring others to "wokeness," we should remind everyone that we are all made after the image of God. When pastors fully teach what this means, their church members should strive for justice and righteousness everywhere they serve.

1. Merriam- November 29, 2018.

2. Gannon, Megan. "Race is a Social Construct, Scientists Argue." Scientific (February 5, 2016).

3. Ibid,.

4. Ibid,.

5. Kolbert, Elizabeth National Geographic "That there is No Scientific Basis for Race- it's a Made up Label." (November 29, 2018.

6. November 29, 2018.

7. Phillipians 2:3.

8. James 2: 5.

Craig Vincent Mitchell is the assistant professor of Christian Ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Charts of Philosophy and Philosophers and Charts of Christian Ethics.

A Historic Framework for Social Responsibility


How shall the church think about social issues of race, justice and power? It is increasingly popular for these issues to be framed and discussed in the church using the categories of social justice and racial privilege as defined by the social sciences. In secular academic settings such categories find their genesis in and are tethered to Marxist systems of analysis. These systems emphasize the struggle between oppressed and oppressor. Marxist frameworks may have surface resonances with Biblical concerns for justice, equality and the poor. However, these frameworks emphasize the ongoing Hegelian struggle of thesis and antithesis without a clear pathway for resolution. Therefore, the insights gained from such analyses are not placed within a framework adequate to provide a healthy response to the social problems posed.

Rather than relying--almost exclusively in certain sectors of the church--on categories that find their genesis in systems hostile to orthodox Christianity, the church should rediscover the corrective guidance of its own tradition and draw upon its creedal and confessional resources. One such resource is the Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC), a document famous for its exposition of the moral law of God. The WLC offers a paradigm for social responsibility, a framework for robust ethical reasoning, and points toward the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A Paradigm for Social Responsibility

We don't need to rely on Marxist paradigms to teach us about social responsibility. The WLC's rules for interpreting the moral law make it clear that we are, in fact, our brother's keeper. WLC 99 states that "what is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places to endeavor that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places." Similarly, rule eight sates "what is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them; and to take heed of partaking with others in what is forbidden them."

The WLC does not envision a Christian unconcerned with the moral obligations of their neighbor. Loving your neighbor as yourself includes helping them obey God. In the WLC's exposition of the Ten Commandments, this concern extends to the physical welfare of our neighbors too (see WLC 141-142). Pietistic isolation is not an option. As human beings we are knit together in social relationships which incur moral obligation.

However, the WLC pushes past the simplistic collectivism of Marxist paradigms which posit blanket responsibility or victimization in collectives of race, class and gender. Accordingly, moral guilt or a claim to justice will accrue to these same collectives. The result is a powerful, yet vague and ultimately unhelpful, angst. By contrast the WLC goes further, providing a framework that has the capacity to yield particular pathways for repentance, obedience and advocacy. The WLC teaches that our moral obligations will also be informed by our places and our callings.

On the one hand this is freeing. The single mother working two low-wage earning jobs does share the same kind of moral responsibility as the wealthy CEO for her neighbors, but she does not share the same degree of moral responsibility as the wealthy CEO. On the other hand, it is morally challenging. True righteousness is measured by deeds not by angst. Marxist paradigms that call for awareness, angst and protest allow us to rest content with awareness, angst and protest. The WLC pushes further, calling for actual righteous deeds to be done according to your place and calling. When we stand before God we shall not be judged for how we felt, but for what we have done. Therefore, we need theories of social responsibility that provide particular guidance for obedience.

A Framework for Robust Ethical Reasoning

Pastors and historians alike can tell you that evil deeds are often justified through painfully atomistic readings of Scripture. Our sinful hearts are prone to suppress obvious moral implications from Biblical texts. Jesus summarized the ten commandments with two great laws of love. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind soul and strength. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:29-31). Jesus reasons even as he appeals to the heart.

The WLC follows Jesus and embraces a well-reasoned use of the law of God. Good and necessary inferences are drawn from the commandments, always with a view to the whole counsel of Scripture: "where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded: so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included." The WLC encourages a robust moral reasoning intended to give expression to the spirit of the law, lest our sinful hearts rest content with the letter of the law. Both the WLC's exposition of the commandments and the type of moral reasoning it encourages offer resources to fashion a Biblical response to issues of race, justice and power.

The Hope of the Gospel

The WLC makes it clear that the moral law of God binds all people at all times (WLC 91-93). It is the ethical standard that defines what Christians labor for in the public square as much as in the home. For example, the WLC reminds us that we are not to exercise "undue silence in a just cause" (WLC 145). We should "endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others" (WLC 142). In these matters the moral law of God will be our guide.

And yet, the WLC reminds us that ethics and morality are not social goods with which we can rest content. For love of God and neighbor we pursue earthly righteousness. But we accept that "none is righteous, no not one" (Romans 3:10). Therefore, there is no lasting hope without Christ. The law that guides our vision for justice will, if handled rightly, at the very same time convict us of our inability to keep it. For the regenerate this means that the law will "show them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good; and thereby to provoke them to more thankfulness, and to express the same in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule to their obedience" (WLC 97). Here we see that the law moves us to worship and adore Christ when we realize that he kept it for us when we could not and bore its curse in our place. The WLC would have the law move our hearts to love Christ, and from that place of love to obey Christ.

For the unregenerate, the moral law is of use "to awaken their consciences to flee from wrath to come, and to drive them to Christ" (WLC 96). The law serves salvation by driving the unregenerate to Christ. We can never rest content with social transformation or the alleviation of earthly suffering. We will always be burdened to see spiritual transformation and the alleviation of eternal suffering. This is not to deny the God glorifying, neighbor loving value of alleviating temporal suffering. It is simply to remember that temporal suffering is temporal. Of course, to lean on the temporality of suffering as an excuse to ignore our neighbor's pain is wrong. But to forget that our neighbor faces eternal suffering is equally heartless, and with even greater consequences.

This understanding of the usefulness of the law for the unregenerate will inform how we exercise co-belligerence as Christians. Augustine famously coined the phrase City of Man to describe that realm of civil society where Christians labor with unbelievers for the common good. But, those with whom we labor in matters of social concern must take us as we are. We cannot make common cause with those who would demand we lay down the cross of Christ in order take up another cause. We cannot be silenced, for we must save both ourselves and our hearers.


In the spirit of avoiding what C.S. Lewis called "chronological snobbery," just because the Westminster Larger Catechism is old (1648) does not mean it is old-fashioned. It remains relevant today. Nor should we presume that because it was not heeded in earlier days that it did not speak clearly enough to be heard. Hearing was not the problem, heeding was. Chad Van Dixhoorn has noted that in the late 18th century the American Presbyterian church removed the word "depopulations" from the WLC's exposition of the eighth commandment. This ban "was embarrassing given the ongoing European settlement of territory once belonging to native Americans." One might wonder whether 19th century Presbyterians were not similarly embarrassed by the prohibitions against manstealing, defrauding one's neighbor and enriching oneself unjustly.

The WLC is not our only Biblical resource to address concerns over race, justice and power, but it is an important one. Our forebears seemed to have heard the WLC without heading it in these areas. We may find that tomorrow's embarrassment is not that we deleted a word from the WLC because it made us uncomfortable, but that we never bothered to read it seriously in the first place.


1. The Westminster Larger Catechism: With Scripture Proofs. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

2. Chad Van Dixhoorn, Confessing the Faith, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2014), xxii.

The Intricacies of Interracial Marriage

In light of current discussions regarding racial reconciliation, we thought that it might be a benefit to our readers to run a series of videos from a longtime contributor, Rob Ventura, and his wife, Vanessa, concerning a variety of subjects related to interracial marriage. Rob is the pastor of Grace Community Baptist Church in Providence, RI. Rob and Vanessa have been married 20 years and have three children. 

The interviewer, Suhylah Claudio, has provided the following rationale for this series of interviews: 

"To share the varying perspectives on race, ethnicity, culture, and nationality from various ethnic backgrounds. The purpose is to dispel myths and stereotypes and expose points of view from those whom we may not feel are 'like us' and ultimately to think about what Scripture says about these things. My goal is to help unite us as one race of Christians who are aware of the perceptions and experiences of one another so that we can be more sensitive and loving as brethren in Christ."

In this first video, Rob and Vanessa talk about their ethnic backgrounds, how they met and the way in which their marriage was perceived by relatives and those in the public. It is our desire that this series will stimulate helpful and God-honoring discussions about this important subject.

Longing for a Multi-Ethnic Church

If Charlotte's Web were real, Charlotte might have written the following about the events of last week: "SOME WEEK!" "HORRIFIC" "DEVIANT" "HUMBLING". Two young black men shot dead by police officers, one in my home town of Baton Rouge. Five police officers shot dead by one young black man in Dallas. Much has been written, tweeted and posted about these events and their larger significance for race relations in our country, as well as how Christians should respond.

The tragedies of the past week affected me in part because over the past two to three years the church I serve as Associate Pastor has taken increasingly concrete steps toward becoming a multi-ethnic congregation, to better reflect the neighborhood in which our building is situated, and the kingdom of God in glory. Our elders have expressed their desire to call an African-American teaching elder - a possibly difficult endeavor, given the relative supply and demand of ordained or ordainable African-American men in my denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America; our location (as one man put it, the presence of Reformed Theological Seminary makes the Jackson, MS, metro area "less undesirable" - not a huge vote of confidence for my city); and the fact that we desire to transition from an essentially all-white church to a multi-ethnic church, rather than plant a multi-ethnic church from scratch. As I have meditated on the sorrowful happenings of these last days, my thoughts have turned to the prospects of serving in the church we say we yearn to become. What will pastoral ministry look like if the Lord gives us the desire of our hearts - an African-American pastor and a racially diverse church - and then more police officers and/or young black men die at one another's hands?

Co-laboring with a black brother in a multi-ethnic congregation through times like these will undoubtedly affect our preaching, in terms of text selection, application, and illustration. It will impact the content of the prayers in our worship service, the songs we sing, and even the manner in which we sing them. Even this past Lord's Day, in our nearly homogenous congregation, our words to God and our words to men were tinctured with the sober realities these lamentable days have again thrust upon us. Co-laboring with a black brother in a multi-ethnic congregation through times like these will enable us to continue to learn how to listen to, and understand, the various viewpoints, concerns, fears, and desires of my African-American brothers and sisters. Even this week, I have heard again the apprehension some of my black friends have for their sons going out into the world each day - an apprehension, for the most part, I need not have for my own sons. Even this week, I have been reminded that throughout our nation's history, racism has so often found its terminal point on the black body, and that this tendency is what arouses so much of the angst, anguish and anger of those who cry out that black lives matter too. Pastor Leon Brown has put it well: "When you pray for diversity in your church, you're praying for more than a change in the color of your congregation, you're also praying for a change in the content of your conversations, which will necessarily include matters of justice, equality, and the image of God." Those conversations will transform me in ways I long to be transformed, that I might become quicker to hear, slower to speak, and slower to anger or frustration (James 1:19).

Co-laboring with a black brother in a multi-ethnic congregation through times like these will give us new eyes on what it means to be salt and light in our community. What does it practically look like to do justice and love mercy, standing up for those suffering and mourning? How do Christians continue to speak out and live out against the sin of racism and prejudice? What can Christians do in a local community to help alleviate poverty without hurting the poor? How do we engage as evangelicals with the issues of a movement like Black Lives Matter? I look forward, God willing, to having the wisdom, counsel, and experience of one who understands what it means to be a minority in a majority culture.

Co-laboring with a black brother in a multi-ethnic congregation through times like these will help us know how to read and refer more wisely and winsomely to our theological forefathers who taught so much gold yet also taught, practiced and/or tolerated so much dross in regard to race, slavery, and segregation. The doctrines of the imago dei and progressive sanctification should prevent us from demonizing or lionizing any of those who went before us, whether from the 1860s or the 1960s. What John Piper wrote of Martin Luther King, Jr., applies aptly to our own denominational ancestors: "From a distance we can make distinctions. We can say: This was an admirable trait but not that. This we will celebrate, and that we will deplore." There is a baby in the bathwater, though we must be careful not to imagine that we can lift him out of the tub unsullied by the dirty water - careful acknowledgements of the biblical and theological blind spots and practical failures to work out sound theology will go a long way toward softening the heart of the suspicious toward the skeletons in our common closet. And laboring alongside and ministering to men and women of differing races will open my mind and heart to resources outside my own tradition or experience, by which the Holy Spirit will only grow, stretch, and mold me more and more into the image of our Savior.

The events of this past week have reminded me again that we Christians are strangers and exiles on the earth, and they have made me long for the better country, the lasting city, the city that is to come, the city prepared by God, the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10, 13, 16; 13:14). I trust this past week, and my reflections upon it, have also made me more humble and more teachable; made me more ready to acknowledge that though the Presbyterian Church in America has adopted a statement repenting of racial sins and recommitting to racial reconciliation, there is still so much work left to do in proclaiming and applying the gospel in our own country; and increased my desire to do that work through our church with a diverse leadership and a diverse membership. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Caleb Cangelosi is the Associate Pastor of Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church in Ridgeland, MS. He is currently working on his ThM at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.
Over at Justin Taylor's blog at the Gospel Coalition, I contributed to a historians' forum that sought to answer certain questions on southern evangelicals and their failures on Civil Rights. My answer particular focused on southern Presbyterian conservatives, many of whom would form the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). 

Of course, a 900 word blog post (I was over the requested amount by a 100 words!) can't do justice to a complex issue--especially when I was trying to offer a little bit of nuance into the overall discussion: namely, a) not every southern Presbyterian conservative was a hardboiled segregationist and b) there was change over time, especially for the younger generation that would lead the steering committee that produced the PCA. 

In my forthcoming book, For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America, which will be published later this year by P&R, I devote a lot of space to southern Presbyterian conservatives and race. However, I have offered shorter summaries of that material in many open forums, from the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and the University of Southern Mississippi to the PCA General Assembly. One such shorter summary, done this past summer at a pre-GA conference sponsored by the PCA Historical Center, was called, "Race, Civil Rights, and the Southern (Presbyterian) Way of Life." 

Because the audio of the meeting costs $25 and because some feel that PCA historians are not forthright on these issues (although I talked about these issues also in Robert Lewis Dabney: A Southern Presbyterian Life), I am going to post this paper in four parts here and then follow it with a final application post. I hope that by telling the truth about the past--both its ugliness and its hopefulness--we can begin an important conversation about our future, both in my own denomination and in evangelicalism at large.

From the time the Southern Presbyterian Journal was founded in 1942, it had stood steadily for several key commitments shared widely by southern Presbyterian conservatives. Best articulated by long-time contributor J. E. Flow, these commitments included the "old school" interpretation of Scripture and the Westminster Standards; the Presbyterian form of church government; the grassroots principle of church oversight, symbolized in the role of diaconal care; the spiritual mission of the church; and "the purity and integrity of the White man of North America upon whose shoulders are laid the burdens of the world."[1] Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the magazine had run scores of articles and editorials that had defended racial solidarity and segregation as part of a larger conservative religious and political worldview, which linked together anti-integration, anti-communism, and anti-centralization. Racial conservatism was a factor in the defeat of reunion with the northern Presbyterian church in 1954 and it continued to be an issue that divided the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) in the years that followed.[2]

However, new winds were blowing in the church as well as the culture at large. In 1952, in Jackson, Mississippi, southern Presbyterian favorite and Nelson Bell son-in-law Billy Graham announced that he would integrate his crusades, a promise he kept the following year at Birmingham, Alabama. Southern Presbyterian conservative Bill Hill continued to pursue an integrated ministry in his churches in Hopewell, Virginia. And a younger generation of conservative ministers was beginning to realize that racial segregation was a betrayal of the Gospel and served to undercut missions at home and abroad. That did not mean that the conservative worldview that had marked southern Presbyterians would change quickly; it did mean, however, that the future trajectory was toward racial inclusion and interracial exchange and away from racial solidarity. Sadly, the change has come slowly and has been betrayed at countless points along the way.

No one better embodied some of the contradictions and possibilities of this era than G. Aiken Taylor, who became editor of the Journal in 1959. Born in 1920 to missionary parents in Brazil, Taylor returned to the United States when he was fifteen to complete his education. He graduated from Presbyterian College in South Carolina in 1940 and spent the war years in the Army as a captain and company commander in the 142nd infantry. After the war, he graduated from Columbia Theological Seminary and then Duke University with a Ph.D. degree with a focus on John Calvin and religious education. When he was at Columbia, Taylor had served a church in Smyrna, Georgia, and while he was at Duke, he served the Northside Presbyterian Church, Burlington, North Carolina. After his graduation from Duke, he would go to serve the Presbyterian church in Alexandria, Louisiana, for five years before he was approached to take on the editorship of the Journal.

One of the questions that he had in taking on this role was whether he would have to agree with and promote the Journal's aggressive position on racial segregation. Growing up on the mission field caused Taylor to have a different attitude about segregation than most southerners. He told Nelson Bell, "I don't like agitation on the social question from either side. I am not an integrationist, neither am I a segregationist. My position on this issue is that a view point of whatever kind should not be made the criterion for determining the place or the worth of a man...or a church paper." In reply, Bell assured him that there was a range of opinions on segregation among the board of directors for the magazine and that he would not be required to hold to a particular party line. That said, the older man also counseled him not to push his more moderate racial views either: "I feel you would be utterly foolish to come to the Journal as editor and make race an issue--certainly at this juncture. There are so many more important things which need to be faced." As it would happen, Taylor's position on race, as evidenced in his writing and editorial practice, would largely harmonize with Bell's own racial views: downplaying forced segregation, dismayed by outside agitators who stirred up the racial issue, and concerned not to let racial politics divert attention from the largely doctrinal and social issues of the day.[3]

The first notice of race relations after Taylor became editor of the Journal actually came from Nelson Bell. Once again, he worried about the effects of "interracial marriage" and "mulattos," issues that he had raised many times over the past fifteen years. But there was a new note as well: "We believe that we who live in the South must come to terms with changes which, while having taken place gradually, are now actualities. To those who have made educational and economic progress to the place where they need public services, these should be granted, not grudgingly but as a matter of course." In addition, Christians needed to view blacks as those who have souls "as precious in God's sight as that of any other person." Evangelism was being hindered by the racial agitation; justice needed to be done.[4]

At the same time, conservatives needed to make sure that such racial moderation would not divide the church. Taylor urged the church to vote down to overtures coming to the 1960 General Assembly, seeking to reopen reunion conversations with the northern church. Among his reasons were pronouncements by the northern church on race issues: "Some of the pronouncements, such as those on race relations, have been sufficiently explosive to produce a wide-open split in a Church such as ours." Racial moderation did not necessarily mean advocacy for integration nor did it commit individuals to agitate the church on the issue.[5]

[1] J. E. Flow, "Positive or Negative?" Southern Presbyterian Journal (29 September 1954): 8-9 (hereafter SPJ). Strikingly, these issues, including segregation, were cited in a recent essay by a participant in these struggles: see Morton H. Smith, "The Southern Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church in America," in Interpreting and Teaching the Word of Hope, ed. Robert L. Penny (Taylors, SC: Presbyterian Press, 2005), 206-12.

[2] On this see, Sean Michael Lucas, For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America (Phillipsburg: P&R, forthcoming), chapters four and five.

[3] Paul Hastings to G. Aiken Taylor, 17 March 1954, G. Aiken Taylor Papers, Box 114, folder 22, PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, MO; G. Aiken Taylor to L. Nelson Bell, 29 May 1959; L. Nelson Bell to G. Aiken Taylor, 15 June 1959, L. Nelson Bell Papers, Box 75, folder 16, Billy Graham Center, Wheaton College, Wheaton IL.

[4] L. Nelson Bell, "One Southerner Speaks," Presbyterian Journal (hereafter PJ) (13 April 1960): 9, 18.

[5] G. Aiken Taylor, "Church Union an Issue," PJ (20 April 1960): 11.

According to some sources, Officer Darren Wilson could have been indicted with one of several crimes (e.g., first degree murder, second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, or others) for killing an unarmed African-American young man. Many around the world were quite disgusted at his actions. Others believed Officer Wilson acted rightly and was simply seeking to defend himself from the attacks of Mr. Michael Brown. 

Since the incident occurred months ago, the conversation about police brutality, the history of African-Americans in this nation, and ethnic, or race, discussions have more frequently occurred in a condensed manner. People have wondered whether this was an isolated incident. Others have thought that African-Americans, far too frequently, have their lives taken by white law enforcement? Still yet, some posed the question, "Was this even about race?" They further mused that some African-Americans make certain situations about race, or ethnicity, when they should not; it only makes matters worse.

With all the conversations that happened, whether on social media sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) and/or in the news, the world, and literally I mean the world, waited with baited breath as the verdict concerning Officer Darren Wilson was announced. At about 9PM Eastern Standard Time (EST) on Monday, November 24, 2014, St. Louis County Prosecutor, Bob McCulloch, announced that a grand jury comprised of nine whites and three blacks did not indict Officer Wilson. Many people were shocked. Others thought the appropriate decision was made.

How do you feel? I write to those who are frustrated. Does the verdict remind you of all the years of oppression our people (cf. Exod. 2:11) have faced? Do you feel rage? Do you want to express it somehow, but for fear of misunderstanding you do nothing? Do you write something on Facebook or Twitter secretly hoping people will validate your concerns by 'liking', commenting, or retweeting your post? Do you wonder about the Brown family and how they are feeling and healing? Mr. Michael Brown Sr. said

"We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions. While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen. Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera."

Despite Brown, Sr.'s comment to "channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change," perhaps one of your chief concerns in moving forward is that some white people seem to stand in the way. "How can we make change positively if they seem to oppose us?", you may think. Or perhaps you continue to ponder why more whites do not understand your pain, and instead of seeking to better comprehend you and your position, they assume they know, then write things on social media (e.g., "Don't make this about race") that are extremely insensitive and only further frustrate and offend you. It may seem as if #blacklivesdontmatter. 

Do you wonder if some whites lack concern that another image-bearer has lost his life? Deep down, do you wish they would remain silent and simply "weep with those who weep" (Rom. 12:15) instead of telling you, "A decision has been made. Color does not matter. The facts are in"? As I have been taught in my marriage, sometimes it is best to remain silent and enter into another person's world insofar as one is able to better garner another person's position. 

I know you are hurting. I am, too, because the Ferguson, MO incident reminds me of so many other things, not to mention we have not progressed as far as we should have regarding ethnic, or race, relations in the church. Nevertheless, my plea to you, as brothers and sisters in Christ and according to the flesh, is that you realize whites, particularly white Christians, are not your enemies. The same flesh that was torn and blood that was shed for you was equally broken and poured out for them. We are called, therefore, "so far as it depends on you, [to] live peaceably with all" (Rom. 12:18). As difficult as that may be at times, are you willing to do that? More pointedly, are you willing to be at peace with your white brothers and sisters, and even reconcile with them if they have offended you, before the Sunday comes when you participate in the Lord's Supper? Do you realize what may be at stake if you do not?

"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died" (1 Cor. 11:27-30). 

The context of the aforementioned passage includes, but is not limited to, reconciliation with each other (cf. 1 Cor. 11:17-22). If we have not attempted to mend the brokenness of our relationships in the local church, we drink judgment upon ourselves. In fact that is why some people were dying in the first century. It is frightening to consider how seriously we should take participating in Communion.

You see, just as God, the offended party, has reconciled us, the offending party, to himself through Christ by pursuing us and ultimately sending his Son to a cross, so, too, we must pursue those who have offended us in an attempt to fasten the loose areas in our relationships with them. Along with all the pain and confusion we may experience during this time (#FergusonDecision), we must maintain hearts full of forgiveness and love (Col. 3:12-17). We must grow together; we must live together; we must love together. We have enough problems in the world. Far too often those same problems exist in the Church, when in fact the Church should be a place of refuge and comfort.

To get to that place, however, it will take time and many more conversations, but God is able. In his providence, he has brought us thus far. He continues to create a people for himself, a people from every tribe, nation, and tongue, who should be willing, ready, and able to worship the Lord under the same roof, live together in neighborhoods, and have these kind of conversations. Our communion more broadly (i.e., relationships) and our Communion more specifically (i.e., the Lord's Supper) all point to our salvation, redemption, and reconciliation with God through Christ, as well as our reconciliation with each other.

Please pursue and reconcile with those who have offended you. Take the more difficult road. It will be that much sweeter as you participate in the Lord's Supper and look across the pews knowing you are truly one in Christ and that no temporal issue has caused separation. I really and truly hope it works out that smoothly. I also hope that, as you pursue those who have offended you, God will be glorified in the reconciliation of his people as you seek to learn from each other and grow together.