A friend asked me to summarise my critique of the new PCA Agenda. What follows is a very brief summary of my critique based on many weeks of Sabbath School discussions ranging across the broad sweep of the proposed agenda. It is by no means exhaustive, but is intended to be brief and summary.
There are typically three subjects used as motivations urging the PCA to adopt a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural agenda of ‘diversity’ and racial reconciliation. Those subjects are statistics, bible examples, and history. In relation to our history, it is argued that we must repent and demonstrate our repentance by specific actions. I’ll address these one at a time.
There are typically two sets of statistics put forward with ominous pronouncements that they foretell the demise of the PCA if we do not change.
First, it is pointed out that US demographics are changing so that soon there will be no racial majority in the US. Since the membership of the PCA does not reflect this kind of diversity, it is suggested that within the next generation we will cease to have a place of ministry and influence for the Gospel. It is urged that we must change our denominational demographics if we hope to have a ministry in the US. That is, our demographics need to reflect those of the society around us or we will no longer be able to minister.
To this we respond that there are ominous warnings in the Scriptures about churches being removed from existence. Some of the most critical warnings are provided in Revelation 1-4 and have to do with love for Christ, purity of doctrine and worship, faithfulness under persecution, moral purity, and so on. Absent from these warnings is sensitivity to racial demographics or achieving and maintaining a certain level of ministry outreach and influence in the culture.
Second, it is pointed out that 30% of the U.S. population is African American, but only 2% of PCA Teaching Elders are African American. The implication appears to be either directly related to changing our demographics for outreach reasons (in which case, see above), or that we have some prejudice preventing us from achieving a proper proportionality in the racial representation of our teaching office. However, we are not 30% African American in PCA membership, so even if this were a biblical way of looking at the call to office (and it is not), this statistic is not relevant to the current membership of the PCA. The Holy Spirit says nothing of racial proportionality when explaining through the Apostle Paul how men are gifted and qualified for this office (1 Timothy 3, and Titus 1).
Regarding Bible examples, several are offered but, frankly, they are tortured and twisted, at best. Here are a handful.
Diversity is urged from 1 Corinthians 12 (the body’s many parts), but Paul is not describing racial diversity here. It is suggested that Acts 15 was dealing with racial reconciliation, but it was actually dealing with membership and sacraments in the New Covenant church as it related to the Old Covenant. Finally, it is urged that we must strive to make the church today look like the church of the eschaton in Revelation 5 & 7, but these passages are intended to show the complete and overwhelming victory that will be achieved by Christ, not a prescription for the demographic redesign of PCA churches.
Indeed, where the Scriptures actually address diversity in the church, it says we should not focus upon it or allow it to be emphasised in how we relate to one another (e.g., Colossians 3.11; James 2.1-7; Ephesians 2.11-18).
Finally, with regard to PCA history, the ‘personal resolution’ offered by Dr Lucas is central. It is admitted by those advocating for the resolution that we have previously confessed the sins of 1865 (racial slavery), but they add that we have failed to confess the sins of 1965 (the civil rights movement). Further, even in what we have confessed thus far, we have failed to take steps to demonstrate repentance through action.
With regard to the ‘sins of 1965’, there are several problems. First, it is worth noting that the PCA didn’t exist as an institution in 1965, and even as a ‘continuing church’, the PCA is now made up of Canadian, Korean, and former RPCES congregations that were not a part of the PCUS in the 1960s. Are they expected to own this as though they were a part of it in some way?
But of far greater importance in relation to this resolution is the fact that we are a church and not a political institution. We are not called by Christ nor qualified to advocate for particular civil legislation, nor are we empowered by the Holy Spirit to condemn past members for failing to participate in ‘the right’ political or social movements in a way that meets with our approval. However, that is precisely what this resolution pretends to do. What next? Shall we resolve to discipline those who fail to support bringing Syrian refugees to the US? Shall we resolve to excommunicate those who actively oppose comprehensive immigration reform in the US Congress? The point here is that as a church court, we have no business condemning or condoning our members based on their lack of participation in or resistance to certain political or social movements or particularly related legislative efforts.
Certainly the church must teach against sinful prejudice and where it exists in heart or action we must bring appropriate godly discipline. Further, with godly love for neighbour, Christians must cultivate a sensitive and compassionate spirit towards those who have suffered violence and loss due to sinful injustice. The resolution from Dr Lucas is the wrong vehicle for fostering the exercise of these duties.
In keeping with the claim by Dr Lucas that we have failed to demonstrate through actions a genuine repentance, it is typically argued that there are three ways we must change: leadership representation, ministry style, and worship style.
In leadership representation, it is argued that we must avoid crass quotas but increase diversity of ethnic representation at every level of influence in the church. Of course, this is still quotas by another name, but the real problem is what I touched upon in the part about statistics. We’re not an electorate with ethnic voting blocks. We’re the church with spiritual offices.
In ministry style, it is argued that an open door is not enough. We must reach out to our demographic targets, asking them to tell us what they need so that the church can become the means of meeting those needs. This follows a welfare state model of ministry. But we are not the welfare state. We are the Temple of the living God, the Household of Faith where the life and light of the gospel is found.
In worship style, remembering that an open door is not enough, it is argued that we must adopt worship styles that welcome ethnic minorities by reflecting their culturally comfortable style preferences. But worship is not the place where we exhibit our cultural comfort zone. Worship is the place where we set aside our worldly comforts to be transformed by the culture of Heaven. In worship we are called into the Heavenly courts in the name of Christ Jesus to attend reverently, lovingly, and diligently upon the glory of the Triune God in His commanded acts of worship, the means He has revealed for experiencing His transforming grace.