Racism In The PCA and Reformed Seminaries

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JS116

Puritan Board Freshman
While searching the internet,I stumbled upon this article by the author Anthony Bradley,graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary and Covenant Theological Seminary(also teacher).Some of the stuff in the article really has me concerned and is shocking if the findings are true.I think this is of much importance that needs to be discussed.

I dont know much about American Presbyterianism and the PCA along with it's church splits,but it alarmed me to find out these were not PCUSA churches adhering to this,but PCA churches who were segregationist and still refuse to deal with the problem rightly.

This article caused such an importance of discussion people like, Ligon Duncan,R Scott Clark, professors and students of Covenant Theological Seminary and many more commented on it.

In order to see the comments here is the link...

bradley.chattablogs.com/archives/2010/07/why-didnt-they.html


Here is the article without viewing the link...

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Why didn't they tell us?: the racist & pro-segregation roots of the formation of RTS, the PCA, and the role of First Prez in Jackson, Miss in all of it


Peter Slade's book Open Friendship in a Closed Society: Mission Mississippi and A Theology of Friendship (Oxford University Press, 2009) reveals difficult information about the racist and pro-segregationist ethos surrounding the formation of the Reformed Theological Seminary, the Presbyterian Church in America, and the role of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS., in addition to the theological concerns of that era.

If you're black in the PCA this book will be very, very hard to read. Sorry folks, the racial history of the denomination is more than just a "blind spot." According to Slade, there was more going on.

I am amazed that people outside of the PCA know more about the denomination's history than it's own members it seems.

After reading this history I have been struggling to answer why: (1) no one talks about these facts in general and (2) why were several of us blacks were not told about this in the early 1990s when many of us came into to the PCA? Why didn't anyone tell us the following as described in Slade's book 15-20 years ago:

(1) First Presbyterian Church in Jackson's role in supporting segregation in Mississippi.
(2) The "Spirituality of the Church" theology
(3) Rev. James Henry Thornwell's call to "reform" not abolish slavery and the theology that led him to that position.
(4) On December 4, 1861, the representatives of 47 Southern presbyteries formed an Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America (PCCSA).
(5) The racial views of Robert L. Dabney and Benjamin Palmer
(6) The role of W. Calvin Wells, an elder at First Presbyterian Church, in fighting for racial segregation.
(7) The failed attempt to launch the "Afro-American Presbyterian Church"
(8) What led to the planting of Central (1898), Power Memorial (1924), Fondren (1930) outside of Jackson.
(9) The paternalism that Mississippi Presbyterians had toward blacks in the formation of institutions and programs designed to help blacks.
(10) The role of Westminster Seminary's J. Gresham Machen and Cornelius Van Til in the segregationist churches.
(11) The 1954 statement issued at First Presbyterian, Jackson rejecting the PCUS's support of the conclusion of Brown vs. Board.
(12) Dr. Guy T. Gillisepie's (former president at Belhaven College) argument on favor of segregation.
(13) How desegregation led to the launching of Christian schools in Jackson, MS.
(14) That Mississippi Presbyterians equated desegregation with being a liberal in the 1960s.
(15) The relationship between First Presbyterian Church and Westminster Seminary in the early 1960s.
(16) The non-theological reasons RTS was started in 1964 (consider the timing and national movements related to race) and the meeting at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Alabama, that formed a denomination called, the "National Presbyterian Church in America" resulting from it.
(17) Morton Smith's book How is the Gold Become Dim!
(18) The letters that went around at First Presbyterian, Jackson condemning any involvement in racial reconciliation progress that was being made among some at the church on the early 1990s.
(19) and more.....

For those us African Americans who came into the PCA in early 1990s (I came in 1994) and have been committed ever since (we're not going anywhere), I don't understand why Peter Slade, a United Methodist, has been courageous enough to bring these things to light. Why is the racial history never told as a part of the PCA's history? Why did I have to find this out after-the-fact? Why am I learning these things from a United Methodist? Why haven't I been told these details by Presbyterians?

For at least 6 YEARS I have been repeatedly, and regularly called "nigger," "Anthony Bradley, the Negro Prince of the PCA," "The Token Negro and Filthy Pervert and a Stain on the Bedsheets of Life," "Anthony Bradley, the Affirmative Action Ph.D," and other racial slurs all over the internet since some white Reformed people discovered me; and it has not stopped. I had no idea what I was getting myself into in the early 1990's and nobody told me what to expect. I have been completely caught of guard and I'm lucky to get a shoulder shrug from people who knew this would happen. Why didn't anyone tell us?

One the hand I get asked, "why do you stay in the PCA?" and on the other hand I get asked "do you love the PCA?" I have remained in theological circles where I'm regularly called racial slurs, and haven't left, and people ask me if I am "committed?" To some I am an idiot and to others a "loose canon" who does not express enough love for a denomination. Have you ever been called, "the Negro Prince of the PCA?" Don't people understand that if I leave the racists win. The racists should repent or leave. Why should the minorities leave?

Why didn't they tell us? I'm looking for anyone to help us make sense of the silence on this issue.

Why are people outside of the PCA more familiar with this part of the PCA's story than those inside the PCA?

It's difficult to encourage African Americans to embrace the denomination that won't disclose a major part of its history some would argue.

I am Reformed and Presbyterian for reasons that have nothing to do with the South, segregation, the Spirituality of the Church, or the Confederacy. Is that ok? Does that remain in the PCA? Should it?
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earl40

Puritan Board Professor
I go "back" and "forth" if the blatantly racist is a Christian. I go "back" to thinking they are not when I hear of events you go through. I go "forth" when I know God in His providence places people in very different times than we are in now.

So far as the silence on the matter remember we all do not bring up past (or current) sin in the real fear that they may not think we are Christians. If I told you some of my thoughts I know you would go "back and forth" on if I had faith.

I believe if I was around when someone calls you nigger, I would not be judged a Christian after I was done with them because I doubt I would deal with them in love of Jesus.
 

jogri17

Puritan Board Junior
I am not African American so I feel a bit odd talking about this, but there is a sizable portion of racists within Reformed Churches. A few years ago I dated a French girl from Algerian descent and some people (Not leaders thanks be to God) quoted Thornwall and Dabney as authorities to try to say I shouldn't be. On the other hand, I know a young man who was born into a racist family and realized it was wrong, but has a strong foot in the mouth problem and is trying hard to correct past attitudes. Racism though if a human problem not one exclusively in the PCA and OPC. Besides, I applaud the PCA for working hard to overcome that past. That being said, there is much racial ignorance in Reformed circles and often racial insensitivity is mistaken for racism. That is an important distinction In my humble opinion.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
Shawn, go to your local library and get (inter-library loan if you have to) Slade's book. It's fantastic. It's not just about racism, but about how people who lived in a highly racist culture nevertheless took steps to overcome their own prejudices. I wrote a review here:Review – Open Friendship in a Closed Society by Peter Slade « Sacra Pagina

As far as racism in the PCA goes, it's going to correlate roughly to geography, and to some degree age. Mississippi is probably the most racist state in the US, so the Jackson crowd carries some baggage. It's going to be worse in the South in general, since many southerners, frustrated about losing the war, turned to resenting minorities. However, much of the PCA is now made up of young converts. These people, who have no historic connection with the PCA, probably don't have a clue about the racism. They didn't bring it with them.

Now, concerning the history of the PCA, I have a few thoughts. First, as far as I know, not many churches actually spend much time talking about the denomination's history at all. But, if they do, I think they ought to talk about this. There's nothing more healthy for a church than to examine its failures. How better to model our faith in justification by faith alone? As far as the spirituality of the church goes, it's an ongoing discussion. Certainly it's had some deleterious effects and at times was used to justify not dealing with the ethical dimensions of social issues. Is it all wrong? Not sure.
 

Backwoods Presbyterian

Puritanboard Amanuensis
It is worth noting that white supremacist groups (including the post-1920 KKK) have traditionally found the majority of their membership in the upper Midwest, the Great Lakes States, and California. Hollywood has done a good job conditioning us to believe that racism only existed (and exists) south of the Mason-Dixon when history tells us different.

It is Grade-A balony to say Mississippi is the "most racist state in the union". I can say with some experience that I saw more outward acts of Racism living in Pittsburgh, PA for 6 years than I did growing up in West Virginia for 18. Same thing during my time in the Marines. The most racist guys in my shop were from NYC, Delaware, and Kansas.
 

seajayrice

Puritan Board Sophomore
Shawn, go to your local library and get (inter-library loan if you have to) Slade's book. It's fantastic. It's not just about racism, but about how people who lived in a highly racist culture nevertheless took steps to overcome their own prejudices. I wrote a review here:Review – Open Friendship in a Closed Society by Peter Slade « Sacra Pagina

As far as racism in the PCA goes, it's going to correlate roughly to geography, and to some degree age. Mississippi is probably the most racist state in the US, so the Jackson crowd carries some baggage. It's going to be worse in the South in general, since many southerners, frustrated about losing the war, turned to resenting minorities. However, much of the PCA is now made up of young converts. These people, who have no historic connection with the PCA, probably don't have a clue about the racism. They didn't bring it with them.

Now, concerning the history of the PCA, I have a few thoughts. First, as far as I know, not many churches actually spend much time talking about the denomination's history at all. But, if they do, I think they ought to talk about this. There's nothing more healthy for a church than to examine its failures. How better to model our faith in justification by faith alone? As far as the spirituality of the church goes, it's an ongoing discussion. Certainly it's had some deleterious effects and at times was used to justify not dealing with the ethical dimensions of social issues. Is it all wrong? Not sure.


Some of the more violent cases of racism and public opposition to integration took place in the north.

I came across this article that deals with contemporary issues touching on church and race. Being Black and Reformed: An Interview with Anthony Carter by Anthony Carter | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org
 

Southern Presbyterian

Puritan Board Doctor
*MODERATION*

Let us try to focus on positive alternatives and fact based citations as regards the original post and NOT point fingers or dredge up the past. In other words, this is NOT going to be allowed to become a "this group is worse/better than that group" thread. :judge:
 
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lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
It is endemic to the fallen human heart. I was in a PCA church that had Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, and Phillipine. Let me stress that the folks in the church were great. But their parents, many of them in the home country and many of them Christian, had serious problems with racial superiority, such that I heard that the biggest single issue in the Princeton student fellowship was the subject of orientals dating different oriental races and having to deal with their parents back home who were aghast- the other ethnic goups were always inferior. Korean Presbyterians were not necessarily free of Korean vs Chinese-Japanese, any more than whites are free of white vs black. So I would not really call it a black-white thing, as it can be white-white.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
It is a shame that he was so ignorant of history when he went to seminary. Anyone with a calendar should have been able to figure out how the PCUSA's PCUS component originated.

As far as saying that First Pres Jackson was racist 15 or 20 years ago, how far can I go in questioning the accuracy of that without getting moderated?

The gentleman being quoted in the original post probably should go to the UCC. He should find all the tolerance he wants there.
 
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Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
Shawn:

There are a number of problems with the text that you've quoted (in other words, not your fault but rather the fault or sad result of the way those sentences fall together).

1. Perhaps first on the list is that those people who were calling Dr. Bradley names had nothing to do with the PCA. They were a small group of people trying to push a view called Kinism and they had a web site called Little Geneva. As best I could determine when I tried to dig into who these people were, one of them was a Baptist and one of them was a member of some micro-Presbyterian group. I'm referencing here Dr. Bradley's paragraph that begins "For at least 6 years..." The implication of that paragraph, by its context, is that these name-callers were members of the PCA. So far as I could discover, they definitely were NOT.
2. As to the PCA specifically:

a. When the PCA was being formed, there was a man who came forward ready to donate a large sum, perhaps $1M, provided the new denomination would be "for white folks only". That man was turned away. I have Dr. Wilson Benton and Dr. Jim Baird separately as authorities for that account.

b. While some might cynically deride it as tokenism, there was an African-American ruling elder who was involved in the process of forming the PCA. (I'm sorry but I don't remember his name here this morning)

c. The name originally chosen for the PCA was The National Presbyterian Church. The very fact that they were intent on being a national and not a sectional church in that era of the civil rights movement is a good indication that there was no intent to be racist or to countenance racism.

d. Just within a few years of forming, the PCA was seriously engaged in merger talks with the OPC and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. The latter group had a strong abolitionist heritage. See stories of Alexander McLeod's stand against slavery -- PCA Historical Center: E-Books [chapter 4 esp.] and his treatise Negro Slavery Unjustifiable [http://www.pcahistory.org/findingaids/rpcgs/McLeod-Slavery.pdf]. I believe Randy Nabors had already begun the New City Fellowship work in Chattanooga prior to 1982, so that RPCES church was also part of the picture, just for one example, during talks about receiving the RPCES into the PCA. See a few other statements against racism that figured into those times and that merger, here: PCA Historical Center: Resources - A Topical Guide to the Collections and Holdings of the Center [scroll down to "Racial Relations".

e. Of the men founding the PCA, it was said of G. Aiken Taylor that there wasn't a color conscious bone in his body. The guy who said that (never came into the PCA, by the way) didn't mean it as a compliment, which only proves the point. Dr. Taylor was particularly key in the formation of the PCA. Another was Bill Hill, founder of Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship. PEF was one of the four groups that was so instrumental in the formation of the PCA, and it ministered widely among African-American churches and had many blacks on its staff. See the correspondence in the Historical Center between Bill Hill and Don Dunkerley.

f. One particular bone to pick with Slade's book is where he says that when the PCA organized, they met for their first General Assembly on December 4th, 1973, in anniversary of the forming of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern Presbyterian). By doing so, Slade says the PCA was celebrating its Confederate history, looking back to that date on Dec. 4, 1861. Slade is completely wrong and nothing of the sort was going on. The conservatives who formed the PCA were intent on establishing themselves as the faithful continuing remnant, leaving an apostate church (though they never officially stated that the PCUS was apostate). Their only reason for first meeting on 12/4 was to bolster that view of the new church as the continuing remnant. In fact, prior to selecting an official name for the church, they were first known as the Continuing Presbyterian Church.

g. Were there racists in the PCA at its formation? Certainly. What would you expect of a denomination formed in the south in the early 1970s? Are there racists in the PCA today? Undoubtedly. But at least we admit the problem and are trying to deal with it. There are racists throughout our culture, including in the liberal denominations. But there they turn a blind eye to the problem. Did you know the PCA is also the only Presbyterian denomination in the United States where charges have successfully been brought against a member of a congregation specifically for racism. Racism is not just a "white" problem. At it's root it is the sinful attitude that I'm better than someone else, for whatever reason concocted. At its root, racism is ultimately a form of self-deification. And it is a sin that finds expression all over the world.

h. And I have to admit that I do chafe at Dr. Bradley's statement that "no one ever told him." Why does someone have to tell him? Why didn't he do his own digging and find out for himself? I know for one that he never came downstairs to the PCA Historical Center in the years that he was employed by Covenant Seminary. I would have been glad to help with his questions.
 
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py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
When most groups look at their own history, it seems it's for anniversary celebrations, etc., so a critical look is not really the emphasis. Outside historians will typically be the ones to dredge up good and bad, as long as they aren't just going on the warpath, because they are interested in the movement as a whole rather than in celebrating or inspiring. That part just goes with the territory; we have an instinct to cover up the faults of our own movement, and to the extent that that is acting the part of Shem and Japheth to our drunken Noahs, it is probably commendable; when it becomes P.R., of course, not so much.
Hopefully the direction of the Reformed churches, on this matter at least, is to stand with B.B. Warfield rather than with R.L. Dabney. I really struggle to read Dabney sometimes, even though you can't help but acknowledge his brilliance and penetration on many points, as well as genuine literary talent, because his racism is so nauseating: even when I'm reading him on another topic, I remember things he's said and just don't want to continue. But as with any sin, racism is only part of a person.
 

Rufus

Puritan Board Junior
There are no more racists in the PCA than there are in any other denomination. And a few people on the internet can seem like a sizable majority but aren't, perhaps if their church elders knew about it than it would be a much different scenario.

This is a Theonomist (I'm not a Theonomist) group on facebook against Kinism (idea that we must remain within our own kin)
Christianity against Kinism | Facebook

It is Grade-A balony to say Mississippi is the "most racist state in the union". I can say with some experience that I saw more outward acts of Racism living in Pittsburgh, PA for 6 years than I did growing up in West Virginia for 18. Same thing during my time in the Marines. The most racist guys in my shop were from NYC, Delaware, and Kansas

Yup. There's a reported Ku Klux Klan group in a town near where I live, and most of my friends use (excuse my usage of it if it offends anybody) nigger, negro, and nigga as greeting terms for their white friends along with many jokes about black stereotypes.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
The time of the past needs to be understood compared to times now. I have never noticed in my time in Jackson nor FPC Jackson of any racism happening. There were in fact those who were black that were members of this congregation. On many occasions they had joint services with Redeemer Church which is probably 25% black.

Wayne mentioned Jim Baird above seemingly defending anti-racism. Baird was the former pastor of FPC Jackson.

So make sure you have all your facts straight before making accusations. I also wouldn't necessarily call MS the most racist. How does anyone have any way of knowing that or gauging that? In fact, the further north you go where there are less black people, you might actually find that they are racist as well (a different type of racism). [Sean just confirmed that above, he is in New Hampshire and there is blatant racism].


Also, I can say from RTS-Jackson (where I attended), I saw no racism. We had a good number of black and other races represented; and everyone got along great.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Several things here:

I recently posted on fb about some of the ambiguities that I live with almost daily as a southerner---things with regard to history and race that I'm not sure how to deal with or confront.

However, my experiences with the PCA and race have been almost wholly positive, given the circles I've been in. I have a number of friends involved with New City Fellowship; I am acquainted with Steve Smallman's efforts in Baltimore (and I'm blanking on what his church is called at the moment); I've known dozens of reformed families who have adopted children of other races. It's one of those things where I hear and read about racism in the PCA, but I haven't seen it, exactly. Maybe I'm anomalous in that way, but that's my experience.

I realize, of course, that the PCA and southern Presbyterianism in general has a very checkered history in this regard. But I think those issues are being addressed and dealt with.
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
Wayne mentioned Jim Baird above seemingly defending anti-racism. Baird was the former pastor of FPC Jackson.

Just to clarify, Dr. Baird clearly and unequivocally took stands against racism. In fact he figures prominently in the above mentioned book by Slade, as having helped to establish a group focused on racial reconciliation.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Wayne mentioned Jim Baird above seemingly defending anti-racism. Baird was the former pastor of FPC Jackson.

Just to clarify, Dr. Baird clearly and unequivocally took stands against racism. In fact he figures prominently in the above mentioned book by Slade, as having helped to establish a group focused on racial reconciliation.

There you go! :)
 

JS116

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you all for your input and taking the time to respond.

I haven't gotten the chance to sit down and read alot of what was posted but I will asap.From what I read I think my first reaction(shocked)to the accusations where new to me.Like I said I never heard anybody teach me about American Presbyterianism,but I am willing to learn.Just for clarification for anyone who likes to post on this,my intentions were not to start a thread that says "this side did this" or anything of that nature,I started this thread to be rightly informed of the history of the PCUS and it's formation.I know the GA's in the PCA have dealt with these cases and I do applaud them,I am not opposed to the PCA or any other reformed denomination that has had faults in the past and I am well pleased with the results I am seeing from the GA actions on the matters.

But sadly racism is still a problem in the churches,maybe not as big as it was before,but it still lives on silently in evangelical churches today.I have read the PCA's actions on it and also the OPC's actions on it and I think they have the right starting point.I am still looking into the subject and I am more than open to any resources to help in my research.

Also..I would like to know if anybody has any information on J Gresham Machen and Van Til's accounts on segregation? Or were those merely inaccurate accusations of them?I know that Machen looked up to BB Warfield who was agreed with abolitionist's and despised racism.
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
Shawn:

I do hope you didn't take any of the above responses as directed at you. They weren't, I don't think. And yes, there is still a lot of work to do.
 

JS116

Puritan Board Freshman
Shawn:

I do hope you didn't take any of the above responses as directed at you. They weren't, I don't think. And yes, there is still a lot of work to do.

No not at all! All I have seen so far is gracious responses and I appreciate that.My last post(at least the beginning) is the referring to the article I quoted.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
My wife is black she noticed it when we were visiting churches, mostly Dutch Reformed, but yah...it's there. It was major factor with us staying in the church we are at. On a positive note...most modern Bible teachers, Reformed or otherwise, have spoken against racism. It was very discouraging but John Pipe's site had material that picked us back up and we have moved on since.

76 results for racism - Desiring God
 

rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
Shawn,

The first black Christian to come along side and educate me on the state of the traditional black churches in which he grew up recommended that I read the book THE BLACK CHURCH IN THE U.S., Its Origins, Growth, Contribution, and Outlook by William L. Banks.

As a complete outsider I found this little book helpful

The Lord bless you brother
 

Weston Stoler

Puritan Board Sophomore
I was very sad to find that their are very little to no Black people in my church. However I find less to no racial jokes and slurs in my PCA church then in my old IFB church were I heard scores of them every day. With someone who had mostly black friends in high school I couldn't really take them to church knowing they would be judged for walking in with brown skin.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
most of my friends use (excuse my usage of it if it offends anybody) nigger, negro, and nigga as greeting terms for their white friends along with many jokes about black stereotypes.

And why do you call these people "friends"?

---------- Post added at 05:57 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:51 PM ----------

I have never noticed in my time in Jackson nor FPC Jackson of any racism happening. There were in fact those who were black that were members of this congregation. On many occasions they had joint services with Redeemer Church which is probably 25% black.

Brother, I will certainly not doubt what you say above. If that is true for you, then praise God that you were not privy to any racism during your time in MS. However, I think it should be noted that this has not always been the case. I personally know of a man who pastored a PCA church in MS approx 10 years ago. This man left that PCA church and took a call at an OPC in Texas because as he directly told me he couldn't stand the blatant racism he witnessed in the church during his time in Mississippi. The worst thing about it is that this pastor told me all his efforts to reform these racist ways of thinking completely fell on deaf ears. The people simply refused to acknowledge or repent of any racism. This minister also shared some stories of things he witnessed at FPC Jackson that he felt were very racist and he was not at all comfortable with. And the minister is white by the way. Just thought the stories needed some balance. I'm not trying to impugn FPC Jackson in any way, but the truth is the truth.
 

Rufus

Puritan Board Junior
And why do you call these people "friends"?

Actually thank you for pointing that out to me, and I don't hang out with those people as much as I used to (mainly because of sexual nature of the conversation (none of them are Christians), by the way this a group of people who all hang out with each other). But they've always been my "friends".
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
This minister also shared some stories of things he witnessed at FPC Jackson that he felt were very racist and he was not at all comfortable with.

Since we are dealing with subjective feelings on his part, and we don't have a basis to evaluate, perhaps you could invite him to come share with us.
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
Thank you, Edward. As James reminded us earlier, heresay and anonymous charges should not be allowed in such discussions.
Evidence should always be identifiable and capable of examination and verification.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
This minister also shared some stories of things he witnessed at FPC Jackson that he felt were very racist and he was not at all comfortable with.

Since we are dealing with subjective feelings on his part, and we don't have a basis to evaluate, perhaps you could invite him to come share with us.

I don't consider the things he told me subjective at all. In fact, that's exactly it. The fact that anyone could witness some of the goings on and ignore it or not see a problem with it is what bothered him most. I will certainly email him and ask him if he cares to type something up to share of his experiences and if he is willing, then I will gladly share with the board.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
PCA is not hiding the history. You just need to go to its historical site to find this is not the case:

Southern Presbyterian Review Project--Author Biography: John L. Girardeau (1825 - 1898)

In January 1854, he and his wife Penelope Sarah ("Sal") moved from St. John Parish and Wilton Presbyterian Church (January 1849-December 53) to Charleston to assume the work begun by John B. Adger and the session of Second Presbyterian Church. The work was designed to establish a church for and of the slaves. In 1850, citizens of Charleston built a meeting house on Anson Street for the exclusive use of the slaves. After Adger's health failed, Girardeau was handpicked by Adger and Smyth to lead the work forward. The work expanded from thirty-six black members when Girardeau arrived to over 600 at the time of the American Armageddon. He preached to over 1,500 weekly from 1859 through 1861.

In 1858/59 the Anson Street Mission experienced a marvelous revival and in April 1859 they moved into a new building at the prestigious and prime intersection of Meeting and Calhoun Streets. The black membership was given the privilege of naming their church (which was particularized in 1858) and they chose "Zion." Zion Presbyterian Church became famous for Girardeau's preaching-he was called "the Spurgeon of America"-, but it was also noteworthy for its diaconal ministry in the community, catechetical training of hundreds in the city, sewing clubs for the women, and missionary activity. The outreach and influence of Zion was of such public notoriety that Girardeau and the session were often criticized and sometimes physically threatened. For example, the catechetical training and teaching of hymns and psalms was so effective that some Charlestonians believed Girardeau was teaching the slaves to read for themselves (which was contrary to state law).

After the War and before Girardeau could return to Charleston, a number of freedmen of Zion Presbyterian Church beckoned Girardeau to return to "the Holy City" and resume his work with them. They desired to have their white pastor whom they knew, loved, and respected, rather than a black missionary from the North. Throughout the post-War and Reconstruction years, he arduously worked amongst both black and white in Charleston. He mightily labored within the Southern Presbyterian Church to see that the freedmen were included in the church and in 1869 he nominated seven freedmen for the office of ruling elder in Zion Presbyterian Church, preached the ordination service, and with the white members of his session laid hands on his black brothers.

Unfortunately, the pressures of Reconstruction and the Freedmen's Bureau, and the hardened positions of notables like B. M. Palmer and R. L. Dabney brought the church to a pivotal moment. The weight of political and social issues eventuated in "organic separation" of white membership and black membership and the formation of churches along the color line. Girardeau alone dissented against the resolution at the 1874 General Assembly in Columbus, Mississippi, for which he served as Moderator.
 

Parker234

Puritan Board Freshman
Mark Noll's book The Civil War as a Theological Conflict talks a great deal about the theological and racial views of Thornwell and Dabney. I just found this in a book. I don't think these things are hidden so much as a part of history which many just simply have never been interested enough to look into.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
We need to remember that racism is a part of the Fall, not geography, or even history. There has always been racism, and there always will be. Racism among larger ethic groups, between groups, etc. The reason I say this is not to excuse racism - it is a heinous sin - but rather to remind us that the solution is not to be more "educated," more "tolerant" or more "kind." The solution is the gospel. The Church is the only place on earth that is self-consciously pan-national and pan-racial (Rev. 1:7; 5:9; Gal. 3:28). That is the whole point - that God is the God of all people (Acts 17:26). If we do not keep this front and center we can be like Jonah - afraid to bring the grace of God to others.
 
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