(RNS) The nation’s second largest Presbyterian denomination has passed legislation repenting for “past failures to love brothers and sisters from minority cultures” and committing its members to work toward racial reconciliation.
The “overture” (or legislation) was approved overwhelmingly Thursday (June 23) at the national meeting of the Presbyterian Church in America. The issue had been deferred from the previous year’s meeting, where there was a lengthy debate on similar legislation.
The vote by the PCA came in the same month that Southern Baptists attending their annual meeting adopted a resolution repudiating the use of the Confederate flag.
“(T)he 44th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America does recognize, confess, condemn and repent of corporate and historical sins, including those committed during the Civil Rights era, and continuing racial sins of ourselves and our fathers such as the segregation of worshipers by race; the exclusion of persons from Church membership on the basis of race,” reads the PCA legislation.
The PCA also acknowledged teaching that the Bible permits racial segregation and discourages interracial marriage, and the denomination confessed to defense and participation in white supremacist organizations.
Richard Doster, editor of the PCA’s byFaith Magazine and a spokesman for the General Assembly, said 43 of the 63 proposed pieces of legislation for the meeting, which took place June 20-24 in Mobile, Ala., related to race relations and confessions of sin about segregation.
“It is highly unusual,” he said. “This is the first time something like that has happened, especially on that topic.”
Delegates also passed, by a vote of 814-87, legislation calling for the appointment of a multiethnic study committee to develop concrete steps towards racial reconciliation that can be taken by leaders of churches and presbyteries, or regional groups of churches.
The PCA, whose membership is about 80 percent white, has about 370,000 members.