Denominational Racism, Repentance, and Reconciliation

My family has deep roots in East Texas.  Kilgore to be exact — home of the Rangerettes and oil derricks.  I have so many fond memories of visiting my grandparents there and hearing about the good old days when the oil flowed like crazy.  But, one of my starkest Kilgore memories was a more painful one.  You see, my grandparents were racists.  Oh, not self-proclaimed to be sure, and if asked, they would have denied it.  But, I do remember my grandma dropping the “N” word a time or two, and I definitely remember the tension when the black guy moved into her spare bedroom.

My grandfather had died, and grandma needed a little extra income.  So, she put up an ad at the local junior college to rent out her spare bedroom.  She had one applicant — a black 6’ 7” power forward for the Kilgore Rangers basketball team.  Reluctantly, she took him in.

That summer we happened to visit grandma at the same time the mini-series called “Roots” came on TV (yes, this was pre-cable TV!), which told the violent and terrible true story of our American heritage of slavery.  All of us – new black roommate included – watched it in complete, awkward silence.  We didn’t talk about the elephant in the room then, and I don’t remember it ever being discussed afterwards either.  It was better to just go on like it wasn’t relevant to us.  Like that was ancient history.  Like the injustice of slavery and deep racism wasn’t our problem and didn’t touch our own hearts.

For decades now, our denomination (the Presbyterian Church in America) has been equally silent, despite the fact that we are,as a denomination, deeply implicated in the sins of racism in this country.   Both by sins of “omission” and “commission,” we have both contributed to the problem with our own blatant racist words and actions as well as silently standing on the redemptive sidelines as if it weren’t our problem.  That is, until now.

Last week, our denomination voted overwhelmingly to finally speak up.  To finally own our sin.  To finally repent.  HERE is the exact overture that was adopted.  

As Dan Allendar says, “The work of restoration cannot begin until a problem is fully faced.” This is a giant leap in that direction.  May the Lord use this first step to break down the “walls of hostility” (Eph. 2:14) and begin realizing his reconciling mission to unite all God people in Christ.