The tragedy of Heather Heyer’s death in Charlottesville, VA last Saturday and the racial hatred spewing forth has been heartbreaking. The lack of a clear voice in our nation’s leadership has contributed to the crisis. What needs to be said?
I’m reminded of something we Presbyterians said 50 years and something that still still shapes our theology, our hearts and our actions:
“The church labors for the abolition of all racial discrimination and ministers to those injured by it. Congregations, individuals, or groups of Christians who exclude, dominate, or patronize their fellow human beings, however subtly, resist the Spirit of God and bring contempt on the faith which they profess.” The Confession of 1967, PCUSA
As a confessional church, we have a tradition of writing confessions and creeds when we need to remind ourselves what Scripture teaches us about who God is, who we are, what we are called to do.
Our denomination adopted the Belhar Confession in 2016 and has included this confession from the South African church in our Book of Confessions – we preached a series on the Belhar Confession this January. Today, however, I found myself drawn to what we said in turbulent times a half century ago. If you’ll excuse the sexist language (it was the mid-60’s), the statement below clarifies in no uncertain terms what God has done in breaking down racial barriers and the Church’s call to join this work of God’s Reign.
God has created the peoples of the earth to be one universal family. In his reconciling love, he overcomes the barriers between brothers and breaks down every form of discrimination based on racial or ethnic difference, real or imaginary. The church is called to bring all men to receive and uphold one another as persons in all relationships of life: in employment, housing, education, leisure, marriage, family, church, and the exercise of political rights. Therefore, the church labors for the abolition of all racial discrimination and ministers to those injured by it. Congregations, individuals, or groups of Christians who exclude, dominate, or patronize their fellowmen, however subtly, resist the Spirit of God and bring contempt on the faith which they profess.
What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8
Bethany joins with our fellow Presbyterians and other church partners in firmly denouncing the racism we have seen so clearly in Charlottesville and across our country. Please join me in praying for healing, for justice, for our President and national leaders, and for the church as we discern what the Lord requires of us.
-Pastor Doug Kelly