Jemar Tisby on Repentance in the PCA

On Monday Sept. 14, Covenant invited Ligon Duncan III and Jemar Tisby to address the topic of racial bias and repentance in morning chapel and an evening lecture, respectively, echoing the broader movement in the Presbyterian denomination towards racial reconciliation.

Tisby’s lecture, titled “Loving ‘Those People:’ Understanding Implicit Bias, Racism, and the Gospel,” first defined “implicit bias” as “the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.” He then presented evidence showing its detrimental effects in our current culture, particularly pertaining to race. He also discussed the historical narrative that has been set within our nation supporting this bias.

Tisby ended the lecture with an encouraging word on how to reorient our subconscious biases which are splitting the church and diminishing God’s beauty in creation. He said it first starts with a conscious confessional acknowledgement of the bias and then an active repentance involving the initiation of conversations and motions to redeem the broken relationships. He specifically spoke on the subconscious bias between whites and blacks, but reminded us that the conversation is not to stop there.

The Presbyterian Church of America has taken this to heart, it seems, as the conversation has not been limited to Covenant. Ligon Duncan III, CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary, spoke to Covenant’s student body about a resolution he co-authored with Sean Lucas, a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary. The resolution, titled a “Personal Resolution on Civil Rights Remembrance,” resolved to start the process of repenting of the Presbyterian denomination’s unwillingness to “seek justice and to love mercy during the Civil Rights era.”

Earlier this month, Sean Lucas wrote on this topic in By Faith magazine, saying, “we have to recognize that our unconfessed, unowned past continues to be a hidden wound that prevents our church from moving forward toward genuine diversity.”

As a denomination, leaders are beginning to take responsibility for the historical narrative and the sins excused in the past because of implicit biases. This resolution is being prayed over throughout the Presbyterian denomination and is urging local congregations to address ways they can commit themselves to reconciliation with African Americans.

Jim Baird, one of the founders of the PCA, also gave a speech in June wherein he confessed the passivity of the founders of the Presbyterian denomination during the Civil Rights movement.

Dr. Corbett, Community Development Professor at Covenant, weighed in on the discussion. “Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that since we are aware, we are okay. We need to actually do something different. Analyze things different,” he said. “Take steps of compassion knowing that they are not just steps of compassion, but of justice.”

Corbett gave examples of places students can get involved, such as tutoring or donating to the PCA’s fund for urban ministry training. He says we have all received the advantage and blessing of a Covenant education and we can use this privilege to fight for justice.

For those who are fighting “white guilt” or are fearful of their possible guilt-driven or savior-complex motives, he encourages students to “Just go. ...Don’t over analyze your motives; it’s good to go. Just remember it isn’t about you.”   

In the midst of all these discussions happening on campus and in our denomination, Jim Sutherland brought Aubrey Fritz to Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church, a very demographically un-diverse church on our mountain which many students happen to attend(including myself), this past Sunday and continued the conversation there in an 11:00 sunday school class. Aubrey grew up in a primarily African American community, south of Chattanooga and now works with Campus Crusade at Howard Primary school. He is an African American who knows first hand the challenges of implicit bias in the church and the effects it can have on the ministry. He challenged the church to seek the racial reconciliation by using our white privilege. He encouraged the Sunday school class to reach out and share the gospel, get down the mountain and “don’t feel ashamed about being white- that is the way God created you, just take part in this mission of reconciliation.”

(Interestingly enough, he casually mentioned to me after class that he doesn’t necessarily agree with the confession presented at General Assembly. He said he would rather our denomination switch the focus to the individual’s sins, rather than apologizing for our brothers and fathers. This, ever more, keeping the crucial conversation flowing and our minds wondering: how else can we seek out the reconciliation of our racial biases?)
 


Want to join in on this topic? Check out raanetwork.org or take the quiz to learn about your implicit associations at: implicit.harvard.edu.

Donate to the previously mentioned PCA MNA ministry training find at:

http://pcamna.org/church-planting/church-planting-ministries/urban/thanksgivingoffering

For tutoring opportunities, check out New City or Hope for the Inner City’s programs.


Want to join in on this topic? Check out raanetwork.org or take the quiz to learn about your implicit associations at: implicit.harvard.edu.

Donate to the previously mentioned PCA MNA ministry training find at:

http://pcamna.org/church-planting/church-planting-ministries/urban/thanksgivingoffering

For tutoring opportunities, check out New City or Hope for the Inner City’s programs.