For some people Southern Presbyterianism and racial reconciliation is oxymoronic. But the elusive reality of diversity and unity in the church just took a significant step forward.
I recently participated on a panel about the topic “Christianity and Race” at the historic First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Mississippi. The church has over 2,500 members, is the largest Presbyterian congregations in the state, and one of the founding congregations of the Presbyterian Church in America denomination. It has also been the subject of much controversy in the past regarding the racist stances of some of its members.
The panel which was part of the church’s “Friday Forum” series included the prominent Senior Pastor, J. Ligon Duncan, III as well as Rev. Elbert McGowan, Jr. of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at Jackson State University (the first such chapter on the campus of a historically Black college), Rev. Wiley Lowry, Minister of Pastoral Care at First Pres., and myself.
The panel was divided into three segments. In the first segment each of the panelists highlighted significant events from their past regarding race. In the second segment, Dr. Duncan and Rev. McGowan each respectively spoke about the history of First Presbyterian Church and the gospel imperatives surrounding race. The final segment was devoted to a question and answer period.
In the days following the panel many people asked me the same question, “How did it go?” In an attempt to encapsulate an enormous amount of information, here are three reflections I’ve had since the Friday Forum at First Pres. regarding Christianity and race.