Disciplining racism: It all came down to just a couple votes...
(In September of 2008, preaching in the midst of a raging controversy over racism that was dividing his own congregation) Pastor Bulkeley condemned the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, saying its leader taught that Nazism was the "racial order" of God and that Jews should be eliminated. "This teaching was evil," Bulkeley told his congregation. "It is heretical. It is from the pit of hell and it's a direct offense against the gospel. There should be no mistake about that. It is completely contrary to everything the Bible teaches."
(Tim, w/thanks to Joel B.) Here's an article and sidebar from the Summer 2010 issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report telling the story of good church discipline carried out in Friendship Presbyterian Church outside Asheville, North Carolina. The discipline ended up also being adjudicated by the congregation's appellate court, Western Carolina Presbytery (PCA). (And if you don't understand why I'd refer to a PCA presbytery as an appellate court, read Brother David's superb commentary on the state of the PCA post-General Assembly union, here.)
Racism was the sin, and thus the Southern Poverty Law Center this one time stood on the side of the angels. Both the article and the sidebar attempt to provide some of the historic context for the battle against racism throughout the history of the PCA--very much a southern denomination with its roots deeply embedded in "The Recent Unpleasantness."
These articles have both the weaknesses and strengths of their origin outside the PCA. I hope you'll take the time to read them.
First, though, one prefatory remark. Dealing with abortion or racism or feminism is a bloody work...
Who gives a plugged nickel for all the blog complaints, gnashing of teeth, and repentances by men, white or black, southern or northern, who haven't lost jobs or calls because of their faithfulness trying to discipline these evils? Before anyone is allowed to claim to be on the side of the angels in these matters, we should ask him to show us scars similar to the Apostle Paul's, who wrote:
From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. (Galatians 6:17)
There's a reason we avoid disciplining feminism, child-murder, and racism in our sermons, session meetings, and pastoral visits. It's not the people outside the church who are the problem, but active ruling elders, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, and fellow presbyters. Our own church members are the ones who pay for the murder of their daughter's unborn child. Our own church officers call men made in the image of God serving them and their white friends at garden parties and in the clubhouse "nigger" and "the black."
When judgment begins in the house of God, inevitably it leads to a bloody mess--the same sort of bloody messes chronicled in every biography of the Christian church and every book of the New Testament.
There's no quicker ticket to being without call on the rolls of presbytery than standing against the evils of our own congregations--the same evils that dog the pastor's own mind and heart.
So let us commend this true shepherd after God's Own heart, who was willing to subject his call and his membership on the roll of Western Carolina Presbytery (PCA) to multiple excruciatingly close votes for the sake of his flock and the honor of Christ's Bride. God bless you, Pastor Bulkeley and all the faithful elders who stood in your defense.