|Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 9, Number 34, August 19 to August 25, 2007|
Mr. Taylor, who teaches history at Piedmont College, specializes in the intersection of race, religion, and southern history. He is a communicant at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia.
Sin permeates and corrupts our entire being and burdens us with more and more fear, hostility, guilt, and misery. Sin operates not only within individuals but also within society as a deceptive and oppressive power, so that even men of good will are unconsciously and unwittingly involved in the sins of society. Man cannot destroy the tyranny of sin in himself or in his world; his only hope is to be delivered from it by God. (A Brief Statement of Belief (1962) of the Presbyterian Church in the United States 1 ).
A group of conservative Presbyterians gathered to form the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in December 1973. The schism in the southern Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) resulted from a generation-long struggle over increasing liberalism of some in official circles. Since 1942 the PCUS, as a denomination, had tempered its Calvinism with elements of Arminianism, embraced civil rights, permitted divorce and remarriage, ordained women, accepted evolution, and adopted a cautious pro-choice position on abortion. Consequently, some of the founders of the PCA felt unwelcome in the PCUS as it approached reunion with the national and liberal United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. 2
The Presbyterian Journal, originally The Southern Presbyterian Journal, printed condemnations of all the above actions except the 1973 schism, which the publication advocated and abetted. From 1942 to 1966, the Journal printed anti-civil rights articles, columns, and editorials, and argued that segregation was best for members of all races. 3 The magazine also condemned civil disobedience and the civil rights movement before and after it printed anti-racist content in November 1966. The substance and tone of many of The Presbyterian Journal's racial positions of 1942-1966 echoed nineteenth-century southern evangelical defenses of slavery and haunted elements of the Presbyterian Church in America into the twenty-first century. 4
This is a true story of the intersection of race, religion, and culture. We human beings are partially products of our formative environment. Why, for example, do we consider some statements true and others false? Or, why do we think some practices proper and others beyond the bounds? We learned these definitions and standards from our peers, friends, leaders, and family members. We cannot, except by the grace of God, lay our filters aside and recognize when the Scriptures contradict our cherished points of view and then repent. So, I invite you, O reader, to join me on a journey through part of the good, the bad, and the ugly of ecclesiastical history and to ponder the meaning(s) thereof. 5
Before we embark on our journey, however, I must explain some terminology, for words matter. By racism, I mean the attitude that one or more groups defined by skin pigmentation is/are superior to other groups also defined by skin pigmentation. Discrimination, whether formal (de jure) or informal (de facto) is one expression of racism. Furthermore, one can support racism and/or discrimination actively, by participating in its mechanisms, or passively, by not challenging it when presented with the opportunity to do so.
Also, we live in a politically polarized age, when many people use political labels as epithets. That is not my purpose in this article, for I employ dictionary definitions. The root word of "conservative" is "conserve." So, as I use the term, "conservative" (as a noun) indicates one who supports the status quo or at least something close to it. A reactionary favors a return to a former state of affairs, real or imagined. A liberal is more open to change, usually reform, than the others. Be aware, however, that not every source I quote or paraphrase used these terms in this manner.
Furthermore, this article concerns sensitive topics. (Graduate school has taught me that the academic study of history is not for the faint of heart or the easily offended.) Know that I have gone to great pains to write exactly, and that I can document every quote and paraphrase. My intention is state the past accurately then to derive lessons, not to brand any present-day group negatively.
Now, with preliminaries out of the way, let us begin our journey.
The Presbyterian Journal, which former medical missionary L. Nelson Bell founded in 1942, opposed various policies and positions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS). Bell, his co-workers, and many guest writers professed to uphold theological orthodoxy. This point of view included overt racism until 1966, when the Journal ceased to publish theological defenses of segregation. 6
The Southern Presbyterian Church began to address racism in earnest during the 1940s. World War II made the hypocrisy of legally sanctioned segregation obvious to many Americans, for U.S. soldiers and sailors, members of segregated armed forces, fought their counterparts from Axis powers with overtly racist agendas. Against this backdrop, the 1944 PCUS General Assembly supported the equal treatment of all returning veterans, regardless of race or ethnicity. Yet the denomination retained its structural segregation. Moral objections to (and perhaps embarrassment over) this contradiction prompted the Synod of Missouri to propose in 1946 that the PCUS dissolve its black sector, the Snedecor Memorial Synod, and its constituent presbyteries "to eliminate racial discrimination and injustice within our church." Snedecor dated to 1917, when the Southern Presbyterians readmitted the Afro-American Presbyterian Church (AAPC), a denomination they had spun off nineteen years earlier. The AAPC had always been small (no larger than 1,400 members) and financially dependent on the PCUS, and thus constituted a failed venture. 7
The tiny Snedecor Memorial Synod fared almost as badly, for most of its congregations (no more than fifty over time) depended financially on white support. Furthermore, it had little say in PCUS decision-making at segregated meetings. Nevertheless, a 1947 survey of Snedecor officials revealed that they opposed dissolution of the synod and its presbyteries and integration into other synods and presbyteries. They preferred a seat at a segregated table to the possibility of no seat at any table. Four years later, however, the PCUS began the yearlong process of dissolving Snedecor yet not its presbyteries because the immediate dissolution of majority black presbyteries would decrease already nominal black participation in decision-making. By 1964, however, embarrassment over segregation above the congregational level prompted the denomination to begin the five-year process of integrating presbyteries. 8
Integration was also occurring gradually in national life. President Harry S Truman had asked Congress to enact a ten-point civil rights agenda in 1948. Components included the creation of a permanent civil rights commission, the protection of voting rights, the establishment of the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC), and the outlawing of lynching. Congressional opposition defeated Truman's proposal yet was powerless to prevent him from issuing an executive order beginning the integration of the armed forces. The President's actions of 1948 proceeded according to the recommendations of the 1946-1947 civil rights commission, whose report had stated that discrimination was immoral, damaged the economy, and harmed foreign relations, especially in non-white regions of the world. 9
Socio-political pressures continued to prompt the majority white middle class denomination to become increasingly progressive on race during the 1950s and 1960s. The PCUS General Assembly of 1954 affirmed the first Brown decision; the next year's assembly reiterated that resolution. The 1955 General Assembly also urged Southern Presbyterians to "lead in demonstrating the Christian graces of compassion, courage, forbearance, and understanding" during that time of racial and cultural change. Nine years later, the General Assembly issued a pastoral letter to sessions, or congregational governing boards, to support pastors whose progressive racial views upset members. Then the denomination approved of civil disobedience to resist unjust laws in 1966. The influence of the civil rights movement upon the leadership of the Southern Presbyterian Church was evident. 10
Racial progressivism was also evident below the top tier of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. In the late 1950s, a sufficient number of PCUS pastors supported the integration of Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas, for Governor Orval Faubus to take note and label them communists. Also, many liberal Southern Presbyterian clergy supported the 1960s sit-ins. In addition, the Presbytery of St. Andrews (in Mississippi) urged people to obey the law and to examine their racism in the wake of the 1962 riots at the University of Mississippi. Furthermore, the Synod of Georgia expressed sorrow in 1963 over the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama. 11
Support for civil rights did not amuse the editors and many of the guest writers at The Presbyterian Journal, who supported segregation on theological and social grounds. Both overlapping arguments presupposed white supremacy and included fears of miscegenation, or interracial marriage, cohabitation, or sexual congress. The theological case held that God had ordained and commanded segregation. Thus, those who espoused Jim Crow upheld divine law, and those who thought otherwise were heretical. This perspective echoed nineteenth-century defenses of slavery and criticisms of slavery. This point of view also continued in line with the founders of the denomination, whose legacy many of the Journalers sought to continue. 12
The Presbyterian Church in the United States had begun as the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America in December 1861. The immediate trigger had been an affirmation of loyalty to the U.S. government (with 156 delegates supporting the resolution and only 66 opposing it) at that 1861 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (Old School). Southern nationalism contributed to the decision to form the Confederate Church; so did the belief that God and the Bible sanctioned slavery, the primary cause of the Civil War. The Address…to All the Churches of Jesus Christ Throughout the Earth, the Confederate Church's declaration of independence from the PCUSA (Old School), cited the Bible to justify slavery. In 1865, as the southern denomination renamed itself the PCUS, it reaffirmed the scriptural nature of the master-slave relationship and speculated that God had disapproved of abuses within the peculiar institution as Southerners had administered it. 13
Postbellum southern white Protestant orthodoxy, like its antebellum antecedent, included the assumption of white supremacy. Southern white church leaders generally responded negatively to black political empowerment and social advancement. In 1868, Presbyterian pastor Moses Drury Hoge of Richmond, Virginia, wrote his sister about the prominent role of freedmen in the Reconstruction-era state legislature. Government, he insisted, was not the proper place for "beastly baboons." Robert L. Dabney, another prominent Southern Presbyterian theologian, continued to defend slavery and argued for white supremacy and segregated public facilities. He also opposed black education because, he claimed, whites would be unhappy as manual laborers and because education threatened to elevate freedmen, and thereby endangered the social status of whites. 14
The defensive and racist religion of the Lost Cause helped many white southern Christians cope with Confederate defeat and social upheaval. The Lost Cause grew out of the soil of slavery. As many whites sought to restore the racial hierarchy after the Thirteenth Amendment ended the peculiar institution, segregation became the slavery substitute. Yet Lost Cause appeals often avoided overt racism. Instead, they invoked appeals to Southern patriotism and culture, as well as the imperative of honoring the Confederate dead. The civil religion of the Lost Cause was inherently racist, though, for it sought (often successfully) to restore and maintain the old racial order. 15
The Journal's 1942-1966 theological case for segregation had four overlapping legs: the curse of Noah, divine approval of geographical segregation and disapproval of miscegenation, biblically-mandated cultural segregation, and Jesus's implicit support for segregation. Three of these elements were either similar or identical to antebellum pro-slavery arguments. All four rhetorical points were culturally conditioned.
Defenders of the social status quo invoked the curse of Noah to argue for slavery prior to 1865 and for segregation afterward. Genesis 9:20-27 functioned as the proof text. After the Great Flood, Noah was drunk and nude in his tent. Ham, one of Noah's sons, "saw the nakedness of his father" then informed his brothers, Shem and Japheth, who covered their father. When the old man awoke and realized what Ham had done, he cursed Canaan, Ham's son: "Cursed by Canaan, lowest of the slaves shall he be to his brothers." Noah continued, "Blessed by the LORD my God be Shem, and let Canaan be his slave. May God make space for Japheth, and let him live in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his slave." 16
Noah's anger becomes understandable when one realizes that seeing a father's nakedness may have been a euphemism for violating a sexual taboo, perhaps castration or homosexual rape. Or, it might have meant simply seeing one father unclothed. Either way, Ham had, in his culture, demonstrated disrespect for his father. 17
According to many slavery advocates, Ham married into the lineage of Cain, who had murdered Abel. God had marked Abel by turning his skin black, so Ham had committed miscegenation. Thus, his descendants, Africans, lived under the curse of Noah. Furthermore, the curse came from God via Noah, not merely from a nude and angry drunk. 18
This interpretation indicated poor biblical interpretation because Noah had cursed Canaan, not Ham. Furthermore, according to Genesis 10, Canaan's descendants resided in the land of Canaan, or modern-day Israel. The descendants of Ham and another son, Cush, lived in Africa, however. Thus the Africans were not subject to the curse of Noah. According to some modern biblical scholarship, the purpose of this curse was retrospectively to justify the social dominance of Shem's descendants over those of Canaan. 19
The Journal published curse of Noah-based justifications for segregation. In March 1944, L. Nelson Bell, the magazine's Associate Editor, invoked the curse to argue that God had established certain racial lines (including miscegenation) people should not cross. Almost three years later, W. A. Plecker, M.D., of Richmond, Virginia, cited the verse, "and Canaan shall be his servant," then continued, "How truly has that prophecy been fulfilled during more than forty centuries since its utterance." Bell and Plecker, like slavery advocates before them, ignored the fact that Genesis 10 placed Canaan's descendants in Asia, not Africa. 20
The second leg of the Journal's racist theological table held that segregation was good and miscegenation was sinful because God had scattered peoples across the face of the earth. This element of the case rested on Genesis 11:1-9 (the Tower of Babel) and Acts 17:22-31. In Genesis, prideful people who spoke one language began to erect a tall structure to reach toward the heavens. The angered deity caused them to speak different languages then "scattered them abroad over the face of the earth." Paul, preaching in Acts 17:26-27, said that God had "made the nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for and find him." 21
Journal writers cited these texts to prove that God did not want people of different races to mix, sexually or otherwise. Racial purity was apparently part of God's plan, despite the statements of alleged outside agitators. Segregationists stressed part of Paul's sermon: "…and he [God] allotted…the boundaries of the places where they would live…." In 1946 B. W. Crouch of Saluda, South Carolina, quoted Dr. Benjamin M. Palmer, a Southern Presbyterian leader from 1872, to make this point. Then Crouch condemned "the social uplifters and fanatics of today," or civil rights activists and liberal (often northern) white churchmen, such as those of the Federal Council of Churches, a predecessor of the National Council of Churches. 22
According to this line of reasoning, segregation, part of God's plan for the temporal realm, was an imperfect arrangement born of Original Sin. Thus, attempts to end segregation in this life were misguided. Heaven would be integrated, though. Joseph Ruggles Wilson, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, Georgia, in January 1861, had presented a similar defense of slavery from his pulpit. Once again, the Journal had published a recycled argument. 23
The third leg of the theological case contended that God had called the Hebrews to segregate themselves (especially sexually) from the Gentiles. Surely, proponents argued, the same principle applied to racial matters. Many of these advocates spoke of God calling people out from one place to another. In Genesis 12:1-9, for example, God called Abram out of Haran to Canaan. Likewise, the Almighty called the Hebrews out of bondage in Egypt and (eventually) into Canaan in Exodus 14. Apparently, the imagery of God removing his chosen people from foreign settings appealed to many segregationists seeking scriptural support for their monocultural perspective. 24
Many opponents of miscegenation also quoted other passages from the Hebrew Scriptures. Genesis 27:46-28:4 cautioned against Hebrew men marrying Hittite women. Deuteronomy 7:3-4 proclaimed the intermarriage between Hebrews and foreigners would anger God and lead to destruction. In Joshua 23:12-13, Joshua, son of Nun, warned the Hebrews not to marry foreigners because God would subsequently withdraw divine protection if they disregarded this advice. According to Ezra 10:3, 10-11, Jewish law required returning male exiles to divorce their foreign wives. Nehemiah 13:23-31 also condemned intermarriage in the context of the post-exilic period. Therefore, certain segregationists, claimed, God approved of social separation for the purpose of maintaining cultural identity. In this context, then, many segregationists claimed, segregation did not indicate disregard for blacks or their natural rights. Rather, it was a simple matter of obedience to God's will. 25
Some Journalers also invoked Jesus in the fourth leg of their theological defense of segregation. They observed that since the Messiah did not attempt to end the orthodox Jewish-Samaritan rift, he must have approved of segregation. In John 4:1-42, for example, he spoke to the Samaritan women at the well yet did not detract her from worshipping at Mount Gerazim (as was Samaritan custom) as opposed to the Temple at Jerusalem. Furthermore, even the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) seemed to affirm segregation from a certain point of view. Jesus might have praised the selfless social outcast, but he did not denounce that person's social status. Stories about Samaritans, products of Hebrew-Assyrian miscegenation, appealed to many segregationists. 26
Appealing to Jesus to defend racial injustice did not originate in the context of segregation. Actually, antebellum defenders of slavery practiced the same technique when they observed that the Christ never condemned slavery. In Luke 7:2-10, for example, he cured a Roman centurion's slave without making any comment about slavery. 27 Elsewhere in Luke, Jesus said:
Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, "Come here at once and take your place at the table?" Would you not rather say to him, "Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink?" Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that were ordered to do, say, "We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!" 28
The internal logic of these postbellum biblical interpretations rested on the Southern Presbyterian Spirituality of the Church. According to this perspective, the church was supposed to focus on spiritual matters, such as doctrine, not on worldly concerns, such as attempts to change the social order. Thus the Spirituality of the Church bolstered the status quo by not questioning it. 29
This worldview had been one of the foundational principles of the denomination, for the 1861 Address labeled slavery a worldly, not a spiritual matter. As James Henley Thornwell, one of the founders and prominent theologians of the Southern Presbyterian Church wrote, "Where the Scriptures are silent, she [the church] must be silent, too." Since the Bible did not condemn slaveholding (especially by the Hebrew Patriarchs), actually commanded the Hebrews to own slaves (at least according to the Authorized Version) in Leviticus 25:44-46, and recognized the existence of slavery in Exodus 20 (the Ten Commandments), the Bible seemed to approve of the peculiar institution of the South. That at least, was what many antebellum Southern white Christians told themselves and heard preached from pulpits. 30
The Journal articulated the Spirituality of the Church, frequently while criticizing the Federal or National Council of Churches for supporting civil rights. This argument appeared in the Journal's first issue, (May 1942). Founder and Associate Editor L. Nelson Bell wrote, "The Federal Council has caused confusion and resentment by constant meddling, in economic, social and racial matters…." Three years later, he wrote of the inverse relationship between ecclesiastical focus on social issues and "evangelical power." The Gospel of Jesus Christ concerned sin and salvation, not ethics, morality, and social policies, Bell wrote. Thus, the Associate Editor wrote in 1947, the Southern Presbyterian Church should withdraw from the Federal Council. He wrote, "We [at the Journal] distrust an organization which seeks to solve the difficult race problem by declaring segregation un-Christian and which advocates a non-segregated society. 31
The National Council of Churches succeeded the Federal Council in 1950. The Presbyterian Church in the United States remained a member of both organizations, much to the Journal's published chagrin. In 1948 L. E. Faulkner of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, condemned the Federal Council for supporting President Truman's civil rights program and urged the PCUS to withdraw from the ecumenical body. The next year, the Reverend J. E. Flow of Concord, North Carolina, likewise criticized the Federal Council and labeled civil rights activists "wicked people" who disturbed the racial peace of the South. Other Christians agreed with this critique. Much of White evangelicalism of the 1950s and 1960s generally defined spiritual matters narrowly by fixating on individual salvation, not social justice. In January 1951 the Journal reprinted a National Association of Evangelicals criticism of the nascent National Council, which allegedly stressed "matters socio-economic and political rather than religious." 32
The Spirituality of the Church stood in contrast to the social gospel and neo-orthodoxy, which encouraged social reform. Walter Rauschenbusch, a northern Baptist pastor in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York City in the late 1800s, articulated the social gospel. He believed that people were essentially good, but that institutions were corrupt. Thus, people could usher in the Kingdom of God by reforming society. It was their divine calling. The social gospel reflected the optimistic thinking commonplace in much of pre-World War I liberal Christianity. Neo-orthodox theologian Reinhold Niebuhr also supported social activism, which he considered imperative. Yet he, beginning in the 1930s, countered that Christian love alone was insufficient to advance social justice because people were generally selfish and culturally blinded to much injustice. Thus, only God could usher in His kingdom. 33
In 1967 Journal Editor G. Aiken Taylor explained that, twenty-five years earlier, L. Nelson Bell had become alarmed by "the growing shift with many in the Presbyterian Church U.S. away from acceptance of the complete integrity and authority of the Bible as the Word of God. At various levels, many showed a willingness to equate the opinions of men with divine revelation." Taylor alluded to the fact that the PCUS had created a permanent committee to address social moral issues in 1934. This action contradicted the Spirituality of the Church. In 1961, Ernest Trice Thompson, a veteran of that board, provided two reasons for this change in policy. First, the social gospel had attracted many followers in the PCUS. Second, the dire circumstances of the Great Depression had pricked the consciences of many Southern Presbyterians and expanded their definitions to include human suffering. 34
The Journal criticized any attempt to change the racial status quo. Such pressures frequently came from liberal theologians in northern churches and the Federal then National Council of Churches. In September 1958, for example, Journal Editor Henry B. Denby condemned the northern churches' "lack of sympathy" for segregationists. He wrote that this integrationist attitude, if unchecked, could harm the cause of Christ. Regardless of whether the theology of social reform was the social gospel or neo-orthodoxy, it threatened the Journal's constituency. 35
Culturally conditioned prooftexting regarding selected biblical passages and the theology of Scriptural authority bolstered the racial and social status quo in the 1800s. South Carolina Baptist clergyman Richard Fuller wrote in 1845, "What God has sanctioned in the Old Testament, and permitted in the New, cannot be sin." Sixteen years later, pastor Joseph Ruggles Wilson defended slavery as biblical. If the Bible is true, for all time, he preached, Paul's proslavery statements in various epistles must be as reliable in the nineteenth century as they were in the first. 36
These arguments echoed in the pages of the Journal from the 1940s to the 1960s. According to this point of view at that time and place, the social and racial order of the South was divinely sanctioned and biblically supported; anyone who disagreed was mistaken. The interpretations Journalers favored conveniently supported the dominant group's interests and personal agendas. 37
The Journal also printed social justifications for Jim Crow. They were that segregation maintained the peace and that it was kind, American, and practical. Furthermore, the Journal argued, civil disobedience was dangerous and more laws would not foster racial justice. Authors seldom quoted Bible verses while making these secondarily theological arguments.
Segregation (sexual and otherwise) maintained the peace, the Journal argued. In an echo of nineteenth-century rhetoric, the publication insisted that since most race riots had occurred outside the South, segregation, which prevented "unnecessary social contacts," was best for all people. Besides, the argument continued, the races were simply too different to integrate, so intermarriage was unnatural. The dire consequences of miscegenation included "confusion, strife, hatred, and bloodshed." Thus, as Dr. Bell wrote in 1947, the "extremes to which some would go in solving the race problem we face in the South show both lack of judgment and psychological common sense." Yet Bell recognized that blacks had feelings, too. Thus, he recommended that whites extend them courtesy by saying "thank you" and patting an occasional black child on the head. 38
Paternalistic Journalers professed to love African Americans and to want only the best for them. Integration, the writers insisted, was cruel, and segregation was kind. Thus, social separation was consistent with the Golden Rule, "to do unto others as you want others to do unto you." In 1947 Bell wrote without irony that he was "ashamed at the intolerance, the discrimination, and the humiliations which have been heaped on them [blacks] by the white race" while he defended segregation. Three years later, when the Southern Presbyterian Church pondered dissolving the Snedecor Memorial Synod, Bell wrote that the Synod's existence was a mistake. Instead, ignoring or misreading the history of the Afro-American Presbyterian Church (1898-1917), he proposed making Snedecor a separate denomination, which would presumably be more successful at evangelism. According to Bell, the presence of blacks in a majority white denomination retarded the growth of black Presbyterian congregations. Thus, segregation was kind and Christian. 39
In 1950 the Journal also published medical and cultural reasons for the kindness of segregation, in the context of miscegenation. According to these Social Darwinian arguments (ironically published in an avowedly Creationist magazine), the dire consequences of intermarriage allegedly included "weakening the resistance to certain diseases by hybrid offspring" and the reversal of American cultural progress by creating a culture of the lowest common denominator. According to this logic, mixed-race children, the natural consequences of integration, would be biologically inferior. So the purity of the dominant popular culture was also in danger. 40
The Journal published this argument as late as 1966. The 22 June issue, for example, included an editorial regarding the integration of denominational children's homes. The Journal went on record as opposing this policy because "Christ said that His followers were to look upon all men as brothers. He did not say they were to look upon them as potential husbands and wives." Furthermore, the "liberals'" obsession with racial equality was certainly a "cover up for bankrupt theology and empty Christian conviction." Ironically, the Journal professed to support racial equality: "We abhor race prejudice in any form and we would be glad to put our personal experience in race relations alongside anyone else's." 41
Much of the content of these arguments echoed antebellum defenses of slavery. Consider, O reader, the following nineteenth-century case: slavery and social hierarchy are part of the divine plan for the world order. Whites, who are superior to the benighted blacks, are supposed to raise their dark brothers and sisters to the light of civilization and Christianity. Slavery reduces competition and tension between blacks and poor whites. It is therefore best for all concerned because it protects whites from the blacks it simultaneously uplifts. As the Reverend Joseph Ruggles Wilson said in 1861, the peculiar institution saves a "lower race" from improvidence and enriches the "superior race." This unfortunate reality indicates the fallen nature of the world due to Original Sin. Yet there will be no slavery in the afterlife. The peculiar institution of slavery must continue in the temporal plane of existence, though. 42
According to the Journal's Cold War-based argument, segregation was American and practical. During the Cold War, many defenders of the racial status quo noted that communist regimes criticized the United States for its segregation. To embrace integration, then, would be to capitulate to the enemy. Thus, integration was un-American. United States Senator Richard B. Russell of Georgia made this argument, which the Journal echoed while mixing it with condemnations of theological liberalism. According to the Reverend G. T. Gillespie, of Jackson, Mississippi, in 1957, segregation was American because state constitutions contained it. Furthermore, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Booker T. Washington had supported it. That same year, Dr. Bell condemned forced integration as "un-Christian because it denies the rights which are inherent in American citizenship." Then he echoed Booker T. Washington when he wrote, "Social equalities are earned and not imposed by law." Finally, Bell added the most damning indictment: racial integration was part of theological liberalism. 43
The Journal also condemned the Delta Ministry of the National Council of Churches. The project, which began in 1964, helped poor blacks and whites in the Mississippi Delta. It identified community leaders, encouraged economic development, and advocated for school integration and fair employment practices. The Southern Presbyterian Church, a member of the National Council, supported this work. Critics, such as those at the Journal, labeled the Delta Ministry subversive, namely communistic. Besides, they said, the church should engage in evangelism, not social work intent on overturning the status quo. 44
The Journal also condemned civil disobedience as dangerous. Martin Luther King, Jr., had eloquently defended this civil rights tactic in his "Letter from a Birmingham City Jail" in 1963. He wrapped himself in the cloak of Judeo-Christian tradition. King referred to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who, in the Book of Daniel, had disobeyed a law requiring them to commit idolatry. The pastor also mentioned some early Christian martyrs who had refused to worship false gods in violation of Roman law. He quoted Saint Augustine of Hippo, the influential theologian of the late Western Roman period: "An unjust law is no law at all." King also cited Saint Thomas Aquinas, author of the Summa Theologica, to say that there are two kinds of laws: unjust (which violate moral law) and just. Unjust laws, the pastor wrote, included segregation. Then King insisted that he opposed anarchy and violence, and that he was willing to accept the legal consequences of the actions he committed in the name of justice. 45
This case failed to impress some of King's critics at the Journal and elsewhere. In 1966 Bell condemned civil disobedience as a threat to law and order, and thereby to the continued existence of the nation. He shared this perspective with many other conservatives, including Lionel Lokos, who published a negative biography of King in 1968. Lokos, a self-professed individualist and resident of an integrated (soon to be segregated) Harlem neighborhood, described the pre-civil rights era as a time of "racial innocence." He also equated civil disobedience with lawlessness and claimed that law breaking for any reason created anarchy. This, according to Lokos, was especially dangerous during the Cold War, for loyal Americans needed to unite in the face of the communist threat. 46
Finally, the Journal argued that more laws would not accomplish racial justice. In 1948 the magazine published an editorial from the Newark, New Jersey, Telegram, an African-American newspaper. Davis Lee, the editor, had toured the South then written of the inverse relationship between racial injustice and civil rights laws. He noted that the North was home to more civil rights laws and racial discrimination than the South. He wrote that southern Negroes, but not northern ones, could do anything they wanted, despite the obvious segregation in the South. Blacks, he argued, should not try to prove their equality to southern whites who naturally would not recognize it because of the psychological trauma resulting from Confederate defeat. Rather, blacks should uplift themselves until southern whites had no choice but to accept them as equals. By this method alone, Davis, wrote, southern Negroes could improve their situation, for outside agitation would just make enemies and retard progress. Journal editor Henry B. Denby prefaced his reprint of Davis's editorial: "We most earnestly commend it to the extremes now advocated as a solution to this problem." Those alleged extremes included Truman's civil rights proposals. 47
Bell, writing in 1956, summarized the Journal's attitudes toward civil rights laws: "Our serious problems will never be solved by law, regardless of the source of that law. But, they can be solved by mutual love, forbearance, and Christian courtesy." Bell and many of his fellow Journalers, although correct that laws alone could not solve racial difficulties, underestimated the effectiveness of social courtesies. Patting a black child on the head or saying "thank you" to an African American would not improve race relations. Furthermore, segregation was unkind, for it denied blacks equal economic and educational opportunities. Although certain biblical passages seemed to justify segregation from a certain point of view, Jim Crow violated the Golden Rule. The existence of substandard schools, for example, belied doing unto others as one wanted others to do unto oneself. Even after the Journal abandoned overt racism as an editorial policy in November 1966, many of the writers, including Bell, continued to oppose the civil rights movement. The leopard did not change its spots. 48
The Presbyterian Journal changed its editorial policy regarding racism on 23 November 1966, when it published the complete text of "One Race, One Gospel, One Task," the statement of the World Congress on Evangelism. The World Congress was a major event for many evangelicals. Billy Graham, who supported civil rights, helped organize the gathering of people from 100 nations at West Berlin in November 1966. The appearance of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie to speak at the meeting highlighted its interracial nature. The delegates adopted a statement calling for the evangelization of all people and for the removal of all barriers, including racism, to that goal. The document said in part, "We recognize the failures of many of us in the recent past to speak with sufficient clarity and force upon the Biblical unity of the human race." The statement then declared that everyone needs divine forgiveness and salvation, and continued, "We reject the notion that men are unequal because of the distinction of race and color. In the name of Scripture and of Jesus Christ we condemn racialism wherever it appears." The document then pled for forgiveness and for grace to resist racism. 49
Although the Journal had ceased theological defenses of the civil rights movement, the substance of its critiques of the movement and social reform did not change. For example, the magazine continued its pre-November 1966 policy of placing "civil rights" in quotation marks, as if to say, "so-called civil rights." Furthermore, Bell wrote in 1969 that the Southern Presbyterian Church had failed blacks by preaching social justice, not redemption. He could also have made the same charge about the national United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., whose neo-orthodox Confession of 1967 he condemned for focusing too much on social issues and not enough on the Bible. 50
Regarding racism, the Confession declared:
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 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. 51
Martin Luther King, Jr., functioned as a lighting rod for criticism for many people, black and white, during the late 1960s, when he became more radical. His 1967 critique of the Vietnam War proved especially controversial. The war, King declared, was immoral. First, it diverted money from federal anti-poverty programs and the draft disproportionately affected young black men with limited economic and educational opportunities. Second, it was imperialistic. King claimed the right to speak out because "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." 52
This prophetic denunciation was extremely controversial. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Urban League, many prominent newspapers and newsmagazines, President Johnson, White House partisans, and many reactionary Cold Warriors condemned King. He was allegedly either hurting the cause of civil rights or he had no right to denounce foreign policy or he was aiding and abetting the enemy (Ho Chi Minh). 53
King's domestic and foreign policy views influenced how some Southern Presbyterians reacted or responded to his April 1968 assassination. For example, the Journal editorialized against King and civil rights laws in the 17 April 1968 issue. The editorial, "This is Not the Way to ‘Justice,'" began, "Martin Luther King was not a man we admired." According to the Journal, F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover was correct; King was a subversive. "On the other hand," the editorial continued, "we do subscribe wholeheartedly to the basic principles of justice and equal opportunity for all men, regardless of color or creed. And we acknowledge that Dr. King was a most effective champion of the principles that he stood for." Then the Journal deplored the manner of King's death as well as his civil disobedience. The editorial concluded, "Until law and order prevail, social justice will never be perfected." 54
The official Presbyterian Survey responded quite differently. They devoted the June 1968 issue to King and civil rights. The front cover featured, "LOVE SHALL OVERCOME" above a photograph of King's casket. The issue included a King profile plus articles about the Memphis strike, racism, economic justice, and the effects of segregation on African Americans, as well as a reprint of King's "Letter from a Birmingham City Jail." 55
Letters to the editor appeared in the magazine for the remainder of the year. Relatively few letters were positive. Among the most succinct of these came from Roz White of Atlanta, Georgia, who wrote, "WOW!" The negative letters, in contrast, contained much invective. Some of them described the June 1968 issue as "disgusting," "excrable," and contrary to Christianity. Others blamed African-American poverty solely on black laziness, labeled the Survey a communist publication, and cancelled subscriptions in protest. One reader even placed the Survey in the same category as Playboy, for as he wrote, he did not want his nine-year-old daughter to read either publication. 56
The negative reactions of the Journal and of angry Survey readers might seem odd a generation later, when, as Michael Eric Dyson observes, many self-described conservatives quote King to support their causes, such as opposition to affirmative action. Dyson posits that the King of the public imagination is a sanitized and non-threatening fiction. Actually, King was radical by the standards of his day, and he became more so as time passed. Many of the conservatives who wrote for the Journal or who reacted strongly to the Survey's June 1968 issue seem to have perceived that radicalism (at least partially) and found it threatening. 57
Racial views had defined the liberal and conservative wings of the Presbyterian Church in the United States since the 1940s. This polarization heightened in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the denomination moved further to the left, much to the distress of many conservative members. Racism, the subject of this article, was just one of the causes, however. Many conservatives also complained of doctrinal changes that contradicted Christianity, as they understood it. 58
First, the Southern Presbyterian Church had amended its version of the Westminster Confession of Faith, its standard summary of Christianity, in 1942 to include two new chapters, "Of the Holy Spirit" and "Of the Gospel." According to PCA co-founder Morton H. Smith, these additions embraced the Arminian doctrine of free will, and thereby contradicted other portions of the Calvinist document regarding predestination. For example, Chapter III, "Of God's Eternal Decrees," proclaimed, "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death." In contrast, the new Chapter IX, "Of the Holy Spirit," said, "…He [the Holy Spirit] prepares the way for it [the gospel], accompanies it with his persuasive power, and urges its message upon the reason and conscience of men, so that they who reject its merciful offer are not only without excuse, but are also guilty of resisting the Holy Spirit." The Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., predecessor of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., with whom the PCUS reunited in 1983, had similarly amended its version of the Westminster Confession in 1903. 59
Second, the southern denomination had amended the Westminster Confession's Chapter XXVI, "Of Marriage and Divorce," in 1959 to permit divorce and remarriage. Cases in which the church recognized divorce stemmed from "the weakness of one or both partners," including "extreme, unrepented-of, and irremediate unfaithfulness (physical or spiritual.)" Only under these circumstances, the church decreed, should people ponder divorce. Yet God still intended marriage to last until death. The revised chapter permitted remarriage yet added, "Divorced persons should give prayerful thought to discover if God's vocation for them is to remain unmarried, since one failure in this realm raises serious questions as to the rightness and wisdom of undertaking another union." 60
Third, the denomination permitted women to hold lay offices and to become ministers in 1964. The protest recorded in the General Assembly Minutes cited Ephesians 5:21-23, 1 Timothy 3:1-13, and Titus 1:5-9. Ephesians contains the oft-quoted passage, "Wives be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord," in the context of mutual husband and wife submission to the Christ. 1 Timothy declares that bishops and deacons should be men married only once. Titus likewise describes a bishop as male. 61
Fourth, the Southern Presbyterian Church denounced capital punishment in 1966. This action allegedly contradicted the Westminster Confession's Chapter XXV, "Of the Civil Magistrate," which declared that God had ordained civil authority for the common good and armed it "with the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evildoers." 62
Fifth, the church resolved in 1969 and reaffirmed the following year that evolution was compatible with the Bible, the Westminster Confession, and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, all foundational documents for the Presbyterian Church. According to the resolution, the existence of God and uniqueness of human beings did not "exclude the possibility of evolution as a scientific theory." This action reversed General Assembly resolutions from 1886, 1888, 1889, and 1924. 63
Finally, the Southern Presbyterian Church affirmed access to abortion for socioeconomic reasons in 1970. The denomination recognized abortion as "the willful destruction of the fetus" and stated that nobody should decide hastily to have the procedure. Nevertheless, the church recognized four circumstances when abortion would be morally justifiable: rape, incest, threat to the life of the mother, and "physical or mental deformity." The General Assembly resolved that all women in need of an abortion should receive one regardless of financial means. The denomination also affirmed pastoral counseling, including abortion alternatives. 64
Organic unity within the Southern Presbyterian Church broke down in 1971-1973. A group of leading conservatives, who had lost most policy and doctrinal debates since 1959, plotted to create a new denomination. The Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church, Faithful to the Scriptures and the Reformed Faith, formed in 1971 at the annual Journal Day, a Presbyterian Journal-sponsored gathering for dissident PCUS members. Congregations seceded and presbyteries formed during the next two years. In 1973, Dr. L. Nelson Bell, who had resigned from the Journal in protest in 1971 and who had served as the 1972-1973 Moderator of the General Assembly, told the delegates that attempts at theological reconciliation had unfortunately failed. He also criticized the longstanding PCUS practice of sidelining conservatives and bemoaned the imminent schism. Bell did not live to witness the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), which the magazine he founded facilitated, for he died in August 1973. 65
The Presbyterian Church in America, née the National Presbyterian Church, formed on 4 December 1973, the 112th anniversary of the founding of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America/United States, from which it broke away. The new denomination issued the Message to All Churches, just as the Confederate Church had published the Address…to All the Churches of Jesus Christ. The 1973 Message, unlike the 1861 Address, did not include overtly racist language. The PCA decreed that it formed in defense of theological orthodoxy and purity, which change had threatened. Specifically, the Message condemned "a diluted theology, a gospel tending towards humanism, an unbiblical view of marriage and divorce, the ordination of women, financing abortion on socio-economic grounds, and other non-Biblical positions." 66 At least one co-founder of the PCA opposed ecclesiastical involvement in civil rights as late as 1973. Morton H. Smith, the PCA's first Stated Clerk, had defended segregation in 1964, when he wrote that integration would lead to miscegenation, which would destroy human diversity and thereby aid and abet communist domination of the United States. Smith's writings of nine years later indicated that he had not come to support ecclesiastical pro-civil rights declarations as the PCA gestated. The Steering Committee published his book, How is the Gold Become Dim, a condemnation of perceived PCUS doctrinal lapses and denominational decline, that year. Smith pointed to six main alleged errors: Arminianism, allowance for divorce and remarriage, ordination of women, opposition to capital punishment, support for evolution, and affirmation of the pro-choice stand on abortion. 67 Then he wrote of the 1954 PCUS endorsement of Brown v. Board of Education:
The report comes to the conclusion that the Church should lead in the matter of integration. It is debatable whether this conclusion can really be based in Scripture. As one looks at the stance of the Southern Presbyterians towards slavery issue a century before, one finds that the Church restrained from getting into social issues, and trying to decide such issues, because the Bible itself did not do so. The fact is that God segregated Israel from the Canaanites. It is debatable as to whether the Church should get into the matter of trying to change that particular pattern, and branding one form of culture as sinful as opposed to another. 68
In 1973, at a meeting to plan the inaugural PCA General Assembly, Smith delivered a speech based on this book. The Journal excerpted that address. He either ignored this final argument in that speech or the magazine omitted that portion thereof. 69
A key Presbyterian Church in America founder, the author of the denomination's official book-length theological manifesto, incorporated a condemnation of ecclesiastical civil rights activism in his arguments as late as 1973, the year of the PCA's birth. He did so while clinging to the Southern Presbyterian Spirituality of the Church, which, like the southern political tradition of States' Rights, provided cover for slavery then segregation. One might recall James Henley Thornwell's 1850 inherently proslavery quote in the context of disputes, sectional and religious, leading up to the Civil War: "Where the Scriptures are silent, she [the church] must be silent, too." 70 Smith applied the same logic to civil rights issues and condemned official PCUS pro-civil rights reports as relying too much on social sciences (and too little on the Bible), and therefore humanistic:
Again in pressing the matter of fair treatment between races, the subjective standard of man's thought is made the measure rather than the Scripture. "Whatever injures or prevents the growth of human personality is contrary to the law of love." It is interesting to observe that the law of love now is the law to be obeyed. This has no specific reference in the Bible, but is the law which "seeks the welfare and happiness of all people." Here we see a bald humanism coming forward as the ultimate goal of man's moral conduct. 71In this context the Message's reference to "a gospel tending towards humanism" sounds like a veiled criticism of the civil rights movement, or at least ecclesiastical involvement in it. 72
The Journal endorsed the 1973 schism, in which nearly six percent (an estimated 55,000 members in 250 congregations) of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (896,203 members in 4,117 congregations as of the 1974 General Assembly) broke away. The publication covered the first Presbyterian Church in America (then National Presbyterian Church) General Assembly extensively and published a photograph of editor G. Aiken Taylor posing at the gathering. As late as 2006, the PCA Historical Center listed the Journal under the heading, "Formative Organizations in PCA History." The Historical Center also gave an annual G. Aiken Taylor Award in American Presbyterian History to a seminarian. Taylor, the Historical Center said, was a "key figure in the formation of the PCA." 73
According to Frank Joseph Smith, the first ministerial candidate of the Presbyterian Church in America and the author of that denomination's official history, "unsympathetic writers" have overplayed the role of racism in the PCA's formation. He conceded that some founders were segregationists but observed that the Steering Committee adopted a racially inclusive policy. Furthermore, according to F. J. Smith, the PCA has never segregated African Americans, and the only non-geographical presbytery is linguistically Korean. Also according to the PCA historian, conservatives, such as those who read and wrote for the Journal, cared about social issues yet opposed policies which led to "socialism, communism, or subversion." 74 F. J. Smith was partially correct about racism and the Presbyterian Church in America's founding, for the Steering Committee did announce a racially inclusive policy. And at least one African American belonged to the planning committee for the first General Assembly; the Journal published his photograph. Furthermore, the PCA has never created an African-American presbytery. Yet one should not ignore the fact that the same Steering Committee published Morton H. Smith's How is the Gold Become Dim, which refused to condemn segregation, albeit as a minor point. The Steering Committee's imprimatur of M. H. Smith's book, including the comments regarding civil rights, seemed inconsistent with racially inclusive statements.
Many Presbyterian Church in America members have, over the years, found the perceived racist legacy of some of the denomination's prominent founders either burdensome or embarrassing. In 2003 parishioner Rich Lusk wrote that southern racist sins "continually haunted" the PCA. A southern presbytery proposed an official anti-racism statement at each annual General Assembly for years. Rarely did such overtures address the particulars of such sins, but these proposals reflected a desire to wash the "damned spot" from the PCA's hands. 75
The denomination began to address this issue in earnest in 2002. That year the Nashville Presbytery proposed that the General Assembly adopt Overture 20, which recognized the sinful nature of racism, oppression, and exploitation then stated that the effects of these had divided and disadvantaged people. The overture also confessed collective sins: "As a people, both we and our fathers, have failed to keep the commandments, the statutes, and the laws God has commanded." It repented of "our pride, our complacency, and our complicity," and sought forgiveness from "our brothers and sisters." Finally, according to the Overture, the PCA should seek racial reconciliation and engage in interracial evangelization. The 2002 General Assembly adopted the controversial measure. The following year, the Nashville Presbytery's Overture 17, which the Assembly also approved, called for a pastoral letter because "the adoption of this statement [Overture 20] has exposed some divisions within the PCA regarding the issue of racism." 76
The 2004 General Assembly approved The Gospel and Race, the pastoral letter on racism. This diplomatic document condemned racism as unscriptural, recognized the existence of racism within the PCA, and, in broad strokes, acknowledged the racist sins of Presbyterian history, minus the racial attitudes of some of the PCA's founders. Yet the pastoral letter forcefully stated the theological problems of the sin of racism and contradicted justifications for slavery and segregation, such as those this article explains. 77
Previous generations of theologians had invoked the Bible to defend slavery and segregation; The Gospel and Race quoted many of the same passages, as well as some verses defenders of the old order had ignored, to make to opposite points. For example, the pastoral letter argued that racism (and thereby slavery and segregation) undercut the doctrine of the Fall of Man (and therefore Original Sin), for, as Paul wrote in Romans 3:22-23, "There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." 78
Also, the pastoral letter quoted Acts 17:26 ("From one man, he [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live."), which segregationists had cited, to denounce separation. The Gospel and Race stressed the beginning of the verse, whereas segregationists had emphasized the end. The pastoral letter decreed that since there is only one human race, claims of racial superiority or inferiority deny the common origin (Adam and Eve) of all people. 79
Third, The Gospel and Race cited the Ten Commandments, 1 John 3:15, and Matthew 5:21-22 to argue that since hatred leads to murder, and since no murderer has eternal life within himself or herself, and since racism is a form of hatred, racism equals murder. One antebellum defense of slavery held that since the Ten Commandments recognized the existence of slavery without condemning it, the peculiar institution must be morally permissible. Biblical interpretation had changed over a century and a half. 80
The pastoral letter also said that the Presbyterian Church in America should demonstrate "a Gospel that united people across the dividing lines of race." These were the lines that Dr. L. Nelson Bell and his peers at the The Presbyterian Journal claimed God had put in place. The PCA had come a long way since the founding. 81
One cannot, of course, exhume the dead and try them for their sins, alleged or real, and hope to accomplish anything. One can, however, learn from the past and strive to do better in the present and future. This rule also applies to institutions (whether congregations, presbyteries, or denominations), which, like individuals, have distinct histories and personalities.
Now our trek through time has ended. We have explored noble and shameful moments during peaceful and turbulent times. And what are we to make of them? Since I can speak only for myself that is all I endeavor to do. I conclude that the relationship between religion and culture has frequently been difficult, and that many devout Christians have been unaware of their negative biases. Thus they have undertaken non-Christian actions in the name of Jesus. Just as the Southern Presbyterian 1962 Brief Statement of Belief (quoted at the beginning of this article) said in its section on human depravity, we cannot deliver ourselves from sin, which is both individual and societal. Only God can do that. And we must, by the grace of God, do better. According to tradition, Saint Francis of Assisi said to preach the Gospel always and to use words when necessary. Actions and words must not belie each other if we are to function effectively as ambassadors for the Christ.
In addition, ecclesiology and doctrine have practical effects in the real world. One cannot love God, whom one cannot see, without loving people, whom one can see. The author of the Letter of James wrote of faith and works: "Yes, faith without action is as dead as a body without a soul." 82 This love must find expression in deeds. The precise actions will vary according to circumstances, but the constant biblical principle remains applicable across time and space.
In conclusion, I submit for your consideration a centuries-old prayer from the English Prayer Book tradition:
Gracious Father, we pray for thy holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it: where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior. Amen. 83
1. Quoted in the Presbyterian Church in the United States, The Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church in the United States Together with the Larger Catechism and the Shorter Catechism (Atlanta, GA: Printed for the General Assembly, 1963; reprint, 1975), 332. I have quoted the section on human depravity.
2. The unofficial label of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America (1861-1865)/Presbyterian Church in the United States (1865-1983) was the Southern Presbyterian Church. For the purposes of this article, "Southern Presbyterian" refers to this denomination, and "southern Presbyterian" does not. Many members of other Presbyterian bodies lived in the South during the lifespan on the Southern Presbyterian Church. The Presbyterian Church in the United States and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. reunited in June 1983 to form the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I could not have written this article without referring to Joel L. Alvis, Jr.'s Religion and Race: Southern Presbyterians, 1946-1983 (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1994). Alvis stands in the historiographical lineage of Ernest Trice Thompson, author of the three-volume Presbyterians in the South (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1963-1973). I stand on their shoulders. I focus on the Journal and early leaders of the Presbyterian Church in America in the same way a historian of the early American republic might place a spotlight on the Founding Fathers. This is, then, an unabashed "Great Man" history. I leave subalterns to other researchers.
3. Note: That while the Journal may have taken this stance it does not necessitate that everyone in Presbyterians circles did.
4. A partial list of the defenses of the social status quo and criticisms of civil rights leaders and activists follows: L. Nelson Bell, "Race Relations—Whither?" The Southern Presbyterian Journal 1 (March 1944): 4-5; Idem, "The Federal Council and ‘Race Segregation,'" Ibid. 5 (15 May 1946): 9-10; B. W. Crouch, "Dr. Palmer on Racial Barriers," Ibid. 5 (2 December 1946), 5; J. David Simpson, "Non-Segregation Means Eventual Inter-Marriage," Ibid. 6 (15 March 1948): 6-7; W. A. Plecker, "Interracial Brotherhood Movement: Is It Scriptural?" Ibid. 5 (1 January 1947): 9-10; William H. Frazer, "The Social Separation of the Races," Ibid. 9 (15 July 1950): 7; J. E. Flow, "Is Segregation UnChristian?" Ibid. 10 (29 August 1951): 4-5; Bell, Racial Tensions: Let us Decrease—Not Increase Them!" Ibid. 5 (15 February 1957): 3; "'Civil Rights' Drive Turns to Economics," Ibid. 24 (19 January 1966): 4-5; "Alliance Unit Asks End to Exemptions," Ibid. 25 (25 January 1967): 4. The Journal did a partial about-face in the 12 November 1966 issue, which included "One Race, One Gospel, One Task" (pp. 9-10). This was the statement of the World Congress on Evangelism, over which Billy Graham had presided. According to "One Race," racism constituted a barrier to evangelism, and was therefore sinful. I explore this matter later in the article. Other researchers have written about twentieth-century Presbyterian defenses of segregation and linked them to pro-slavery arguments. Nevertheless, I focus on The Presbyterian Journal and relate these defenses to the Presbyterian Church in America's 2004 pastoral letter on racism, The Gospel and Race. Other works on Southern Presbyterian racism either predate 2004 or cite the Journal only occasionally.
5. I draw inspiration from the writing style of Will and Ariel Durant.
6. Billy Graham, Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham (New York: HarperCollins, 1997; paperback, 1999), 287-288; G. Aiken Taylor, "How the Journal Began," The Presbyterian Journal 26 (3 May 1967): 10-11. Taylor became editor of the renamed Presbyterian Journal (minus Southern) beginning with the 7 October 1959 issue. [Ibid. 18 (7 October 1959):3] L. Nelson Bell was Billy Graham's mentor and father-in-law. Bell shared neither his son-in-law's friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr., nor support for the civil rights movement. The November 12, 1966, issue, which I will discuss in detail later in this article, included the official statement of Billy Graham's World Congress on Evangelism. This manifesto stated that racism, an impediment to evangelism, was sinful. Nevertheless, the magazine continued its pre-November 12, 1966, policy of referring to the "'civil rights' movement," as if to say, "so-called civil rights movement." Examples of this include: "Intermarriage and Race Top Topics at Assembly," The Presbyterian Journal 24 (9 June 1965): 7-8; "A Different Demonstration," Ibid. 24 (7 July 1965): 14; "Leftist Criticism of U.S. Action Mounts," Ibid. 24 (11 August 1965): 13; "'Civil Rights' Drive Turns to Economics," Ibid. 24 (19 January 1966): 4-5; "Alliance Unit Asks End to Exemptions," Ibid. 25 (25 January 1967): 4; L. Nelson Bell, "Home to Roost," Ibid. 28 (11 June 1969): 13.
7. Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, vol. 3, 1890-1972 (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1973), 533; Minutes of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church in the United States (1946), 35; Minutes, PCUS (1916), 33-34; Minutes, PCUS (1917), 7, 29; Minutes, PCUS (1898), 236. A presbytery is a small geographical grouping of congregations. A synod is a grouping of presbyteries. Most PCUS synods prior to the early 1970s followed state lines. The General Assembly is the annual meeting and highest legislative body of most Presbyterian denominations.
8. Minutes, PCUS (1947), 154; Minutes, PCUS (1951), 82; Minutes, PCUS (1952), 38; Minutes, PCUS (1964), 1:81; Alvis, Religion and Race, 92-95.
9. Barton J. Bermstein and Allen J. Matusow, eds., The Truman Administration: A Documentary History (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), 95-108; Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of Democracy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), 79-80, 83.
10. Alvis, Religion and Race, 109; Minutes, PCUS (1955), 77, 79; Minutes, PCUS (1964), 153-155; Minutes, PCUS (1966), 1:90-91.
11. Alvis, Religion and Race, 108-111.
12. A Journaler was a writer for and/or editor at The (Southern) Presbyterian Journal.
13. William E. Moore and William H. Roberts, eds., The Presbyterian Digest of 1907: A Compend of the Acts, Decisions, and Deliverances of the General Presbytery, General Synod, and General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, 1706-1906 (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1907), 871; Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America, Address of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America to All the Churches Throughout the Earth (Published by order of the Assembly, 1861), microfilm, 4, 9-12; Minutes, PCUS (1865), 384-385.
14. H. Shelton Smith, In His Image, But…Racism in Southern Religion, 1780-1910 (Durham, NC: Duke University Pres, 1972), 252, 264, 266-267. For an analysis of the theological thought of Hoge, Dabney, and other Southern Presbyterian leaders, read Morton H. Smith, Studies in Southern Presbyterian Theology (1962; reprint, Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1987). M. H. Smith, who served as the first Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church in America, ignored slavery, segregation, and racism in his study.
15. Charles Reagan Wilson, Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920 (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1980), 1, 3, 7, 100, 117-118; C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877-1913 (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1951; reprint, 1971), 155-157; Andrew Michael Manis, Southern Civil Religions in Conflict: Black and White Baptists and Civil Rights, 1947-1957 (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1987), 79.
16. Genesis 9:20-27 (New Revised Standard Version). Biblical translations follow two versification systems. Jewish and Roman Catholic versions follow one, and Protestant translations use the other.
17. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds., The Jewish Study Bible, TANAKH Translation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 26. Some sources use the misnomer, "curse of Ham." The nature of the taboo in question may be vague, but the violation of it was the key issue in that section of the biblical narrative.
18. H. S. Smith, In His Image, But…, 130-132; Mitchell Snay, Gospel of Disunion: Religion and Separatism in the Antebellum South (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1993; reprint, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 56.
19. Berlin and Brettler, eds., The Jewish Study Bible, 27; Walter J. Harrelson, ed., The New Interpreter's Study Bible, New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2003), 23; Kenneth Barker, ed., The NIV Study Bible, New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985), 20.
20. Alvis, Religion and Race, 53-54; L. Nelson Bell, "Race Relations—Whither?" The Southern Presbyterian Journal 2 (March 1944): 4-5; W. A. Plecker, "Interracial Brotherhood Movement: Is It Scriptural?" Ibid. 5 (1 January 1947): 9-10. Since the Journal repeated pro-segregation arguments in successive issues, I have cited representative articles and editorials, not all examples of specific justifications.
21. Alvis, Religion and Race, 53-54; Genesis 11:1-9 (NRSV); Acts 17:26-27 (NRSV).
22. L. Nelson Bell, "Race Relations—Whither?" The Southern Presbyterian Journal 2 (March 1944): 4-5; Willliam H. Frazer, "The Social Separation of the Races," Ibid. 9 (15 July 1950): 7; J. E. Flow, "Is Segregation UnChristian?" Ibid. 10 (29 August 1951): 4-5; G. T. Gillespie, "A Southern Christian Looks at the Race Problem," Ibid. 16 (5 June 1957): 11; B. W. Crouch, "Dr. Palmer on Racial Barriers," Ibid. 5 (2 December 1946): 5; J. David Simpson, "Non-Segregation Means Eventual Inter-Marriage," Ibid. 6 (15 March 1948): 6-7; W. A. Plecker, "Interracial Brotherhood Movement: Is It Scriptural?" Ibid. 1 January 1947: 9.
23. J. E. Flow, "Is Segregation UnChristian?" The Southern Presbyterian Journal 10 (29 August 1951): 5; Joseph Ruggles Wilson, Mutual Relationship of Masters and Slaves as Taught in the Bible. A Discourse Preached in the First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, Georgia, on Sabbath Morning, Jan. 6, 1861 (Augusta, GA: Steam Press of Chronicle & Sentinel, 1861; available at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, http://www.docsouth.unc.edu/wilson/wilson.html), 5-8. Joseph Ruggles Wilson was the father of President (Thomas) Woodrow Wilson.
24. William H. Frazer, "The Social Separation of the Races," The Southern Presbyterian Journal 9 (15 July 1950): 7; Genesis 12:1-9 (NRSV); J. E. Flow, "Is Segregation UnChristian?" TSPJ 10 (29 August 1951): 4; Exodus 14 (NRSV).
25. Alvis, Religion and Race, 53-54; Genesis 27:46-28:4 (NRSV); Deuteronomy 7:3-4 (NRSV); William H. Frazer, "The Social Separation of the Races," The Southern Presbyterian Journal 9 (15 July 1950): 6-7; Joshua 23:12-13 (NRSV); Ezra 10:3, 10-11 (NRSV); W. A. Plecker, "Interracial Brotherhood Movement: Is It Scriptural?" TSPJ 5 (1 January 1947): 10; Nehemiah 13:23-31 (NRSV).
26. William H. Frazer, "The Social Separation of the Races," The Southern Presbyterian Journal 9 (15 July 1950): 7; John 4:1-42 (NRSV); G. T. Gillespie, "A Southern Christian Looks at the Race Problem," TSPJ 16 (5 June 1957): 11; Luke 10:25-37 (NRSV).
27. Luke 7:2-10 (NRSV); H. S. Smith, In His Image, But…, 133.
28. Luke 17:7-10 (NRSV); H. S. Smith, In His Image, But…, 133. The Gospel text includes the quotation marks.
29. Alvis, Religion and Race, 4-5.
30. PCCSA, Address…to All the Churches, 4; H. S. Smith, In His Image, But…131-132; Andrew E. Murray, Presbyterians and the Negro—A History (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian Historical Society, 1966), 70; Snay, Gospel of Disunion, 56-57; Leviticus 25:44-46 (Authorized Version); Exodus 20:10, 17 (NRSV). The Authorized Version translation of Leviticus 25:44-46 uses the verb "shall," a command, as in "Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have…." Recent translations, such as the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of 1989, the TANAKH of 1985, and Richard Elliott Friedman's 2003 Commentary of the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text use verbs such as "may" and "will," which indicate recognition of reality, not a command. South Carolina Baptist clergyman James Furman wrote W. E. Bailey, a fellow slaveholder, in 1848, "We who own slave honor God's law in the exercise of our authority." [Donald G. Mathews, Religion in the Old South (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1977), 136, 258.] One might recognize Thornwell's declaration about being silent where the Scriptures are silent as being similar to one of the foundational declarations of the Campbell-Stone movement, which began in the early 1800s.
31. L. Nelson Bell, "Why" The Southern Presbyterian Journal 1 (May 1942): 2-3, quoted in Frank Joseph Smith, The History of the Presbyterian Church in America, 2d. ed. (Lawrenceville, GA: Presbyterian Scholars Pres, 1999), 16-17; Bell, "A Layman Looks at Liberalism," TSPJ 4 (15 September 1945): 4; Idem, "What is the Gospel" Ibid. 5 (1 August 1946): 3; Idem, "For Such a Time as This," Ibid. 6 (15 October 1947): 2.
32. Robert S. Ellwood, 1950: Crossroads of American Religious Life (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2000), 31-32,115, 186, 191; L. E. Faulkner, "Official Pronouncements of the Federal Council of Churches," The Southern Presbyterian Journal 6 (1 April 1948): 17-19; J. E. Flow, The Federal Council on Human Rights," Ibid. 7 (1 February 1949): 18-19; Jack W. Hayford, "Confessing What Separates Us," in Ending Racism in the Church, ed. Susan E. Davies and Sister Paul Teresa Hennessee," S.A. (Cleveland, OH: United Church Press, 1998), 18; Verne P. Kaub, "A Layman's View of the NCC's Constitutional Convention," TSPJ 9 (24 January 1951): 10.
33. Linwood Urban, A Short History of Christian Thought, 2d. ed. (Oxford University Press, 1995), 151-155, 351; Stewart Burns: To the Mountaintop: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Mission to Save America: 1955-1968 (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004), 92; Jean Russell, God's Lost Cause: A Study of the Church and the Racial Problem (London: SCM Press, 1968), 86-87; Richard Wightman Fox, Jesus in America: Personal Savior, Cultural Hero, National Obsession (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 2004), 323; David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (New York: HarperCollins, 1986; reprint, New York: Perennial Classics, 2004), 42-43.
34. G. Aiken Taylor, "How the Journal Began," The Presbyterian Journal 26 (3 May 1967): 10; Minutes, PCUS (1935), 93-95; Ernest Trice Thompson, The Spirituality of the Church: A Distinctive Doctrine of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1961), 41-43.
35. Henry B. Denby, "With Troops and Tanks," The Southern Presbyterian Journal 17 (24 September 1958): 2-3.
36. H. S. Smith, In His Image, But…, 133; J. R. Wilson, Mutual Relationship of Masters and Slaves, 5-8.
37. Based on elements from James McBride Dabbs, Haunted by God (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1972), 186-187, and John P. Newport and William Cannon, Why Christians Fight Over the Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1974), 21-45.
38. L. Nelson Bell, "The Federal Council and ‘Race Segregation,'" The Southern Presbyterian Journal 5 (15 May 1946): 9-10; Idem, "Racial Tensions: Let Us Decrease—Not Increase Them!" Ibid. 5 (15 February 1957): 3; G. T. Gillespie, "A Southern Christian Looks at the Race Problem," Ibid. 16 (5 June 1957): 9-10; William H. Frazer, "The Social Separation of the Races," Ibid. 9 (15 July 1950): 7; Bell, "Race Relations: Some Little Things Which Help," Ibid. 6 (2 June 1947): 3-4.
39. L. Nelson Bell, "Race Relations—Whither?" The Southern Presbyterian Journal 6 (15 November 1947): 5; Idem, "Race Relations and Montreat," Ibid. 9 (15 June 1950): 2; Idem, "Race Relations and Montreat," Ibid. 9 (15 July 1950): 2-3.
40. Francis D. Adams and Barry Sanders, Alienable Rights: The Exclusion of African Americans in a White Man's Land, 1619-2000 (New York: HarperCollins, 2003; paperback, 2004), 244; William H. Frazer, "The Social Separation of the Races," The Southern Presbyterian Journal 9 (15 July 1950): 7.
41. "When ‘Concern' Is Taken Too Far," The Presbyterian Journal 25 (22 June 1966): 14.
42. Snay, Gospel of Disunion, 59; H. S. Smith, In His Image, But…, 151-152; James Henley Thornwell, "The Rights and Duties of Masters" (26 May 1850), in Sermons in American History: Selected Issues in the American Pulpit, 1630-1967, ed. DeWitte Holland (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1971), 221; J. R. Wilson, Mutual Responsibility, 9-10, 21. In A Consuming Fire: The Fall of the Confederacy of the White Christian South (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1998), 81, Eugene D. Genovese argues that Southern antebellum white Christian divines did not invoke race to justify slavery. Rather, according to Genovese, they argued abstractly that the Bible justified the peculiar institution, regardless of skin tone. Evidence such as J. R. Wilson's sermon, demonstrates that Genovese might be mistaken.
43. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights, 89; G. T. Gillespie, "A Southern Christian Looks at the Race Problem," The Southern Presbyterian Journal 16 (5 June 1957): 11-12; L. Nelson Bell, "Some Needed Distinctions," Ibid. 16 (5 June 1957): 2.
44. Alvis, Religion and Race, 117-120; "Incident in Mississippi," The Presbyterian Journal 24 (9 March 1966): 12-13. For more about the Delta Ministry, read Mark Newman, Divine Agitators: The Delta Ministry and Civil Rights in Mississippi (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2004).
45. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from a Birmingham City Jail," in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. James Melvin Washington (New York: HarperCollins, 1986; paperback, 1991), 293-294.
46. L. Nelson Bell, "Danger Signals," The Presbyterian Journal 24 (9 March 1966): 13, 24; Lionel Lokos, House Divided: The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther King (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1968). 11-12, 460-462.
47. "A Negro Looks at Racial Issues," The Southern Presbyterian Journal 7 (15 October 1948): 5.
48. L. Nelson Bell, "No Moratorium on Courtesy," The Southern Presbyterian Journal 14 (11 April 1956): 3.
49. Alvis, Religion and Race, 53; Graham, Just As I Am, 562-567; World Congress on Evangelism, "One Race, One Gospel, One Task," The Presbyterian Journal 25 (23 November 1966): 9-10.
50. "Intermarriage and Race Top Topics at Assembly," The Presbyterian Journal 24 (9 June 1965): 7-8; "A Different Demonstration," Ibid. 24 (7 July 1965): 14; "Leftist Criticism of U.S. Action Mounts," Ibid. 24 (11 August 1965): 13; "'Civil Rights' Drive Turns to Economics," Ibid. 24 (19 January 1966): 4-5; "Alliance Unit Asks End to Exemptions," Ibid. 25 (25 January 1967): 4; L. Nelson Bell, "Home to Roost," Ibid. 28 (11 June 1969): 13; Jack Rogers, Claiming the Center: Churches and Conflicting Worldviews (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1995), 103-104; Bell, "Confession or Concession?" TPJ 25 (26 April 1967): 15.
51. The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., The Confession of 1967 II:4a, in Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Part I, Book of Confessions (Louisville, KY: Published by the General Assembly, 1996), 267-268.
52. Taylor Branch, At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006), 251-252; Burns, To the Mountaintop, 297, 300-301, 303; Michael Eric Dyson, I May Not Get There with You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Free Press, 2000), 52, 54, 66, 71-72; Martin Luther King, Jr., "A Time to Break Silence," in A Testament of Hope, 231-244.
53. Dyson, I May Not Get There with You, 61-62; Lokos, House Divided, 379; Stephen B. Oates, Let the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Harper and Row, 1982; paperback, HarperPerennial, 1994), 432-437; Robert Dallek, Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 366.
54. "This is Not the Way to ‘Justice,'" The Presbyterian Journal 26 (17 April 1968): 12.
55. Alvis, Religion and Race, 126; Presbyterian Survey 48 (June 1968), microfilm.
56. Alvis, Religion and Race, 126; Presbyterian Survey 48 (August 1968), microfilm, 4-8; Ibid. 48 (September 1968), microfilm, 5.
57. Dyson, I May Not Get There with You, ix.
58. Alvis, Religion and Race, 137.
59. Morton H. Smith, How is the Gold Become Dim! (Lamentations 4:1): The Decline of the Presbyterian Church in the United States as Reflected in Its Assembly Actions (Jackson, MS: The Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church, Faithful to the Scriptures and the Reformed Faith, 1973), 51-53; Idem, "How is Thy Gold Become Dim" The Presbyterian Journal 32 (13 June 1973): 8; Westminster Confession of Faith (PCUS) III:3, IX:4, X, in PC(USA), Book of Confessions, 129; Westminster Confession of Faith (UPCUSA), XXXIV, XXXV, in Ibid., 164-168. I have taken the list of theological grievances from Morton H. Smith, the first Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and from the Steering Committee, which founded the PCA in December 1973. The PC(USA) version of the Westminster Confession of Faith is a composite of the PCUS and UPCUSA versions. Consequently many of the WCOF pages in the Book of Confessions have side-by-side columns and dual numeration for the same articles. Thus I have differentiated between the PCUS and UPCUSA versions of the document. The PCA version of the Westminster Confession of Faith omits the 1942 chapters.
60. M. H. Smith, How is the Gold Become Dim, 54-56; Idem, "How is Thy Gold Become Dim," The Presbyterian Journal 32 (13 June 1973): 8; Westminster Confession of Faith (PCUS) XXVI:5-7, in PC(USA), Book of Confessions, 155-156.
61. M. H. Smith, How is the Gold Become Dim, 61-62; Idem, "How is Thy Gold Become Dim," The Presbyterian Journal 32 (13 June 1973): 8; Minutes, PCUS (1964), 111-113; Ephesians 5:21-31 (NRSV); 1 Timothy 3:1-13 (NRSV); Titus 1:5-9 (NRSV).
62. M. H. Smith, How is the Gold Become Dim, 62-63; Idem, "How is Thy Gold Become Dim," The Presbyterian Journal 32 (13 June 1973), 8; Minutes, PCUS (1966), 1:91-92; Westminster Confession of Faith XXV:1, in PC(USA), Book of Confessions, 151.
63. M. H. Smith, How is the Gold Become Dim, 58-59; Idem, "How is Thy Gold Become Dim," The Presbyterian Journal 32 (13 June 1973): 8; Minutes, PCUS (1969), 1:59-62; Minutes, PCUS (1970), 1:124-126.
64. M. H. Smith, How is the Gold Become Dim, 63-64; Idem, "How is Thy Gold Become Dim," The Presbyterian Journal 32 (13 June 1973): 8; Minutes, PCUS (1970), 1:124-126.
65. F. J. Smith, The History of the Presbyterian Church in America, 546, 566; Minutes, PCUS (1973), 1:189-190; L. Nelson Bell, "Regretfully Yours," The Presbyterian Journal 30 (1 September 1971): 13; "Dr. Bell, Journal Founder, is Dead at 79," Ibid. 32 (15 August 1973): 4; Graham, Just As I Am, 710. The Moderator, who serves for a year, is the presiding officer of the denomination. Bell believed that conservatives needed to remain within the PCUS to fight for the truth, as they understood. The denomination, he believed, was not beyond redemption. His last column ran in the 1 September 1971 issue of the Journal.
66. Alvis, Religion and Race, 132-135; National Presbyterian Church, Message to All Churches (7 December 1973), available at http://www.pcahistory.org/documents/message.html.
67. NPC, Message to All Churches; Alvis, Religion and Race, 68-69; M. H. Smith, How is the Gold Become Dim, v. The Stated Clerk, who serves for years, is the chief administrative officer.
68. M. H. Smith, How is the Gold Become Dim, 153; partially quoted in Alvis, Religion and Race, 136. Smith echoed arguments the Journal had printed prior to November 1966.
69. M. H. Smith, "How is Thy Gold Become Dim," The Presbyterian Journal 32 (13 June 1973): 7-8, 20.
70. Alvis, Religion and Race, 136; H. S. Smith, In His Image, But…, 131-132. According to Thornwell's standard, slavery was a political, not a spiritual issue. Furthermore, according to the standard southern evangelical defense of slavery, in which Thornwell participated, the lack of biblical condemnation of slavery constituted support for it. Opposition to civil rights constituted a dark subtext in theological conflict, much in the same way that appealing to abstract arguments about the proper role of the federal government in people's lives during school desegregation conflicts during the 1960s and 1970s frequently concerned both civics and racism. I am, in other words, reading between the lines.
71. M. H. Smith, How is the Gold Become Dim, 153. I quote and cite the first edition of the book in this article. Pre-Civil War theological defenses of slavery relied on numerous biblical passages, from Genesis to the Pauline letters. In contrast, contemporary theological critics had far fewer passages on which to draw. These were chiefly Paul's statements about no slave or free in Christ, the Golden Rule, and the command of Jesus to love one's neighbor as oneself. The latter two points constituted the "law of love," which slavery violated according to anti-slavery activists of various stripes and which segregation violated according to many religiously-inclined civil rights supporters. (Note that Morton H. Smith was critical in writing of the law of love.) These arguments, whether against slavery or segregation, relied mainly on appeals to the spirit of Christ, or as many people say today, "What would Jesus do?" The primary appeal (in the twentieth century) to the spirit, rather than the letter, of the Bible to support civil rights echoes the evangelical anti-slavery strategy.
72. NPC, Message to All Churches.
73. The Presbyterian Journal 32 (19 December 1973): 4-9; Minutes, PCUS (1975), 2:138; WebPages of the PCA Historical Center (http://www.pcahistory.org/collections.html; htttp://www.pcahistory.org/main/tayloraward.html. The 1973 founding of the PCA culminated the initial wave of secession, for many other conservatives have left the PCUS and other bodies for the PCA in subsequent years and decades. Furthermore, many conservatives have left mainstream bodies to join other denominations, such as the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (founded in the North in 1981) or older groups, such as the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (founded in the early 1800s). Still other conservatives have remained within the reunited Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
74. F. J. Smith, The History of the Presbyterian Church in America, 23, 101, 536, 541, 583-584, 608. F. J. Smith's account of the 1970 Martin Luther King, Jr., memorial service at the PCUS General Assembly reveals his sentiments. After writing about the abortion resolution, he introduces the King matter with, "To add insult to injury," then mentions that the Assembly struck the conservative protest against the memorial service from the record. The protest accused King of having "Communist connections" and of supporting "violence, murder, lying," as well as denying the Virgin Birth and bodily resurrection of Jesus. W. Jack Williamson, who became the first PCA Moderator in 1973, signed that protest (101). Furthermore, F. J. Smith reveals his opinion of the civil rights movement by placing "civil rights" in quotation marks, such as on pages 8 and 70. Whenever the author writes of civil rights without quoting someone, he places that phrase in quotation marks, as if to say, "so-called civil rights." The Journal employed the same policy.
75. Rich Lusk, "The PCA and the NPP: Why a Denomination with Southern Presbyterian Roots Should Carefully Consider the ‘New Perspective on Paul," available at http://www.hornes.org/theologica/content/rich_lusk/the_pca_and_the_new_perspective_on_paul.htm.
76. Quoted in "Attachments to Pastoral Letter on Racism," Presbyterian Church in America, The Gospel and Race (2004), available at http://www.byfaithalone.com.
77. PCA, The Gospel and Race (2004). I have summarized only the elements of the pastoral letter that pertain to my main points.
78. Ibid.; Romans 3:22-23 (New International Version).
79. Acts 17:26 (NIV); PCA, The Gospel and Race (2004).
80. PCA, The Gospel and Race (2004); 1 John 3:15 (NIV); Matthew 5:21-22 (NIV).
81. PCA, The Gospel and Race (2004).
82. James 2:26 in The New Testament in Modern English. Revised Edition. Translated by J. B. Phillips (New York: Macmillan, 1972).
83. Quoted in The Episcopal Church, The Book of Common Prayer (New York: Church Publishing, 1979), 816.
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