Question and Answer
Race Relations Perspective in the OPC
How can we find out more about OPC's race relations perspective?
In addition to the General Assembly Report of the Committee on Problems of Race (1974) posted at http://www.opc.org/GA/race.html, let me assure you that the OPC's position on race is based on the teaching of Scripturethat we are officially "color blind" in our perspective and racially diverse in our membership. I'll give you a few Scripture references first and then cite some examples of racial diversity in our churches.
1. Scripture references: Galatians 3: 28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for we are all one in Christ Jesus." Acts 10: You need to read verses 1-34 which come to their climax in verses 34b and 35: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what if right is welcome to Him [that is to come to Him for salvation]." Acts 15:1-19 in which the council of apostles and elders settled, once and for all, the qualifications for church membershiprepentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is interesting that color was no problem in the apostolic church. Jews, Greeks and Arabs were not "white" as Anglo-Saxons are; they were and are swarthy to this day (as Jesus must have been!). In Acts 13:1 a list of leaders in the church at Antioch (in Syria) included Simeon who was called Niger. "Niger" means black. That does not necessarily mean that Simeon was an Ethiopian, but it does suggest unusual black complexion to have gotten that nickname. This situation reflects the fact that Christ was "slain and with [His] blood purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation" (Rev. 5:10).
2. I think it's important to note that, while all those mentioned in Galatians 3:28 are equal before God, being Christians didn't obliterate gender, racial or cultural distinctions. It simply means that all are equally valuable in Christ and before God. Sexual differences are still to be observed such as in eligibility to ordained office in the church (1 Tim. 2:12-15) or in marriage (Eph. 5:22-33). And in bringing the Gospel to people of differing cultures our approach at times may be different. See Paul's differing approaches in Acts 13:16-37 (in a Jewish synagogue) and Acts 17:22-34 (on Mars Hill to a heathen Gentile audience). But it was the same gospel!
The New Testament Church was racially diverse, and we have examples of that diversity in the OPC. We have one congregation in my presbytery which is on an Indian reservation; that congregation is made up mostly of Indians. I know of another church in a black neighborhood which is mixed black and white. Still another is in a predominately Japanese neighborhoodlikewise its membership is mixed and its ordained officers as well. Another rather large congregation has a membership of mostly Koreans, though it has a Caucasian pastor.
The United States is an increasingly racially diverse nation, and similarly the OPC is increasingly racially diverse. As you know, there is large scale immigration into our country. In 1974 our country was struggling with the civil rights crisis, but in 2002 we are beyond that to the internationalization of our nation. This is God's providential doing. So we adapt our attitudes to the way things are as understood from holy scripture. As a denomination we don't ordinarily make declarations about such things; rather, we adjust to the present reality, but always biblically.
I hope this answers your question. Please feel free to return to our website for further clarifications as to the issues that face the Christian church in these stressful times.
"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)
The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.
The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.
While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.
You will receive an answer by email. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.
The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.
Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been editedall personal references are removed, Scripture references may be added, and sometimes portions are expandedto make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.