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Question and Answer

Race Relations Perspective in the OPC

Question:

How can we find out more about OPC's race relations perspective?

Answer:

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 Scripture—that 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 membership—repentance 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 neighborhood—likewise 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.


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