[Editor’s Note: This is a letter from a member to her church explaining the reasons she left a church she loved after being a member for eight years. We are publishing the letter anonymously to avoid publicly impugning anyone’s integrity and to allow the content of the letter to be read on its merits.]
I pray for God to send a Spirit of healing to work among his church. And that moving forward, there will be a stirring of the Spirit to turn our attention to the condition of our own hearts, rather than to try and discern the condition of the heart of the person sitting next to us. Scripture describes our hearts as stony ground, and God’s Word as a plough. I urge you, as I urge myself: Do not shrink back from Christ’s hand at the plow in your own heart. It is from Him that true enlightenment of the heart (i.e., love) comes, not from humanity, not from cultural sensitivity, or anything else.
To the Beloved at My Home Church,
It is with considerable trepidation that I take this opportunity to inform you, my brothers and sisters, that I have left my local PCA home church. The reasons why I have left are relevant to this collection of essays; therefore, although I am no longer a member among you, I hope I might be given a voice alongside you, to describe my experiences at my PCA church which have led me to this point.
After having been a member/regular attender at this PCA church for close to 8 years, I began seeing a lot of changes in our preaching and worship that seemed to detract from the message of God’s free grace, and instead place more and more emphasis on issues of black and white relations. In particular, I felt a sense of antagonism towards white people coming from the pulpit. Many unfair assumptions were being made about a broad group of people based solely on one physical attribute: their skin color.
I acknowledge that sin can be passed on generationally. However, I put forth that it is from Adam whom I have inherited my flesh. And it’s because of my union with him that sin comes to me. He was the first fruit of death and condemnation and, before I was saved, I was merely a seed after his kind. I know almost nothing of my own “white” heritage; but I don’t need to know whether or not my ancestors were involved in American slavery, or segregation, or racism, to fathom my sin. I already know that I stand utterly condemned under the federal headship of my first parents in the Garden.
This is Truth, and it is irrespective of skin color. Black people and white people are the seed of Adam. We are all guilty. Therefore, based on what I know of scripture, any clamor for “justice” is a fool’s errand. We think we want justice, but if we got what we thought we wanted, we would all stand rightly condemned, with no hope, before a God whose real standard is complete, perfect holiness. Who among white people or black people could measure up to this standard? God’s holiness will not be satisfied with changes in our worship music, the racial demographics of our congregation, or our church’s culture. No; the standard is complete, perfect holiness–nothing less will meet God’s requirements. And His requirements are just.
We all desperately need to hear assurance of God’s grace. His grace for sinners. I don’t want justice for myself, because I don’t want to receive the just penalty for my sins. I don’t want justice for a person who’s been victimized, and I don’t want justice even for a person who is a victimizer. Because I can’t say, “God’s marvelous grace for me, but justice for somebody else.” What we all really need is to hear grace preached; not to be assured of our condemnation but to be assured that there is a covering for our sins in the precious blood of Jesus. We ourselves satisfy none of God’s demands for holiness; but the precious blood of Jesus satisfies them all.
We cannot usher in the Kingdom of God through our own merit, our own agendas, our own efforts. If we, as believers, are truly sensitive to the Holy Spirit of God, then He will teach us how to love our neighbor, black or white. If the leadership of our PCA church feels strongly that the congregation does not love our neighbor, then one must ask: Why not teach us how to become re-sensitized to the gentle whispers and promptings of the Holy Spirit? Why not preach and pray for revival in the Church, and acknowledge the need for a super-natural refreshment that only The Spirit can provide? Why focus on trying to guess whether or not the white individuals at our church are loving enough towards black people, when we could together beseech the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13) who alone has the power to move the hearts of men?
When Paul went to Athens, and (supposedly) engaged with the Greeks by using their own culture to reach them, we see that it was not because Paul respected or valued their culture. It was because he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw there (Acts 17:16). This was not the sentiment of a man who felt that all human cultures have something valuable to give, and that a worshipful knowledge of the True God should be based out of a culture comfortable for those Athenians. Paul merely pointed out that their culture acknowledged the True God completely by accident. And he used that observation to open their eyes to their own idolatry-riddled surroundings. That, I believe, is an apt description of all human culture. Culture reflects the idol-prone human heart. And to make culture such a large focus from the pulpit of a church of the Trinitarian God of the Bible leaves so much to be desired.
Now we come to me. I never wanted to cause conflict. So, I sat with my troubles for many years, and attempted to discern if what I was hearing was really true….. was I secretly a racist because my skin is white? After much soul searching and investigating the scriptures, I believe the answer is “no”. I do not feel this is a self-deception. My conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit.
However, I was still hearing preaching from the pulpit which condemned me for this reason. When I tried to express my concerns to people of authority over our worship services, as well as in my prayer group, I received more pushback and more slights against my character. Had I been a stranger among you, I might not have been so surprised or so hurt. But these were people to whom I had made myself intimately known over many years. People whom I considered my brothers and sisters in the most real way possible. Very few took my own conscience, or my own relationship with the Holy Spirit, seriously.
I could have engaged more (as I know some of you are now attempting to do in my absence) to take a stand against the party spirit that is seeping into our PCA church from the surrounding culture. But I am not strong. I do apologize to you, for my weakness and my cowardice. I found I couldn’t stand against even a little persecution and exclusion in my own church. So, under the advice of Godly men who know me and know my limitations, I decided to leave. But this has been a confusing and difficult experience. I can’t stop loving you as my brothers and sisters, and it is hard for me to understand and accept why I can no longer be with you.
If there is no unity in Christ, there is no unity. If some “thing” is destroying our unity in Christ, whatever it happens to be, perhaps pursuing it is not good. Even good things can become idols.
My last words will be of blessing and caution to you. I pray for God to send a Spirit of healing to work among his church. And that moving forward, there will be a stirring of the Spirit to turn our attention to the condition of our own hearts, rather than to try and discern the condition of the heart of the person sitting next to us. Scripture describes our hearts as stony ground, and God’s Word as a plough. I urge you, as I urge myself: Do not shrink back from Christ’s hand at the plow in your own heart. It is from Him that true enlightenment of the heart (i.e., love) comes, not from humanity, not from cultural sensitivity, or anything else. Once our own hearts are broken by the Word, the Holy Spirit will grant us the loving unity with our brothers and sisters that we are longing for.
It is for the Lord to discern the hearts of men…. and when people attempt to discern the heart of their brother or sister on a human level, I can testify from my personal experiences at my PCA church over the last few years: there is a lot of room for error and hurt.
1 Corinthians 4:1-5:
This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
I miss you all, and I love you. I am praying for God to comfort you during this difficult time.
With Love in Christ, I Remain Your Sister