June 17, 2024


Summer greetings, friends!

On Wednesday the nation will observe Juneteenth. (And the presbytery office will be closed in observation of it.) Slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment on January 31,1865 and ratified by the required number of states in December of 1965. But until June of 1865, even after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the Confederate troops in Texas continued to fight. Juneteenth, sometimes called “the Second Independence Day,” takes its name from June 19, 1865, when the Confederate troops surrendered to the U.S. Army in Galveston, Texas. The Union General Gordon Granger, posted a proclamation declaring the enslaved free. In 1866, Black Galvestonians gathered to commemorate the date of their freedom, beginning an annual observance in Texas that spread across the nation and became a federal holiday in 2021.  To quote the Rev. Joe Scrivner, “Juneteenth is a celebration of one important step toward freedom through the sacrifices of abolitionists, soldiers, and some politicians. We continue on the road to justice.”

In 2022, the 255th General Assembly offered an apology for the Presbyterian Church’s complicity in the many years of enslavement and subsequent white supremacist ideology that continues to plague our nation which included a litany for the use of congregations in worship. In honor of Juneteenth, and to continue on the road to justice, I share it with you here:

That the 225th General Assembly (2022) offer an apology to African Americans for the sin of slavery and its legacy and to approve the following statements:

That the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its members, in the spirit of the Confession of Belhar (1986) as a framework for considering matters of truth, unity, and reconciliation, acknowledge that:

  1. White supremacy is a conscious, calculated effort to perpetuate and institutionalize white supremacy and privilege through legal systems as well as economic and physical intimidation. After the Civil War, white Americans controlled economic and political systems that resulted in lynching, Jim Crow laws, Black Codes, white citizens’ councils, slavery through incarceration, poverty, racial profiling, the school-to-prison pipeline, and mass incarceration, all intended to harm or further enslave African Americans. Even today, we continue to prolong racial inequality through codifying white supremacy. As a denomination with a majority white membership and historically Eurocentric institutions we apologize for being complicit for the last 400 years in perpetuating these injustices.
  2. We, as a people of faith, recognize that the only appropriate path to healing and reconciliation is to acknowledge the wrongs that we, the Presbyterian Church, as part of the institutional church structure, were and are complicit in perpetuating. This was done through interpretation of selected scriptures and rationalization to justify human bondage and perpetuate white supremacy and privilege. We apologize for this transgression.
  3. Black lives have been devalued beginning with slavery, and their human dignity continues to be circumvented through the economic and legal systems that are racist as institutions. We apologize for benefiting from and continuing to be part of this social, economic, and legal construct. We recognize that the presence and persistence of racism in ourselves and our institutions is the result of the sin of slavery.
  4. We recognize the necessity of building a trusting relationship between white Americans and African Americans. A first step to healing and reconciliation can only be done by acknowledging that slavery, and the justification of and financial benefit thereof, is inseparable from the economic, artistic, and religious foundations on which this country is built.
  5. The PC(USA) apologizes to African Americans both in the church and outside of the church for all the wrongs that have been done throughout our history and those that are ongoing.

That the PC(USA), in the spirit of Christ in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” and 1 John 4:12, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us,” adopt and use:


As white Christians we repent of our complicity in the belief in white supremacy: the belief that people of European descent are superior in intelligence, skills, imagination, and perseverance. We acknowledge that this belief in white supremacy has been the foundation of, and an excuse for, atrocities against people of African descent in the United States and in the world.

We repent of our failure to recognize and take responsibility for the legacy of slavery.

We repent of the injustice, pain, humiliation, and suffering imposed on African Americans by our ancestors and ourselves through actions and inaction. We repent of our complicity in failing to act in mutual loving relationship.

We repent of closing our eyes to the degradation and injustice forced upon African Americans who were enslaved, segregated, terrorized, and imprisoned.

We repent of covering our ears to the crying of families torn apart, to the sound of human flesh being struck, while songs of freedom and heavenly grace flow from our lips.

We repent that we have failed as an institution and as individuals to use our voices to abhor and end lynching, segregation, and racial profiling. We regret our generations of silence on these issues so that we could maintain a comfortable life in our churches, homes, and communities.

We repent of shutting our hearts to the experiences of fellow humans whose stories of pain, suffering, hardship, struggle, love, and joy mirror our own life journeys, yet are deprived of privilege and marred by racism. We have turned our backs and walked away pretending not to see, yet we saw, pretending not to know, yet we knew, and convincing ourselves that we were not complicit, yet we are.

We now know that we as white Christians have benefitted directly and indirectly from these injustices. We name ourselves as complicit and repent. 

Finally, we repent of our violent actions to suppress Black agency. African Americans, since the time of slavery, have actively pursued their freedom … built this country … laid foundational structures … and demonstrated their capacity to fully participate in the construction of this American society in spite of white supremacy.

As repentance means turning and going the other way, with Christ’s help we seek to do so. At the same time, we commit ourselves to walking with people of African descent toward the goal of healing, reconciliation, and eliminating racism as we seek to dismantle white privilege.


As ever in prayer,


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