If Lecrae Can Leave, Why Can’t Orthodox Presbyterians Get Out

Some of us have been saying for a while that Reformed Protestants are not evangelical, but the standard scholarship puts conservative Presbyterians squarely in the evangelical camp. Those different assessments of Presbyterian and evangelical relations make the recent discussion of Lecrae’s departure from white evangelicalism seem partial and shortsighted. But they should give confessional Presbyterians sympathy with black Protestants.

For instance, notice what happens if you change words in Raymond Chang’s defense of Lecrae:

We need to be aware of how we bring unconscious biases to our own litmus tests of whether people of color Orthodox Presbyterians are theologically correct enough based on their emphasis on justice doctrinal issues. Often times, people of color are viewed with greater scrutiny simply because of their skin tone dress. We need to be concerned with the ways our political commitments co-opt our faith commitments. The fact that people equate Christians with a particular political party is problematic, especially if we consider how both parties are deeply flawed. We need to redefine our understanding of organizational fit. This means we need to reconsider what it means to be equipped. For example, is someone equipped for the pastorate if they have racist heterodox tendencies or beliefs? And who gets to decide if they do, white people or the people they disparage?

We also need to be mindful of how networks and credibility is established. Consider who is promoted within evangelicalism through publishing deals. If a Christian publisher looks through their catalogues and white people overwhelmingly occupy the authorial space, it is likely because the people they have come across were developed through their white evangelical network. Consider who speaks at conferences like The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel and you’ll see how people who had local or regional platforms, now have national or international ones. Whether you are aware of it or not, we normalize whiteness in evangelicalism by having an overwhelming majority of white speakers and only one or two plenary speakers of color Orthodox Presbyterians. Consider the ways in which people get mentored. There are tremendous barriers to mentorship felt by Christians of color Orthodox Presbyterians who would say they hold the same faith commitments and convictions as evangelicals do, but don’t either know or have an entry point into these networks (I fortunately, had people who helped me navigate in, but I am a part of the exception, not the rule). Consider who is appointed the most senior level leadership roles and how they are found and determined upon. It cannot be true that only white people are “called” to these positions of authority and influence and people of color Orthodox Presbyterians are not.

If white evangelicalism is serious about representing the unity Christ calls us to in this world, this means you cannot find successors who preach like you do, see the world like you do, and share the same skin tonefashion as you. This means Thabiti Anyabwile or Bryan Lorritts (or any of the small handful of others) Carl Trueman cannot be the only black preachers Orthodox Presbyterian in your conferences (despite their his wonderful gifts). This means that conferences need to provide substantial opportunities for Asians and Latinos and Native Americans Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Reformed to speak as well. This means that senior leadership at churches cannot be satisfied with a disproportionate percentage of white pastors/elders to non-white confessional pastors/elders.

Further, we need to look deeply into the reasons why leaders of color Orthodox Presbyterians who occupy the top spots in Christian (evangelical) organizations and churches do not last. This means we need to have the humility to listen, but not just listen, and act upon the problems we see. This also means evangelicalism needs to allow people of color Orthodox Presbyterians to speak for themselves and on their own terms. We also need to create pipelines for evangelicals of color confessional Protestants to grow in leadership opportunities (see what Intervarsity did with the Daniel Project) because we know that leadership matters and that leadership shapes organizations.

Of course, the difference is that Orthodox Presbyterians already have their own institutions and structures. That institutional basis means that OP’s aren’t necessarily jonesing for leadership in TGC. Since that is true, and since the freedom of religion means that all Protestants have the opportunity to form their own structures (which the black church already has), then why is it that Christians of color or some Orthodox Presbyterians aspire to receive the imprimatur of John Piper, D. A. Carson, and Tim Keller?

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12 thoughts on “If Lecrae Can Leave, Why Can’t Orthodox Presbyterians Get Out

  1. I might do the cross out and insert Reformed Anglican Congregationalist (4Cs) Creedalist Mercersburger. But really, and most importantly, I am a Christian Minister in the Lord’s Vineyard. To describe oneself as evangelical in this era is like saying such and such is a mammal and leaving it at that. No one really knows what it is.
    I also do not concern myself with whose ox was or is being gored in terms of the Justice model. The Golden Rule will suffice in human relations, if it is followed.
    There are natural divisions in race, culture, and nationality in which the Holy Spirit works accordingly. People are different. People can be profiled along certain lines, not to be abused but to be understood. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. Trendy neo-Reformed and Evangelical folk are a little late in the game doing their mea culpas on the race issue anyways.

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  2. If you leave, will OPC military chaplains still be approved by Pilate and Herod?

    1948, Peter Eldersveld, voice of The Back to God hour—“The National Association of Evangelicals is Arminian. A formal united front before the world becomes exceedingly questionable for Calvinists when those with whom we are joined deny the real fundamentals of the faith, such as Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement,
    Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints. It is ironical, to say the least, that those who deny these Fundamentals should be called Fundamentalists!. What happens to our Reformed witness to the world when, by a formal and official representation, we are silent on those salient points….?

    Even if you leave evangelicals, you will need to continue to be “protestant” without being sectarian about it . This means you will need (when with others in public ) talk about “the reformation” in a way that does not exclude Lutherans with details about definite atonement or about if justification is a daily process, while at the same time excluding pietists and “others” who sin by denying their little children their privileges as those “loved in the covenant if not by election”.

    https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/…/courageous-protestants/

    John 18: My kingdom is not from this world,” said Jesus. “If My kingdom were from this world, My servants would fight, My kingdom does not have its origin here.
    .
    Colossians 1 God the Father has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.

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  3. Mcnight—When I was at TEDS D.A. Carson and J. Woodbridge were intent on defining evangelical and who was and who was not an evangelical. They held a conference or two, advertised with pomp as the next Nicea, published the papers (Evangelical Affirmations) and it didn’t work. No one paid attention. They filled out their lines of affirmation with warnings of denials and gave it all a strong feel. Who defines whom isn’t a game easy to play. They seem to have all but given up, and even if they haven’t, they lost. Someone else has won the game of Who defines this term.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2017/10/16/burying-word-evangelical/#9XhESF0WmTk4W0ZV.99

    Why didn’t the folks who voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976 but switched their vote to the actor with the theology of glory in 1980 stop calling themselves “evangelicals” then and there?

    Was that not about the time when professing separatists like Falweel start calling themselves “Evangelicals”?

    At age 6, Bill Clinton began walking a mile alone to attend Park Place Baptist Church after his family relocated to Hot Springs, Arkansas. “I had absorbed enough of my church’s teachings to know that I was a sinner and to want Jesus to save me. So I came down the aisle at the end of Sunday service. The pastor convinced me that I needed to acknowledge that I was a sinner and to accept Christ in my heart, and I did.

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  4. Better identity markers make better neighbors?

    “That focus on sinfulness differs from a lot of popular evangelicalism in recent years. It runs contrary to the ‘prosperity gospel’ preachers, who imply that faith can make one rich. It sounds nothing like the feel-good affirmations of preachers and authors like Joel Osteen, who treat the Bible like a self-help book, or a guide to better business.”

    http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/faith-and-values/civil-religion/travis-scholl/what-s-up-among-the-evangelicals

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  5. “And being the only perfect church, the OPC will never need to change.”

    And being black, Lecrae will never have to really explain himself by normal standards.

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  6. If TGC and T4G are “normalizing whiteness” when it comes to race, what are they normalizing when it comes to doctrine?

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