During its annual gathering on Friday, the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) issued an apology for four incidents of racism that allegedly took place during the meeting.
The Assembly also passed a statement of “sorrow and regret” without dissent on Friday. A day earlier, representatives of the Conferencing Office of Eastern University informed the Committee of the General Assembly of four racist incidents by “more than one person.” The meeting was held at Eastern University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
An update from the 88th General Assembly. pic.twitter.com/asqpzKBIwn— OPC (@OrthodoxPC) June 11, 2022
“The 88th (2022) General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church hereby expresses to the faculty, staff, and students of Eastern University its grief, sorrow, and disgust regarding four recent incidents of racial disparagement reported by some present at our Assembly. There is no place in the church for such conduct,” the statement reads.
According to Christianity Today, the proceedings at the General Assembly were interrupted by a report from moderator David Nakhla on Thursday, who warned that the Assembly was in danger of being kicked off the university’s campus because of the incidents. Eastern University, a Christian college, has a zero-tolerance policy on racism.
The incidents included one Assembly attendee allegedly commenting about “slave labor” to students of color working at the university, another attendee arguing with a staff member and a third person using a racial slur.
Peter Bringe, an OPC minister and General Assembly commissioner, told Christianity Today that the report of the alleged incidents was difficult to hear.
“The initial announcement of the moderator left the assembly in shocked silence,” he told the outlet in an email. “And we used that time until dinner to let the situation sink in and pray,” he added.
Staff at Eastern University did not identify the people behind the racist comments. The moderator, however, asked the people responsible for these actions to step forward during the meeting if they were culpable, but no one did.
Nakhla then called for the Assembly to go to recess for the rest of the afternoon. He also requested that the commissioners devote themselves “to a season of prayer.”
Officials at Eastern University have since accepted the apology and considered “the matter closed unless another incident occurs.” Had the school kicked the General Assembly off its campus, the OPC would have had to suspend the meeting three days before it ended on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, one commissioner stepped forward and apologized for the “slave labor” comments, claiming that it was meant to be taken as a joke. The person who argued with the staff worker also apologized. No one has taken responsibility for the racial slur.
In 1974, The General Assembly formally condemned racism. At the time, an approved committee report claimed that the OPC betrayed its calling of the gospel due to its acceptance of racial segregation and called on elders to be more proactive in disciplining racist people in their congregations.
“If a member of the church proves to be unrepentant for involvement in sinful racial or social practices, church discipline should be applied in the hope that repentance unto life might be forthcoming,” the report states. “The elders are responsible to Christ to be concerned with these questions as they relate to every member.”
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.