- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The Presbyterian Church in America has scrapped a panel on political polarization over its inclusion of a New York Times columnist who supports same-sex marriage and drag queen “story hour” presentations to children.

The PCA had invited columnist David French, a former church member, to participate in the “Supporting Your Pastor and Church Leaders in a Polarized Political Year” panel at its annual business session next month in Richmond, Virginia.

The PCA‘s administrative committee instead has decided that delegates will undertake “a prayer convocation” asking God to provide “for the good of his church” during this election year.

PCA officials noted that seminars have been a regular feature of the church‘s annual gatherings “for the past two decades” and included a session for all delegates on “a wide range of topics.”

Church critics were outspoken in opposing Mr. French’s inclusion on the panel.

The Rev. Ben C. Dunson, a PCA teaching elder, noted in an article for American Reformer that Mr. French appeared in a documentary film claiming that evangelicals who support Donald Trump for president are “dangerous Christian nationalists.”

“Virtually everything French writes or says is about the danger posed to America by Donald Trump and a sizeable percentage of the Republican Party and evangelical church. And French routinely besmirches the character of Christians who disagree with him on these issues,” Mr. Dunson wrote.

Critics also called out Mr. French’s wife, author Nancy French, for telling the Deseret News that their former PCA congregation was “brimming with neo-Confederates.” She said that she had been “accosted at the communion table” by “hostile” people over her family having adopted their youngest daughter from Ethiopia.

PCA Stated Clerk Bryan Chapell said he was unaware of Mr. French’s views before approving him for the political polarization panel.

“Had I known some of the ways that the panelist has expressed himself or been understood in past writings, I would have made a different choice for the purposes of this seminar,” Mr. Chapell said in a statement. “I did not become aware of significant background issues before making this decision. This was my mistake, and I apologize to the PCA that I love.”

Mr. French had some PCA supporters: Marvin Olasky, former editor of World magazine, said in an article in the online opinion journal Current that The New York Times columnist would make a discussion session “more interesting than it otherwise might be.”

Mr. Olasky, a longtime journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said the PCA needs to hear from ex-members such as Mr. French for their perspectives.

“At many churches, members weary of politically red (or blue) rhetoric just slip away. Church leaders need to discuss ways to stop the slide,” wrote Mr. Olasky, who said he is an elder in congregation with liberal and conservative members.

Mr. French said he’s “not commenting, for now” in response to an email request.

The Presbyterian Church in America, with its 394,000 members, is the country’s second-largest Presbyterian denomination, behind the 1.1 million-member Presbyterian Church (USA).

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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