Who Are We?

By Scott Seaton
At the 2022 General Assembly in Birmingham, Alabama, the PCA considered Overture 26, a Statement on Political Violence. As one of the authors of the overture, I am convinced this is a vitally important issue before the Church and our nation. Though the overture was not adopted, the discussion continues—and so it may be helpful to have available the text of the speech, edited slightly for clarity, which I presented to the Assembly, regarding concerns raised, the need for a statement, and our response.  


First, what seems to be the main concern, the elephant in the room: the PCA should not speak on political issues. This point was part of the rationale given by the Overtures Committee, in not recommending the Statement. We will likely hear that objection from the floor soon, that we should only make such statements in local churches.

Let us be clear: this overture is not a political statement. A political statement guides people how to vote or urges a politician to enact a certain policy. This overture does not do that.

Instead, it is a biblical and moral statement, addressed to the Church and a watching world, about how we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. How to be salt and light, not a hammer and saw.  

But should we speak to moral issues affecting us and society? The Assembly clearly thinks so. The Overtures Committee overwhelmingly recommended the PCA approve two overtures you sent to us, that speak to pressing moral issues of the day: sexuality and abortion. To those issues, we have chosen to speak as the PCA, not simply in local churches. To take a stand and say, “this is who we are.”

Our appeal to the Assembly is simply to be consistent in its reasoning, to be willing to speak to moral issues as the PCA, if and when there is a need to do so. So, is there a need?


Sadly, the need for this Statement is clearly evident. In recent years, violence and intimidation have dramatically increased, across the political spectrum—and so any Statement must be balanced and nonpartisan. I could cite many examples of the need, but just in the three months since Potomac Presbytery approved the overture:  

  • Churches and pregnancy centers in at least 20 states have been vandalized for being pro-life, in anticipation of Roe v. Wade being overturned.
  • A man was arrested, who intended to kill Supreme Court Justice Brent Kavanaugh.
  • A Wisconsin judge was killed, by a man who had a hit list for other judges as well, the governors of Wisconsin and Michigan, and Senator Mitch McConnell.
  • Death threats were made against Idaho police for arresting 31 members of a militia group armed and ready for riot.
  • Elected officials, school board and election officials have been threatened with their lives.

That’s only a partial list. There is every indication that violence and intimidation from the extreme left and right will continue and increase, as our nation becomes more and more divided. In a nationwide poll last November, nearly one in five of all Americans—roughly 52 million adults on the left, right, and center—think violence may be necessary to achieve their political ends. That’s the level of despair and desperation in our country today. And we need to prepare for it.

And as that divide in our nation increases, Christians may be tempted to ignore, excuse, or even participate in violence that aids their preferred political views. And when the Church is silent, church members—and a watching world—may wonder whether our highest allegiance is to Christ or to worldly means and methods. And so we must speak. To say, “this is who we are.” Brothers and sisters, who are we? What exactly should we say?


What would you say to the church member, who strongly disagreed with a government policy, felt it was infringing on their rights as citizens or the future of the country they love? They were so angry, they wanted to threaten an official? Or vandalize a building? What would you say?

What would you say to your unbelieving neighbor, who didn’t like your position on abortion and felt it was an existential threat to their personal freedom? Who wanted to vandalize a pregnancy center? Who was so mad, they would like to threaten or attack a local judge or official?

What should we say, to both? We should point them to Jesus.

In the sixth chapter of Luke, Jesus says, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27–28). Jesus said that to peasants, including at least one political zealot named Simon, all living under Roman oppression, who surely felt the urge to take matters in their own hands.

On the night of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest, when his followers were so desperate, they were ready to take up arms, Jesus commanded Peter to put away his sword, “for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

Jesus’ admonition does not advocate pacifism, as affirmed by the overture’s appeal to our confessional Standards. Question 136 of the Westminster Larger Catechism says the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment include “all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense” (WLC 136).

As private individuals, how are we to respond to issues where we strongly disagree? Not with violence and intimidation. But with prayer and persuasion. As the Larger Catechism says, the duties of the sixth commandment include “peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behavior, forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil” (WLC 135). In a word, we are to love our neighbor.

As we debate this overture, a clarification and an appeal.

First, a clarification: the version before the Assembly replaces language in the second resolution that some didn’t feel was clear—"political violence in unlawful expressions”—with more descriptive language. The final form of the four resolutions are as follows:

  • Therefore, be it resolved, that the 49th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America reminds our members and neighbors of our allegiance to the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ, as “the sole Head of the Church and Law-giver in Zion” (Message to All Churches, 1973); and
  • Be it further resolved, that the 49th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America condemn the use of intimidation, rather than persuasion, to change political opinions or outcomes, as well as the destruction of property and the infliction of bodily violence against political opponents, especially that which is done in the name of Christ; and
  • Be it further resolved, that the Moderator of the 49th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America appoint a commissioner to pray for peace in our nation and that the Church of Jesus Christ would be instruments of that peace; and  
  • Be it finally resolved, that the 49th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America encourages her members to “seek peace and pursue it” in the public square (Psalm 34:14); to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1); and to pray for peace and for “all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (I Timothy 2:2).

And an appeal: base your appeal on Scripture and our Confession. If there are biblical and confessional reasons to be silent, make them. There are ample biblical and confessional reasons to speak.

Brothers and sisters, and all listening: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”
The need and the response to a pressing moral issue are evident.

And thus, we urge the Assembly to speak, to say, “this is who we are,” by affirming Overture 26.