David French and the PCA’s General Assembly

Political Polarization and the Peace and Purity of the Church

I am a minister (Teaching Elder) in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). This morning I learned that there will be an assembly-wide seminar at this summer’s General Assembly on the topic of “How to Be Supportive of Your Pastor and Church Leaders in a Polarized Political Year.” As the press release states the “panel of speakers will include RE Paul McNulty, TE David Coffin, RE Randy Hicks, and David French.”

I am utterly dismayed to see the name of David French (who is not even a member of a PCA congregation) in that list. Consider the following. French has written and spoken defending “drag-queen story hour” as a “blessing of liberty.” He has done the same in support of the legalization of so-called gay marriage. French called a law like the one in Texas that would investigate parents who subject their children to chemical or surgical mutilation of their sexual organs (so-called gender reassignment surgeries) an “illiberal extreme.” He has stated that support for the current Republican presidential candidate is evil, idolatrous, and anti-democratic, that “Trump deserves not one single Christian vote if and when he chooses to run for president again.” He and his wife left the PCA because, as his wife put it, the PCA is “brimming with neo-Confederates.” He recently starred in (the atheist) Rob Reiner’s documentary portraying evangelical Christians who support Donald Trump as 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.

I could continue listing many more things like this that French has said and done, but one doesn’t even have to agree with me that French is wrong about any of these things. Even if I was shown to be wrong about some or all of them I think all right-thinking members of the PCA should be able to recognize that David French is about the most polarizing figure that could have been chosen to serve on a panel meant to help PCA pastors navigate the issues they’ll face in “a polarized political year.” French has made it clear that only one presidential candidate is a threat to “our democracy.” How can he then be thought able to help guide pastors in how to deal with political polarization? If the goal of the seminar was to present arguments for and against the two Presidential candidates, perhaps things would be different, assuming there was a vigorous voice on the other side of the issues from French, but that is not what this seminar is intended to do.

And furthermore, is not the pressing need of the moment for PCA pastors and elders to be guided in showing their flocks how to think biblically about civic involvement in a polarized world, rather than how they can be teaching their flocks to “be supportive of” them “in a polarized political year”? What does that even mean? Does David French believe that PCA churches should be supportive of pastors who support Donald Trump? The man who recently said this: “I think when you see such a large segment of American Christianity, of white evangelicalism in particular, tie itself so closely to one political party and to one man, Donald Trump, you’re not exactly tying the faith to virtue. That’s obvious enough. . . . They’ve essentially politicized their faith.” Or this: “I have written a lot about how the hardcore Trump evangelical base threatens our constitutional rule of law.” The General Assembly seminar announcement is worded so as to indicate that it will help us avoid political polarization. David French is the poster-child for political polarization. Maybe he’s right and we all have no choice but to vote for Joe Biden for President, but that is hardly a non-polarizing position to take. French’s place on this panel will not fulfill the seminar’s own stated purpose.

Having David French on a panel like this will also not contribute to the peace and purity of the PCA. It will do nothing but exacerbate division. Therefore, I would encourage all concerned teaching elders, ruling elders (individually or as sessions), as well as presbyteries and individual members to write to the PCA’s Stated Clerk expressing their concerns about this issue (email address: [email protected]). 

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Addendum: Here is the email I sent, if it should prove helpful to others: “My name is Ben Dunson and I am a teaching elder in the PCA. I am writing to express my utter dismay that there is a GA seminar with David French speaking. I understand the desire to help churches navigate tricky issues in an election year, but French is an extremely polarizing figure. This will not promote the peace and purity of the PCA. Among other things French supports the legal imposition of gay marriage on America, has written of the “blessings” of drag-queen story hour, and is outspoken in his claims that support for the current Republican candidate for President is evil and anti-democratic. This is not to mention his vocal support for pro-abortion candidates for elected office. I cannot imagine a worse choice to help the PCA through the contentious issues we are facing. How will that help us avoid polarization? I would ask that the AC please reconsider this decision.”

Update: You can read two of my follow-up articles here:

  1. Conservative Cancel Culture: Further Reflections on the PCA’s General Assembly Polarization Panel (American Reformer)
  2. Courage in the PCA (First Things)

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