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The Current Relevance of “The Confession of 1967” to the Pursuit of Racial Justice

Written by Rev. Dr. Steve Wilson

Oakmont Presbyterian Church

Oakmont, Pennsylvania 15139

1960 and 2020 are vastly different eras and yet quite similar socially. One need only think of mobile phones (really portable computers), social media and COVID-19 to see the major differences. The similarities include racial, economic, and political divisions. Their major issues were defined by the escalating Vietnam War and an arms race with the Soviet Union, marches for racial justice, as well as concerns for those living in poverty and changing sexual mores.

In the 1960’s context of increasing social separation, two branches of the Presbyterian Church had just reunited. The United Presbyterian Church of North America and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. merged in 1958 to form the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The reunited church set about developing a new and relevant statement of faith.

After seven years in process, the draft faith statement was proposed to the 1965 UPCUSA General Assembly. A process of review and revision followed in 1966. The revised draft was received by the General Assembly in 1967 and sent to the presbyteries with a majority approving. Hence, its name “The Confession of 1967” or C-67 for short.

C-67’s foundation is 2 Corinthians 5:19:

“…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.”

The confession’s central affirmation is that:

“God’s reconciling work in Jesus Christ and the mission of reconciliation to which he has called his church are the heart of the gospel in any age. Our generation stands in peculiar need of reconciliation in Christ.”[1]

C-67 affirmed God’s call to Christians of every age to be agents of reconciliation and it identified four major issues in social and political life for focused work:

  • Racial relations and the problem of racism

  • International relations and the threat of nuclear war

  • Economic relations and the scandal of poverty, and

  • Relations between men and women and the problem of the distortion of sexuality.


Presbyterian pastor Harry W. Eberts Jr. wrote,

“[Except for contemporaneous documents from the Roman Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council] No other official document of any church…has so explicitly directed the church to minister to conditions inherent in the world; none gives such clear guidelines for this ministry.”[2]

The confession was more than a theological affirmation; it was a call to action. Regarding racial justice,

“The church is called to bring all people to receive and uphold one another as persons in all relationships of life: in employment, housing, education, leisure, marriage, family, church, and the exercise of political rights. (emphasis added) Therefore, the church labors for the abolition of all racial discrimination and ministers to those injured by it.”[3]

While we could be discouraged that, 53 years later, the need for racial justice continues, the “half-full glass” is the clarity of God’s call to persevere in the work of reconciliation and to labor for the abolition of all racial discrimination.

A copy of the inclusive language version of C-67 may be found at https://www.pcusa.org/site_media/media/uploads/theologyandworship/pdfs/confess67.pdf.

[1] The Confession of 1967, (hereafter C-67), 9.07 [2] Harry W. Eberts, Jr., This We Believe: A Study of The Book of Confessions for Church Officers, The Geneva Press, Philadelphia, 1987, p. 85 [3] C-67, 9.44

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