Type to search

Church Culture

PCA Cancels Anti-Polarization Panel With David French For Being Too Polarizing

Leaders of the conservative denomination canceled the discussion of dealing with polarization after online backlash.

Avatar photo

(RNS) —The Presbyterian Church in America canceled a recently announced panel on helping pastors deal with polarization—saying the topic was too divisive.

David French, left, and the Presbyterian Church in America logo. (Courtesy images)

“The concerns that have been raised about the seminar and its topic have been so significant that it seems wisest for the peace and unity of the church not to proceed in this way,” the PCA’s Administrative Committee said Tuesday (May 14) in canceling the event.

Instead of the panel—which the PCA referred to as a seminar—the PCA will hold a prayer time at the denomination’s General Assembly, scheduled for June 10-14 in Richmond, Virginia.

Leaders of the 393,000-member denomination, which has about 1,600 churches, had last week announced the panel, titled “How to Be Supportive of Your Pastor and Church Leaders in a Polarized Political Year.” The inclusion of author and New York Times columnist David French, a longtime PCA member who recently left the denomination, led to online outrage.

Critics—many from outside the PCA—labeled French, best known for his vocal opposition to Donald Trump, as liberal and divisive and accused PCA leaders of trying to cause “rancor and controversy” over politics. Those critics mostly disagreed with French’s political views.

Ben Dunson, a PCA minister and founding editor of the American Reformer, a publication that seeks to reform “Christian institutions that have become corrupted by false ideologies and practices,” called French the “most polarizing” panelist the denomination could have chosen.

Access to MinistryWatch content is free.  However, we hope you will support our work with your prayers and financial gifts.  To make a donation, click here.

“I cannot imagine a worse choice to help the PCA through the contentious issues we are facing,” Bunson wrote in opposing French’s presence on the proposed panel, which he said would disrupt the denomination’s “peace and purity.”

Critics also called out bestselling author Nancy French, David French’s wife, for being too critical of the PCA in her new memoir.

David French declined to comment for this story.

The panel would have also included Paul McNulty, the president of Grove City College, a conservative school that published a report rejecting “wokeness” in 2022, along with a pair of PCA pastors, but their inclusion received little attention relative to French’s.

As American society has become more polarized, religious groups have become increasingly divided along political lines. A majority of white Christians, including Catholics, mainline Protestants and evangelicals, are allied with the Republican Party, while Black Protestants, Hispanic Protestants, nones and non-Christians are allied with the Democratic Party. That means churches are less likely to be politically diverse, a reality that intensified during the Trump and COVID-19 era.

The hostility between parties has also grown in recent decades, with each side believing the other is more “immoral, dishonest and close-minded” than other Americans, according to Pew Research.

As a result, voting for the wrong candidate can be seen as a sign of sin or heresy. Cooperating across party lines is often viewed as a betrayal.

The Frenches, along with Christianity Today editor Russell Moore and writer and pastor Curtis Chang, recently launched a project called “The After Party,” designed to bring “Christian virtues like kindness, love and mercy” into political discussions at churches.

Chang said the cancellation of the PCA polarization panel illustrates the problem Christian groups are facing.

“The PCA canceled David because it could not even tolerate hearing from a fellow Christian—David French—who might hold different views from some of its members on various partisan issues,” Chang said. “The PCA canceled David because it is elevating partisan differences over shared fidelity to Jesus.”

Bryan Chapell, the stated clerk of the PCA, did not mention David French by name when announcing the panel’s cancellation but said a panelist had caused controversy. Chapell also apologized for choosing that panelist.

“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,” he wrote.

TO OUR READERS: Do you have a story idea, or do you want to give us feedback about this or any other story? Please email us: [email protected]    

Avatar photo
Bob Smietana

Bob has served as a senior writer for Facts & Trends, senior editor of Christianity Today, religion writer at The Tennessean, correspondent for RNS and contributor to OnFaith, USA Today and The Washington Post.