Should Churches Seek Forgiveness Within the past several years, various organizations, governments, and ecclesiastical institutions have sought forgiveness for past, and in some instances, current wrongs. Recently, on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope John Paul apologized for sins Catholics committed against Jews, African Americans, women, and those sexually abused by the clergy. And Southern Baptists have issued a formal apology for their racist practices. At the same time, other governments, institutions, and churches have refused to apologize for historic wrongs. Japan has yet to formally apologize for its reign of terror in China, the Australian government refuses to apologize for a century of oppression of its aboriginal peoples, and some churches feel that it is inappropriate to officially seek forgiveness. What responsibility do churches have for past wrongs committed by its leaders and members? Is seeking forgiveness as one recent commentator has said just “quasi-political chic” or an indispensable act in healing and reconciliation? Do churches demonstrate weakness or strength when they apologize for historic injustices? Representatives of different faiths explore these dimensions.
Robert A. Rees, Reverend Carolyn Tanner Irish, Reverend Rodger Russell, Owen Cummings