Dumping ‘Presbyterian’ for ‘Humankind’

The web site declares, “New name, same mission.”  (And yet, on the mission page of the site it clearly says “the words have changed.”)Presbyterian strikethrough

The letter from the organization’s president says, “As you can see, we have adopted a new name. HumanKind.” He then says, “We believe it’s a name that better reflects our work today serving members of the human family.”

“What’s the old name,” you’re wondering? Presbyterian Homes & Family Services and the Family Alliance.

Established by Presbyterians in 1903 in Lynchburg, Va., the organization is seeking to jettison its Presbyterian affiliation noting that “we are not owned, funded or governed by the church.”  You’ll note that the mission, vision and values have been purged of all faith-related words and Jesus is nowhere to be found. However, they still want Presbyterian churches and Presbyterians to support them financially.

Does the current board of directors honestly fail to see the disconnect in renaming the organization in a way that radically departs from what the Presbyterian Christian founders intended? Do they honestly not see that to describe the organization as “the same human-serving organization that we’ve been for 110 years” is a perversion of the “Christ-serving” impetus of the founders?

They acknowledge that “The Presbyterian Children’s Orphanage opened in response to the needs expressed by leaders in the Presbyterian Church.” And they will honor the “Presbyterian legacy”  by leaving their corporate name the same and continuing to preserve the name “Presbyterian Homes Campus” on one of their properties. But that may be simply because its engraved in stone and set in brick at the entrance and too expensive to replace. It is clear that the word “Presbyterian” bears out no meaning for them institutionally and they do not intend to wear it into the world as ambassadors of the Christian faith. 

The change of name is clearly intended to make the organization more “inclusive.” The president’s letter says, “HumanKind has broader recognition and appeal in our communities and with our many program participants, family members, staff, partners, volunteers, funders and donors.”  Now, I acknowledge that the board of directors has every right to change the name. But let’s not pretend that the Christ-motivated mission of the organization has not also changed.

For the president to say that “while our name is changing, our mission is not changing,” is laughable. The mission of this organization has been drifting from its Christo-centric moorings for many years as the name “Presbyterian” has lost its meaning in the culture.

None of this is to say that the organization does not do great work — they do. They just do it in the name of HumanKind and human kindness, not in the name of Christ. The good they do is genuinely good, but they’ve severed it from the God who is good.

Maybe I should be celebrating that the word “Presbyterian” has been removed from the name of an organization that functions out of a purely naturalistic worldview. However, I grieve that as Presbyterians we’ve “lost” this particular institutional extension of the social witness and social justice mission of the Church. This began as a mission of the church, this began as a Christian witness of compassion and justice, and it has become a purely secular humanitarian relief organization. That grieves me.

The change of name is an honest reflection of who and what the organization has become. If you want to “see” what means just search Google images for “humankind” and see what populates your page. Now, do the same for the word “Presbyterian.” Do you see the difference?



Comments 19

  • As a retired Presbyterian minister in Lynchburg, I am very sad about this. I can remember when children at the Presbyterian Home here were regularly presented with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and many of those children repented and believed — to their everlasting benefit. All the children went to church. But things changed away from Christ and his Church a number of years ago — long before this recent name-change. It actually is something quite different now.

  • P.S., When will the Layman write a similar article about all the ECO or EPC congregations leaving Presbyterian out of their new name?

  • How many of you naysayers have supported these valuable ministries? How many have visited one of these campuses for abused and neglected children? How many of you have given sacrificially to help these organizations in their quest to rebuild young lives?

    I served on the board at the Presbyterian Home for Children in Alabama, and I can tell you for a fact there is not enough money coming in from churches OR the government to cover the ever rising cost of nurturing abused children. Whatever these groups can do to bring in additional donors is positive, especially in light of the shrinking budgets in many of our churches.

    Shame on the Layman for getting so caught up in a name change that they ignore the valuable work going on inside. When was the last time the Lay Committee ran a story on the lives that these homes have changed? Congratulations on pointing out the speck in your brother’s eye, while ignoring the 2×4 in your own.

  • “As you can see, we have adopted a new name. HumanKind.” He then says, “We believe it’s a name that better reflects our work today serving members of the human family.”

    The new name fits since Biblical Spirituality, Biblical Authority, and the 5 fundamentals of the faith have been long abandoned. The PCUSA is no longer a church as the same is an organization.

  • If they were dropping Presbyterian because they could not support the denominations stand on GLBT issues, I could understand. But no. Along with the last several GAs and most of what passes for leadership in the PCUSA, they have slipped their Biblical moorings long ago and gayly floated down the mainstream of American culture. Their name change merely acknowledges that they lost their spiritual bearings a long time ago.

  • “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.” Romans 14:23 (NASB)

    Doing good in the name of human kindness is a sin. What? Yes, because it is an act of denying the necessity of Christ’s redeeming work to overcome our fallen state. It is an act of claiming goodness for ourselves.

  • More like “humanistkind” Just another sign of things to come.

  • Presbyterian Children’s Services of Missouri did the same thing (took Presbyterian out of their name) a few years ago, in order to chase after more government money / funding from the Federal Govt. Some of us saw this as turning their back on the Christians who founded them and supported them for many decades. This also coincided with their no longer sending a representative to presbytery meetings and churches with a display and to tell us about their work. After a few years they merged with a similar group in Texas and now are back with their hand out to the congregations. Interesting …

    • I serve as President of the Board of Trustees for the Missouri-based Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services. The organization has not merged with the Texas-based agency, but now works very closely with Texas. After changing the organization’s name a few years ago, the board grieved a sense of disconnect with the church. The name Presbyterian was reinstated to again reflect that our mission is to serve in the name of Jesus Christ.

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