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Celebrating Freedom – Adventist Black History — 97 Comments

  1. Hi Andrew, thanks for the many insights and enlightments. I'm taking as much information and comparations between the Israelites and the African - American histories of slavery. I for one would like to thank God because He had saved me from my worst conditions of slavery in sin before I ever knew it.

    Thanks Andrew God bless.

  2. Thank you Mr. Baker for that infomation on what sister White thought at that time and season. It is man's nature to feel superior and proud of who they are. Thats why its good to read but more important to get understanding, because wisdom and understanding comes from the Lord. That's why its so hard to convert others to Christ because people remember what has been done to them in the name of Christianity, especially these so called Christians with all their denominational beliefs. That's why with out Christ Jesus a person won't know what to Hope for or believe in. But I believe that is why God allowed the written word to be given so we "man" would remember who He is and what we are. Some of the Jews got it and others didn't. I just hope that I get it. I know God is Love and He wants us to follow His Son.

  3. Hi Andrew, thank you for attempting to address this touchy subject. it has been a very long time coming and I do appreciate and hold you in the highest esteem for not running away from the topic. Hopefully as we hold discourse, we can all come to a better understanding and tolerance of each other. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.

  4. There is a new documentary out that documents better than anything yet published the way a kind of slavery was reimposed during the "Jim Crow" era when the Federal troops were withdrawn from the South and southern conservatives re-established the antebellum culture of racism. I saw an interview with the producer yesterday in which he said that "the slaves were not really freed until about 1970" when the Civil Rights Movement began to prevail. This is a dose of reality that most white Adventists have edited out of their minds, like probably most other white Americans.

    • Re Monte Sahlin--
      I appreciate this subject being addressed, as it has been ignored for far too long. It was encouraging see your comment on this subject. The Adventist church in the U.S. could benefit greatly in its quest for unity and love if those actually employed within the SDA church administration become actively involved and take a stand for true equality. Unfortunately, there are an embarassing number of racists (yes, I used the "R" word) in lead positions in our churches. If a blind eye is turned to the unloving behavior of church elders, the promotion of unity is greatly hindered.

      • There is a lot of racism in administration and on all other levels and in both white and black conferences. Heaven's not going to be segregated and I expect if we want to be there, we need to learn to love each other. Thanks for your article.

  5. This article was very thought provoking. As an Adventist I have often found it difficult to share my faith with my non-Adventists friends because of the distinct race separations within the church. My friends have often expressed an uneasiness about a church that professes the truth, yet is not willing to embrace each other during the 11 o'clock hour on Sabbath. In some ways, every Sabbath is a painful reminder that our love has a long way to go before we can truly call ourselves followers of Christ. How can we get passed our divisions and get to know each other without the fear from the past? God has admonished us in Matt 28:19 "...go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit," if we cannot get past our personal prejudices it will be difficult for us to carry out God's mission. Mark 12:31 applies to us even today, "Love your neighbor as yourself." This black cloud hanging over our churches is not an intellectual issue, rather it is a "heart" issue, a matter that truly reflects how much we love and respect our Creator.

    • Thanks for your response, Elle. As you note, the church is not immune to many of the problems facing larger society. This is just as true today as it was in apostolic times. Thankfully, however, it does not have to be that way. Even though there is still some conflict over race (ranging from mere uneasiness to more severe clashes), it is not universal. I have personally had the pleasure of meeting brethren who are spiritually and socially color blind. Clearly, submission to the love of Christ will work.

      Pretending that there is no conflict is not the answer. The answer to getting past our divisions is for each of us to submit to God and let Him recreate our hearts. Those who have been hurt, can find healing in Jesus. Those who have not been hurt need to be sensitive to the reality of hurts and distrust and concern felt by those who have.

      I agree with you that it is primarily a heart issue. Our hearts must be intertwined with God and with all His children. As we minister to one another, the healing process can truly begin.

    • Elle--
      Thank you for sharing your experience with friends who are uncomfortable with a Bible-based church which encourages separation and segregation. I too find myself in a dilema when friends and acquaintances ask me where I worship and express interest in visiting. Exposing them to the behaviors and attitudes I have seen could shut the door to their desire to learn more about Adventism. How can the gospel be spread to everyone when divisive and unloving acts go unchallenged. Please continue to ask questions about these matters.

    • Elle, personally I see most of the racial separation during the 11 o'clock hour as being more culturally driven. For example. I attended AUC during the early 90's. ( the story of its demise is itself a chapter in the racial divide in our church). When it came time for sabbath and Friday evening worship, there were two services, vespers and after there was singspiration. Vespers was more geared towards the white students while the latter towards black. It was a worship style issue kinda like picking your flavor. The same applied for sabbath church. If we wanted a more white American style of worship, we would attend the college church. If we desired an Afrocentric worship style we drove 50 miles to Boston to a Black church. Being a person of color I grew up in a church environment where the music was sung a certain way and the preaching was done a certain way that appealed to me so throughout my life I gravitated towards what I was accustomed to. Not to negate that there is a racial divide in our churches due to the discrimination issues, but my personal experience has been a preference issue based on worship style. Just saying...

      • I believe that preference is definitely a factor. Cultural religious segregation is not an Adventist phenomenon nor is it exclusive to blacks and whites. These separations have existed for centuries; even before Adventism existed, but as time progresses and we learn more about each other and live closer together we should also learn how to worship together. I would love to attend a church where the styles were varied, not just black, white, etc but inclusive of many cultures. Getting to know each in church and appreciating others by teaching our children about diversity would benefit us all. Of course, we don't know how it will be in heaven, but do you think it will be separated like this? I think it would be great if our church started modeling worshipping together now. I also think that coming together would help our witnessing become more effective.

    • This is sadly the truth. I can only encourage you however, "to brighten the corner where you are" , by that I mean do your part, do what you can to make a difference. You be the bridge! By that I mean this: I have personally made an effort to do so in my local congregation (as a child growing up in this congregation the favoritism for certain families and children stemmed out of this very issue, the distinctions of race were so thick, you could break off a piece and chew it....The Spirit then pointed it out to me that I should be very careful not to repeat the trend ), by saying hello to everyone and getting some information on the person (if they are willing to exchange information with me, I do it), other than their name. I have made it my personally duty to get to know everyone. That is not an easy task, but with God all things are possible. Sis, I encourage you to do whatever you can, start with your friends. Start inviting them back again, show them the difference in you...plant the seed, God will water the plant. The fact that you are keen to this...you will not get rest until you do whatever you can....wishing you well. Bless you.

      • I'm an old white lady who lives in Ukraine now but was blessed 37 years ago by being baptized in the Sharon SDA Church in Charlotte NC. At that time it was somewhat racially mixed. Through the years it has become much more so. I so agree with your comment to brighten the corner where you are. If you're in a cold church warm it up. for most folks it can be pretty easy to do with a warm hello, a handshake or a hug and real love in your heart for your brothers and sister and the stranger within your gates. Keep loving and be blessed.

  6. Our past would slow us down in moving forward toward unity and acceptance if we keep reflecting back.
    A recent CNN report shows that up to 28% of recorded marriages were inter-racial. The big question is - when are we (USA) going to stop to make news out of this?

    • It sounds like you sincerely want to be part of a church interested in love and equality for all, irrespective of race. It is encouraging to see the number of church members who want to see that happen. But if we don't reflect back on our past, we move forward in ignorance and will continue to make the same mistakes.
      When are we going to stop making news out of the percentage of inter-racial marriages in the US? When inter-racial couples are no longer news-worthy--when they are looked at, considered, and treated the same as same-race couples. We are not at this place yet, even in the SDA church, and ignoring the issues of disparity does not make them disappear. Especially when selected EGW quotes are used to support the beliefs held by some in the SDA church even in 2012--that inter-racial marriage goes against the will of God. Keep asking and researching these issues, the more aware we all are and the more we can work together to fulfill Jesus' commandment to love.

    • Thanks for your contribution, Raphael

      Just after I posted this article, I read a couple of reports on CNN about interracial marriages and about the attitudes to them, and found the responses quite interesting. While the reports indicated that there was growing acceptance (about 15% of new marriages were interracial, and 42% felt that it was something that made the world better), a psychologist also pointed out that most people are reluctant to espouse comments that might be seen as racist, and so the acceptance number might be lower in practice than the survey indicated.

      Yes, it is true that too great a focus on the rear view mirror will impede forward progress. But, it is just as true that ignoring the past is the surest way to repeat its failures. The Bible itself outlines past successes and failures as an example to us who live in the present, for the future.

      Interracial marriages alone do not suggest that racial harmony is pervasive. Even in early 19th century and during the civil rights movement, there were people of different races who loved each other and wanted to get married. Not everyone is living in the past... For some people, unfortunately, the present is only subtly different than recorded history.

  7. Thank you, Andrew. Your article has been very enlightening. I do hope it will help us to take an introspective look at ourselves so that we can be more Christlike.

  8. I agree it is a heart issue, sadly our church up to the 1960's seems to have taken Sis White's advice in the 19th century as excuse to drag its feet on embracing poc as their true brethern. Our racial past in the USA, UK, South Africa and Nazi Germany is nothing to boast about, may we give our hearts to God in the present to make the future better and make Jesus prayer in John 17 a reality for right now we are far from it.

  9. Andrew, very detailed. I would love to see a follow up on Blacks in the Bible. History has always been a bias account dictating by the ruling dynasty and hence most of Black history has been lost though now being revealed. I sometimes wonder about this from a biblical point of view. Is it really the case that Blacks has been by standers throughout history even from the beginning of time? It seems that even when framing these discussions, we attempt to dismiss this issue of worth and legacy as non essential

    • Hi Jason,

      The Bible, while giving a historical account, is not trying to give the entire history of the earth, but the history of Creation, the Fall and man’s redemption.

      There are many races and nationalities that receive very little recognition in the Bible, because the role they played with regards to salvation of man, was not critical. This is just as true for much of Africa, or for the Native American Indians, as it is for the Chinese or the Nordic settlers.

      That’s simply not what the Bible is trying to focus on. Even the Jews, who appear to be the focus of much of the scriptures are not there because of any inherent goodness or greatness, but because God ordained that they would be the ones to promulgate the gospel to the world, and it is through them that the Messiah would come. (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)

      Human nature has been divisive from the Fall. The first division was “those who served God” vs “those who served Him not” (see Cain vs Abel). Racial inequity didn’t arrive until after the flood, simply because there was no separation of race until that time, as far as we can tell.

      As Christians, the issue of worth and legacy should always be tied up in Jesus Christ. Yes, we are important as individuals, and I’m not suggesting that heritage and human legacy should simply be ignored. I’m saying that these things should be completely overshadowed by the blood of Jesus, as this is the one unifying element that we have. It is the only thing that enables us to deal with the pains of history in a constructive manner.

      At the end of the day, the only history that will ultimately last, is that which is wearing a robe of righteousness. Any history that does not make it into the millennium, will be forgotten.

  10. Thank you Andrew! Like so many others in my age group I was a BLACK activist during the 60's and 70's and I had serious problems with the Christian faith. Thank GOD I had a praying Grandmother and Mother who literally prayed me into the Faith. I'm so happy I'm learning about my JESUS and can testify of his LOVE for all races. I've saved your article so I can share it with others. I truly enjoy reading the different blogs on Sabbath mornings again thank you!

    • You are very welcome, Willie. I thank God for intercessory prayer, and I hope that we will begin to see more of God's love for all people, lived out in the lives of Christians.

  11. There should be no kind of separation period, even in word. The very words Black attached to any sentence suggest separation We are all God children we do not need separate celebrations of any races or creeds Separation is Satan's work Christians are Christians. Gods Children the only separation is Gods worshipers and Satan's worshipers. Jesus gave us one command before leaving this earth and it had nothing to do with creating separate color, Preach the Gospel to all Nations As I spread the Gospel message I see only lost people Nothing more nothing less I witness to all

    • Thank you David.
      I too believe that the attachment of labels such as "Black" or "African American" serves no positive outcome. I'm convinced it is also an often not-so-subtle way of perpetuating racism and division.
      As children of the King of Kings, we are created in the Image of God. We are all sinners at the foot of the cross in need of His forgiving grace.
      Those who insist on raising the banners of color wrap themselves in a separation that undermines the unity and love for one another that Christ lived and taught.
      What a less divisive society we would enjoy if the champions of racism would actually LIVE what they claim to want; equality, fairness, acceptance, and unity.
      We need to see Jesus and His love first and always in the faces of those around us. It is only then that we can begin to treat others as who they are; Children of the King of the Universe.

      • Connie--
        It sounds like you are hoping to see Christ's example of love for all reflected in the lives of every Christian, including Seventh-Day Adventists. I share this hope with you, and believe that this possibility exists. However, it also sounds like you don't have first hand experience with racial issues in the church? It is more than a little offensive when you suggest that those who would expose the racial intolerance that is allowed to exist unchecked in some congregations are NOT living out the principles of equality, fairness, acceptance, and unity. What is your research base for this statement? It would be wonderful to see Jesus' love in the faces of those around us, but if we don't, don't we have some responsibility to step up and challenge our friends and leaders to do better? Jesus did not shrink from speaking the truth to those who promoted intolerance and racial (or other types of) enmity. How else will things change for the better?

        • Kat
          I agree that raising an awareness of racism and division in our churches is important but it must not become a mantle with which we wrap ourselves, thus distracting us from the work of the church and the Savior who we serve. You are right that Jesus did not promote intolerance and neither should we. However, I believe that all too often such topics can be so focused on that nothing else is deemed important or worthy of discussion. Jesus preached tolerance and love of others...among many other subjects. We should not become so zealous that we focus an undue amount of time and energy on division and fail to recognize and promote unity and love. Neither should we clutch so tightly to signs of division that we fail to see improvement, change, and the working of Christ among His people and their hearts.

          Yes I have seen racism. I have also seen the accusations of it become weapons that perpetuate division and actually can plant seeds of separation where they did not truly exist.

          Again, I say we must as Christians let go of a relentless focus on injustices, real and imagined, and ask the Savior to allow us to see others as He does, love them as He loves us, and that He create in us the unity He can restore if we allow.

    • Amen, David. We all need EACH other. Personally i have observed churches with multi cultural backgrounds to be the most welcoming, and their worship services refreshingly alive and reverent. Let's appreciate and love our different characteristics; then we can truly love one another.

    • Hi David,

      Thanks for your contribution.

      If all (or even most) discrimination and racism were in the distant past, then I would agree that any acknowledgement of such could be seen as divisive. But what happens when the behavior has not completely diminished? More importantly, what happens when its impact can still be felt in *some* churches?

      Simply not talking about it doesn't make it go away or get better. Time helps to heal wounds, provided that that are properly bandaged and cared for. Wounds that are left untreated can get worse over time, not better.

      • Thank you Andrew, for a reminder that the things of the past are still things of the present in some churches. Turning a blind eye does not make them disappear.

      • Yes indeed, wounds that are left untreated do not heal; nor do wounds that are continually picked and kept bleeding.

        There is a time to allow the healing process to unfold and recognize that the past, while ugly and filled with scars, can only truly become the past if we allow it to. If festered on, like the repeatedly picked wound, never heals.

        As Christians, can we not stop picking the wounds of racism, prejudice, and intolerance and allow healing to really happen? Or do we deliberately, repeatedly, interrupt healing? If so, what is the gain and the motive?

        • Connie, your focus on balance is commendable. There is no easy answer to your question, because the things that divide us and cause pain are not found in every place or to the same degree in the places where they do exist. I'm sure if you were to poll all the people who have contributed to this post, you would find that the participants fall into one of the following groups:

          -- have never witnessed or personally heard of any racism or discrimination in the church

          -- have witnessed or personally heard of racism or discrimination, but things have gotten better in recent years

          -- have witnessed or personally heard of racism or discrimination, and feel that very little has changed overall (or that there's still much to be done)

          -- have witnessed or personally heard of racism or discrimination, and feel that things have become subtly worse over time - different, but not better

          It is hard to address a situation that everyone does not agree as being a situation.

          To more directly address your metaphor, depending on the type of wound, it needs to be actually treated to heal properly. And it can be hard to get any treatment, if attempts at discussing the issue are perceived as picking at the wound.

          Each situation is different, so it would be unwise for me to provide blanket guidance or instruction, as though all situations can be resolved in the same way. But there should be an acknowledgement that everything is not a-okay everywhere.

          I don't disagree with your point in general, and I will accept that it applies to some instances, but since it does not apply to all instances, we're still left with needing to do something for some set of situations.

          May God give us discernment to know which situations fall into which categories, so that we are not making matters worse and stirring up trouble on one hand, or ignoring valid problems on the other hand.

  12. In honor of Black History month, our readers may want to review the article "Nine Children Face an Angry Town" by Roy Adams in the February 21, 2008 issue of the Adventist Review.

    These nine youngsters risked their lives in 1957 for integration of the Little Rock High School, thus paving the way for the integration of other schools and American society as a whole. The article is both chilling and heart-warming.

    The whole Review issue is on Black History and well worth re-viewing. Some stories are inspiring vignettes of courage. Others include a sad testament to the rejection of Ellen White's messages in favor of full integration. She had little sympathy for whites who were in favor of evangelism among black people but refused to sit beside them in church. Her vision was for full equality as brothers and sisters in God's last-day church.

    A really inspiring story is the story of Ames E. "Johnny" Johnson who lived his life by two principles -- instant forgiveness and unconditional love. These are principles of the Kingdom of Heaven and promote the kind of oneness Christ wants us to have.

    All pride of race, nationality or family history gets in the way of this equality and oneness in the body of Christ. May we all, with the Apostle Paul consider "everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord . . . " (Phil 3:8)

  13. I would like to add a dimension to this post that is so often overlooked. While the subject of race brings to mind the tension between white and black, that is far from being the only problems between groups of people.

    It seems as though whenever there is any difference between groups - whether it be physical, cultural, linguistic, or origin, the devil is in there to stir up hatred. I can think of many instances where there is tension within a racial group. Consider the problems among Caucasians of European background (German, French, Italian, etc.). What about all the inter-tribal warfare that has taken place in Africa or between Indian tribes of both North and South America?

    Just within the United States there is a lot of tension between just about every racial or ethnic group (white vs black, black vs Hispanic, etc.). I even knew a Cuban who didn't think much of Mexicans, and African Americans don't particularly care for those from the Caribbean.

    I think we have a lot to get over before we are truly ready to be in Heaven. I think of Ellen White's vision of another world where she saw "The inhabitants of the place were of all sizes" (Christian Experience and Teaching of Ellen G. White 97.3). If we can't get along with one another here with the little bit of difference there is among us, how can we be taken to a place where there is even more of the same? I think as a church we are going to be very surprised who we find is considered safe to save for all eternity.

    • [Moderator's note: Please remember to use your full name.]

      I was born and bred in the UK. There the conferences are not separated along a racial divide (probably for economic amongst other reasons - but that's a different story). However the very same issues of racism abound. Thus as implicated in many of the posts having a 'unified' conference would not solve the problem that only heartfelt conversion can. Historically the SDA church in UK was one of the few denominations that 'countenanced' interracial worship according to the historian Dilip Hiroo in his 'White Britain; Black Britain). However black SDA members were historically requested in a particularly well known church in London to exit from the side door as to make their presence less offensive. Historically racism in church was not a uniquely SDA problem and indeed was more ouvert elsewhere. However over the years the SDA churches have now developed not only into distinct racial groupings but also national.
      This is not to side step the painful issue and sinful issue of black/white separatism in worship and fellowship but I certainly endorse Tyler's comments. Just about every nation has its own exclusive church like a club. One such church even hires out its facilities at a different rate to SDA members of a different nationality. Yet all successfully integrate for educational purposes, employment and just about every other activity in the world yet somehow we cannot do this when presenting ourselves before GOD our FATHER in worship as His children. Let us not lose the irony here.
      The issue of healing in the USA as described in the posts does not apply here in the UK. It is my heartfelt prayer that the HOLY SPIRIT would accomplish in our hearts individually the reality of JESUS' prayer that we would all be one and love one another.

      • Thanks for your response, Marcia

        I have found that even in churches that don't have obvious racial issues, there is a strong sense of nationalism that pervades many discussions. It only serves to emphasize unnecessary separateness that God's people cannot afford to have if we expect to make it into His kingdom.

        This is one time to highlight that there is neither Jew nor Gentile nor Greek nor Roman...

  14. Thanks Tyler! You're right, if we can't get along here, part of a group of believers where we are supposedly brothers and sisters in Christ, how would we be satisfied with heaven, where there will be many differences and yet all inhabitants will be considered equal and cherished by the same Father. While I agree that bigotry and discrimination have the potential to flourish whereever there is more than one people group, I also believe that the history of Black/White relations in America has resulted in unique issues that set it apart from other racial tensions. The more I read about the history of the SDA church and the positions taken (or none taken at all) on racial issues, the more I wonder --What should we be doing in the here and now when we become aware of racially-based inequalities and even hostile acts at any level of the SDA denomination, from the local church on up to the desk of Ted Wilson? In light of His ministry, what would Jesus have us do? I would love some feedback on this question and to hear the experiences of others. Am I the only one who has seen White/Black disparity and been met with a wall of silence when requesting assistance from leadership to build positive relationships instead?

    • I am detecting through your comments a lot of pain, frustration, and anger. For me to say that I understand would be a lie for I have never been subject to racial hatred and abuse to the extent that many people have been. My life has been relatively sheltered from such things and now I live in the northern part of the United States in a sparsely populated state that sees little of that kind of thing. While the white/black issue is certainly a major one that you seem to feel very keenly it is only a symptom of a much wider, more basic problem.

      Let me give you some examples to illustrate what I mean through a book I have in my rather small library titled, "50 Facts That Should Change the World 2.0" by Jessica Williams. It was copyrighted in 2007 so it was published quite recently. Here are some of the chapter contents in the book:

      More than 150 countries use torture.
      More than 12,000 women are killed each year in Russia as a result of domestic violence and China has 44 million missing women.
      A third of the world's population is at war.
      There are at least 300,000 prisoners of conscience in the world.
      There are 300,000 child soldiers fighting in conflicts around the world (they are pressed into it by force) besides there are 44 Million child laborers in India.
      There are 27 million slaves in the world today.
      Some 120,000 women and girls are trafficked into Western Europe every year.

      So while the situation in the US seems so glaring in reality it is really just a small part of a larger problem. We also need to realize that what is happening in the US involves many more than just a dozen or so southern states and certainly didn't spring up over night. It is something that has been going on ever since Cain killed Able and institutions such as slavery can be traced back to before the flood. Racism is nasty and needs to be dealt with wherever it is found and yet we need to realize that it isn't going away any time soon so we need patience and persistence in the matter.

      The real problem is serving self at any cost to another human and it manifests itself in varying forms. We can prune a few branches here and there in selected fields but until we attack the root cause, the problems will continue to persist.

      • Yes Tyler, there is a lot of pain, frustration, and anger. Thank you for being honest and acknowledging that you do not have first hand experience with these issues. To some, this type of pain may pale in comparison to statistics of atrocities around the globe, but I ask you to consider this--Somewhere tonight, a mother feels pain because her child attempted suicide today; somewhere tonight, a husband hurts because he lost his job and has no one to turn to for help; somwhere tonight, a grandmother grieves because, after breaking away, her grandson is again caught up into the consuming drug culture. And somewhere tonight, a person is feeling the pain of racism because last Sabbath, after finally getting up the courage to visit the local SDA church in hope of finding comfort and healing, he was met with blank stares and the awkward humiliation of extending his hand to greet an Elder of the church, only to find that the gesture would not be returned; or accepted. Do we tell this person that his pain is just a symptom of a larger problem, and that he shouldn't feel badly because there are much worse things going on in the world? And when he decides that this incident was the final painful straw and his last visit to this or any other House of God, should he just be dismissed as having "a chip on his shoulder?" So, my question remains unanswered--What should we do in the here and now when we become aware of this type of behavior within the Adventist church?

        • Hi Kat,

          Thanks for your comments and observations. I believe that is it important for us to confront all behaviors that we find in the church that are unChristlike. How we confront them will depend on many factors, of course, and we should never resort to being unChristlike ourselves, but it is almost never appropriate to stand by and allow the wrong thing to continue. Paul had to call out Peter for the latter's attitude towards the gentile believers.

          We need to pray for wisdom and guidance, and we need to pray earnestly for those who exhibit unChristlike feelings and responses -- not just for those who are victimized by such.

          Racism hurts primarily because it is about who you are, and not what you have done. There is no way for you to do anything about it, on a physical or emotional level.

          Those who are hurt are called to forgive.
          Those who are hurting others are called to repent.
          Both parties (and all those impacted by the collateral damage) need the blood of Jesus to deal with their end of the situation.

          The church -- especially at the congregational level -- cannot prosper while these attitudes remain.

        • If we would only come to the realization that God, our creator made us in His image and therefore with Him there is neither black nor white, rich nor poor. If only we would put racism aside and show people Jesus high and lifted up. Tell people that Jesus died for them on calvary and that He is coming back soon and they need to live godly lives. If we cannot put aside our prejudices and racism then I wonder what heaven will be like. Will there be one race in the eastern side and another in the western side or will we all live together in heaven with Jesus as redeemed people?

        • In reply to your question,
          What should we do in the here and now when we become aware of this type of behavior within the Adventist church?
          I think that having official church publications dedicate entire issues to the subject is a good first step, and it may help to send a message about how important this issue is. A church-wide campaign encouraging prayer about it could be explored. But, how about this answer: overcome evil with good.
          Let me explain, I think that the problem is the result of having an unregenerate heart, where self is lord and not Jesus. In some respects the issue of racial discrimination is similar to other issues that plague the church such as gossiping, pride, social class discrimination, things that happen even among people of the same race.
          It is the desire of Jesus to have a church that perfectly reflects his character, and he is constantly working on the hearts of his people, but not all are receptive to his bidding. Jesus taught that the wheat and the tares would grow together in the church till the end of time and that it would him, through his angels who gather the wheat and burn the tares. Many people that today are church members have not yet experienced a new birth, and perhaps are refusing the invitation of Jesus to yield themselves whole to him, and are therefore choosing to remain as tares. Remember the wheat and the tears look alike, and it will be only until the harvest time that the difference will become clearer. Because we do not have the ability to read minds we are in no position to judge who is wheat and who is tare, furthermore engaging in judging would be becoming like them.
          So in concluding I would like to suggest that we should sincerely and continually pray for those who have not yet come to the foot of the cross where there is no difference between human beings, and that in as much as possible we, for the love of Jesus, do not imitate them, but rather instead of treating them the same way, will forgive them and treat them with love and compassion, thus overcoming evil with good.
          Your brother in Christ

    • Divisiveness is a thread that runs through the human heart. And as one writer said , who wants to give up a piece of the heart in order to get rid of it? There are divisions between North and South, country vs town, the list goes on.
      The divisivenes of race is the skeleton that has been rattling in the Adventist closet for a long time. This seems to be a blood problem that can only be solved by the Blood of Christ. Without loosing our distinctiveness; let's prayerful endeavor to worship together, go to school together and evangelize together; enabling the clapping hands to join with the clasping hands and vice versa.

      • Thank you Andrew for addressing the attitudes of both parties. Forgiveness and repentance is what's needed; are all of us finally ready to do that?

        • You're welcome, Kim

          I hope that we are. Without forgiveness and repentance, we cannot see the kingdom, and that would be a shame. We need to be of one accord that we might receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the final great work.

          That's a prayer we really need to all embrace.

  15. Multiculturalism hands us amazing opportunities to improve and make our perspective of our world so much richer.
    I recently listened to a talk given by a Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and marvelled at the wisdom in such a young woman. Her talk is here:
    A few of her wise quotes:
    "The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

    “Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”(Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie )

    “Show a people as one thing — as only one thing — over and over again, and that is what they become.”

  16. I have limited bandwidth for my internet each month, so I don't watch many videos, but I'm glad I watched this one. A most amazing young women helps us think about how easily we accept "single stories" that create demeaning stereotypes.

    Thank you, Kim, for sharing this. 🙂

  17. Thank you all for expressing your feelings on this neglected topic, but firstly I would share my very first experience at GC Toronto 2000.I felt like I was in heaven seeing my brothers and sisters from all walks of life, then come home to reality of my local church, it saddens me.
    I liken this to the time the Disciples put away all their differences, confessed to one another and became one to receive the out pouring of the HOLY SPIRIT in the upper room. I pray that we all will become colour blind so we can take the gospel to all nations, turning the world upside down through JESUS OUR LORD AND SAVIOR . GOD bless you all .

  18. The corporate church was slow to address racial issues, but I think on the local level quite a few attempted to socialize as best they could. I saw this as a kid in Toledo Ohio in having combined events on occassion. College at Madison was difficult to understand. We had 2 female freshmen black nursing students as part of our class. They had to live in non-dorm housing on the campus. It was not explained, and we did not understand it even after 3 years at graduation. And felt it was discriminatory at the time. At this time here in Macon, GA the "white church" which has a number of black members, and the "black church" have nothing to do with each other and have not over the past 5 years I have lived here.

    • It's doubly sad. Not only does this racism exist in the S.D.A. church, but it is as if the "emperor has no clothes." As a Black Seventh-Day Adventist who has been touched on the elbow and told where the "church I was looking for" was, I have experienced the "Christian racism" of our denomination. Also, having worked in S.D.A. evengelism I have personally encountered nonSDA's who wanted nothing to do with us because of the overt racism they see in us. When I confront these issues with my White brethren they say they were told that's the way Black Adventists want it. Two points on that. If we wanted it that way, what has been our experience with the "White church" to make it that way? And, why are they so comfortable with the divide between Black and White Adventists? Is it because we (all of us) are comfortable with segregation/racism? Sometimes I wonder if Adventists really believe heaven will have segregated neighborhoods.

      • Yes! What if "the church I was looking for" is actually the church I am standing in? These are the experiences that go unreported or dismissed and are crucial to bringing unsensitive attitudes to light, so that change can commence. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the corporate church promoted cultural diversity training, church coaching/mentoring, and racial unity as enthusiastically as the health message, etc.? As long as nobody challenges us to pray and think and reflect on these things, or provides us with tools to develop a deeper understanding; by default, both segregation and racism will continue. Thank you for sharing.

  19. I think church segregation also has a lot to do with neighborhood segregation. The closest church to a black community will be predominantly black and the same for the white community.
    This may primarily be a socioeconomic thing.

    I am black, and have been to many majority-white churches for extended periods (years at a time every week). They have always been accepting--with open arms. That is my personal experience; other may not have had the same positive experience.

  20. I am more concerned with the negative things Ellen White said, "SINCE THE FLOOD THERE HAS BEEN AMALGAMATION OF MAN AND BEAST, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and IN CERTAIN RACES OF MEN". Someone give me a logical explanation of this.

    • Happy Sabbath. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to review these statements (there are 4 separate instances where "amalgamation" is used). They do not appear to me, to be referring to some combination of man and beast. The most comprehensive explanation I have seen on this issue is from the EGW Estate: http://www.whiteestate.org/issues/amalg.html

      Hope this helps

      I'd be very interested to know why you consider these "negative" statements, btw.

        • No, I did not miss that part, but you have provided no context for why you consider it negative. I read all 4 of the different quotations related to "amalgamation" that I found in all of Sis White's writings, and there was never enough context given about what races were implied. It could have been the Amalekites, for all I know.

          Additionally, the EGW Estate article that I posted earlier, addresses this entire issue head on. Did you have a chance to read it? If so, does it not fully answer your questions?

  21. In reference to amalgamation of man and beast...whatever emphasis you might associate with it, it wasn't pleasing to GOD. Apparently, it went against the creation process.
    As a medical professional, there have been instances where human and animals have entered the ER in the most unusual situations. That's all I will say on that particular subject. Ellen White's statement concerning this matter IS WHAT IT IS.

  22. I guess I'll just have to be the one to attempt to briefly address the obvious yet not too obvious:

    Why do African-Americans appear to limit themselves so, so much? Of the limitless subjects that one could conjur up under the term Black History Month, why limit oneself to Slavery? Why not focus even more broadly on the well nigh limitless achievements of Blacks in spite of Slavery? Additionally, when we refer to Black History, why do we tend to limit the term to the relatively short "history" of Blacks in the United States? What about Blacks in other parts of the world ... certainly in Africa? By inordinately focusing on themselves and, worse still, on the issue of slavery in North America, African-Americans have no idea just how much they impose limits on themselves.

    • I'm a little confused; I saw only two or three posts that focused on slavery. Why do you think these comments are limited to slavery? Although America's past history of slavery may have been the source of church-sanctioned racism(?), the discussion taking place here pertains mostly to the racism and division all too often experienced and witnessed in the here and now; the 21st century church. I agree, achievements should be celebrated, but lets not put aside the work so desparately needed on our current infrastructure.

    • Black History Month is focused on African-Americans within the context of North American history, primarily. Unfortunately, Kwesi, slavery represents a huge part of the historical record of African-Americans. No real way to get around that. Mind you, it is not the only thing that is emphasized, but it invariably comes up, primarily because its effects have not totally been eradicated.

      For instance, most African-Americans are unable to trace their history before the time of slavery, due to the obliteration of their original history. There was no corresponding Moses figure to keep intact the historical record of the pre-slavery era, and so that is the new beginning for many.

      Now, in fairness, Black History does not just focus on slavery and its impact, but this particular post came about to address concerns about how Sis White viewed and commented upon slavery-related issues, and what that meant for us today. Therefore, any limiting in this regard was simply from that standpoint, and not a broader indictment of Black History Month.

  23. Hi Kwesi - Happy Sabbath! Perhaps it's because Black History Month is mainly a USA and Canadian celebration and slavery is the major theme here. I think this is why people focus more on slavery and its effects during this celebration.

    • Happy Sabbath everyone!I agree with you Kofi. This is a culturally contextual issue.Black History month encompasses more than just the theme of slavery. In the school systems, at least in the district where I work, we look at the history of African Americans broadly to include people who made history in areas such as science, politics, economics, literature, and sports to mention a few. We even have a district competition on this.

  24. I believe this is one of inspiring messsage to our church at this time. I think socioeconomic factors affect the church very seriously. I'm living in Africa where whites people to appear in churches is very occassionally. And if the information of the coming white is spreading very fast, as still whites for African people are like masters. It is quite clear we are affected with the situation.
    Beside the color issues, discrimination in church is present. The economic differences between us is a problem, especially in big cities. It is hard for a poor to join congregation in rich church as well as the rich person can travel a long distance on sabbath to a church where he feels it of his standard. The problem of women discrimination is number one. We proclaim we don't have this but it is disturbing women hearts always. You can't believe how seriously verses concerning women lifestyle are taken here, it even sometime lead women to tears. In reality even some doctrines of church are not seriously considered as these, and most of societies affected are in areas where culturally women are highly oppressed.
    I think it is time,Jesus is cleaning us for last evangalism and His second advent. Let prepare our hearts for sanctification.

  25. A little boy came home from his first day in a new school in tears and told his mother about the way some of the children treated him. She patted him on the head, told him it wasn’t his fault and to give good for evil. The little boy came home from his second day at his new school, crying, and told his mother how some of the children called him names and told him to go away. His mother patted him on the back and told him to forgive his enemies and not make waves. On the third day, the little boy decided to be brave and try to make friends. He smiled and introduced himself and asked if he could join in the games at recess. That night, he went to sleep wondering what was wrong wtih him, that other children would treat him so unkindly.

    His mother finally spoke with the teacher, who explained that the other children been through difficult experiences in the past and were responding to those memories. The mother went to the principal for help, and was told that those other children were at the school first and felt uncomfortable with her son coming to their school. She went to the school board and heard that this is the way it had always been and it would be this way until those children graduated and went away. She went to the school district head and was told that nothing could be done because the teacher and the principal and the school board chairman didn’t see a problem. The little boy was a hope-filled child and started each day with a belief that today could be the first day of a wonderful friendship. On the first day of summer vacation the little boy took his hope away with him and moved to another town.

    In September, another little boy came home from his first of school in tears because of the way some other children had treated him. His mother patted him on the head, told him it wasn’t his fault and to return good for evil…

    This subject (racism in particular) may be effectively illustrated using a touch of irony--Non-action has been very successful in overcoming bigoted attitudes in the past, and I can understand why the Adventist church has chosen to pursue this route. It was because nobody stepped up to complain about segregation that anyone who wants to can sit at the front of the local bus. And its because of benign indifference that my Seventh-day Adventist alma mater is no longer an all-white institution. Its because of forgive and forget that a Black man was elected president in 2008. So, lets continue to "not do" what we have been "not doing" because "not doing" is a powerful stabilizing force, in the church as anywhere else; and stable is always more comfortable than a challenge to change and grow.

    Multiculturalism–a beautiful, inclusive, respectful concept. Where I work, cultural diversity is a mandated training topic. Where I work, racial discrimination or bigotry is grounds for disciplinary action and even dismissal. Where I work, there is a zero tolerance policy. The challenge is not to be a disruptive, angry, militant, division-seeking un-Christ-like element in the church.

    The challenge is to 1) pray, 2) pray some more and ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, 3) educate yourself and enter into the discussions, even the uncomfortable ones, and 4) take a stand when appropriate.

    To start, read about the four day North American Division Race Relations Summit in Oct. 1999, convened to begin a process to help SDA’s address the topic. There is an archived Review article written a short time later describing the event. http://www.adventistreview.org/9948/story1-2.htm   Check out the wonderful NAD Human Relations website where the work product of the summit is available.

    Don't miss the menu on the left-hand side of the page. Then read about the second summit in 2001, which, according to the website, was to be convened to continue the process started in 1999. Then please tell me where you found anything written about the 2nd summit, because I can’t find any further information regarding this grand plan to actually move forward in the area of race relations. The dead-end seems to be a telling commentary on the priority Adventists give to the subject.

    But stay hopeful…Maybe next school year things will be different.

    • Kat,

      I agree with you that staying quiet is not the answer. I guess what I was trying to say is that racism is the result of an unconverted heart and that the real solution to the problems begins from the inside. Someone once wrote that only love awakens love speaking about what God was willing to do for us in order to destroy the selfishness in our hearts. I think that rules and policies can go a long way to create civility, but can do nothing to convert the heart.

    • Greetings, Kat

      You make an excellent point that things did not improve just because time passed, but because people risked their lives to go against established practices, and eventually things were set in motion that led to the many improvements that we see and experience today.

      One problem, however, is that the improvements are seen as good enough by many people, so continued emphasis on a problem to resolve is met with some resistance. We see this in many aspects of Christian living, for instance. You could argue that our main contention with much of Christendom (and even many non-Christians) is that they feel that things in their lives are good enough, and that all our emphasis on rules and guidelines and commandments, is unnecessary and unwanted.

      In both cases, we must balance the need for continued improvement with the perception of non-issue that many feel.

      As it pertains to race relations, many see problems in the church, but figure it will pass, because God will take care of it.
      Others see no real problems, given that conditions are not necessarily as life-threatening as in past decades.
      Some feel that there is much progress needed, and that the issue is being ignored.

      I like your emphasis on prayer and education. This isn't going to go away by itself, and this is too volatile an issue to leave to human judgment.

      Will the next school year be different all by itself? I see interesting tensions between other groups -- not outright racial discrimination, per se, but certainly favoritism along ethnic lines similar to what we see mentioned at the beginning of Acts 6.

      Unity will not come about just by saying it, or by ignoring the sources of disunity. That said, managing the discussion is not just a matter of bringing it up in every situation where things don't appear fair.

      We need to continue to work at the local church level to embrace an attitude of revival and reformation, primarily, which will lead to evangelism secondarily. And as we embrace the great commission, we will have to divest ourselves of attitudes that favor one group or demean any groups.

      God give us the wisdom to apply just the right amount of attention to this issue -- and not just during February.

      • Thank you for the response, Andrew. I would like to clarify a few things regarding my earlier comments. I am not advocating judgment on other church members; it is definitely not our place to judge. I am not urging for any type of contentious response. I am not saying that every congregation should have a particular flavor or certain practices. I do not believe corporate worship can or should be confined to one model, especially not the model that I happen to prefer. However, I believe that Adventists as a group have a responsibility to be welcoming and loving to others, even those who are different from themselves. For myself, Paul's message of perseverance written to the Hebrews, (Heb 10:24) urges more than standing by, concentrating on our non-judgmental-ness. "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works (KJV)." "Provoke" is the translation used for the Greek "paroxysmos," meaning "an inciting, incitement, or irritation." Other English translations include "in order to stir up love and good works (NKJV)," "motivate one another (NLT)," and "spur one another (NIV)." In order to stir up love and good works...What a great word picture. A stirring up built on the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit--now THAT sets the stage for growth. But, I can't expect people who have not had an opportunity and/or encouragement to consider things from another perspective, to suddenly become senstive to issues of tolerance and unity, or even recognize a need for something different. And herein lies the dilemma. Example: A local church has been isolated from diversity due to geographical location. They have not had an opportunity to learn and grow. Gradually, the surrounding community changes appearance while the local church does not; and when the diverse newcomers are proactive and visit the church, they are met with indifference or outright hostility. When the situation is brought to the attention of the elders and the pastor, the answer is a plea for the newcomers to be understanding and tolerant, and not to expect anything better. The situation is brought to the attention of the local conference leader, who advises the newcomers to go to a different church. The situation is brought to the attention of the union conference and the response is that nothing can be changed until the older members of the congregation die off. At the division level, "this is the way it has always been and it won't change until Jesus comes." From the General Conference office--Let me give you the number for your local conference office; "have you talked to your pastor about this?" Doesn't it seem logical for the local church members to be given the opportunity to grow? There is certainly a plethora of resources on these subjects. Instead of waiting for the seniors in the church "to die off," (what kind of ridiculous solution is that?) why can't we provide local trainings, seminars, evaluations and surveys with appropriate follow up? Use coaches and mentors who have experience with similar circumstances? Why can't such an important issue (important at least to those outsiders watching us) be included under the umbrella of the current emphasis on revival and reformation? Not just racial, but any type of unchristian discrimination. I have faith that there are many Adventists who would be grateful for the opportunity to grow in love and unity. I know I would.

        • Thanks for the clarification, Kat. Personally, I didn't think you were advocating any of those things in your "I am not advocating..." sentences above, but your having said so plainly may help others understand your position more clearly.

          And thank you very kindly for the detailed walk-through of the remediation attempts that clearly appear to be derived from real experiences, rather than just hypothetical.

          We can pray that more visibility on real solutions, such as those you have suggested above, will stir up more brethren to good works, and we can start to see more instances of real change that is indicative of the power and relationship of God's people with their Savior.

          Thanks again for your detailed contribution. It is much appreciated.

  26. Kat wrote:

    There is certainly a plethora of resources on these subjects. Instead of waiting for the seniors in the church “to die off,” (what kind of ridiculous solution is that?) why can’t we provide local trainings, seminars, evaluations and surveys with appropriate follow up? Use coaches and mentors who have experience with similar circumstances? Why can’t such an important issue (important at least to those outsiders watching us) be included under the umbrella of the current emphasis on revival and reformation? Not just racial, but any type of unchristian discrimination. I have faith that there are many Adventists who would be grateful for the opportunity to grow in love and unity. I know I would.

    Kat, I appreciate that you put your suggestions as something to be included under the umbrella of revival and reformation, because that is the right context. Some of us believe that acceptance of those different from us is the natural result of genuine revival and reformation -- with our without specific training.

    However, that may depend on cultural context. And that's why it would be helpful to know from what context you are writing -- where you are located. The cultural context in Toronto, Canada, is likely to be quite different from a small town in Alabama. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm guessing that congregations in larger cities are also likely to be more accepting than congregations in smaller towns, even in Mississippi, Georgia or Alabama.

    It may be that in some areas training in cultural sensitivity to other races should be a component in revival and reformation emphasis, because members come from a background of so much ingrained prejudice that they are genuinely ignorant of how to demonstrate love and acceptance. Congregations in other areas may require a totally different emphasis. The races may mix easily, but still be less than welcoming to people from a different socio-economic status, for instance. Or the races may mix easily but be comfortable in the status quo, having "need of nothing."

    Here in British Columbia, Canada, I know of urban congregations composed of a racial mix of African, European, Latin American and Asian backgrounds, with interracial marriages, and beautiful children of various hues. They hardly need what you suggest, but they may need a very different emphasis. Racial harmony isn't the only indicator of revival. 🙂

    • I agree with you Inge, that there are differences depending on geographical regions and population density. And the issues of love and acceptance extend beyond race. However, I believe racism to be a fair place to start, considering the history of race relations in our denomination. Again, I suggest some research into that history. I don't believe there was any mention of racial harmony being the only indicator of revival. But isn't it an inevitable fruit of true revival? If racist attitudes and behaviors are allowed to continue unchallendged in a church, how can the Holy Spirit revive that congretation and use that church to effectively carry out the gospel commission?

  27. So the conversation continues. Thank you Andrew for the wonderful work you did. Thank you Kat for saying for me what I couldn't, so eloquently. Thank you Inge for your references, I see your heart.
    We say we are on our way to heaven and I thank God that salvation is an individual pathway. One by one we can make a change while not forgetting to call sin by its right name.
    In the famous words of Martin Luther King, 'He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it'.
    Martin Luther King, Jr.
    We have come to the end of Black History Month, but let us continue to discuss the issues to bring down this stronghold, this demon, this spiritual wickedness in high places. After all we are the head and not the tail. it is high time we lead out and take on these social issues instead of passively standing by waiting for Jesus to come and fix things. He said we should occupy till He comes. Judgement starts with us, we all know that. Let us as SDAs let the emperor know that he is naked. The church will not fall apart, it is built on the firm foundation.
    In therapy, the patient may have to go way back in his past to get to the source of his instability. Wounds may have to be debrided more than once for healing to take place. Ignoring problems and issues does not make the problem go away. The organism may die, in our case, spiritual death of individuals. That is not our goal.
    I appreciated everyones input, especially since it helped me to get over a bad habit of mine. Thinking that other peoples' opinions were more important than mine. Thank you Jesus. Thanks again Andrew for your respect.
    Let us not be weary in well doing. Let us keep the discussion going. Kat you were wonderful, you spoke for me.

  28. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the comments made in this post. I grew up attending an all Black church and its style of worship. Circumstances in my life took me to a small town where I had to choose either to attend a white church or not to go at all. I love the black "style" of worship. It was all I had been accustomed to. Let's face it. It is different. For three years I attended a church being the only black. At times, it was difficult. But, I made up in my mind that I was not there for fellowship with those who looked like me, but was rather there for those who wanted to worship HIM. Today, 10 years later, we have added, Hispanics, Marshales, Asians, and more blacks. I would not want to be in heaven without the spirit, the personalities and the cultures that I have learned to accept and embrace. Praise God, the Holy Spirit impressed me to go each Sabbath. Although not perfect... in heaven it will be.

    • Hi Robin,
      Thanks for sharing your heartening experience. This is exactly the growth process I believe is a possibility with the willingness of the church leadership and the members. I wish conference officials (and on up) took note of such examples and encouraged more congregations to proactively welcome the same.

  29. This article has been very enlightening. Often I have seen quotations from EGW which relate to inter-marriage and are portrayed in a negative light. These have been quoted out of context, and the persons quoting have neglected to include her counsel to evangelize the black race. Thanks for enlightening us. Many of us do not have the time or the inclination to do the research. On the question of interracial marriage, the advice is perfect. I can worship with people of any race, however, marriage is a totally different issue (I am black)

  30. Thank you Bro. Baker for addressing this, what an excellent study! May God continue to use you...blessings always! May I repost this?

  31. On the subject of race and the SDA Adventist church the author is to be commended for tackling this difficult subject. I am also indebted to many of the people who responded to the topic with insightful, spiritual commentary about how we as members of the Adventist church should behave or react to the racism that exists in our church and society. There is however, a problem. The article appears to give tacit approval to the notion that “interracial marriage” is not approved by our church. Several quotes from Sister White are cited on the subject where she counsels against it. The author does not appear to refute or reconcile her writings on this subject.
    I have some thoughts about this topic that I would like to share. First, Sister White wrote her counsel at a time when racism was a virulent and often violent evil in our society. Lynching during the years 1882 - 1920 was at an all time high in America. “Separate but Equal” laws and policies had become the prevailing standard in the country. So like God when He instructed Moses about divorce in the Old Testament, Sister White gave inspirational advice based on what was prudent for when she wrote it. Moreover, we know from scripture that “God is no respecter of persons” and does not change. He created us all and we are equal in His sight.
    This brings me to my second point.
    Race is a human construct.
    Colonial America came to rely on slavery as a free labor economic engine in building the country. To justify this evil in their minds they reasoned that people living in what they believed were more primitive states, were inferior human beings and therefore sub-human or just superior animals. Consequently in opposition to the intentions of God they treated their slaves as if they were animals. If there is any doubt on this point, I refer you to the “Declaration of Independence” where it states that “All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
    Several years ago I listened to a discussion on NPR about “Race.” It was stated that in the year 2000 a distinguished panel of scientists had reported to President Clinton that after an exhaustive study of human DNA it could be stated categorically that “THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS RACE OTHER THAN THE HUMAN RACE!” They reported that human beings no matter what their skin color or ethnic background are the same. DNA only reveals where our ancestors lived. This is a truth that we who call ourselves Adventists ought to recognize and embrace.
    Which brings me to my third and final point – the SDA Adventist church is 50 years behind the times. Separate conferences on the basis of color are dinosaurs. So called “Interracial marriage” is commonplace. Its leadership should immediately promulgate and promote procedures and practices that ensure a colorblind atmosphere in our churches and church administration. In many ways, the workplace is more hospitable than some of our local churches. There are laws prohibiting discrimination and sexual harassment on the job. Complaints about racist behavior are dealt with promptly and penalties levied including dismissal. We usually have no such practices in place in our churches. Just the opposite in fact – members and pastors on occasion make bigoted statements with impunity. About a year ago I read in the “Visitor” about one of our churches that had celebrated the spirituality of Nathan Bedford Forrest (Founder of the “Ku Klux Klan”) and Gen. Robert E. Lee (Leader of the Confederate Army). Members and visitors of different ethnic backgrounds are discouraged openly from attending some of our churches. We ought not to tolerate such behavior. As God’s remnant people we must “Stand for right though the heavens fall.” Individually and collectively we are responsible to God for how we treat one another.
    The SDA Adventist church as an entity failed during the civil rights era to take an active part in the movement. As we read our bibles we see that God raised up prophets and leaders who spoke up and denounced the evils of their day. I believe that if Sister White were alive during that time and today, she would have endorsed the struggle for a more just society then and now and advocated for the active involvement of her Adventist brethren.

  32. Several references have been made to Regional or Black conferences in this discussion, with the implication that their existence is an indicator of latent racism in the church. Far be it from me to make any statement on that topic, but three years ago, Calvin B. Rock wrote an article in the Review, "Revisiting the Obama Message" in which he disagreed with author Frederick Russell and argued for the continuation of Regional Conferences.

    Since we've had such a good discussion going, I thought we might as well put this on the table as well, since I have often heard and seen the subject brought up in a negative light. Please read the article, and share your thoughts.

    Oh, and speaking of the Review, I note that the current edition of February 24, has an article on Wintley Phipps, "I Give You My Life," and an article by General Conference Vice President Delbert Baker, "Worth Remembering: Lessons from 2011"

  33. Re: "Calvin B. Rock wrote an article in the Review, “Revisiting the Obama Message” in which he disagreed with author Frederick Russell and argued for the continuation of Regional Conferences."

    When Inge posted this comment six months ago, it elicited no response. The silence seemed telling, an indication of a hesitance to even wade into the pool. I know it seemed overwhelming to me. However, after six months of intervening events, nothing seems to have organically or miraculously changed. Is it time to venture in?

    Although a lifelong SDA, I didn't even know Regional Conferences existed until I moved away from the west coast, well into my adult years. It was very surprising to me that the SDA church maintained such a separatist system. When I began asking questions, however, I found viewpoints both for and against, from both sides of the racial divide. I discovered a loaded and multi-faceted issue that has been tossed around for a number of years, with the less-than-satisfactory solution to declare a fragile truce and leave well enough alone. I have heard more than once that while many White church leaders would prefer to combine the conferences in a show of unity and inclusion, many Black church leaders have preferred to stay separate. This reminds me a great deal of a conversation with a local church elder when he presented the unconvincing premise that the different cultures shouldn't worship together, presumably because of differing styles, norms, world view, etc. He seemed oblivious to the impact this would have for the bi-cultural, bi-racial couple to whom he was speaking. So according to his viewpoint, on Sabbath morning the wise thing for us personally to do, is to get into separate vehicles and drive to our respective churches to worship each with our own kind? Seems a little ridiculous.

    The connection with the issue of Regional Conferences? While on the surface, this solution to the dilemma of how to provide the best possible worship experiences for all might seem efficacious and even wise, what is the long term result? At the church I attend, which graciously and generously went to work some years ago to build the growing Hispanic membership a church of their own, and which does nothing to proactively promote a welcoming of cultural and ethnic variations, there is now a glaring lack of diversty. Not only in the congregants themselves, but in the programming, music, social activities... What is left may be a sincere group of unified and like-minded worshippers, but it’s a very bland and lackluster environment that does not lend itself to vitality and growth. When challenged, the local elder will reply that the Hispanic portion of the congregation wanted their own church. To me, there is a great deal of similarity between this anecdote and the larger issue of separate conferences; you hear "the Black churches want to have their own conferences." Alright, so they do. Is this where the discussion ends? What about the obvious question "Why?" What is happening, that drives the desire for a breaking away from the larger body? The members of our local Hispanic SDA church have answers to this question, just as the members of Regional Conferences have answers. They may not speak up or they may not be heard, but the answers are out there, and with some diligent, open-minded, and Holy Spirit-led inquiry, they can be discovered. The thriving, growing, embracing culture of inclusivity designed and promoted by Jesus can be developed within the SDA church.


    Consider the General Conference President’s publically stated view on the divisive issue of clapping in church. ARE WE READY?

    Consider the proliferation of end-time warnings and the partisan challenges faced by President Obama since the very day he was elected. ARE WE READY?

    Consider the lament of those who consider themselves owners and operators of the local SDA franchise-- “We like our church the way it is.” ARE WE READY?


    • Dear Kat,

      The issue of churches divided by race seems foreign to many, but often today, the difference is focused primary upon perceived worship "style". As a church, we have not dealt very well with issues of racial integration -- not in the early days of the Seventh-day Adventist movement, and not today.

      I often fear that it will be God Himself that has to sort it out, and while we know that He is all-wise and merciful and righteous, I expect that it won't be as nearly pleasant an experience if we wait for Him to sort it out, vs if we were to sort it out by prayer and supplication as found in Acts 1.

  34. Thanks for the observation Andrew. Unfortunately, another year has slipped by with no significant improvement in my geographical area. There have been plenty of examples of behavior not supported by Jesus’ teaching as recorded in the gospels. There has been a lot of talk about the Holy Spirit lately, but in many SDA churches, the fruits just aren’t visible. There are some who are forthright and unashamed in the narrow perspective that encourages the “outsider” and “insider” schism, but in contrast, I have met many more who seem well-intentioned, just uninformed. Many who would like to learn more about unity in diversity and want to function as irresistible advertisements for loving, engaging, welcoming church congregations. But how do we expect those with little to no experience interacting with individuals of other ethnicities (or socioeconomic status, culture, backgrounds, etc.), to recognize the issues or even the discomfort of those who are “different” than themselves? After five years attending a church with a 100+ year reputation of elitism, a narrow traditional white perspective, and a social club mentality, the frustration remains. Not toward specific individuals or even a particular church congregation. At this point, frustration lies with the entity that has been entrusted with the shepherding of the world church. Isn’t there some responsibility on the part of those placed in positions of authority to enlighten, model, and inspire? Why not provide training and examples to promote a greater awareness? As membership shrinks and churches empty despite yet another Daniel and Revelation seminar, where is practical information that can enhance and support the efforts and desires of those who truly want to cross racial and cultural divides to share the Good News in their own communities?

    • Isn’t there some responsibility on the part of those placed in positions of authority to enlighten, model, and inspire?

      Yes, Kathleen, there is. Unfortunately, it has been well prophesied by God through Jesus, the Apostles and Sis White, that we are going to see the wrong elements within God's church until two things happen:

      1 -- God's people repent of their backslidings and humbly beseech Him for the power of the Holy Spirit

      2 -- God purges out those from His church who are not doing the above via sifting and shaking.

      This problem will not be resolved through organizational programs and activities, but by each person seeking wisdom from on high. I believe that there are many agents that will be employed by God in the shaking and sifting work, and this could very well be one of them.

  35. Thank you for your response, Andrew. Am I missing something? Is there a policy or some unwritten rule in place prohibiting Adventists from educating themselves regarding race relations? The description of and response to the 1999 Race Relations Summit as described in the Review was so encouraging, and then nothing more. I agree that race should not be an overriding factor. Living the Gospel Commission is our directive as Christians. However, when misunderstandings or lack of knowledge becomes an obstacle to winning souls, it seems like seminars to enhance the interactions between people who differ in various ways would be a positive thing. Is there a downside that I am not recognizing? It isn't just a black/white issue. Similar challenges exist when dealing with differences in socioeconomic status, educational level, cultural and personal preference. People visit church and never come back and we don't know why. Is it wrong to encourage local churches to fill this void and provide in-services, if not for the entire congregation, then at least for those who are in positions such as outreach ministry, lay evangelist, bible worker, and pastor? I just don't understand the brick wall thrown up against something that seems so logical.


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