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Celebrating Freedom – Adventist Black History — 97 Comments

  1. 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.

    Amen!(0)
    • 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.

      Amen!(0)
  2. 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)

    Amen!(0)
  3. Thank you Bro. Baker for addressing this, what an excellent study! May God continue to use you...blessings always! May I repost this?

    Amen!(1)
  4. 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.

    Amen!(1)
  5. 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"

    Amen!(1)
  6. 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.

    HERE IS THE REAL ISSUE: ARE WE READY TO STEP UP AND START THE DIFFICULT DISCUSSION?

    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?

    WILL WE EVER BE READY?

    Amen!(1)
    • 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.

      Amen!(1)
  7. 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?

    Amen!(1)
    • 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.

      Amen!(1)
  8. 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.

    Amen!(0)

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