The Andrews Apology & The Bigger Picture
"Those who have grown up in brown/black skin ...
There has been much discussion in recent years and months on the subject of Regional Ethnic/Black Conferences and their role within the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church. There are many prominent voices calling for their dissolution from the standpoint of biblical unity and community to which Christ has called us.
I do not believe the question of why needs much more attention. The history has been rehashed and rehearsed. By now we should all be aware of why these institutions are in existence today. We are aware of the pervasive history of racism, injustice, and most of all, passivity on the part of the SDA Church and church officials causing them to take the road of least resistance and going along with the prominent racial views of the dominant society.
As I write this, the racial debate has recently regained national attention. Nine innocent black people have were recently killed by the hands of a white supremacist terrorist. The meaning of the confederate flag and related monuments are being re-examined. And black churches are being burned down all throughout the south, including one of our own (College Hills SDA Church in Tennessee). In light of these events and the countless others that have taken place within the last couple of years, I believe more than ever that blacks should have their own institutions and organizations. However, we are not just another organization; we are the church, and I believe we are also aware of the high standard to which scripture calls us. Scripture is clear that in Christ, there should not be such divisions. There is no conception anywhere in New Testament framework or theology that calls for a “separate but equal” philosophy in the church.
In John 17, Jesus undeniably prays for unity within His church akin to the unity enjoyed by the Godhead itself (John 17:20-23). Jesus was very clear about the vision He had for His church and I am 100 percent sure that having an ethnically or racially divided church structure is not one of them. In 1 Corinthians, Paul is dealing with a church split into different factions based on preferred leadership and apostleship (1 Cor. 1:10-17). He does not mince words nor bridle his tongue in correcting them. He asks the poignant rhetorical question “is Christ divided?” He points that there is no division in Christ and those that are perpetuating this division are spiritual babes and not yet mature (3:1-4). In the book of Romans, Paul again addresses divisions, this time between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, pointing out that we are all in the same spiritual predicament. (Rom 1-3)
So regardless of the socio-politicial and racial narratives and histories that have colored the SDA Church leading to the formation of these separate structures, to me, the biblical mandate is clear. Believe me, I understand the history. I know why this happened, but I also know it is not what God intended for His church. But we live in a sinful world and I am well aware that the reality does not always line up with the ideal. That being said, should we not strive for the ideal? Should we not, as Christ’s community, be striving to look like a transformative community where races, genders, ethnicities, tribes and tongues can come together under the banner of Christ?