The Andrews Apology & The Bigger Picture
"Those who have grown up in brown/black skin ...
If this were a secular or world organization I would say unequivocally that we should have our own organization. We must do for self. We should not have to beg for a place at the table when we can build our own table. We should not break our backs to be a part of an organization that refused to give us the basic human dignity of equality. However, this is not a secular or worldly organization. This is the church. This is Christ’s community. This is what He came to build, and He repeatedly said that we should operate differently than the world.
Therefore, in terms of the future of ethnic/race-based conferences and whether or not they should remain in their current form, I believe the time has come to begin the discussion of restructuring. I do not think we can legitimately biblically argue against this. Surely we can make an argument for them sociologically, psychologically, even missiologically, but not, I believe, spiritually or theologically.
They simply are too inconsistent with the ideal community Christ is seeking to establish in us. The “why” is clear.
The issue that we are facing then is not the “why”, it is the “how”. I have yet to hear anybody that is vocal about the dissolution of ethnic/race-based conferences even begin to broker the discussion of how this would be accomplished and what it would look like. As I said earlier, while we strive for the ideal, we live in the real.
And the reality of the situation is that if we (Regional leadership and employees) were to nonchalantly go along with some grand restructuring proposal in the name of Christian unity, we would stand to get the short end of the stick again. The reality of the situation is that if we simply allow them to disband these conferences, many of the Regional leadership and workforce would simply be out of a job. Presidents would have to revert back to pastors, and pastors would be heading back to school to find other means to support their families. This is the reality.
The reason these conferences were established in the first place was because the church refused to grant the Black brethren full equality and participation in the mainstream church. Instead, they opted to give us our own conferences, which have since flourished. The question that must now be asked to those seeking to dismantle these conferences is whether the church is now willing to acquiesce to full equality and participation. There are many that would say no.
Is there a way to restructure the SDA Church in a way that is not divisive by ethnicity or race and be financially, economically and sociologically beneficially for all parties? I believe there is. But both sides would have to approach it with extreme humility and with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and I’m not sure either side is that spiritual. The world church still has yet to apologize or acknowledge the evils and atrocities of segregation and apathy that they consigned on against black SDAs. And blacks are still very much filled with anger, hurt, distrust and skepticism, and rightfully so.
The “how” must be a how that allows everyone to keep a job. It may not be their previous job, but there is no way that you can have hundreds or thousands of pastors, teachers, or office workers in unemployment. The “how” should also realistically keep the regional structure. It just makes more sense then having separate organizations for each state, both financially and missiologically. But here’s the issue: if we’re talking about being completely fair and economical, and we’re talking about restructuring so that all conferences are regional, many of the state conference’s officers and workers stand to lose their positions. And if we’re honest with ourselves, even if we maintain a job in the denomination, any of us would consider a demotion from conference president or secretary to anything else a slight. None of us are that spiritual. It’s an issue of pride, and that is part of the problem. I have not seen any plan or proposal that deals with that problem. Then again, I have yet to see any plan or proposal at all. Just petitions that don’t lay out any realistic blueprint for how this is supposed to work. Maybe when I see a “how” I’ll start to pay attention.