Adventist Church Among the Black Churches Set on Fire in South

A Seventh-day Adventist congregation is one of several black churches in the Southern United States that have been set on fire by arsonists in recent weeks. The College Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church in Knoxville Tennessee was targeted on June 22. Hay bales and bags of dirt were set on fire outside the church, and a church van was burned. Authorities have ruled the event an act of arson, but have said that it did not amount to a hate crime.

As a young black Adventist woman it shames me to admit my default mode is silence. I’m the one politely nodding at whatever you say. I guess that means I haven’t seen church as a true safe space to share my story. What’s worse, I haven’t pushed myself to hear the stories of those around me and ask how I can help. Scrolling through Twitter this past weekend, I realized the lack of safety for church goers, specifically at black churches, has extended rapidly beyond emotional issues. It’s extended beyond the nine deaths from the church massacre in Charleston.

For example, Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina caught fire this Tuesday, twenty years after being burned to the ground by the KKK. Since the shooting at Emanuel AME Church, at least six predominantly black churches in the South have caught fire. Other churches include:

College Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church Glover Grove Baptist Church God's Power Church of Christ Fruitland Presbyterian Briar Creek Road Baptist Church

While all fires are still under investigation, authorities are concerned about the growing trend. In California alone, police have noticed a spike in KKK flyer distribution in various cities. Marches for and against the use of the Confederate flag have sprung up across the South. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has taken Twitter by storm. Sermons and Spectrum forums aside, the truth is we’ve remained passive. While we may not have the power to influence every church in every denomination, we can influence our families, friends and home church. In my lifetime I’ve seen empathy reduced to a quick prayer, liking a Facebook status or debating the political implications of tragedy. It’s like we don’t quite know how to take that first step of action. Or we don’t know if we should.

When tragedy happens, our first response should be seeing what action we can take and opening safe conversation for church members who are impacted. Believe me there is grief. Our church is not immune to the tragedy of this world. The pain we see in the news and throughout the week is the same pain hiding behind the “Happy Sabbath!” of the polite woman taking her seat. And we have the chance to show we care. We have the chance to wake up and do what Jesus would do.

We’re currently researching ways to help the College Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church and other congregations affected by the recent fires. If you have pertinent information or specific ideas on how to make a difference, please leave a comment below.

Kelly Phipps, MBA, lives in Loma Linda, CA and works in healthcare philanthropy.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6893
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Thank you for bringing much needed attention to this issue for Adventists. The pattern is so disturbing.

And thank you for helping the College Hill Adventist Church. I’ve been troubled ever since reading the first mention here on Spectrum that reported this same conclusion:

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I fear these racial arsonists have learned to cover their tracks. Confederate flags may come down, civil rights protection may become settled law, but hatred remains in countless and perhaps silent hearts. One hopes and prays that justice will be done in all these cases.

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i can’t imagine anything more horrible than to be terrorized in one’s own church, which for many is a second home…to me, the fact that people can be filled with such hatred so as to perpetrate such a crime brings into sharp relief the true character of evil and it’s originator…who in their right mind would want to have anything to do with him…clearly, satan doesn’t love us, nor does he deserve any of our sympathies, or cooperation…

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If these consecutive burnings of specifically black churches do not amount to a hate crime…what does?

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On another site here on Spectrum I posted a comment about the destruction.
It is important to NOT let this intimidate a congregation into Fear.
If I was the pastor I would hold services at the church. Outdoors. Everyone sitting in their lawn chairs. With loud music. A Praise Band, and singing. Continue the Choir. Give an invitation to all homes in the vicinity to join on Sabbaths for the outdoor Church.
Have Sabbath programs geared to the Community of friends attending.

I would plan to build a much Larger meeting place. A Community Church. A Community Campus.
This also provides, through insurance, money to purchase a Much Better Community Services Van. One that can do a multitude of activities.

Next, I would plan to change the name of the church. Phoenix Seventh day Adventist Church, with its LOGO of the Swan arising out of the ashes.

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Isn’t this always the case, let Justice do it? Throughout the gospels, Jesus admonishes his followers to DO justice and harangues the religious orders for not doing so.

These ‘prayers’ for justice are as meaningful as prayers for a righteous wife. As one must first be worthy of a righteous wife, and then court righteous women until one stands out from the crowd, not because of her recognised righteousness, but because of her willingness to love despite ones unrighteousness.

Justice is standing vigil through the night at The ONEproject meetings to be certain they are not disrupted by the Historic crowd. Justice is foregoing the glories of San Antonio to house-sit the double-wide of the Regional congregation in Hammond, Louisiana. ‘Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.’

Trust The Process.

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Is this because the local pastor has shied away from discussing this? One of the “we don’t want to cause a stir” kinds of situations? How could anyone not see what happened, here?

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Hate and ignorance are the deepest shades of darkness. Prayers for these churches and their congregations…may they have peace despite all of this ugly side of humanity.

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It was interesting watching the video news clip and seeing these dignified women defend their callings. It was also interesting to take a quick glance at the letter. The letter contains the same sort of argumentation we have read in various TOSC essays written by opponents of women’s ordination. The white supremacist/male headship adherent who wrote the letter probably did so to make life more difficult for the women pastors, to disparage them, and to undermine their ministries. Damascus Road experiences are rare but sorely needed in the Seventh-day Adventist Church right now.

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it’s such a pity that so many in our church haven’t taken the time to think through the logical implications of headship…it really is a very ugly perversion of husband headship…

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Never mind… not going to waste more time.

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The Nightly Show discussed these church burnings last evening.

To help, Adventists could join forces with the Episcopalians, who have already launched a campaign to raise money for the Adventist church in Knoxville and the other three congregations that are confirmed victims of this evil. http://spectrummagazine.org/article/2015/07/01/multiple-faiths-raise-funds-rebuild-black-churches

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For some reason, my earlier comment that draws attention to the threats made against women pastors is missing. This is the online story that contains the interesting video news clip: http://www.rawstory.com/2015/07/latest-blow-to-black-ame-churches-in-sc-letters-threaten-to-kill-women-pastors-and-their-children/.

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Why was it necessary to expunge portions of Great Controversy? Wasn’t it because those portions were hostile to segments of Christainity? Apostate was a frequent word. It carried a fear factor which is close to a hate. Spectrum seems to promote a different kind of view of diversity. thank you. Tom Z

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This is totally unacceptable. @webEd how much of this type of incendiary language is going to be allowed? This is no better than those he is describing.

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I read that post. It should have been removed. With the vicious comparisons you are making between white supremacists and headship adherents, I would not be surprised (actually, I would) if you were removed as a poster like many others have been in the past.

Hmmm, I am now curious: Is that SDA Church going to accept the donations raised by those “apostate churches” to help rebuild?

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What are you complaining about? The language @phil used describes exactly what the case is.
Or do you think that the arsonists are black women???..

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