Dwight Nelson's MLK-Weekend Sermon Spurs Petition to Eradicate Ethnic Conferences

There are many reason I don’t consider myself an SDA anymore, this issue is high on the list. It’s very simple. I won’t go to a segregated church. Period. And before some of you say, “Well that’s because “they”…”. I don’t care and it doesn’t matter. In this day and age it’s shameful for any reason and I refuse to have any part of it.


Regional conferences continue because there’s a historical need for such structure to ensure that African-American Adventists have parity in decision making. So if separate conferences are to be eradicated, a solid plan is required to meet that need. In the western US, regional conferences don’t exist, but racial/ethnic ministries are divided under vice-presidents—which demonstrates that different needs do indeed continue.

The practical matter is complex. All the conferences have their own leaders & institutions. What a hard task to combine: it isn’t just a simple matter of regional conferences being absorbed. I believe it’s safe to guess that nobody’s come up w/ a really good plan.


I agree w/ most of your post. But, I would add that while the leaders & members of regional conferences own this decision, it is the non-regional conferences who are responsible for ensuring that there’s a viable decision to be made. We should not be conceptualizing the decision as one kind of conference absorbing the other. New conferences all around, I’d say,


I agree with your comment. There will always be many reasons for dividing more than uniting, be it for evangelistic or any other purposes. The idea of unity, although normally the more complicated and complex route, should be the one we strive for. Of course this will mean that we will have to be more tolerant, but that’s part of the maturing process in Christ.

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"whites have no standing towards any decisions when it comes to racism…it’s like straights telling gays how to live their lives…"

Yet the BRI (SDA Supreme Court) can tell violinists how to play their musical instrument even if they have “no standing” other than deducing from biblical texts?


White conferences, first.


" I question Nelson’s motive in stirring up the pot."

As a comedian once said, “A washing machine’s agitator has alway been black.” But times have changed. I heard GE is coming up with a new model, with the color of agitator being an option. Of course, with additional charges.



As long as you keep presenting the issue this way, you won’t be taken very seriously by a large segment of the church. It can be framed as a difference of opinion on the roles of men and women in the church, but your accusation of “discrimination” immediately puts others on the defensive, and they aren’t as likely to listen to your reasoning–no matter how reasonable it may be.

Sadly, I’m afraid you may be right. Whatever happened to esteeming others better than ourselves? What about Jesus’ counsel to take the lowest position rather than striving for the highest one? Pride is always the culprit, and it has infected all of us to some extent.

Preach it, brother! And then mark it on the calendar that we agreed more than once in one week. SHOCKING!!


Let me just start out by saying that I am an ordained minister in the Seventh-day Adventist church and have served the church as a pastor for the last ten years. However, ever since the time I was in Seminary I have believed that ethnically separated conferences in the Seventh-day Adventist church are fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. What does the Bible teach? “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27–28 NKJV) In other words all the walls that have separated mankind for millennia have been torn to the ground in Christ. I believe we all have to ask ourselves the question: do we believe this or not?

If we do, then why are we continuing to hold onto our systematic racial divide? Yes I know that it was birthed in an era of ignorance, and yes I know that we still have much to overcome on this issue as a church and a nation, but how can we seriously say we are about the gospel when we have two churches in the same town whose members have no chance to interact with each other at conference events, who send their children to different elementary schools, different academies and even different universities? How can we say that we are serious about the gospel when the pastors of those two churches, who are trying to reach the same city, are never given the opportunity in a professional setting to take direction, interact, or collaborate together?

This separation only perpetuates the stereotypes and ignorance that still pervades our organization. Separate but equal was deemed unconstitutional by our secular government over 50 years ago – and yet we as a church still cling to it. Why? Is it because it is more convenient not to deal with all the pent-up emotion and pain some carry from a by-gone era? Is it because we don’t want to learn how to reach across the table and listen to one-another and learn to work together in harmony? Is it because we don’t want to humble ourselves and admit our past mistakes? What does the Bible say? “For you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3 NKJV) Let’s admit the fact that regarding the issue of ethnically separated conferences we have been anything but spiritual.

Its time to change that. It is time to do away with local conferences all together and use unions to oversee the churches. Let’s stop wasting money on all the redundancy that exists in our state and regional run command centers. Companies around the world recognize the competitive advantage of merging together. Instead of doing away with Unions in North America as many have proposed, why don’t we just do away with local conferences and do away with the ethnic divide in the process.


This seems like a power grab to me. Even if you restructured all the conferences, would black administrators be included and represented in the new structure. Would these new conferences be fair and equable in providing leadership opportunities for everyone. I think not. When there is a G.C. president of color then maybe I will have more faith in the intentions of those who advocate such a restructuring. Furthermore, I think it is the height of arrogance to suggest that the regional conferences be eradicated without reaching out to the regional conference leadership to find out how they feel. Moreover, I believe many in the regional conferences are happy with the way things are. We have full control of our own work and the freedom to worship in a way that is consistent with our culture. In fact many of the regional conferences are doing better than the other conferences. Therefore, if they want to join the regional conferences, then fine. But otherwise a move like this would be detrimental to the black work. Finally, with the history of the denomination towards the black work, I just have a hard time trusting the motives of those who wish to come together.


"they aren’t as likely to listen to your reasoning"

"First, one of the main issues why Regional Conferences were established was due in large part to our Caucasian brethren’s penchant for control and power. Let’s not be coy about this proposal. " - @chaplainsmith


It’s a shining case of political correctness; a White guy knows what’s best for Black congregations. Nelson should stick to his position of spiritual leadership.
In The Grip of Truth

Not everyone may agree w/ any one leader’s ideas for resolving the issues inherent in racially separated conferences. But! The healing of a racial divide is essential spiritual leadership.


So are they part of a regional conference, a white conference or an Asian conference?

Dwight Nelson is on target. I have personally discussed with him this matter from the early 1990s. Note carefully though, it is not a matter of getting rid of Black conference. Do not make that mistake. It is a matter of getting rid of all ethnically divided conferences–White and Black. In other words the black conferences came about because in some cases, the whites did not want the black people to mix with them. So the whites have to change. The blacks have to change. It must not be about black only. In other words, the language must never be “LET US GET RID OF BLACK CONFERENCES.” Instead the language must be “LET US REMOVED ALL RACIAL BARRIERS WHEN ADMINISTRATIVELY ORGANIZING THE CHURCH.” That is white and black. Some may argue that the blacks were only responding to a social program. However, Pastor Dwight’s point is right–we are not to be divided based simply on our color. It really look terrible.

Pastor Billy Graham refused invitations to speak in South Africa for almost 30 years. Why? Because he said if both black and white cannot come together to hear the sweet gospel of Jesus in one place. He will not be coming. He finally went when that was possible. Even int he united states Pastor Graham refused to preach in stadiums where blacks were not allowed.

I wish out Adventist pastors stood up the same way at that time. We did not have a good social gospel during the MLK days. It was ashamed how we responded to the Civil Right Movement and racism at that time. Even at the General Conference headquaters at that time there were bathrooms for Blacks and another for Whites. So it is great to hear a White pastor, and an Adventist pastor now speak out on racism so powerfully.

Remember, it is not about Black only. It is about Whites and Blacks. Both must change.

Barrington Brennen www.soencouragement.org


I saw Dwight Nelson using his influential position to present a Biblical rationale for structural unity within the community of faith, as well as remind Adventism’s next generation of leaders, many who were sitting in the pews, that our pioneers were radical thinkers on issues of social reform. He was trying to build up the nerve and conviction of the next generation to tackle the final wall of separation between God’s people, another separate but equal compromise to Christian unity. Nelson knows that, barring a crisis, it will not be his generation that will cross over the Jordan. He believes Adventism is actually behind American society in terms of integration, and there is no motivation within contemporary church leadership to change. But Dwight is reaching forward to a generation that hopefully will see what racism has done to God’s people, and will accomplish what God is waiting for. Thanks, Dwight, for beating on that wall.


Does this man have any idea of the history and ideals of the regional conferences? Or is this a some kind of weird plan co-opt the superior retirement programs those conferences enjoy—and the vigorous church support they foster? Had we had a women’s college comparable to Oakwood, where we trained women to be leaders and spiritual shepherds, we wouldn’t be arguing over ordination today, and women would be far more self-supporting and bravely organized. Right after WWII, when the African American Adventists asked for self-determination because they were not recognized equitably, the Anglo church didn’t think this was a great idea; they were still arguing about it 13 years later. Statistically, the African American church is more cohesive, more vigorous, more supportive of their programs, employees including retirement), churches and schools, than the Anglo church. Who are we to take that away from a spiritually and financially prosperous community of believers?


I could not agree with this more. Why not disband the so called white conferences instead? OR assimilate them into the so called Regional Conferences. Guess that is not an option and we know why. It’s about power and that is why white SDAs opted to create Regional Conferences in the first place.