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

Thank you George. As I was reading Interested Friend’s curious comment, I immediately thought of the most famous march in world history and was delighted to scroll down and read your comment.


Sixty-five years ago, when I was a student in an Adventist college, I asked the question of Why do we have Regional conferences. It was explained to me that that structure provided more opportunities for minority ministers to be appointed in leadership positions. Well, nowadays we have minorities in leadership throughout our organization. Also, each church now contains a sprinkling of members of various ethnicities. It doesn’t seem as though we need to have Regional conferences any longer.

I agree with the thoughts Dwight is sharing in principle. How can a church belonging to One God, of people expecting to co-habit the heavens, worshipping together in eternity, not think about the Kingdom of God practiced on earth today. When we pray “Thy kingdom come” we ought to remember that we have to be ready for the kingdom to come. Our readiness comes when we let Christ “abide” in each one of us and rebirthing spiritual fruits (Love, joy, peace, gentleness, etc), fruits which Christ Himself demonstrated. He talked to the Samaritan woman and brought the gospel to her, reaching across the tribal/racial/ethnic divide and prayed in John 17 that we be united. If that is not our goal (to be united and abide in Christ) and we are not practically working towards it now, then our Christianity is mere words.
However, we got to first of all understand where the segregation started and why. Without revisiting that scene and holding a healing dialogue, we can sign all the petitions we want and it won’t work. Christ is not installed into the heart by a 1000 men march or petition to the GC. Christ is installed on our knees, petitioning heaven to transform and renew our minds (Rom 12:2). Unless we start thinking differently about each other, we will remain a gospel joke and a disgrace to the cause of Jesus. Those who were in the forefront of the promotion of racial divide (by hook or crook) are to take the initiative by removing the hookery and crookery used, come humbly at the throne of grace and ask for a cleansing, then invite brothers and sisters that were thus offended to come join. I wish Dwight has said that it is time that the white conferences were disbanded to form conferences that represent Christ’s love. But reaching over the isle to try to remove a dust particle from your brother’s eye while you have a huge log over your eyes does not help in making the brother trust that you are of any good.
Regional conferences were formed out of hurting and to blame them is tantamount to blaming a rape victim for their self protection against a repeat offender. Sorry if this is too graphic, but that is the reality that brought the regional conferences. If there had been equal representation, fair treatment, and benefits fitting the specific needs of the minority, we would not be discussing this today. But it has to come to an end if we are not just playing church and are truly believers that there is a God in heaven and that His coming is SOON.


I very much doubt it. I do not see how this type of agitation is of any benefit to a university congregation.
In The Grip of Truth

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What I have found distressing in reading through this thread is the actual ignorance of the events regarding the formation of regional conferences. But here is what I have not found discussed in enough detail. it is that we do not have an organizational problem as much as we have a pew problem. The truth of the matter is, our caucasian brethren want racial unity in theory but not in reality. How many whites visit black churches? Furthermore, how many white congregations remain white once a black pastor is assigned. Black members join white congregations all the time and stay. But once too many blacks join white congregations white attendance dwindles quickly. If our church ever resolves the pew issue, the organization will change quickly. As much as we would like to, the truth of the matter is, you can’t legislate love. I’m glad that the conversation is shifting away from getting rid of Regional Conferences and moving towards reorganizing all conferences, but I’m not sure that will ever happen, because the power and control spoken of earlier in this thread prohibits a move like that.

I like others in this thread, love my church with its flaws and imperfections. God help us to love one another and to live like we do.


I get it that being racially segregated at least in practice sounds horrible in 2015. But I also know that many brothers and sisters of the African American persuasion aren’t very excited at the prospect of being part of Jay Gallimore’s Michigan Conference which as of late has gone on a crusade against drums in church and has an underlying goal of being the most boring institution in all of Christendom. Unity inthe church too.often means whitity.


You’re right on point, Pastor Palmer. The call that should have gone out was for dismantling the structures of white power, privilege and prejudice in the Adventist church, beginning with local church and moving on up.


I am absolutely not concerned with those who disagree with me on this issue. They are not open to anything, they just want to maintain the status quo of keeping women out of the equation, and under their lid. Of course they will not listen to me! With their agenda of discrimination, why would they listen to me if I talk against that very agenda?

When I refer to those who discriminate against women as “discriminators” it’s because this is what I think they are. But, of course, this is my personal opinion.



I am still not sure that you are serious about it… Agreeing with me? Check your temperature fast, you may be running 107F… :slight_smile:

Welcome to Spectrum!
Glad you are here. Keep contributing with your experience in ministry.

Well, Jay Gallimore is also the one who forbade the LSU Chorale to sing in the territory of his Conference some time ago. With this kind of retrograde mentality out there, I am glad I don’t live there - thus I can keep attending an SDA Church…


I am troubled by the tremendous hurt that is characterizing this debate…

Well, yes, why not?

If whites are FOR regional conferences, it is called playing power games, if whites are AGAINST regional conferences it is a white supremacy thing? Can’t win, it seems. As a European I really have difficulties with the subtleties of the issue and am puzzled by the logic (on both sides).

Let me take the UK as an example… Almost no white Adventists left (less than 15%, mostly elderly people), far fewer if you count “indigenous British” (as there are more and more immigrants from Eastern Europe). Evangelism among white British people? Try it! The latent (if only “cultural”) racism of the society (which political correctness doesn’t talk about) doesn’t allow for success. And the experiment of “whites only” churches didn’t work either… So what are we to do?

I tend to listen to my father in law (one of the few white British Adventists left) who for decades served as pathfinder leader and elder in a black church - happily working together with his black brothers and sisters. He never understood segregation, nor would he ever have thought that the church voted him into office because of the colour of his skin - or, for that matter, despite the colour of his skin. He simply didn’t think in those categories. Perhaps he was ahead of his time.


Chaplain Smith, thank you for your comments. As a co-author of this report, I did indeed miss your remarks on the petition page, and I apologize for that. I appreciate your sharing them here. A welcome addition to the conversation.


As a child, I could never get an adult to answer me when I asked, “why are there separate churches if we all go to the same heaven?” I was 7. Going to camp meeting, driving by the “white church,” later growing up and realizing even the academies were segregated, i kept asking the question.
At one point, during my early teen years, I was admonished and told by elders that I was letting “the devil” use me." But, otherwise I was never given an answer that even came close to making sense…rather than choose to go to an Adventist academy, I was lucky enough to have been recruited by several of the nation’s top private prep schools. I chose to attend Choate, in Wallingford, CT…by the time I left there, I had decided that there was something deeply wrong with the Seventh-Day Adventists’ attitude towards race - and people of color like me. I refused to ever go back to an SDA church or activity.
That was 40 years ago. Considering the time and age we live in, and THIS is still an issue - one that too many will resist - i am feeling blessed to have left this denomination behind, as troubled and ‘wicked’ as Catholicism. Today, i am a practicing messianic Jewish believer…I believe with all my heart and soul THAT is what the Lord will lead us all toward - and “out of her,” the false teachers and protectors of human wickedness, like the coddled racism inherent in ethnic conferences…

I could change my mind however, if someone can answer honestly and succinctly, why if there are no separate heavens, how any faith can justify any practice or institutionalized racist practice that keeps people separated according to color lines.

This sermon - in 2015 - is onpoint, but appalling, in that such an article should NOT EVEN be necessary from, by and for a True follower of the Messiah.


Is Pastor Nelson implying that by eradicating ethnic conferences institutional racism will go away? Going for the ethnic minorities seems like the easy way to fix the problem, what about the other side? Would white leaders share their power with those display ethnic pastor/leaders? He needs to look at the circle of friends who lead other university churches to see that out side a female pastor most of them are white males? Soon he will preach for Oakwood to be more diverse! Perhaps his proposal is not realistic and he cannot see based on his privileges as an influential white male in the church. There is more to be done if we want unity, before we blame ethnic conferences.


I agree with Chaplain Smith about the history of Regional Conferences and the opportunity it provided for Black leadership to be developed. I also agree with Dwight Nelson’s effort to continue a discussion about where this is all heading. I believed, like others who have commented, that the issue is way bigger than just Black and White conferences. Ethnically homogeneous churches are emerging all the time and get in the way of Adventists of all races worshipping together and learning to work and play cooperatively. The solution will be found in a fundamental overhaul of Adventist structures involving a form of proportional representation of ethnic groups at every administrative level and in every institution of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Realistic to hope for in present circumstances? Probably not. Likely to occur some day? It would probably happen in a heartbeat if there is a global crisis and working together for survival becomes the only viable option. For example, consider the Seventh-day Adventist Church in China where crisis has given rise to scores of ordained female pastors, while the rest of the Adventist world stumbles hesitantly toward acceptance of the ordination of women.


Hymers, good to see you here. When you say:

do you really think it is a “political” issue of church structure only? In Berlin we tried hard to integrate immigrants from the former Soviet Union into our churches— integrate, not “absorb”. There was, I believe, respect on both sides. Yet they did not feel at home, preferred to worship in their own style. Today we have a Russian Adventist Church in Berlin, as well as a Polish, a Spanish, a Portugese, a Korean, a Ghanaian (growing like mad), an English speaking church. And that is not about “power games”. We feel enriched by this diversity, not threatened. Maybe that is the difference? I don’t know. I really am puzzled. But it seems to be more than issues of power and control - though that is definitely (unfortunately) part of the equation.


Two different aspects get confused whenever this issue is discussed. One is the need to ensure autonomy/parity that’s met by regional conferences. The other is the fact, identified by exponents of Church Growth years ago, that most people like to worship w/ others like themselves. The latter aspect will continue true even when the former becomes irrelevant.


Wanting to worship with others like themselves

“Wanting to worship with others like themselves” is a learned behavior. We are all human beings with different skin pigmentations.