I'm Glad We Have Regional Conferences

I feel caught between a rock and a hard place.

Truth is I have felt like this for a long time, but the events of the last few weeks have amplified this feeling. It is a feeling that many African-Americans, and especially young African-American Adventists, have been feeling for many years. We are torn. I am torn. I feel like my blackness and my Christianity are at odds.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/article/2017/08/22/im-glad-we-have-regional-conferences
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I’m glad to hear this point of view. As a white kid coming of age in the 1960s, going to school in an integrated California academy, my take on the Regional conferences was one of horror that “my” church would be so “racist.” We didn’t have Regional conferences on the west coast, and they seemed to me to be another evidence of bigotry. I’m glad to see a positive outcome, proving perhaps that God is always able to bring good out of any situation. Hopefully, the leadership skills being developed in the Regional conferences will spread through the church as a whole and help us find new ways to get along with each other.

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I guess you wanted to say the Adventist church has been diversified along racial lines…In fact I don’t see any division. God created ethnicity and it must be appreciated and enhanced. A person’s ethnicity connnects them to the world around them. The gospel is for all and that’s the most important. Unless we start fighting each other with racist’s comments and raising domineering ideologies against each other, other than that the Adventist church is well structured and diversified!

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I feel like you are putting words in his mouth. Historically the church is absolutely segregated by race. Today, people worship largely by preference, but let’s not sanitize why there are black regional conferences. It’s also ridiculous to categorize a perspective as racist simple because race is discussed. Let’s be sensitive to reach others experiences and respect them as real and valid even if you personally haven’t experienced similar realities. The church structures leaves much to be desired, the overlap of personal on the conference and union level because of the regional/state conference divide is expensive and can ultimately be ineffective in some cases.

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One thing I think is missed is that we shouldn’t do away with historically black churches or schools. They serve a people group in a way that is affirming to a segment of the population that might not be reached otherwise. However when it comes to bureaucracy and the structure we essentially have double the leadership that’s needed.

It’s a lot like having a wolf by the ears you don’t want to hold on but you dare not let go. Ideally we’d abolish all conferences and redraw everything and interview everyone for jobs. The problem now is think of all the good money we’re wasting by paying for redundant offices that could be spent either spreading the word or actually helping people. Everything financially is getting tighter, that’s what’s really going to drive this unification is the fact that we have 2 people doing 1 person’s work (at least in some cases).

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I am not aware of what type of assistance the Black SDA church here in Macon, GA receives from their Conference. But as far as soul winning, it seems to be MUCH MORE successful that the White SDA church I attend. Their membership is twice the White church, and they have a huge private school program. The White church has a small enrollment compared to theirs.

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I can’t resonate or have real fellowship with anyone , including Adventists, who are caught up and/or obsessed with national cultures or worldly issues.

I like to associate with those from any faith/persuasion who are spiritual and appreciates God’s word.

This>>>> "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have FELLOWSHIP one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 1 JN 1:7

Not this>>> “They are of the WORLD: therefore speak they of the WORLD, and the WORLD heareth them.” 1 JN 4:5

Of course, Christians are not to be exclusive, ascetic, snobs lacking compassionate people skills.

But this ongoing fixation & obsession with conflict, due to racism, gender, culture is a mental disorder and those who contaminate worship services at church can be likened to ones who pass gas in an elevator.

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If you are an African American SDA - then you are a minority and it is to your advantage to have conferences like this. But when the inverse happens like what happened here in South Africa and traditional “white” or “Afrikaans”(also minority) based regional conferences are forced to integrate with “black” conferences - I have to wonder - because here white minority conferences were regarded as rasist and the apartheid rule was applied. We have a lot of minorities in the church. The Jewish SDA is an example - they even have their own churches and a completely different worship style. I believe it is a good thing - being that it allows culture and language to add to the walk with God. I fully understand what you have written : just put “white” in place of “black”.

I understand the need for churches that meet the needs of those who don’t speak the native language well. In the US, we have Korean Churches, Spanish-speaking churches, etc. But the next generation no longer needs that assistance, as they are fluent in the native language of wherever they live. Language barriers can be a challenge, but skin color is irrelevant.

If members of all “races” can’t worship together here, we won’t be in heaven to worship together. There certainly won’t be any regional conferences in heaven. Paul says that in Christ there are no “races.” So why can’t we accept that? There is only one race, the human race. All other so called races are artificial constructs, created because of pride and bigotry. And, unless we overcome our pride and bigotry here, we won’t be “there.”

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Meade,

I can’t claim “blackness” as an inherent characteristic of my persona. But I do claim “Australianness.” And oftentimes that “Australianness” leads me to object to the way decision-making is done according to the protocols and needs of an Americentric church organization.

The overwhelming need of our Americentric church organization in all its lily “whiteness” is not for organizations and conferences to run in tandem, some catering for “blackness” and others catering for “whiteness.” Instead, our church organizations must embrace global perspectives to replace mono-ethic cultural perspectives whatever they be.

We must all stop anticipating that all are at the same place in our thinking and action about all manner of things. For example, we must allow everyone room to grow with regard to an understanding of ordination and gender, and even with regard to an understanding of sexuality. We must allow all to have opportunity to grow, and most of all ourselves, informed by the Word and the Spirit of God.

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I hope when Meade’s “blackness” (as he calls it) catches up with his “Christianity” that he can be happy.
Have we thrown in the towel on respect. diversity, and fairness? Regional Conferences are a disgrace in 2017. This was sad and hard to read

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Thank you for this response. It reminds me of the saying attributed by some to Confuscius that “the one who passes gas in church sits in his own pew.”

Glad we have Regional Conference!!?? I want to understand the writer’ point of view. However, I have a serious question? How do other non-Adventist Churches or non-denominational Churches that are racially mixed deal with all of this? Our church has failed in relating to the racial issues till it seems normal to do what we do. Let’s get mixed.

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This shouldn’t even be up for debate. It’s open and shut. Identity in Christ should always, always, always come first, no matter what. If you find yourself in conflict, you cut off what’s holding you back and then work on making yourself right with God. Yes, it really is that simple. Yes, really.

To any other identity you may have ( as a spouse, parent, coworker, neighbor, etc.), it should be an identity imbued with Jesus. Jesus first, every time.

Also, never listen to what others (be they inside or outside the church) tell you how to behave or think based on your skin color (or anything that isn’t based on rational thought), especially when you know for an absolute fact that it’s something that contradicts with what scripture says.

I sincerely hope that you’re able to see your way past this ridiculous nonsense. God be with you.

The existence of regional conferences is not evidence of “division”. Right now, our church hierarchy is organised along geographical lines, with separate conferences, unions and divisions for different geographical areas. Does this mean that a church is Boston is “divided” from a church in New York, because they are in different conferences? Is a church in Toronto divided from a church in Dallas because they are part of different unions? Is a church from São Paolo divided from a church in Kiev because they are part of different divisions? No. Churches belong to different conferences, unions and divisions in order to better organise the work as they minister to different communities. But geography is not the only criteria for creating organisations. If one looks at the local congregation level, there are often several churches in a single city, and the membership of each church is drawn from overlapping geographical areas within the city. Below the conference level we don’t assign geographical areas to specific congregations. Often congregations are based on language, ethnicity, preference for worship style, personal friendships, preference for a particular speaker, etc. This doesn’t mean we are “divided”. More than one congregation routinely ministers to different communities over the same geographical space. There is no reason why more than one conference could not serve over the same geographical space if this is a better more efficient way to minister to a particular community.

In the 21st century where communications transcend borders and geographical boundaries, perhaps geography is no longer the most important criteria for establishing and maintaining organisational units.

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I’m a white guy (please show picture of white guy with tie):

I think that it is time for the regional conferences to be disbanded. Many other white guys think the same thing (Dwight Nelson, etc.)

That’s my Christianity speaking.

But my whiteness says, “I am glad that we have white conferences, I am suspicious of black Christians. And that includes black Adventist Christians, especially those that voted for Obama. At some level, conscious or unconscious, these Christians decided that there were other issues more important than our dignity, our self-respect, our rights, and yes even our lives.”

Hmmm… Wait… wouldn’t that be racist if it were the actual way I thought? Wouldn’t I be guilty of horrible racism by saying things like that? I believe the author would think so.

But he is doing the same thing. The sooner he drops the warped view of white folk, the better he will be in the long run.

Thinking that his life, dignity or whatever is threatened by those Adventists that voted for Trump borders on paranoia… A vote for Trump did not mean a vote for racism or annihilation of the black community.

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Sir, it is absolutely not the same thing. You cannot simply switch “black” to read “white” and it be the same thing, unless you switch the entirety of the racial history of this church. Unless you switch it to a black dominant church that continued to perpetuate segregation within its churches and even within the General Conference (see Dr Doug Morgan’s book on Pastor Louis Sheaffe) (and my grandmother was a secretary for Elder HMS Richards and had to use the “colored” entrance and eat in the “colored” cafeteria in the General Conference headquarters). And unless you switch it to a black dominated Church leadership that decided rather than give the “white” brethren full EQUALITY in the church and its leadership (which is what the black clergy were asking for) they would rather give them their own conferences to do with as they will. So unless you switch out all of that history, you cannot simply interchange black for white and make that argument. The history is long and deep and the suspicion and mistrust is just as deep, especially with the older generation (my grandmother is still very much alive and still has very poignant memories of that time). It is a problem that will require forgiveness, repentance and healing. But in the meantime I am very much a firm believer of doing for ourselves rather than begging for a place at the masters table. It is also to be noted that it is a blessing and actually a miracle that the black brethren did not completely split and form a separate church as did other denominations dealing with this problem. They believed in this church and in its message and stayed in the midst of all that transpired. That was the spirit of God.

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Friend, I admit that there was racism in the past, and that there is some today, but does your grandmother still walk through that side door called “colored”? Was there not a black man at the head of the NAD, and one sitting in the oval office as well? Did not white votes put both of them there?

It used to irk me when my president would say, “I live in a house built by slaves.” as if there had been no progress since 1802. White boys and men gave their lives so that slavery could be eliminated in this country, a thing that happened no where else on the planet. To ignore all this, and believe that those Adventists that voted for Trump did so to threaten your life is to ignore the desire in their hearts for better things, and concentrate on a motive that was in hardly a single one of them.

So, yes, to switch black for white shows that there is some of the same thinking going on in black hearts. You and your grandmother can continue to live in the past if you like. But hanging on to that meme is only going to hurt your relationships with your white brothers and sisters who by and large wish you well.

I am glad that Allen Shephard has the boldness to speak up here which no one else does. I may not go along with everything he says, but if we are ever going to have equality and understanding we need to listen to the other side. Yet most white Adventists are terrorified to speak up because of the labels that will be put on them–the R word being the worst. We cannot live together in that sort of atmosphere. I hope our writer can see this on some level. And, yes, I know Black persons who voted for Trump.

I have recently read that the SDA Church is the most diversified denomination in North America.

I am fortunate to attend a church that is fully integrated between races. It is interesting that most of them come from countries in Africa or the Caribbean (like some of my relatives). They do not share the “chip” that most American Blacks do. I don’t know why this is, since there was racism, segregation, and slavery in the Caribbean as well. I love every one of these people as my brothers and sisters and find them friendlier than the average Adventist. It works in my church. We once had an African-American associate pastor until he took a senior position at a “white” church. Now we have an associate who is Hispanic.

Meade also talks about having our “own leadership” and “own conferences”, etc. We don’t “own” anything. The church and all its levels belong only to Christ.
I think the separate conferences are a very poor witness in North America. I would never join a church with separate conferences like this, and I am sure young Americans will not either. Nor would they want to associate with a church not giving full partnership to women pastors, at least in this culture while seeking to gently persuade other parts of the world to accept equality in the years ahead. I can only pray that we will all be Christians first and not nationalities, tribes, or ethnic entities first which seems to be case here. May we prepare for the coming of Jesus who expects, not perfection of every aspect of life, but perfect love for one another because we invite His Spirit into our lives.

I find it fascinating that no one ever goes to Jews that were Holocaust survivors or relatives of Holocaust survivors and asks them to “just get over it”…no, that would be insensitive… But African-Americans don’t even deserve 50 full years to get over Jim Crow, segregation and the terrorism that has been perpetrated on us in this country. And this myth of "we had a black president (US or NAD) so race isn’t an issue anymore) must stop. The events of the last 5 or so years should make that clear. It is that type of insensitivity, particularly among other Christians that made me write what I wrote.

I did not write that I hate white people…I did not write that I mistrust all white people…I did not write that the existence of Regional Conferences was right…in fact I argued that this is not the ideal that Christ has for His church. What I wrote was an honest expression of the duality and conflict that many African-American Christians and Adventists feel. I work with and under many wonderful, genuine white Christians. I too worship in a multicultural setting and love it. My comments had nothing to do with any of that. They were about being in a position to manage our own affairs because we can take care of ourselves and don’t need to beg for anybody else to take care of us. Our own retirements, our own career opportunities, etc. I don’t think that’s out of line to say. Ultimately Christ takes care of all of us because it’s His mission. But if it were not for Regional Conferences I wonder how many Adventist churches would be set up in these poor neighborhoods and inner cities…because I only see ours there.

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