North American Division President Issues Statement on Garner/Brown Protests


(system) #1

In a special edition of the North American Division Newspoints, the president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, Daniel R. Jackson, issued the following statement on December 8, 2014 in response to the growing number of demonstrations following the grand jury decisions rendered in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Eric Garner in N.Y.:

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America is deeply saddened by the tragic death of Eric Garner and the heartache it has caused his family and community. We extend our deepest condolences and continue to pray for his family.

“The recent grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Mo. in the death of Michael Brown and Mr. Garner in N.Y. have stirred great emotions in the hearts of many Americans who question the equity with which all of God’s children are treated. Many citizens, including Seventh-day Adventist pastors, educators, and students have participated in non-violent marches, peacefully calling for equality and asking for change. We continue to support the right, which we are afforded in this country, to peacefully speak out and call for change.

“It is time for our society to engage in open, honest, civil, and productive conversation about the rights and equality of every member of our community. We pray that the tragedy of these two deaths will bring about much needed change and address the pain that many ethnic groups are facing in this country. We pray that awareness will lead to a two-way conversation that will lead to healing.

“We pray that those on either side of this conversation will speak with peace, love, and grace.

“We pray for the day when all of God’s children treat each other without suspicion, bias, and hatred. As the Apostle Paul reminds us: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’”

President Daniel Jackson issued a similar statement after the shooting of black teen Trayvon Martin. -Ed

Photo: Dan Jackson speaks at 2014 NAD Year-end Meeting by Daniel Weber / NAD via Flickr.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6476

(Aubyn Fulton) #2

This is a good example of what makes the current climate in the Adventist Church so exhausting. Elder Jackson’s statement superficially appears to be taking some kind of morally courageous official Church stand on a difficult, important and controversial social issue - but it really is quite literally the very least that could possibly be said. Essentially we learn from this that the North American Division is not opposed to the First Amendment right of Americans to engage in free speech protesting government actions, and the NAD is also not in favor of hatred or bias, or killing unarmed people.

Sadly, the stand the Church is taking here is not courageously calling its members to fight injustice - much less engaging in the prophetic role of calling that injustice by its right name, but rather gently and almost apologetically telling its most conservative members that it is not going to discipline Adventists who decide on their own to protest the refusal to indict those who under color of authority kill black Americans. This kind of statement is not just insignificant, it is a positive harm, as its construction implies a non-existent moral symmetry between “two sides”, who each need to learn to conduct themselves according to Christian principles.

I do support a commitment to non-violence and the power of love as we look for ways to respond to the recent events which have brought to the forefront a persistent and longstanding injustice. I do not support refusals to take a stand, even when it might be unpopular or controversial. I guess I am glad my Church is not doing less than the least it could do - but I very much wish it was doing just a little bit more.

Here is what some other American Christians have said in the wake of Ferguson and Staten Island (see http://www.religionnews.com/2014/12/04/ferguson-eric-garner-decisions-white-christians-say-time-stand-blacks/):

“African-American brothers and sisters, especially brothers, in this country are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be executed, more likely to be killed....It’s time for us in Christian churches to not just talk about the gospel but live out the gospel by tearing down these dividing walls not only by learning and listening to one another but also by standing up and speaking out for one another,” said white evangelical leader Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission 

“’Love your neighbor as yourself’ means you picture yourself being choked and surrounded by five men while you say, ‘I can’t breathe,’” tweeted Scott Slayton, a white Southern Baptist pastor

(Tom Loop) #3

I like what Dan Jackson says here. He is trying to bridge the divide, while others who will criticize him as milk toast seem to want to turn this into a racial referendum. Has there been great strides in breaking down walls of racial prejudice in the past 50 years? Most certainly! Is there need to advance more? Absolutely! What does Aubyn Fulton expect when he comments here in criticizing Dan Jackson?
"Love your neighbor as yourself, may also include imagining yourself as a policeman. black or white in NYC, with the mentality of some today on those streets who would rather kill you as see you walk down the street trying to keep the peace. Perhaps NYC should go back to the days before Mayor Rudy Giuliani cracked down on criminals and reduced murders by 75% because he dared stand up to the criminal mobs who made NYC unliveable back in the early '90’s before he became mayor in 1994. How soon people’s memories fade. Giuliani, a republican won reelction with about 2/3 of the vote in a city that is overwhelmingly Democrat. The curerent Mayor sounds like former mayor David Dinkens. On his watch from 1990- 1993 NYC became the murder capital of the world. People were scared to walk the streets in broad daylight.


(Marianne Faust) #4

I like Dan Jackson and I think he meant well. But I think I understand Aubyn´s point a Little bit. When injustice is done, terrible injustice, like here, it is not good to hint or somehow suggest that there have been shortcomings on both sides. Although this might be true, it is no excuse for the injustice done to one side.
In this case like in all cases of injustice there are those who committed the evil and those who were the victims. Yes even the victims are imperfect humans. We all are. But this should never even remotely be taken as an excuse for injustice. It is just a truism, something we all know.
When a husband commits adultery, there is no excuse at all. Nothing can reduce his guilt for this adultery. Of course his wife wasn´t perfect, of course she wasn´t easy sometimes and so was he. Mentioning this is not a good idea. The husband has made the decision for adultery all by himself. His wife cannot take this guilt from him. He has to bear that 100 %: No hint about the wife´s imperfection can help here.
We must call injustice what it is, and not try to reduce it by hinting to the victims imperfection.


#5

It seems to me that context is always significant.
To what audience is this statement targeted?

Is it a statement of sympathy directed to Adventists in North America,
or is it a statement to influence the American public?
Is it a call to militancy, to justice, or to compassion?

As Adventists, we claim to be in the stream of prophetic tradition, which if we were true to, would include a whole range of assertions on public events, trends and the causes thereof. When our interventions are limited to specific outrages, we become hostage to the underlying implied politics of the incident, rather than being authentically principled.

While we can be critical of the pacifism of any leader, most of us blogging here, might be more useful if our voices for peace and justice were heard in our respective newspapers.


#6

We live in a police state for a reason. Without a heavily armed and overbearing police presence, many areas of the country would disintegrate into chaos. I have a white friend who was beaten to a pulp by white police after he led them on a high speed chase. By the time he was apprehended, the adrenalin of everyone was quite high. I don’t believe he even resisted arrest after they finally stopped him. They just decided to beat him because he deserved it.
Are the police going onto the campus of Oakwood University and randomly beating black students? Are law abiding blacks who act respectfully during police encounters the victims of police brutality? I agree that there is statistical evidence that blacks do not receive equal treatment by the criminal justice system. I think that is an economic issue as much as it is a racial issue. I know a large number of lower middle class and poor whites who also have suffered harsh treatment by the criminal justice system because they could not afford a good lawyer. The issue is as much influenced by poverty as it is race.


(Steve Mga) #7

Truman brings up a good point.
A reasonable law for one segment of society can be a real burden [unjust, unsympathetic] to another segment of society.
Take Anti-Loitering Laws. We have those in downtown Macon. These are good for business. Keeps the many sidewalk benches free to sit in for short term.
But for the Homeless they are a burden. There is no place for them to rest as they have to keep moving.
A couple of years ago 7 women friends from several downtown churches were together and found themselves discussing the plight of homeless women who had no opportunity to REST because of anti-loitering laws. It made them consider, What can we do to help them find a safe place to take a break during the day? By asking this ONE QUESTION it caused them to look at ALL the homeless in the down town, women AND men. We now have a place located near the downtown section called Daybreak. A daytime place where men and women can spend the day resting out of the cold, the heat, the rain. A place to shower, shampoo hair, shave, brush teeth, get their clothes washed, a light breakfast, afternoon snack. A computer for email, for job search. A telephone to call family, friends, social security, DHS, anywhere in the US and Canada. Good Will has an office to assist with job search. One on One learning to read classes. Use of computer class. A nurse once a week. A dentist once a month for oral check. This week a dermatologist for skin check. Assist with procuring needed medications. We even have one man who is assisted with taking his daily doses of medications.
All this happened because 7 women noted the Injustice of Anti-loitering Laws were having on a segment of society in need. The Anti-Loitering Laws are still enforced. The homeless are “off the streets”, not because they are in some ally way, hiding in some vacant building, but have a place to go to find a way to maintain their dignity, to maintain their health, possibly find assistance to improve their situation in finding housing, in finding a job.
The City of Macon said they counted the “homeless” and said it was around 500. [which is a lot of people]. Daybreak services around 1500 different persons during the year. Almost 1000 more than the “official” count.

Recently I had to become “homeless” for 5 weeks. I had a major car problem. It took 5 weeks for the fix it place to find and install the parts needed. It was either walk or take the bus for my needs. Buses do not run on Sundays at all.[No One can ride the bus to church on Sundays] [My SDA church was not near a bus line] [I walked to Synagogue for Sabbath Services. To take my friend to Synagogue, I walked to town to get him–30 minutes, and after took him home and walked back home-- 30 minutes]. One can spend at least half a day going somewhere, and then the bus not going near where one needs. It is $2.50 for round trip. I discovered some of the inconvenience of being “homeless”. The inconvenience of being poor, not being able to afford private transportation. The hours one has to waste each week if one is dependent on public transportation. One’s lifestyle revolves around public transportation needs.
“Being Poor” I had to give up going to my concert venues around town, give up going to eat at favorite places with friends [who I would take].[We had to stop all socialization as they lived in a different part of town] Stop taking a friend to his Sunday church. Stop taking car-less friends to their needful places. So “being poor” not only affected ME, but also affected others as well.
I discovered the phenomenon that “being poor” makes you rely on the “Convenience Store” nearby for some food shopping. Prices are not the best. Selections are minimal.


(Kevin Paulson) #8

My dear old friend, this may be one of those infrequent occasions when we find ourselves in agreement.

While I appreciate Elder Jackson’s desire to facilitate peace and mutual understanding in the midst of current national tensions, I am concerned about the apparent reticence to be more bold in the demand for justice. I think of the following Ellen White statements, written in an earlier context of race relations, which certainly don’t come across as trying to please as many and offend as few as possible.

Speaking of the infamous Fugitive Slave Act, she wrote:

“The law of our land requiring us to deliver a slave to his master, we are not to obey; and we must abide the consequences of violating this law. The slave is not the property of any man. God is his rightful master, and man has no right to take God’s workmanship into his hands, and claim him as his own” (1T 202).

During the Civil War she wrote:

“Many Sabbath-keepers are not right before God in their political views. . . . These brethren cannot receive the approval of God while they lack sympathy for the oppressed colored race and are at variance with the pure, republican principles of our Government” (1T 533-534).

Note, by the way, that “republican” has a small r.

A stronger appeal to curtail and reverse the injustices we have seen laid bare in recent weeks would appear, at least to me, to be warranted by present circumstances.


(Frank Peacham) #9

EGW has given us a rich heritage against slavery and educating people of color. She asked Whites to give “sympathy and consideration” for the colored race. There appears to be no racism in EGW.

She disliked slavery so much she believed that the Civil War was God’s punishment upon the USA. God “will punish the South for the sin of slavery, and the North for so long suffering its overreaching and overbearing influence.” What a punishment it was—from combat, accident, starvation and disease some put the number of the dead at 850,000.


(Richard Ludders) #10

What is interesting is that God’s punishment was not to interfere with the consequences of the moral depravity concerning the issue of slavery. This is what we see throughout the OT when God is seen as the punisher of Israel or her enemies.


(Randle Patrick) #11

The number of white students at Oakwood University is?

The number of black students at SMC is ?

And “regional conferences” exist in the NAD because of?


(Carolyn Parsons) #12

This is the root of the issue for me. Why are black people disproportionately poor?


(Steve Mga) #13

R.P
On my facebook page there was a comment by a Californian person who is not familiar with the concept of “Regional Conferences”. Not familiar with the Black and White Segregation in parts of the North American Church structure. Someone mentioned it on the conversation. She said Segregation was not part of the Culture out there, so she never even considered it. Hadnt grown up with it. And it was a strange new thought to deal with.
When I first arrived in Macon 9 years ago we had the White Conference church and the Black Conference church on opposite ends of town. They have never conversed with each in a public way in the past 9 years nor joined in a joint effort to “Evangelize” the Macon, GA/Middle GA area.
When I first arrived at the White church there were several black members and stayed that way until about 2 years ago. Then black members began to trickle in. I was noticing this last Sabbath that now about half of our congregation is made up of black families. They have left the Regional Conference and joined the White Ga-Cumberland Conference as members. And are OK with a White Preacher. As time passes they should become part of the Church Offices structure.
I realize the differences enjoyed between the White and Black churches style of worship [I enjoy Black church style of worship]. But never understood the complete isolation between the two when it comes to the Gospel Commission of preaching the Gospel to Central Georgia.


(Jared Wright) #14

Interesting to compare and contrast the content of Elder Jackson’s message with the statement issued by Northeastern Conference president Daniel Honoré.

Here is an excerpt:

As I think of my own sons and the thousands of minority youths whose spiritual home is the Northeastern Conference, I cannot but be compelled to join our voice to those crying out for a more just society. I join those calling on the Federal Government to conduct its own investigation into the death of an unarmed black man. The Word of God urges us “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause”. (Isaiah 1:17) I call on our pastors and lay leaders to speak up respectably in support of the safety and civil rights of our young men and women. Engage the youth of your church and community in discussion, action and prayer. We encourage your participation in public forums, marches and non-violent events in which Seventh-day Adventists can speak up for peace and justice without compromising our religious convictions.

See Honoré’s full statement here: http://spectrummagazine.org/article/2014/12/07/northeastern-conference-president-issues-statement-eric-garner-homicide


(The Prosecutor) #15

What injustice? There is no evidence of injustice. I think you are mistaken concerning the injustice in this case. The church should stand up and side with order, the judicial process, and government on these occasions. We are not a bunch of infidels. There was no indictment because the evidence did not support an indictment. The grand jury decided to not indict the officers. This is not the “color of authority to kill black Americas.” You are highly mistaken along with others.
Romans 13:1 - Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

Titus 3:1 - Be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work

Romans 13:4 - For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Exodus 22:2-3 - If a thief be found … and be smitten that he die, [there shall] no blood [be shed] for him.


(The Prosecutor) #16

What statistical evidence do you speak of? The judicial system bends over backward for minorities. The criminal justice system is not harsh. Everyone can get a excellent lawyer for free from the public defenders office.


(Carolyn Parsons) #17

Not if they are killed in the streets before they have a chance to access their rights.


(The Prosecutor) #18

The cop didn’t put him into that situation, the criminal did. He took him own life when he left the store. He took his own life when he reached for the cop’s gun. But yes, he doesn’t get a lawyer, because he didn’t listen and took justice into his own hands.


(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #19

You haven’t read much about death penalty cases, have you? You haven’t read much about the highly disproportionate numbers of minorities arrested & convicted, have you? “Disconnected” is an insightful username choice.


(Marianne Faust) #20

hopeful, what he writes is as disconnected from reality as this other “appstoreapp” was…