The GC's stained-glass ceiling


(system) #1

By Alexander Carpenter

"Imagine a Black youngster approaching their Adventist-worker parents with these questions: “Dad/Mom, are all positions in the church open, or are some closed to people like me?," so asks Roy Adams, Associate Editor of the Adventist Review. His rhetorical child continues, "Are there glass ceilings in the church?"

And then Roy asks us, "What would be the honest answer from an informed Adventist parent?" Recently the Adventist Review changed leadership and Roy Adams was passed over for Bill Knott who recently finished his dissertation in journalism, actually history. As noted before in Spectrum, some Adventists expressed sadness that someone so qualified, experienced, and gracious not even be nominated. Adams asks: "What are people really like in their true selves, behind closed doors, away from the cameras and microphones?"And then he hammers it home. We’ve been in existence now for more than 160 years; and we’ve represented ourselves as an interracial, multicultural, multiethnic global community. But what do our actions say? That thought came to me about three or four years ago as I walked the halls of the General Conference, looking at the pictures that adorn the walls of key departments in the building—pictures of the church’s topmost officials over the years. I counted 92 leaders, 89 of them (96.7 percent) Caucasian. This one reality trumps all our professions about diversity. They tell the story of a glass ceiling beyond which certain folks cannot rise. It’s as if there’s an unwritten understanding that certain positions in the church are too sensitive for certain ethnic groups to occupy. The United Nations can afford to take that risk, but the church is much too delicate for that!As a fifth-generation white Adventist I'm proud of my community's history; but reading Roy I'm ashamed too. Sure some racists out there will laugh him it off as quota-calling, or mumble something about white guilt, but the reality is that they just fear new power shifts and they have not yet seen that long arch of history bending toward justice. A record of 96% is the kind of color bleach out that Clorox craves. We don't need a quota for this wash, we need a whole new laundromat, and maybe a bit less silver and some more red & yellow, black & white in our spring. There's no doubt that right now it's an old white boys-only club with power given to those who look and sound right--theologically, sartorially, votingly, i.e., culturally.

I have nothing against the Review with its crashing circulation numbers (less than 25,000), but if our church paper is going to continue calling itself the "flagship journal of Seventh-day Adventist Church"--it had better raise its colors a lot higher and soon if it's going to witness to a world smashing through marble, glass, stained-glass, and even celluloid ceilings.

The last time I checked "Revelation," I recall an eschatological vision where every nation, tribe, tongue, and people aren't floating around in ships. No, in fact, the saints stand together with Christ on top of, yes, that sea of glass. Come on church leadership--let's look and act like we mean it today.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4343