Adventists for Social Justice (DC, Nov 4-6, 2016)

By: Jeff Boyd

Adventists for Social Justice is hosting its first conference in Washington DC, November 4-6, 2016. The theme this year is "Pushing Past the Pews."

Unfortunately, I dropped the ball and didn't figure out our new blog platform until last night, so I didn't promote the event before registration closed at Eventbrite. However, you can still donate to the cause at GoFundMe.

The Adventist Peace Fellowship will have two representatives at the conference. Board of Directors member Dr. Olive Hemmings will be speaking. Dr. Hemmings is a professor at Washington Adventist University, where she teaches Biblical Theology, Pauline Theology, Introduction to the New Testament and other New testament courses, New Testament Greek and Moral Issues in World Religions. Also, as APF director, I will participate in one of the workshops on church-based social action.

ASJ co-founder Tiffany Llewellyn has an interview posted on the Spectrum website. In that interview, Llewellyn addresses a question about why ASJ is necessary:

Whether we choose to accept the responsibility or not, this group is long overdue. Our denomination must experience a paradigm shift in our identified goals internally and externally as it relates to the community. The church is a hub -- when a community is hurting the question is asked “Where is the church?” We have been given a mandate by God, which also happens to be our organization’s mission to “do good, seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless and plead the widow’s cause.” This should be the focus of the church on a micro and macro level. We cannot seek to evangelize without first understanding the implications. We cannot misrepresent Christ as if He is not burdened by the injustices within society. We cannot preach passionately about Esther and Joseph, confident about what God called them to do, and be silent when it matters most. No, this group is not only necessary, it is overdue.

While I'm out at the conference, I hope to record another Adventist Peace Radio episode, even though I'll miss Friday's session. Look for an announcement of the episode on this blog.

Adventists for Racial Justice [Updated]

Adventists are responding to the recent killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling as well as the five police officers in Dallas, Texas (not yet named). The Adventist Peace Fellowship is preparing a statement and a plan of action that coordinates with efforts of others, but before that is released, we want to share what Adventists are already thinking, planning, and doing.

Pastor Dan Jackson and Pastor Alexander Bryant, leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in North America, released the following statement:

Statement on Shooting Deaths in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas

Daniel R. Jackson and G. Alexander Bryant, the president and executive secretary of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, issued the following joint statement on July 8, 2016. The statement is in response to this week’s shooting deaths in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and Dallas, Texas:

“We are heartbroken and disturbed by the tragic and brutal shooting deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five Dallas police officers.* We extend our deepest condolences and prayers for the seven people killed this week, the seven officers and two civilians wounded in Dallas, their families, loved ones, and friends. We also pray for the communities of Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas, and the heartache they are experiencing as a result of this tragedy.

“This week has been an extremely difficult week as we wrestle with the senseless loss of life. It is past time for our society to engage in open, honest, civil, and constructive conversation about the rights and equality of every member of our community. Having an open discussion means talking about difficult topics in a productive manner. However, we must move beyond the talking stage and begin to actually develop practical ways of dealing with racial intolerance in all of its forms — whether subtle or overt.

“This week we continue the struggle with what it means to fear for your life because of the color of your skin. We struggle with the pain that the African-American community feels. Last night we struggled seeing a hate so evil, so intense, that it led to the murder of those who were attempting to protect the right of American citizens to peacefully protest.

“We were deeply troubled by the shooting deaths of two African-American men by police officers this week. This brings the total number of blacks shot to death by police in the United States to 123 so far in 2016, according to press reports. We are equally troubled that five Dallas police officers were killed by a gunman filled with hate who, in his words, wanted to “kill white people and especially white police.”

“Let us be clear: the violent death of any human being is wrong. The deaths of these seven people in these three events are equally tragic and agonizing for God. While so many in our country are angry and frightened, hate and revenge are never the answer.

“We find wisdom and comfort in the life of Jesus. Human experience illustrates that hatred breeds more hatred. Jesus lived a life that demonstrated love in the face of hatred, and peace in the place of anger. Evil cannot be eliminated with evil; it must be overwhelmed with peace, love, and goodness. We know that there is growing anger, frustration, and alienation throughout our division. These emotions are accompanied by a growing distrust and fear.

“How will we personally and corporately respond? We believe that . . .

• Now is the time to listen, to hear, and to understand the cry of those living in fear.
• Now is the time for the men and women of the North American Division to stand up and link arms together, in peace and love, to say “NO” to racial inequality; and demonstrate that love is stronger than hate.
• Now is the time for our local congregations, for our state and regional conferences, for our educational and medical institutions to pray together, to engage in creative thinking together, and then to work together to strengthen what we have in common and bring the hope and healing compassion of Jesus to our communities.

“We pray for peace and compassion to guide our way forward as we acknowledge and seek to heal the hurt and fear that pervades this country. We pray, once again, for the day when all of God’s children, of all races, treat each other with love and respect rather than bias and hate.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, NIV).

* NOTE: At the time of this release the names of all of the officers had not been released.

Chaplain Michael Polite, who works in Campus Ministries at Andrews University offered this analysis on Facebook — CLICK HERE.

Pastor David Franklin, who leads the Miracle City Church in Baltimore, MD, used his Instagram account to promote a gathering at the Lincoln Memorial today, July 9, 2016.

Pastor Franklin was back on Instagram this morning highlighting the day’s upcoming events.

Attorney Michael Nixon posted on Facebook:

I’m encouraged.

I participated in a conference call that Oakwood University put together this morning along with 200+ other minority attorneys.

There is an SDAs for Social Justice group that went from 200 to 1500+ members in 24 hours – there is a conference call to discuss action plans and organizing this evening at 8pm.

I was reached out to by an Adventist publication to write a piece on how we as a church can get engaged & involved.

This time it’s going to be different. We are in this for the long haul. We will not be silent. We will not be shaken. We will not wait for another hashtag. We have the one we need: ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬.

Pastor Moses Eli of the New Beginnings Seventh-day Adventist Church distributed an email yesterday highlighting a 4-point action plan that “hundreds of black clergy” created in a conference call moderated by Rev. Dr. Emanuel Cleaver III:

Adventist Peace Fellowship Board member and pastor of Liberty Seventh-day Adventist Church in Baltimore, MD, Dr. Mark McCleary wrote to the APF leadership team:

These recent tragedies have jettisoned Adventists into public speaking like I have never seen in my SDA lifetime. I believe it’s part of the national (millennial rising) within the Black Lives Matter Movement, but also a unique prophetic energy long waiting to express itself in light of War and Baby Boomer generational social justice lethargy and alienation.

APF is needed and others like it. Lord, help us keep shouting, blowing the trumpet and searching for peace everywhere and for everyone until Jesus comes.

UPDATE: Fellow APF Board member and professor at Washington Adventist University, Dr. Olive Hemmings shared on Saturday evening:

Today we had church in DC with top officers in the NAD office – Dan Jackson, Alex Bryant, Dave Gemmell,  and many black pastors in the DC metro area and Baltimore present giving speeches and offering prayers at the MLK memorial. About 500 Adventists marched from the Lincoln memorial arms locked to the MLK memorial where WE HAD CHURCH!  We began our march at 6:30 pm singing “we shall overcome” and ended our vigil with the same at sunset.

Two APF Board members shared this list of actions we can take to work for positive change — 30 Things Your Church Can DO to Affect CHANGE! (Christopher Thompson, PELC, 9 July 2016). I appreciate the various areas for action.

There are surely other actions, groups, and preparations, but these are the ones I’m aware of at this point. May unity and peace guide our prayers and actions for a more just world. May God’s will be done on Earth as in Heaven, so that we will be unified in the reality that we are one humanity formed of one blood (Matt. 6:10; Act 17:26).

APF Statement on Florida Mass Shooting

The Adventist Peace Fellowship is devastated by the mass killing of members of the LGBT community in Orlando, Florida. We extend our deepest grief and support to the families, partners, and friends of the victims, and we stand in solidarity with individuals and organizations working to combat all forms of hatred, bigotry, violence, and intolerance. We also call on church leaders in the Adventist tradition to speak forthrightly to the fact that the slain in Orlando were by every indication targeted not only as an act of terror but also as an act of homophobia by an individual whose hatred was stoked by religious intolerance.

Since 2011, the Adventist Peace Fellowship—a broadly inclusive network that has sought to promote principles of nonviolence and a spirit of dialogue across theological differences—has included on our website a statement about both racial and gender justice. We realize it is a very imperfect document reflecting the fact that we are ourselves an imperfect and often sadly fractured community, but we hope that it might challenge all Adventists to a renewed commitment to the work of peace and justice in a broken world. The statement reads:

The Adventist church emerged at the height of slavery in the United States and was led by a group of young people from New England who embraced the most radical social reforms of their day,[1] including: abolitionism, elimination of class distinctions based upon birth rights, and women’s suffrage. The Adventist pioneers were led by a young woman, Ellen White, who was accepted by the fledgling denomination as possessing a unique prophetic ministry and authority. While the movement was in many ways a hotbed of theological exploration, vigorous debate, and radical thinking, on some questions the pioneers refused to allow for any compromise: White declared that individuals who publically defended slavery should be expelled from the Adventist movement.[2] She also urged Adventists to defy a Federal statute, the Fugitive Slave Law.
Despite these radical beginnings, the Adventist church over time became increasingly socially cautious and disengaged from pressing human rights issues. After an early period in which numerous Adventist women held important leadership roles, male officials increasingly came to marginalize women from leadership positions in the church that was originally led by a woman. During the Civil Rights era in the United States, the movement begun by New England abolitionists remained largely silent in the face of racial injustice. Adventists leaders and members were complicit with apartheid in South Africa and active participants in genocide in Rwanda.[3] Today, many gay and lesbian Adventists[4] are unable to find Adventist congregations where they know they will be treated with full dignity and humanity as persons made in the image of God.
You Are All One in Christ
The APF welcomes actions to repair historical wrongs and to put an end to all forms of violence and discrimination rooted in a refusal to accept the Other at the deepest levels of their personhood. We support women in ministry and at all levels of church leadership. We repent of all forms of racial and ethnic discrimination and seek ways of overcoming divisions based upon injustices of the past. Recognizing the complexity of the theological, scriptural, historical, and cultural questions concerning homosexuality in the Christian tradition—a matter that tragically divides Adventists no less than Catholics, Anglicans, and others—the APF, until such time as we receive greater clarity and consensus:
1. Affirms the dignity and fundamental human rights of all persons regardless of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation;
2. Embraces campaigns and actions aimed at ending all forms of violence, intimidation, harassment, and bullying of persons for their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation;
3. Supports public policies that maintain a clear separation of church (mosque, synagogue, or temple) and state, neither attempting to impose essentially religious or theological understandings upon society as a whole nor penalizing forms of religious expression and association that include their own understandings of sexual ethics;
4. Urges all Adventist churches to serve their communities as places of refuge from threatening, bigoted, and uncompassionate actions and speech; and
5. Encourages respectful, inclusive, and ongoing dialogue between persons with different understandings of what sexual faithfulness within the Body of Christ requires of believers today.

AT: Observations of a Black Seventh-day Adventist American

APF Board member and pastor Mark McCleary has recently begun writing for Adventist Today. His first article is titled, “Observations of a Black Seventh-day Adventist American.”

The themes in this portion stood out to me:

Christianity is not exempt from racism. It has absorbed racist norms, and the Christian church and its Adventist subculture offer a truncated version of Biblical egalitarianism. I am reminded of H. Richard Niebuhr’s book, Christ and Culture, where this noted Christian theologian and ethicist posits that the Christian Church is challenged to either emulate secular society’s elitism or model Christ’s kingdom.

Black SDA’s reacted to White SDA racism by accepting the latter’s suggestion to establish Regional Conferences in 1944. Since then, Black SDA’s have turned the other cheek, while White leadership has winked at the practice and impact of racism within the Church.

In my opinion, the nature of the comments people have made in reaction to his article point out the necessity of his voice and demonstrate how difficult it can be to foster positive and healthy dialogue online.

To improve online communication and to improve our understanding of racial issues, may we each be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19).

See the complete article here.

Adventist Author Using Kickstarter to Fund Book on Social Justice Advocate

Adventist author Debbonnaire Kovacs has launched a KickStarter campaign to fund a children’s book about John G. Fee.

Kovacs describes Fee:

Fee was an astonishing man for his time. In the 1850s, when race and slavery issues were heating to the boiling point that would set off the American Civil War, Fee was working hard to educate both black and white students, and both male and female (another taboo of his time) together. He was a staunch abolitionist, anti-racist, and anti-sexist–and he lived below the Mason-Dixon line that separated slave states from free states. He started a school and a church on a wooded ridge in central Kentucky, which have grown into world-famous Berea College, the Church of Christ, Union, nicknamed Union Church, a second church called First Christian Church, and ultimately, Berea, Kentucky, itself.

To learn more about both Fee and Kovacs’s campaign, click here.

Walla Walla University Opens Race and Ethnicity Studies Center

Walla Walla University has opened the Donald Blake Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture—named after one of the first black tenure-track faculty members to be hired by an Adventist college or university. The center will promote research through an annual conference, and encourage student involvement in matters of social justice.

The center also will offer pedagogy workshops on curriculum inclusiveness and multiculturalism, and it “will aim for excellence in thought, generosity in service, beauty in expression, and faith in God through the promotion of research, the provision of pedagogical resources, and the encouragement of student-led acts of service that relate to race, ethnicity, and culture.”

Read the full article in the Adventist Review.

Unlocking Revelation and U.S. History

In church this past Sabbath, I listened to a sermon about the United States in biblical prophecy. The sermon was part of a prophecy series (Unlock/Unlocking Revelation) that is being preached across the Lake Union Conference, not just in our single congregation (Media: WNEM5MLive). I was told there are over 170 locations running the series simultaneously.

I like our local pastor. I respect him. My frustration with the sermon is not about him (I don’t believe he wrote the sermon). My frustration is about a very white-centric view of U.S. history. For context, the pastor is white, I’m white, and the majority of the small congregation is white (more so now than when we began attending three years ago).

After writing an initial draft of this blog post, I shared it with him so he could comment before I posted it. I’ve made a few revisions based on that hour-long conversation.

The basic theme of the sermon—and this is an overly simplified summary—was that the U.S. started as a good Christian nation, but now our laws are becoming bad, which is clear since we are losing our Christian freedoms. The breakdown of the family and laws that allow this were the key example of the current problems. Presumably this related to same-sex marriage, but this wasn’t stated outright. This degradation was paralleled with the second beast of Revelation 13, the one that has horns like a lamb but speaks like a dragon.

So what the sermon was really saying by describing a fall from good to bad was that slavery did not discredit the early great Christian version of America. The U.S. was still godly. But today U.S. laws don’t support a certain version of Christian ideals relating to the family, so now we’re falling. However, this disregards the generations of families in slavery who were ripped apart as they were bought and sold (more than 10 million ^arrived^ in the New World, plus those born here; besides all those who died or were killed while crossing the Atlantic). How’s that for “Christian family values”? The abuse of those families didn’t invalidate the great Christian start to this country, but gay marriage does?

If our biblical interpretation demands that we disregard the violent injustice experienced by millions of people, then based on the centrality of justice to God’s Word, I propose that we reconsider our interpretation, or at least add a bit of nuance.

If one accepts the overall Adventist understanding of Revelation 13, then I propose a simple alteration of the sermon’s message: understand both features (lamb-like horns and dragon-like speech) throughout its history instead of saying one was earlier and the other was later. That is, at its start the U.S. had an appearance of godliness (lamb-like appearance), but it spoke like a dragon (slaves not treated as humans, at best counted only as three-fifths human). Injustice in word and action despite a religious appearance have continued in different forms ever since, and these require a persistent critique. To this end, I shared a small book with the pastor—Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.

This approach is in line with early Adventist views (not that early is necessarily right or best, but merely demonstrates that my proposed interpretation is hardly novel). Adventist historian Doug Morgan writes about those Adventists:

Challenging the prevalent postmillennialist conception of the United States as an instrument of progress toward the millennium, they asserted that apocalyptic Scripture cast the Republic as a persecuting beast. They pointed to slavery and the Protestant establishment’s intolerant treatment of dissenters as evidence of the fulfillment of prophecy. (Adventism and the American Republic, 2001, p. 11).

After our conversation, the pastor decided his interpretation could have been kept in place while being supplemented with the admission that the ideals expressed in the nation’s founding documents are the key point while also admitting we have not done a good job of living up to those ideals.

This racial issue was my main disagreement with the way U.S history and God’s values were portrayed, but there were three other points that were less central to the sermon’s main arguments. First, and I don’t remember the exact wording, the violent entrance of Columbus and the conquistadors was greatly minimized (something like: they joined the people already here).

Second, yes the Bible says there will be persecution, but I’m frustrated when American Adventists accept the view that American Christians are being greatly persecuted today. Allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry is not persecuting Christians; Christians are still free to worship however we like. There is a difference between being persecuted and simply not being able to force one’s values or morals on others. We want our civil and religious freedoms, so let’s extend that concern to all others as well.

Third, the quick rise of U.S. power was described as a blessing from God. I cringe a bit when I hear this argument because I believe slavery was a key factor in our economic development. Later military dominance became another unjust tool for economic expansion. For starters, consider Smedley Butler,*John Perkins, or the case of the United Fruit Company in Guatemala (WikiGWU). To say that growth of the U.S. economy and our subsequent place of power in the world is simply because of God’s blessing is to sweep too much history under the rug.

In conclusion, if the Adventist interpretation of prophecy is correct, then surely it can be presented in balanced and meaningful ways that don’t (a) ignore gross injustices such as slavery and imperialism and (b) accept popular definitions of Christian victimization in the U.S. that ring hollow compared with true persecution seen in other times and also in other places today.

– – –

*My favorite Smedley quote: “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

Walla Walla University Peacemaking Week: Civil Discourse & Civil Rights

By Emily Muthersbaugh, Student Life Manager, Walla Walla University

This year, Walla Walla University’s sixth annual Peacemaking Weekend extended to a full week and focused on civil rights and civil discourse, promoting peaceful discussion and interaction during a politically charged time.

The week extended from January 18 to 23 and began with the national holiday celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in order to honor King’s commitment civil discourse and civil rights. Rising tension in the political landscape during this election year called for a continued discussion of issues particularly central to Dr. King’s work: civility.

Peacemaking Week began on Monday with WWU’s weekly campus-wide assembly called CommUnity. The program featured choral music, a video depicting the legacy of King, a singing of “We Shall Overcome”, and a presentation by Dr. Ricardo Graham, president of the Pacific Union Conference. Graham presented: “A King’s Dream.” Monday evening, WWU joined Whitman College and the Walla Walla community in a march to honor the life and legacy of MLK that extended from Whitman’s campus to the main plaza in downtown Walla Walla. The WWU choir performed gospel songs during the march.

On Tuesday of Peacemaking Week the Amnesty International Club served warm beverages and encouraged those passing by to take a moment and discuss a heated topic civilly with a stranger. The event “Peace Drinks” lasted three hours and received significant interest on campus. On Wednesday, the Social Work Club challenged the campus to engage in a day of intentional listening. They passed out pins with the phrase “The Future is Listening” on it and those who took the pins were asked to be more intentional about listening to others in conversation, rather than dominating discussion.

Walla Walla University’s David Bullock (chair of the Department of Communications and Languages) and Montgomery Buell (professor of history) delivered a presentation Thursday evening: “Making Peace with Uncivil Campaigns.” Bullock started the discussion by presenting about some of the least civil presidential campaigns in United States history and Buell discussed where the concept of “civil discourse” came from. There was significant interest from the audience in the topic as the current election is seen by many as more partisan than ever.

Friday evening continued the tradition of a candlelight vigil and march honoring lives lost in efforts to promote peace. The vigil began outside the University Church immediately following the vespers program and was led again by the Amnesty International Club. After a scripture reading and prayer, participants marched with candles around the perimeter of the campus, ending in the Student Activities Center where students practiced civil discourse in debate.

Saturday morning featured a panel discussion: “Making Peace with Uncivil Friends” where panelists considered how we can engage with each other more civilly every day, particularly when discussing controversial topics. Panel participants included Loren Dickenson, Brooklynn Larson, Cendra Clarke, Alden Thompson, and Emily Tillotson as moderator.

The Peacemaking Weekend Committee is now working in collaboration with the Chaplain’s Office, Martin Luther King Jr. Day Committee, and the Office of Diversity on preparations for next year’s Peacemaking Weekend, with a commitment to promoting ongoing peaceful discourse in the Walla Walla Valley.

Pastor Todd Leonard Addresses Racial Justice within the Adventist Church

Adventist pastor Todd Leonard's June 27 sermon addressed racial history in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. Leonard is pastor of the Glendale City Seventh-day Adventist Church, which is a member of the APF Peace Church network. In this sermon Leonard addresses what he sees as the need for historically white churches to stand up and work for justice in our communities and our denomination. The sermon, titled "EPIC: Moses, I See My People's Misery," can be viewed here or on YouTube.


Lake Union Conference Apologizes for Failures Regarding Race

On June 20, 2015, Don Livesay, president of the Lake Union Conference, apologized for the Adventist Church's racial failings. These are excerpts from Livesay's speech: "A review of the conversations in the early to mid-1940s reveals key reasons why that major change in approach to  the ministry to the black community took place. It was seen that the mission to the black individuals in this country would be more effective with black conferences. It was seen that leadership development could progress better with black conferences. But we all know there was an additional serious factor. A simple, honest look at the segregated Church of the past: the segregated General Conference cafeteria; the Negro Department of the General Conference that was first directed by white men; the segregated hospitals that led to the death of Lucy Byard; the dismissive attitudes and actions. These and more issues were also major contributors to the establishment of Regional work."

Livesay 1"Let us recognize the Church at that time failed the black community."

"Some might attempt to excuse the behavior of the Church through those years because of the culture of society of that specific time. One could say that the white church, the white members, the white leadership, merely reflected what was going on around us, but God has not called His church to reflect the evil of the world. God has called the church to reflect His character, to treat each other in love, with the Golden Rule, in respectful ways, and to honor each other as all of God's children."

"If only our failures were just in the past.... It is clear that even [the election of President Obama] did not mean that we had arrived. Awareness of our lack of racial equality, of social justice, has been heightened as black lives have been needlessly and carelessly taken in Ferguson, New York, Baltimore, and other locations--both recently and through the years past--and now even in Charleston."

"So as we celebrate 70 years of the Lake Region, the progress, the mission, the tens of thousands of people brought to the Lord who may not have ever heard the message, children educated, the expansion of the message and mission of God's remnant people, I come to you with my fellow officers of the Lake Union with a heart that compels us to not only bring our joy and the success of the Lake Region, but also to bring a personal and an official apology to our brothers and our sisters of the Lake Region Conference on behalf of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Lake Union."

"We apologize with sorrow for the failures of the Church in regard to race, for individuals disrespected, for lack of time taken to understand, for the mistreated, for the leadership marginalized, and for students of our college who were only able to sit with black students in the cafeteria, for Lucy Byard, and for the slowness, reluctance, and the stubbornness to do the right thing. We are sorry that we as a Church did not rise above the sins of society that day, and we are sorry for the lack of progress our church has made in the last 70 years."

"Our apology is from our hearts, but we recognize an apology is not enough. We are also committed to seek deeper, more meaningful understanding of each other, more sensitive approaches, more inclusive and stronger partnerships that will make us more united as God's people and for His cause that we may come closer together, march together, and then someday together into the Holy city to spend eternity with our God and with each other."

Livesay's complete speech can be viewed here. Clifford Jones, president of the Lake Region Conference, responded to the apology:

Jones 2"On this historic occasion, in the wake of what took place this week in South Carolina--the fact that we were all shocked, shaken, and shattered by these senseless killings of innocent brothers and sisters who were simply aspiring to dig deeper into the word of God only to have their lives senselessly snuffed out--we want to thank our Union president for his courage, for looking at the history of our people in this church, God's remnant church, and for offering this heartfelt and meaningful apology."

"Mr. President, on behalf of the officers...and on behalf of the constituency of the Lake Region Conference, I'd like to say that we accept your apology."

"And as you stated, an apology is good, but let's work aggressively and vigorously and intentionally now to eliminate this scourge of racism that is so prevalent and pervasive in our land, yay even in our church. Let's work to that end."

The apology and response can be viewed on Vimeo.

Guess Who is Coming to Church, Now?

By Dr. Mark A. McCleary, Pastor and Adventist Peace Fellowship Advisory Board Member I'm deeply saddened by this tragedy (Charleston, SC), but also tragically not surprised. The evil spirit that has permeated the minds of "these folk" affirms Revelation's prediction: "[America] has become the hold of every foul and evil bird." Such villainy justifies the punditry of Elijah Muhammad who called them devils. The recent spate of police v. young Black male murders have aggravated old wounds within our community of White on Black brutality. However, the perpetrators, via media (i.e. O' Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh) will not articulate nor are they sensitive to our pain and plight. Many of our own folk have elected to puppet the post-racial discourse, "I don't see color." That's a lie or at least an act of psychological denial and inhibition. To not see color is to not see reality or respect my true ontology. The real issue is whenever or whomever you see, treat them with respect and dignity— Shu/reciprocity/The Golden Rule or as MLK Jr eloquently stated, " judged by their character not by the color of their skin."

In the last few days, we have two White murderers who have been helped by a White female to escape prison and are still objects of a nationwide manhunt as I write this. Now we have a skinned-head, Aryan-type White young man who reminds me of Columbine, CO, mowing down helpless church folk inside a church during Prayer Meeting. What vicious inhumanity is this for Satan to move this possessed fellow to sit for an hour then open fire on unarmed Christians? This is why Black Muslims, non-Christians, and Afrocentrists point the finger at the hypocrisy of Americans who promote the propaganda of "This is a Christian nation." Paul said, "If they speak any other gospel, get away from them." It's time for White Christianity to speak out loud and long that this is unacceptable. When Blacks do something, the media will post it almost 24-7. The hideousness of this perpetrator, I hope, gets appropriate coverage, and I trust the justice system will reinforce that liberty and justice is for all people—the living and the dead. Furthermore, I pray that justice will roll down like water and righteousness as a mighty stream in this desert of America.

I am shouting at the White preachers, especially those centered around and among these entrenched pro-Aryan hideouts. "Stop being silent when you know these cowards lurk within your community." Dietrich Bonhoeffer indicted German Christians for what happened to the Jews because of their winking and nodding at Nazi violence against German Jews. Their example of not being their brother's keeper yields nominal and historic silence as well as tacit approval for these heartless punks to sneak up on unsuspecting folk without being called to account by community stakeholders. I'm waiting to hear some proactive response form my SDA leadership, but history says, we won't pray for newly elected President Obama in a 2008 NAD morning worship, we'll continue to be late to every urban tragedy since Emmitt Till. We, historically, have sought to be politically correct and socially agreeable. So I'm starting to speak here. I'm sending this to every outlet (i.e., SDA News, Spectrum, Facebook) and beyond. I am motivated to standup and say something that is helpful in a timely fashion.

Instead of AU students holding a forum on the relevance of Regional [Black] Conferences, or SDA's struggling over the Biblical validity of Women's ordination, a voice must be heard that challenges the spirit of White supremacy that holds our church community in its spell. Before I be a slave, I will speak out and speak up. RIP to my brothers and sisters who died on the battle field in SC yesterday night. They fought a good fight, they stood for the right, and justice will pronounce them victors one day. Free at last, Free at last, thank God almighty, we'll be free at last one day.

In His service,

Pastor Dr. Mark A. McCleary

APF Statement on Freddie Gray and Baltimore

The APF Board has released the following statement on Freddie Gray and the subsequent events in Baltimore:

The Adventist Peace Fellowship is deeply troubled by recent events in the city of Baltimore. While all the facts are not yet known, it is beyond dispute that a young man's life was violently taken from him while in the custody of police officers—an event that falls within larger patterns of systemic racism, structural injustice, historical inequalities, and brutality targeting young Black men. It is also clear that many citizens—including the elderly poor—are now suffering severe hardships from the destruction of several days of violent riots.

It is our hope and prayer that Baltimore now experience not merely a return to the “peace” of the status quo but rather a true transformation of values and policy priorities that promote justice and equality for residents of the city’s neglected neighborhoods. We call on Seventh-day Adventists in Baltimore and throughout the country to follow the examples of the Hebrew prophets and to actively resist injustice and oppression wherever they encounter it, whether on their streets or in City Hall. We herald Adventist pastors Reginald Exum, David Franklin, and DuWayne Privette who have embodied these ideals on the streets of Baltimore. We continue to urge peacemakers to follow the principles and tactics of nonviolent resistance to oppression powerfully demonstrated by individuals such as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We also encourage pastors to promote a culture of nonviolence and a vision for peacemaking within their churches. History has taught us that violence begets violence and hatred begets hatred. As Christians we are called to seek justice precisely through tireless and active peacemaking.

Andrews University holds panel on social justice with Mark Finley


On Thursday, January 29, a panel discussion including Mark Finley, Nicholas Miller, and Sherine Brown-Fraser, was held in the lobby of the Howard Performing Arts Center at Andrews University. The panel answered questions centered on the topic: “The Role of Seventh-day Adventists in Social Justice.” Questions included: What social justice issues should the SDA church be or not be involved in? Are ethnically separate conferences a social justice issue? What social justice issues do you (directed at the panel) find pressing? Brown-Fraser, being the Chair of the Department of Public Health, Nutrition and Wellness, stressed food disparity. Miller, a professor of church history, noted that Adventists were once vocal on topics such as abolition and temperance, but lost their social gospel message and became silent on issues such as Civil Rights. Now, Miller mentioned, Adventists say little on race, torture, immigration, and sex trafficking. Finley, Assistant to the General Conference President with regard to global evangelism, pointed to creation as the basis for social justice. Finley pointed out organizations such as ADRA that do such works as digging wells. When a woman who walks three miles a day to get water sees a well gushing in her own village, “that’s social justice,” Finley said. Education seemed to be the preferred method of fixing social injustice, but the overall appeal of the panel to the Andrews University campus was that each person would find the issue that “gets their heart beating” and work towards justice.

By Łukasz Krzywon, AU APF student leader

Adventist Peace Church in Chattanooga works for racial and economic justice (by Lisa Diller)

(The Well in Chattanooga is one of five Adventist congregations currently working toward certification as an "Adventist Peace Church".  Lisa Clark Diller, a professor of history at Southern Adventist University and the APF coordinator for the The Well, shares this update of recent Well activities focused on racial and economic justice as well care for creation.) One of the Well’s ( core values is that it must strive to be an incarnational community. This means the Well is very intentional about being present in the physical space of our immediate neighborhood.

Well tree planting NovWhen the community is celebrating, mourning, building, or dialoging, we at the Well want to be there alongside our neighbors. We host the local Jefferson Heights Neighborhood Association meetings at our facility. Our once-a-month Deep Well Sabbaths take our worship into the neighborhood through fellowship, education, service, or small group worship.

It is this commitment to being part of the Kingdom of God in the Southside of Chattanooga that leads us to connect with the mission of the Adventist Peace Fellowship. Becoming an Adventist Peace Church, when we discovered this network, was a very obvious move for us to make. The APF campaigns that we are most deeply involved with as a natural part of our life and ministry on the Southside are racial reconciliation, care for creation and economic justice.

We appreciate the vocabulary and the language of APF in helping us root our peacemaking activities in the theology and history of the Adventist Church and its local congregations around the world. Thinking intentionally about what we are doing helps give greater meaning to it. It is also true that being part of the network of Peace Churches helps us stay accountable to what we are doing.

For instance, in the months of November and December we helped the Cowart Place Neighborhood Association plant dozens of trees in the industrial landscape of the Southside as they turned an empty lot into a park. Our children/family group collected quarters and handed out Christmas greetings with rolls of quarters and small quantities of laundry detergent at local laundromats on the Southside. While this small activity does not go far towards achieving lasting economic justice, it does educate our children and families about the realities of many people in the urban core and the challenges they face in going about the most mundane elements of everyday life, such as doing laundry.Group Tree Plant

Finally, members from the Well joined several urban peace workers and the Chattanooga Police Department on a march for peace and reconciliation in one of the most challenged of our Southside Communities, Alton Park. This was a way of recognizing, in a peaceful way, the national conversation we are having in the U.S. about the police violence and racial reconciliation. The march consisted of a very diverse group of people, and it was an educational experience for the Well members who participated.

We look forward to more inspiration from our sister churches and for more ways to be part of the Kingdom of God and as we grow the followers of Jesus in Chattanooga.