Recently the North American Division Administrators of the General Conference issued a response to the request from certain students at Andrews University that the matter of continued operation of Regional Conferences be studied.
Listed below is the full text of the North American Division Administrator’s response voted by the officers
March 25, 2015:
“Affirmation of the Mission Role of North American Division Regional Conferences”
“Responding to requests, the North American Division Administration voted the following action concerning Regional Conferences:
“The North American Division has been given a mandate by both God and its constituency to serve one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world. Since a request has been formally made to clarify the history and present role of its Regional Conferences, which have been a valued and integral part of our North American Division governance structure since 1944,
“We resolve that:
“Whereas the North American Division is one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the World…”
“Whereas the North American Division is presently ministering in a racially-charged society…”
“Whereas, the effectiveness, challenges, and history of our Regional Conferences need to be better understood…”
“Whereas, there is a growing number of requests for the NAD leadership to clarify the history, mission effectiveness, and cultural relevance of Regional Conferences…”
“Voted, To affirm that the historical establishment and current role and function of Regional Conferences are structurally essential, mission effective, and relevant in reaching the diverse populations and urban centers within our division.”
“The Administration of the North American Division and the Administrations of our Regional Conferences are deeply committed to continuing our mission focus and evangelistic unity as we seek to fulfill God’s commission within our territory.”
“Throughout our division we will continue to seek ways and means to further racial cooperation, understanding, and growth.”
Some years ago I saw a movie entitled “Enough.” It was the account of the measures taken by the wife of an abusive husband, to hide from and escape his cruelty. Finally, when it appeared that he was going to pursue her and take her life as long as he knew she was alive, she went to a martial art professional to learn how to defend herself, if ever he caught up with her. When it became clear after a few close calls that he was determined to take her life, and after having been trained, she went back to the home she had shared with him during their marriage to confront him.
Christian Adventist ethics will not allow me to give you the details of her successful attempt to rid she and her daughter from the menace plaguing and dogging their every move. Suffice it to say, she was successful.
The statement by the North American Division Officers seems to signal that they have had enough of the intermittent but sustained efforts of “The Bishop of Pioneer Memorial” at Andrews University, and those of like minds, to eliminate Regional Conferences. That March 25, 2015 vote of the NAD officers was a swift response to the request growing out of that March 7, 2015 event at Andrews University.
The statement signals either one of two understandings:
- The NAD officers have had enough of these actions by
selected groups or,
- Everybody else in the NAD should know that the matter
has been discussed enough and everyone and everybody
should know by now that Regional Conferences are
not going to be dissolved by any actions initiated by them.
In other words, “Enough!”
Now that statement, as noble as it was, will not end the matter for me and should not for you either. In other words, we have a lot of work to do! Too many and far too often, our people, especially those in predominantly non Black congregations, schools, and conferences, are the voices of those crying from the wilderness of their discontent. It is a mystery to me that they are already in an “integrated” environment, enjoying the fruit of prescribed, voluntarily self-imposed “minorityhood” but cannot abide the fact that we are not there with them. What more, pray tell, do they want?
Truthfully, some of the stated reasons for being where they are and what they think may need to be carefully and prayerfully reviewed.
- Sabbath Services are too long
- In many instances the services are too loud
- The children’s Sabbath School departments in our churches are woefully inadequate, lacking staff and ample materials
- They get reduced tuition considerations if they are members of the supporting congregations in the “other” conferences
- Larger scholarships are awarded in the other schools of the former predominantly white, newly integrated “new colored conferences.”
- “The white church is closer to my house”
- They want their children to experience diversity “We have to help white people get ready for the Kingdom”
- Our Regional Conferences are not doing so well with the mission God has given us, especially when we seem to be struggling to grow fiscally and numerically
Many of the things mentioned above may be true and there is always room for improvement. But is eliminating our Conferences the answer? I think not. The real answer is hidden in the response of Mrs. Amelia Boynton, 103-year-old veteran of the “Bloody Sunday” Civil Rights March at Selma Alabama 50 years ago. When asked what she would say to anyone who said they stand on her shoulders. Her response was, “Get the heck off my shoulders and get to work!”
We have come a long way in our nation and in our church, but we have a long way to go. The hidden message for us in Mrs. Boynton’s challenge is that most of the work has to be done within us and by us. Self-respect and low self-esteem among our people is the area in the greatest need. It is an important work that cannot and must not be left undone.
Somehow we must strive for and demand excellence from everyone and everything that flies under the flags of our Regional Conferences. If leadership does not see the importance of this worthy goal then call them into account. Calling them to account carries with it the absolute imperative of honest, Godly, membership self-evaluation. Here are some questions the fleeing Black membership must ask themselves:
- Why is it that others, and too many of us, think that everything in our neighborhoods or churches is considered bad or not as good as the best no matter how good they are?
- Why do we constantly chase other folks and their institutions instead of working tirelessly to make ours the undisputed standard of excellence?
- Why do we constantly strive to put ourselves, our children and grandchildren in this context, in environments where they suffer racial bias explicit and implicit?
- When angered in a Black church, as will happen at times, why do we choose to go to a white church when there are other very good black churches in the same city.
- Why do we rejoice when white conferences call black pastors to lead black congregations in the “white” conferences?
- Why do we remain when all of the white members run away from their own churches when “too many” of us show up?
- Why do we then follow where they run?
- Why are not the Latinos or Asians or Filipinos or Koreans or Japanese members flocking to any place where they are the minority?
- Why are they comfortable with their own groups and we seem so disquieted when it is “just us?”
When will we stop running after other people groups and get the message that others really do not want to be bothered with us in great numbers? Tolerated but never fully integrated.
I must paraphrase an old Beatles song (I know, “how dare you quote the Beatles in this Christian context?”):
So let it out and let
in, (hey you!), begin
You’re waiting for
someone to perform with
And don’t know that its just you,
(hey you!), you’ll do
The movement you need is
on your shoulder
Nah nah nah nah nah…”
It is high and way past time for us to take a sad song (black low self-esteem) and make it better!
Joseph W. McCoy