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, arm-in-arm…now 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.