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.
Pastor Franklin was back on Instagram this morning highlighting the day’s upcoming events.
Attorney Michael Nixon posted on Facebook:
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).