Race relations in the SDA church suffer because both black and white SDAs have prejudicial views; there is anger, fear, and resentment on both sides. But the issue we face is a real issue, regardless of who started it and who has done the most damage.
In Part 6, the stunning success of Lewis Sheafe’s evangelism during the summer of 1902 meant that Adventism’s first major racial crisis would come at the very moment of amazing opportunity in which the church’s message and its potential for healing racial antagonism was garnering extraordinary attention in the nation’s capital and beyond.
Developments seen in Part 5 placed the “living miracle” of interracial fellowship at the Adventist church in Washington, D.C. in serious jeopardy by 1901. Yet, core members of both races determined not to yield their gospel-based principles to powerful pressures both from society and within the denomination. Plans for a major evangelistic thrust in 1902 proceeded amidst two sharply contrasting visions about how the campaign would configure the church’s witness with regard to the nation’s original sin of racism.
In Part 4, we saw that the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit revived the Washington church during the 1890s, invigorating reform—in particular the gospel-based reform of race relations that the congregation embodied in stark contrast to societal norms. But this had never been easy, and it was about to get much tougher.
Could the Seventh-day Adventist movement shine the healing light of the gospel on the racism that increasingly enshrouded America’s social landscape as it entered the twentieth century? That’s what James Howard, the young physician and federal government clerk, envisioned when he became the first black person in Washington, D.C. to join the movement. However, Part 3 of this series concluded with Dr. Howard on the verge of despair, induced by a disturbing report in the Review, and the “wet blanket” that rumors of racial discrimination practiced by Adventists in another city had thrown his endeavors to share the message with progressive black Washingtonians.
IN PART 2, THE CONVERSION OF DR. JAMES H. HOWARD PROVIDED THE NASCENT ADVENTIST MISSION IN WASHINGTON A CRITICAL IF UNANTICIPATED BREAKTHROUGH TO THE WORLD’S LARGEST URBAN BLACK COMMUNITY. THE FIRST ADVENTIST CHURCH IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL, RACIALLY INTEGRATED FROM ITS ORGANIZATION IN 1889 FORWARD, BEGAN TO ATTRACT ATTENTION FOR LIVING OUT GOSPEL PRINCIPLES IN RACE RELATIONS AT A TIME WHEN VERY FEW CHURCHES IN AMERICAN SOCIETY DID.
While repentance includes “confession,” it is also much more than that. Repentance is not only something we confess with our lips, but something we live with our lives. So, too, with corporate repentance. When we experience repentance on a corporate level, we not only admit past mistakes but also seek to rectify them—regardless of whether we were the ones who actually committed the wrongs to begin with.