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Could it be that God is not using the church to heal racial tensions and instead is using racial tensions as an opportunity to heal the church? It is time to have an honest conversation about race. We can't just sweep past mistakes under the rug. We could start by seeking to understand our differences.
Reconciliation includes forgiveness, but it extends to the release of guilt and returning to, or beginning, a healthy relationship. Reconciliation means forgiving as Jesus forgives: for the purpose of the restoration of relationship, not so that we can have a reason to be separate. The only way to do this successfully and long-term is to begin by reconciling ourselves to Jesus. There is so much negative history between white and black people in America that if we begin the process without first having Jesus in our hearts, we’re doomed to fail. It’s too hard, nay impossible, to reconcile without Jesus at the helm at all times, not just when it immediately benefits us or makes us feel good.
Daniells, the General Conference president, wanted to see two strong churches — one white and one black — emerge out of the General Conference-funded, dual evangelistic campaign of 1902. The outcome instead was one white congregation and one, much larger “mixed race” congregation whose adamant opposition to the imposition of a color line in the church was rooted in their Adventist faith.
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.
Microaggressions are a form of racism, and being a microaggressor is participating in the act of racism. Turning away when we witness acts of racism, including microaggressions, is participating in the act of racism. Failure to respond, then, is being complicit, and it is a sin.
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.
I encourage you, if you’re white like me, to open your mind — and your heart — to the perspectives and experiences of people who don’t look like you, and to consider the possibility that even if your life has been difficult, you’ve still enjoyed certain privileges denied to others.