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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.
During an era in which race relations worsened to their lowest point in post-Civil War American history, the first Adventist church planted in the nation’s capital was an interracial fellowship, described in 1899 as a “living miracle of the power of God” that surprised outside observers. The church was central to a saga played out on the stage of Washington, D.C., introduced in Part 1, that challenges us to re-think Adventism’s racial past and how it has shaped the present.
After months of delay, William Henry Branson, world president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, decided he could wait no longer. It was time for action. Five months had passed, and the Supreme Court had not yet issued the ruling widely anticipated to overturn the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896.
Some Christians believe that racism doesn’t exist in America, and that talking about it will just create more problems. There are plenty of others, however, whose personal experience tells them that racism does, indeed, exist and that it is a problem in need of resolution.
When 2017 began I started a new devotional going through the book of James and found his call for practical, down to earth religion too strong to ignore. As my study of chapter one ended I asked God a simple question. "Help me find a cause, something to stand for this year. Something that can really impact the world with your love."
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.