A Contemporary Issue

Name: Ean Nugent

City, State: Bowie, MD

First I would like to express my deep appreciation to our division administration for having the courage to undertake so noble and bold an endeavor as this restructuring. I also deeply appreciate their willingness to give members a voice in this discussion.

The third point under the Mission Committee’s terms of reference reads, "Create a program for educating, mentoring, and training, members, including contextualizing the Adventist witness, providing a greater emphasis on contemporary issues, including involving the young adults."

I am greatly interested in seeing this program designed and implemented. I know I will personally benefit from such a program. However, there is a major “contemporary issue” I hope will be included in this program. It is an issue that I believe can be solved by a proper contextualization of the Adventist message. It is the issue of interracial and intercultural relations.

Throughout its history, the United States has struggled, with great failings and some success, to solve the “race issue”. While primarily between blacks and whites, racial tensions between all races have plagued this great nation. And today, despite the election of the nation’s first black president, only 40% of whites, and 35% of blacks describe race relations as “very good” or “fairly good” (http://tinyurl.com/RaceViews). Despite its best efforts, our society has been unable to solve this problem. Does the movement entrusted with a message to every “nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” have nothing to offer them?

I hope that we will seek and find the grace to confront this highly “contemporary issue”. Through teaching and example we provide society with solutions in healthcare, education, and doctrine. But the healthy, educated, theologically sound racist (of any race) will hardly enter into the kingdom of God. And besides the racist, I believe we can all grow in our understanding and trust of other races and cultures. Cannot we, by teaching and example, demonstrate to society that the gospel claim is true – in Christ there is neither preference nor enmity between Jew or Gentile, black or white, Hispanic or Asian.

I am very grateful for the work that has been done by the NAD Office of Human Relations (http://humanrelations.nadadventist.org/). However, I believe their efforts have been unable to penetrate down to the local levels. Somehow, this issue must be addressed at the conference, church, and individual level. I believe the program being designed has potential in this area.

Here are some examples of the types of questions I believe the designers of the program, as well as administration at every level, should consider (in no particular order):

• For members in largely homogenous congregations, how can we provide opportunities for them to create meaningful, trusting, cross-racial and cross-cultural relationships? (An example is Oakwood and Southern’s DEEP weekend)
• Should a congregation’s worship culture most closely reflect its majority, history, or present leadership?
• Is the “white flight” phenomenon bad and, if so, how can we prevent it?
• What harmful stereotypes are common in our churches (both racial and cultural) and how can we educate ourselves away from them?
• How can we constructively (not vindictively) discuss personal hurt because of racial or cultural bias with the goals of forgiveness and reconciliation?
• How can we facilitate dialogues between races and cultures that increase understanding and trust while avoiding offensive and inflammatory language?

Thanks again for your willingness to hear.