Often there are misconceptions about how and why regional conferences began,” said Robert Edwards, VP for Black Ministries in the SECC. “Our purpose with this event was to educate and continue the process of working through our unconscious and conscious biases.”
On Saturday, Jan. 23, leadership of the SECC hosted a second event in their series on the topic of racial equality and justice. The presenter was Dana Edmond, executive director of the Office of Regional Ministry for the North American Division.
“This was an opportunity for learning about the history of racism in the Adventist Church,” explained Sandra Roberts, SECC president. “It’s a sobering history of which many Adventists are unaware.”
During the virtual event, Edmond shared that the decision to start regional conferences started with the General Conference having a choice: They could integrate, or they could start a separate organization for Black Adventists. The GC chose the latter. Edmond also pointed out that regional people were simply looking for equality and equity. Regional conferences helped to provide a sense of that equality and equity in the church’s organizational context.
“This past year our entire country was confronted with the lack of equality and justice for our black and brown brothers and sisters,” Roberts said. “We learned a lot about implicit bias and the culture that allows such behaviors to exist. It was painful, and it caused us to look at our own churches, schools, and communities and ask what we can do to create a safer, healthier environment of equality.”
This is why Roberts and her team have created a series of forums on the topic of racial justice and equality. The purpose is “to listen, dialogue, learn, and grow in our commitment to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God in the SECC.” But it doesn’t stop with conversation.
“To change the direction the feet go, it starts with the head,” Edwards said. “Your body goes where your mind is. Where your heart is. I would like to see the heart and mind of the church change, and that begins with leadership.”
As president of the SECC, Roberts agrees.
“It takes much intentionality, and it takes a willingness to both listen and take actionable steps to correcting our behaviors,” she said. “We are learning together and are looking to do better as the baton of leadership is in our hands. We believe that all people are the creation of God, crafted in His image, and we must be driven to put that belief in practice to create a conference environment of justice and equality.”
Two additional forums are planned for 2021; stay tuned to SECC social media and newsletters for details.
By Becky St. Clair