By Julie Lorenz
In early June, Northern California Conference church members, pastors, and leaders responded to racism in the country and in the church. “I’m proud to belong to a church that stands up to injustice,” said President Marc Woodson. “In June, our conference statement urged church members to engage their community with compassion, while bravely speaking out against racism, injustice, violence, and hatred.”
Three churches marched together in Stockton: Mayfair, Pittsburg, and Valley Community. “The churches thought it was important that the Adventist church join the community to express God’s demand for justice and His power to heal,” said Gregory Johnson, pastor of the Valley Community church, which spearheaded the event.
“We recognize that silence in the face of injustice is participation in injustice,” said Rudy Peters, Mayfair church pastor. “It was a welcome change to hear our members chanting for justice and peace and affirming the vitality and importance of Black lives.”
Others joined the Stockton march, including African American Ministries Coordinator/Urban Ministries Director Willie Johnson. “We marched sharing Micah 6:8 on our signs: ‘Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God,’” he said. “It felt good to protest peacefully and hear all the positive reactions from the people of Stockton as we marched together—Seventh-day Adventists for justice.”
Lodi English Oaks church Senior Pastor Bob Mason also participated in a protest in his city. “I recognized that so many of my fellow Americans could not help but feel that knee on their own necks as they watched [the video of George Floyd],” he wrote on his Facebook page. “And I realized that loving my neighbor as myself means that I must let myself feel it along with them and say the words: Black lives matter.”
Fairfield Community and Vallejo Central church members held a prayer walk for justice—from a Fairfield city park to the steps of the Solano County Superior Court. “I think Christ is waiting for his church to unite and eliminate structures that were put in place by racism of old but we keep up because we are afraid of change,” wrote Fairfield Community church Pastor Chris Estay on his Facebook page.
On June 1, the NCC headquarters opened its doors for the first time since mid-March. At noon, the employees gathered outside for a short prayer service, asking God for healing and peace in the country and throughout the world.
On June 13, the Stockton Mayfair church hosted an online discussion titled “Crucial Conversations.” Led by Peters, the roundtable included Pacific Union Conference President Ricardo Graham, Woodson, Johnson, Ministerial Director Jim Lorenz, and a number of NCC pastors. The participants discussed racism, specifically how it exhibits itself in the church.
Graham encouraged everyone to speak out against systemic injustice. “The mandate to really love as Jesus loved must transcend all barriers and must result in unity of purpose,” he said. He went on to encourage pastors and leaders: “You must not only teach what Jesus would do; you must do what Jesus did.”