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Article: 4

Building on a Strong Foundation

Expressions appearing in the body of counsels published in 1909 regarding the work among the colored people and referred to in last week's article, make clear that no one rule can be made for all areas or for all times and people, but that change in circumstances could lead to a modification in approach to the problems.

This plan is to be followed, until the Lord shows us a better way.-Testimonies, vol. 9, p.207. (Italics supplied)

We are not to be in haste to define the exact course to be pursued in the future regarding the relation to be maintained between white and colored people.-Ibid., pp. 209, 210. (Italics supplied)

The counsels God gave for the work were safe counsels, and we, with surrendered hearts and wills, were to keep close to the Lord. It would be the Lord through His providences who, if a better way was to be found, would show it to us. This thought was implicit in the following admonition given at the time, which was more than 50 years ago: Let white and colored people be labored for separate, distinct lines, and let the Lord take care of the rest.-Ibid., p. 210. (Italics supplied)

Circumstances May Alter Cases

Two years later, but in an entirely different context, Ellen White wrote: Regarding the testimonies, nothing is ignored: nothing is cast aside: but time and place must be considered.-Selected Messages, book 1, p. 57.

She also stated that at times in some matters, "circumstances alter cases" (Ellen G. White letter 267, 1905). And again she declared, "Circumstances and emergencies will arise for which the Lord must give special instruction. But if we begin to work, depending wholly upon the Lord, watching, praying, and walking in harmony with the light He sends us, we shall not be left to walk in darkness."-Ellen G. White letter 192, 1906.

If there was one dominant thought in the counsels given i n1895 and 1896-and quoted in this series-regarding work in the Southern States and among the colored people, it was that the approaches must be different from those made in other places and that we must be led by the Spirit of God in meeting the situations as we found them, changing as they may be.

The counsels of 1909, published in the Testimonies, volume nine, gave safe guidance for that time, and to today in so far as conditions may, in certain areas, be as they were then. The expressions quoted at the opening of this article indicate the possibility of adjustments in approaches as the Lord, through His Spirit, leads us in relating ourselves to changing conditions.

It has been most gratifying to observe the progress that has been made as the years have passed by. The church membership has increased. The plan for Regional conferences on. was developed in 1944, which drew men and women of varied skills and talents into administrative, financial, the and secretarial lines. This greatly eft broadens the choice of denominational Lite employment open to our colored young men and young women coming from the colleges of the church.

It may be added here that well-qualified colored personnel have been drawn into departmental and administrative work in such higher organizations as the union conferences and the we General Conference. Colored teachers in fill teaching positions in most North American senior colleges, and colored physicians and nurses help to staff in Seventh-day Adventist medical institutions generally.

Steadily and consistently as progress is made in the United States toward better understanding between the races, the church has moved forward, keeping pace. Perhaps the progress has not been as rapid as some might desire, but church leaders representing both races have ever kept in mind the vital importance of avoiding a course that would jeopardize the proclamation of the message in any area. Added impetus was given to the movement for better race relations within the church with a series of formal declarations announcing the denominations position on these matters. The progress is shown in the statements which follow.

R. R. Figuhr, in 1958, Reports Progress

From the report of the General Conference president, R. R. Figuhr, to the session of 1958, we give the following:

We are a universal church. We could not he otherwise. The divine mandate, to proclaim the gospel to every nation and people, makes us such. Consistent with this fact, we believe, is the universal brotherhood of man and that God "hath made of one blood all nations . . . to dwell on all the face of the earth," as the Scriptures say. We therefore deplore, as contrary to the spirit of the gospel, any effort to depreciate as inferior any nation or people, believing that all alike are precious in Gods sight. We believe in the oneness that there is in Christ and as set forth by the apostle Paul, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28).--Review and Herald, June 20, 1958, p. 4.

Formal 1961 Statement on Human Relations

On October 27, 1961, at the Autumn Council of the General Conference Committee the following formal statement setting forth human relations in the Seventh-day Adventist Church was adopted:

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a world church. The task that Seventh-day Adventists have assumed is the preaching of the gospel to every tongue and nation. They believe that all men are of one blood and are equally destined for eternity in the heavenly kingdom.

The stand of our church on these basic principles involved in race and national relationships has been set forth clearly for many decades in many of our standard publications. The following quotations are representative of our belief and teaching:

"Christ came to this earth with a message of mercy and forgiveness. He laid the foundation for a religion by which Jew and Gentile, black and white, free and bond, are linked together in one common brotherhood, recognized as equal in the sight of God, The Saviour has a boundless love for every human being. In each one He sees capacity for improvement. With divine energy and hope He greets those for whom He has given His life. In his strength they can live a life rich in good works, filled with the power of the Spirit."--Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 225.

"No distinction on account of nationality, race, or caste, is recognized by God. He is the Maker of all mankind. All men are of one family by creation, and all are one through redemption. Christ came to demolish every wall of partition, to throw open every compartment of the temple, that every soul may have free access to God. . . . In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free. All are brought nigh by His precious blood."-- Christs Object Lessons, p. 386.

"The religion of the Bible recognizes no caste or color. It ignores rank, wealth, worldly honor. God estimates men as men."--Testimonies, vol. 9. p. 223.

"Thus Christ sought to teach the disciples the truth that in Gods kingdom there are no territorial lines, no caste, no aristocracy; that they must go to all nations, hearing to them the message of a Saviours love."--The Acts of the Apostles, p. 20.

"When the Holy Spirit is poured out, there will he a triumph of humanity over prejudice in seeking the salvation of the souls of human beings. God will control minds. Human hearts will love as Christ loved. And the color line will he regarded by many very differently from the way in which it is now regarded. To love as Christ loves, lifts the mind into a pure, heavenly, unselfish atmosphere.--Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 209.

These truths so clearly enunciated and supported in Holy Scripture, caused a new day to dawn upon our earth. They broke down the partition walls between adversaries, between races, between men. No more was there to be a distinction of a race or caste of people. The elect of God became a universal race, a new humanity. The implication was love and pity and respect toward all men - total love, unrestricted duty. Christians moved with compassion would look upon a dying world with deep concern, for God is the father of mankind and all men are their brothers.

We believe that a denial in any form of this universal fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man would eat the heart out of a world movement and stifle as nothing else could the spirit of "Abba, Father."

We, therefore, rededicate our denominational purpose to these basic principles of Gods universal church. -- Autumn Council of the General Conference Committee, October 24-29, 1961, pp. 12, 13.

At this same 1961 council the following forward-looking action was taken to give substance to the general principles stated above:

In consideration of our denominational stand on human relations, and with a view to better communication and understanding, we recommend the following:

1. That we continue to encourage the employment of workers in our institutions without regard to race, color, or national origin, and on the basis of qualification and merit.

2. That we continue the service of Regional workers in overseas fields, and that we explore the possibility of finding further overseas territories in which they can serve.

3. That when circumstances require, committees be set up within the union conferences to study the problems of human relations, and that workshops be conducted to give guidance and instruction in dealing with local racial problems.

4. That a representative standing committee in the General Conference be appointed on human relations.

5. That normal church channels be used in dealing with all racial and human relations problems.-Actions of the Autumn Council Pertaining to the North American Division, pp. 6. 7.

Next week we shall conclude this series by citing further actions taken on human relations.