Editorial 1 2 3 4 5 6 At the Cross...

Article: 5

Further General Conference Actions

In his report to the quadrennial session in 1962 R. R. Figuhr, the president of the General Conference, declared: "The Seventh-day Adventist Church is international in character, with its members scattered among all peoples of earth. They are bound together by enduring spiritual ties that in this age of divisions and growing nationalism must not weaken, but rather grow stronger.

"The area of nationalism and race is an extremely sensitive one, and the problems that develop in it often call for much patience, understanding, and calmness. We believe, however, that all problems can be resolved among Christians. Seventh-day Adventists have not waited until the very present day to set forth the basic principles that they believe should govern the Christian in this sometimes perplexing area. For long years we have had these principles on record to enlighten our thinking and to govern our actions. Let me quote some representative statements from the pen of Sister White, whose words we unfailingly accept and whose counsel we seek ever to follow." [Then follow quotations from Ellen G. White already appearing in this series.--ED.]

"To implement this counsel, we have set up, at the General Conference level, a committee on human relations. This committee meets from time to time to review and discuss international and race problems that arise within our work and to give constructive guidance. These meetings are productive of much good. Where deemed helpful, other organizations are encouraged to follow a similar plan."--Review and Herald, July 26, 1962, p. 8.

In a progress report at this 1962 session, F. L. Peterson, a general vice-president of the General Conference, declared:

"For at least three years the General Conference has had in operation a committee on human relations to study race and national relationships. Some of the agenda items discussed have, been the following:

"Ways and means of transmitting to the local conferences and to institutional heads and local church leaders the recommendations of the Human Relations Committee.

"The employment of workers in our various institutions on the basis of merit, regardless of color.

"The encouraging of our church schools and academies to open their doors to all Adventist children, regardless of race or nationality.

"The conducting of workshops on human relations on the union conference level, with study material for these workshops provided.

"The careful study of published articles and statements in our denominational publications that might create prejudice.

"Much progress has been made in our colleges, publishing houses, and in many other areas. We have members of our Regional group who are acting as clinical instructors in some of our sanitariums. All but two of our colleges accept our colored students, and these two are located in the South.* In some of these colleges our young people are enrolled in large numbers. The Southern Publishing Association in Nashville, Tennessee, in addition to the editor of The Message Magazine and his secretary, employs a member of our race as a filing clerk for The Message Magazine and the MV Kit. They have also one of our men employed as a shipping clerk. In several of our colleges there are integrated faculties.

*These two now accept colored students.

"Wherever there are perplexing situations along racial lines found in Seventh-day Adventist circles these problems will be properly discussed and recommendation made by the appointed leaders of the church.

"Every department of the General Conference is careful not to hold their advisory councils in cities where the brethren from the Regional Department who are members of these councils cannot find equal accommodations."--Review and Herald, July 31, 1962, p. 24.

Position Again Restated

In matters of this kind, it is well for a church from time to time to reiterate its position. This was done at the Spring Meeting of the General Conference held in Washington, D.C., in April, 1965, when the following action was taken: "Whereas, The Seventh-day Adventist Church in its Autumn Council of 1961 took action rededicating our denomination to the basic principles contained in the following representative statement by Ellen G. White: '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.

"Whereas, it is our belief and conviction that all persons should be given full and equal opportunity within the church to develop the knowledge and skills needed in the building up of that church, and that all service and positions of leadership on all levels of church activity should be open on the basis of qualifications without regard to race: therefore,

"We recommend, That the following principles and practices be adopted and carried out in churches and institutions:

"1. Membership and office in all churches and on all levels must be available to anyone who qualifies without regard to race.

"2. In our educational institutions there should be no racial bias in the employment of teachers or other personnel nor in the admission of students.

"3. Hospitals and rest homes should make no racial distinction in admitting patients or in making their facilities available to physicians, interns, residents, nurses, and administrators who meet professional standards of the institution.

"It is further recommended that these recommendations be given very serious consideration and that every effort be put forth to implement them as rapidly as is consistently possible."

The Church Paper Discusses Progress

The editor of the Review and Herald, in the issue carrying the foregoing action, editorialized thus in part on the human relations action voted: "Now our attitude toward the social gospel has not prevented us from a sympathetic concern for those underprivileged, either in body or in spirit, but it has led us to a more quiet and distinctively Adventist approach to the problem revealed by Freedom Marches and the like.

"Another feature of Adventism has also affected our course, and that is our noncombatant attitude-an attitude that has revealed itself not only in relation to outright war on the battlefied but also to labor wars, strikes and the like. We have ever felt that we can best reveal true Christianity, and thus best advance the Advent cause, by taking the more quiet and perhaps indirect approach to problems that so often arouse human passions.

"We received a letter some time go from a fervent reader who asked us where all the Adventist ministers were when a certain Freedom March was held-a march that included a number of clergy. We replied that we could not say just where all our ministers were at the time, but we did know that many of them were in the hard and dangerous places of the earth preaching the gospel to primitive, depressed peoples, seeking thus to lift them to higher levels. Other thousands of our ministers in the homeland were busy visiting the sick and afflicted and preaching the glad message of the soon coming of Christ. Preaching the 'everlasting gospel' is our great assignment from heaven.

"At the same time we have been striving quietly and continuously within our own ranks to work toward unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, for the Advent Movement includes many races and peoples. And we truly believe that the good hand o four God has been upon us. Here at headquarters our representative committee on Human Relations has been busy for quite some time seeking to solve problems of race relations in terms of the gospel. The record clearly shows progress over the years, even though some may have sincerely felt that the progress has not been fast enough. But no one has ever yet found a better protection against explosion, a surer way to maintain unity, than to move measuredly in dealing with difficult matters, where sincere men may hold widely divergent views. Even the Advent people, preparing to meet their God, are sorely handicapped with the frailties of finite approaches to age-old problems.

"But the rate of speed is not so important as the direction in which one travels. And, we repeat, we believe all will agree that real and constructive progress has been made over the years, including right here in the homeland, birthplace of the Advent Movement. Perhaps more progress still remains to be made, for we have not yet reached Paradise. But we believe that the resolution voted at the recent spring meeting of the General Conference Committee in Washington, D.C., sets forth clearly and explicitly the principles on which can be built an increasing unity of the spirit in the bond of peace for all who call themselves Adventists, no matter of what race or color. We rejoice in this resolution, which was unanimously voted. We believe it crystallizes a viewpoint that has steadily been shaping itself in our ranks. And best of all, it is a crystallization reached without fanfare or without the too-often militant and passionate exchanges that have marked the attempts of so many people to resolve this difficult problem.

"As has been true in earlier times, when long-held, divergent viewpoints have created problems and tensions, even so today the way out of the problem has been by Christian patience and forbearance, and a sincere, sympathetic endeavor to understand differing viewpoints,. A continued display of these rare Christian graces is vital to the full activation of this resolution, which we might add, was especially prepared for North America.

"If ever there was need for unity it is now when the whole world is being shaken apart. Our only hope of finishing gloriously our work for God is by unity. Here may be applied the thrice-repeated words of Sister White: 'Press together, press together, press together.'-Selected Messages, book 2, p. 374."-Review and Herald, April 29, 1965.

1965 Recommendations From Human Relations Committee

We have already quoted certain actions of the General Conference Committee in Spring and Autumn councils on the matter of human relations. In its action in the autumn of 1965, it recommended the publication of articles in the Review, and later in pamphlet form, or certain Spirit of Prophecy statements on the "the fundamental and abiding principles that should govern relationships between races," and also recommended "a campaign of education on the subject of race relations and a wider dissemination of information on the progress made in arriving at a better understanding between races. Further: "The holding of more Human Relations meetings on the union and on the local conference level where necessary, in which such items as the following can be taken up:

"a. The encouragement of an exchange of pulpits between Regional and Caucasian churches.

"b. The notation of incidents that promote good relationships between races and the study of others that have been or could be prejudicial to good relationships.

"c. Dialogues on race relationships at workers meetings, church officers meetings, college faculties and other appropriate gatherings.

"[That] Our institutions and church organization not only open their doors for the employment of qualified personnel of any race or nationality hut should seek to provide job training, experience, and guidance toward such achievement.

"A recommendation that the General Conference Officers study the advisability of including in the Church Manual appropriate statements setting forth our churchs position on the question of Human Relations."-Actions of the Autumn Council Pertaining to the North American Division, p. 119, 1965.

Forward Steps in a World Church

In November, 1965, R. R. Figulir, president of the General Conference, in his monthly letter to the church, reviewed the steps taken in the establishment of the Human Relations Committee and reported on its accomplishments. In part he said: "Gratifying results have been seen as the suggestions of the committee have been implemented. Much has been accomplished. without fanfare or publicity, through the cooperation of our various organizations. Our members, with few exceptions, have been sympathetically understanding. It must be recognized that age-old feelings are not easily set aside.

"Today the doors of Seventh-day Adventist institutions are open to the employment of people irrespective of race or nationality. The only requirement is proper qualifications such as are required of all who apply. Our senior colleges in the United States now accept students of all races and nationalities.

"It is particularly gratifying to note that this has been accomplished without fracturing our church. A wonderful spirit of harmony and unity has been maintained, Patience, confidence, and loyalty to Gods cause have kept us together.

"Another meeting of the Human Relations Committee of the General Conference has just convened. In addition to the regular members, a number of responsible laymen from various areas were invited. The committee has recommended certain courses of procedure that will be helpful in further promoting cordial relationships and better understanding between races in the United States.

"From the very beginning, Seventh-day Adventists have stood for the universal fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Dedicated as we are to the proclamation of Gods message to every kindred, tongue, and people, we can believe nothing less. Gods message is to gather out of all nations people to become united as one. John, in vision, saw them finally redeemed and transported to heaven, 'a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues (Rev. 7:9). If Gods people are to be united in heaven, they must first attain unity and oneness here on earth(--Review and Herald, Nov. 4, 1965.

The Call for a Reasonable Approach

Now, to all we would say that while as a church and as individual church members we ever stand for the brotherhood of mankind and for the progress being made to wipe out the inequities in the relationships of the races, we must ever remind ourselves that our eves are fixed on the eternal world and that we all must carefully guard against attitudes and feelings that could easily undermine our spiritual experiences or mar the cause of God.

Warned the messenger of the Lord: "It is Satans object to keep Christians occupied in controversies among themselves. He knows that if they do not watch, the day of the Lord will come on them as a thief in the night. We have no time now to give place to the spirit of the enemy and to cherish prejudices that confuse the judgment and lead us away from Christ."-- Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 216.

Our appeal is to our brethren white and colored. We must ever sense that it is the evil purpose of Satan to lead men to animosities, strivings, contentions, and confusion. There may be movements in the world, commendable and useful in themselves, and to which the Seventh-day Adventist feels sympathetic. But he remains apart, for he must ever guard every avenue to the heart and mind against anything that might make the soul insensible to the gentle movings of the Spirit of God.

Sister White had not been writing long on the subject of laboring for the colored people when she penned these lines of cheer: "The walls of sectarianism and caste and race will fall down when the true missionary spirit enters the hearts of men. Prejudice is melted away by the love of God.--Review and Herald, Jan. 21, 1896. (The Southern Work, p. 76.)

"Walls of separation have been built up between the whites and the blacks. These walls of prejudice will tumble down of themselves as did the walls of Jericho, when Christians obey the Word of God, which enjoins on them supreme love to their Maker and impartial love to their neighbors."--Review and Herald, Dec. 17, 1895. Also Christian Service, p. 217. (The Southern Work, p. 54.)

However, as a unified church, our only hope is in putting self aside and closely uniting with Christ. These words penned by the messenger of the Lord in 1904 should be read anew today: "It will be impossible to adjust all matters regarding the color question in accordance with the Lord's order until those who believe the truth are so closely united with Christ that they are one with Him.

"Both the white and the colored members of our churches need to be converted. There are some of both classes who are unreasonable, and when the color question is agitated, they manifest unsanctified, unconverted traits of character. Quarrelsome elements are easily aroused in those who, because they have never learned to wear the yoke of Christ, are opinionated and obstinate. In such, self clamors with an unsanctified determination for the supremacy."-E.G. White. Letter 105, 1904.

One of the last statements Sister White wrote on this subject set forth these words of prophetic assurance: "When the Holy Spirit is poured out, there will be 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 be 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 (1908).

We believe that Ellen White, were she among us today, would repeat to us what she said before the General Conference session of 1891: "I have heard the angel voice saying, 'Press together, press together, press together. Do not let Satan cast his hellish shadow between brethren. Press together; in unity there is strength.'"-Selected Messages, book 2, p. 374.