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
"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
"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
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
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
"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.