by Bill Roberts, Ministerial Director for the Washington Conference
I was meeting with a multi-ethnic panel of pastors when the question was asked, “how can we continue to build bridges and work towards racial reconciliation?” We can’t always solve societies issues, but how can we clean up the garbage on our side of the street. The three angel’s messages are to go to every nation, tribe, language and people. To be faithful to this mission, racial unity is essential. If the world is racially polarized and sees us as the same, it will hurt our credibility and turn the volume down on the “loud voice” of the first angel. The Adventist Church is the most racially diverse church in North America and also the most structurally divided. A suggestions was made to create a podcast. It was felt that this was a valuable way to communicate with today’s generation. Perhaps this would allow us to grow in understanding and reconciliation.
We gathered a team that met, planned and prayed for months as “Just Us” was created. The panel for the podcast consists of Hanz Jouissance, a young black pastor, Mimi Weithers-Bruce, a black mother, John Brunt, a veteran white pastor and educator, and myself, a white pastor. Two others, Sheri Crooker, a white educator and Randy Maxwell a black pastor served as advisors. Our intent is to model unity by working together and listening with empathy. We recorded an introductory episode in which we tell our stories relating to our interest in racial reconciliation. Our second and third episodes will deal with four crucial terms to make sense of today’s racial issues. They are all things I had never heard of a year ago. They are: sundown towns, green books, redlining, and black wall street. For example, sundown towns are communities where it was illegal for blacks to stay past sundown. Ironically my own mother and John Brunt both grew up in Glendale, California which was a sundown town until 1964. Each of these terms describe a dynamic of our nations history that shaped the racial reality of today. For example many sundown towns remain almost exclusively white. It is vital to understand and have empathy for the pain and trauma many blacks are experiencing today.
We take as our mandate Malachi 3:16 “Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.” Often racial tension is not discussed because we don’t know what to do with it and hope it goes away. We felt that starting with prayerful dialogue would be helpful.
Our theme verse for the podcast is 2 Corinthians 7:2 “Make room for us in your hearts.” Our dream is that we can embody John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Only when Jesus is present and powerful can bridges be built over racial tensions and centuries of pain.