The 2020 Adventist Forum Conference on “identities: within and beyond the borders of Adventism” is happening February 21–23 at AdventHealth University in Orlando, Florida. In this interview series, we’re talking with the speakers about who they are, why identity is important, and getting a sneak peek into what they’ll be presenting at the conference.
Question: Tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you’ll be speaking about at the Adventist Forum Conference in February.
Answer: I’m a second year Master’s student studying Social Work at Columbia University. I will be speaking about the intersectionality of identities and managing those identities as a graduate student. I am Kenyan but I lived in Uganda for 18 years of my life and have schooled in three different countries with varying cultures. I’ll be speaking about how my upbringing, the church, and living in different cultures and contexts has influenced my identities.
How do the various identities that make up who you are intersect with each other? Do these identities ever create tension, and if so how?
The various identities I have sometimes conflict with each other, and I am learning how they complement each other. For instance, my identity as Kenyan in Kenya can be different from my identity as a Kenyan in the U.S. Likewise, my identity in Kenyan churches may be different from when I am in churches in the U.S. I am learning to make them more fluid and constant but the contexts are different, thus sometimes creating tension.
Why is it important to discuss identities?
It is important to discuss identities because we need to remember who we are and how it affects how we relate to others in different contexts.
How do you see the Adventist Church approaching issues of identity? What does it get right, and what could it do better?
I think the church has done a great job representing its fundamental beliefs and its core identity, but I think it confuses culture with identity. I think the church could accept that there are different cultures which is okay, but the identity remains constant.
Has the Adventist church's identity changed during your lifetime and if so, how has that affected you?
I think my own perception of the church’s identity has changed and has affected me as a result. I have had to accept that the church’s identity is meant to stay the same, but people impose their own culture on the identity and the lines become blurred. Especially going to church in Africa and North America.
What is the difference between the church's identity and its culture?
To me, the church’s identity is a constant but there are variations of the church’s culture which are often confused with its identity.
Photo provided by Davina Buruchara.
For more information on the identities conference and to register, please click here.
Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.
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