In the wake of the most recent mass shootings in the United States, Michael Nixon and Ty Gibson, founders of the Against the Wall movement, issued a statement on August 7, 2019, condemning white nationalist terrorism. They are also circulating a petition that will be sent to the General Conference, North American Division, and Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary.
Nixon, who serves as vice president of diversity and inclusion at Andrews University, and Ty Gibson, co-director of Light Bearers and lead pastor of Storyline Church, founded Against the Wall in 2017 as a movement to “speak with passionate clarity against walls of racial separation and injustice across the globe – both inside and outside the Adventist church…. ‘Against the Wall’ doubles as a metaphor to communicate that we are opposed to walls of racial separation and that we stand in solidarity with those who find themselves oppressed by walls of racism.”
The statement, titled “Silence Equals Complicity — Denouncing White Nationalist Terrorism,” reads in part:
As people of faith who are committed to tearing down walls of racial hatred, division and oppression, we categorically denounce Mr. Trump’s racist rhetoric and call on him to fully account for his racism and be the leader that the position of President requires him to be.
Having said that, it would be too easy for us to simply lay these problems at the feet of Mr. Trump. While his rhetoric, behavior, and policy positions certainly have not helped move us toward a “more perfect union,” the ills of racially motivated violence pre-date him by centuries. Contrary to contemporary attempts at revisionist history, America’s original sin of human chattel slavery was primarily motivated by the same belief in white supremacy that motivated the El Paso shooter to target and take away lives that he considered to be inferior to his. White supremacy’s dehumanizing effects extend not just to the image bearers of God that are falsely labeled as inferior, but it also extends to the white person who sadly falls into the lie that God made them superior and so they can do whatever they please to the “lesser” groups of people. This false belief in a hierarchy of human value must be eradicated wherever it rears its ugly head — from our politics, our schools, our communities and, of paramount importance to those who claim the banner of Christianity, from our churches.
The full statement is available on the Against the Wall website here.
In conjunction with the statement, Nixon and Gibson also posted a petition to Change.org, calling “on the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to release an official statement denouncing white nationalism.”
The petition continues,
We also believe that it is way past time for the church to write a theological statement on the topic of racism and take an honest, transparent look at the legacy of systemic racism which has plagued our global movement for centuries. We plan to send this petition to the leaders of the General Conference, the North American Division, and the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. Our church can no longer remain silent in the face of the rise of white nationalism and the racist belief in white supremacy that fuels it. Racism's effects go beyond the interpersonal level and are deeply rooted into the fabric of America and will not be eradicated until the institutions in this country address those roots wherever they can be found. Please join us by signing this petition so that we can show the leadership of our church that we will not tolerate silence any longer.
In response to a request for comment, Nixon stated,
Ty and I are so grateful that so many people decided to support our statement by signing this petition. We really felt that, given the mission and vision of Against the Wall, we had to speak out against the act of white nationalist terrorism in El Paso. Beyond that, we also thought that it was time for our church — both members and leadership — to speak out in a more direct way as well.
We also feel that it is important for our church to wrestle with the legacy of systemic racism that has plagued our movement since its inception. Confession, repentance, and reparations (where possible) are necessary before any meaningful, biblical reconciliation can take place. We plan to send the statement, along with the petition and the signatures, to leadership at the GC and NAD next week.
There is still time to sign the petition and declare that you are also against the wall! Thank you again to all who have supported this initiative thus far. Keep a look out on our website and social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to stay updated.
The Texico and Ohio conferences both issued statements in the wake of the shootings that occurred in their territories on August 3 and August 4, respectively, but neither statement mentioned racism or bigotry. The NAD followed up with its own statement on August 7, condemning hatred, bigotry, and racism and stating in part, “As a church, we remind all that we should love equally and resolve to serve no matter race, gender, or cultural background. And we call on each person of this land to do the same. We also pray that our elected leaders will fulfill their sworn duty to protect the citizens of this country.”
In an August 8 comment on the petition, Michael Nixon said, “While we believe [the NAD statement] is a good start, we will remain engaged with them on some of the other issues we identified in the petition (namely, addressing the systemic racism that exists in our own denomination).”
The General Conference has not issued a statement on the recent shootings. When asked if they planned to do so, the GC communication department stated, “The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, who represents the church in the U.S., has made a statement,” and pointed me back to the North American Division’s response. The GC did not have a comment on the Against the Wall statement and petition.
Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
Image courtesy of Against the Wall.
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