The Church Is On the Wrong Side of History

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We as a church get things wrong from time to time — sometimes dreadfully so. All churches do, actually all organizations do. Such was the case in our church in South Africa during apartheid, as Dr. Peter Landless detailed from his personal experience and intimate knowledge during Sunday’s Annual Council debate in Battle Creek on non-compliance. I wonder if there were a few voices who spoke out against the organized church’s practice in South Africa? I wonder if they were seen as rebellious and out of compliance?
 
What about when the General Conference was racially segregated? Were those who fought for integration seen as rebellious and out of compliance?
 
What about when policy had our church’s hospital refuse to admit Lucille Byard due to the color of her skin, which ultimately led to her death. If a courageous nurse or doctor had spoken up in that moment, would they have been reprimanded? Would they have been removed? Would they have been seen as rebellious and out of compliance?
 
The church has been on the wrong side of history — sometimes dreadfully so.
 
Friends, this is precisely why some of us have taken a stand for the equality of women in our church. This is why women’s ordination is here to stay! This is what it means when so many people say it is a matter of conscience. These people who are labeled as rebellious and out of compliance are that nurse, they are that doctor, who says, “No! I don’t care what policy says. It is wrong to deny this person due to the color of their skin. It is wrong to deny this person due to their gender.”
 
What do those who voted for the compliance document think is going to happen? What does the president of the General Conference think? Do they think that just because there is a punitive measure in place, those who find the unequal treatment of women in ministry morally abhorrent will simply disregard their conscience because of a vote? Would our president even want these elected leaders in ministry, leaders who could so easily dismiss their conscience? Or is it that they are supposed to distrust their conscience, or forfeit their conscience, in exchange for voted policy of the world church at Annual Council?
 
The church has been on the wrong side of history — sometimes dreadfully so.
 
Twenty years from now when we look back, how many of us will mourn that we were on the wrong side of history? How many of us will be able to look into our children’s eyes and tell them the role we played?
 
“An unjust law is no law at all.” —Martin Luther King Jr.
 
 
Daniel Xisto is Pastor for Community Engagement at the Takoma Park Church of Seventh-day Adventists. He is passionate about connecting with his community, making his church’s presence felt in their neighborhood, and empowering the marginalized in the DMV area.

Image Credit: Flickr.com / Brent Hardinge / Adventist News Network
 
 
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