Is it Time? – Frederick Russell, Calvin Rock, and the Black Conferences

In a very interesting move, the Allegheny West Conference has elected Pastor Frederick Russell to become its next president. What is interesting to me is that this happens during the discussion in the Adventist world over the existence of so called “regional conferences.”

Russell has written an article that calls for the removal of the separated conferences in America. His plan, which looks like one of the plans presented in the General Conference document that we blogged on two years ago and can be found at this link, calls for the abolishment of both the local conference and the union conference levels and then create a new entity that is larger than a local conference, but smaller than a union conference.

In contrast, Dr. Calvin Rock disagrees with Russel. You can find his compelling piece at this link.

What to Keep in Mind

I think when we talk about the Black and White conferences we need to keep a few things in mind. First and foremost many of our brothers and sisters of other denominational traditions are being hypocritical when they condemn us for having black and white conferences. We must keep in mind that many of their denominations may not have black and white conferences, the reason being is because they have white and black Denominations. The Methodists split along the color line and so did the Baptists. Certainly today we see some black churches in predominantly white denominations, and a few in the other direction, but I have heard to many Adventists doing hand wringing when a baptist asks about Black conferences when we can at least say we didn’t split the denomination itself.

Black People Can’t Bear the Brunt of The Black Conference Existence

Another important point to keep in mind, Black people cannot bear the brunt for the reason for their existence. I sometimes hear black and white brothers and sisters blaming black people for the existence of “Black conferences.” Their existence was due to white racism totally. This was not created by so called black racism, but white racism plain and simple. If we ever do away with them, we must recognize this and state it, if we don’t it will demonstrate their need. A new way this is argued is to say “we don’t’ have white conferences we have black conferences and integrated conferences.” This is attempting to sweep it all under the rug and blame black people for its current existence.

Structural Renewal Can’t be Used to Sweep Under the Rug

Also, The real need for structural renewal cannot be used to sweep away the Black conferences without us fully dealing with why we created them in the first place.

Is it time to get rid of the Black conferences? I don’t know, but I tend to doubt it. Is it time to get together and figure out when that time would be? Well it is way past time for that determination. We pray that Frederick Russell can begin that conversation in his new role.

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