As the Country Faces Racial and Police Tensions, How can Adventists Make a Difference?

As the Country Faces Racial and Police Tensions, How can Adventists Make a Difference?

As the Country Faces Racial and Police Tensions, How can Adventists Make a Difference?

Story by Mark Tyler/ Cover photo by Chip Dizárd

Maurice Taylor, Berea Temple pastor; Minnie McNeil, Allegheny East ACS director; and Dave Weigley, Columbia Union president, organize efforts.

Maurice Taylor, Berea Temple pastor; Minnie McNeil, Allegheny East ACS director; and Dave Weigley, Columbia Union president, organize efforts.

Riots and protests erupted in West Baltimore in April when an unarmed citizen died in police custody. Tensions flared in a neighborhood plagued by systemic problems as people lashed out over the death of another black man by police. The events in Baltimore are the latest to increase tensions started by similar situations in Ferguson, Mo., and other locations.

Some of the biggest purveyors of peace during the incident, however, were Seventh-day Adventist pastors and other clergy who literally provided a buffer between demonstrators and police, then organized block-by-block prayer bands.

“God used the clergy to prevent loss of life,” explains Reginald M. Anderson-Exum, pastor of Allegheny East Conference’s (AEC) Edmondson Heights church in West Baltimore. “I held gang members in my arms and we wept together. I wanted them to know I understand their anger. Now they know they have a God and a pastor who empathizes with them.”

Maurice N. Taylor, AEC’s Baltimore Extended Area Ministerium leader and pastor of Berea Temple, the church closest to the unrest, held a service of hope and healing just days after the riots and invited in the community to address tangible needs. Taylor says everyone was positive.

Minnie McNeil, Adventist Community Services (ACS) coordinator for the union and director for Allegheny East, with support from the Columbia Union, Chesapeake Conference and North American Division, also organized relief efforts. Together they donated funds and mobilized volunteers to distribute water and personal hygiene products in a neighborhood where looters destroyed a local pharmacy. (Read more on page 5.)

“I’m proud to see our community of faith provide support to a hurting city,” says Dave Weigley, union president. “The tragedy in Baltimore is repeated too often across the country, and while many are looking to find solutions, we know there is really only one: for everyone to experience the love and transforming power of God’s grace.”

Eli Rojas, ACS and ministerial director for Chesapeake, says, “It was a really good feeling [to] get in touch with the people who are going through the struggle. This was a Band-Aid put on the wound, but we need to do more.”

And, they are. As racial and police tensions persist, church leaders and members around the Columbia Union continue to contribute through action and voice. Here are some methods they’ve employed to bring long-term healing: