This new book on church race relations emanates from Winsley Hector’s thought-provoking Claremont School of Theology dissertation of distinction. While documenting the story of the establishment of an African-American administrative structure, the book shows the relevance of Seventh-day Adventist race relations to both historical and contemporary discussions on racial reconciliation, within and beyond ecclesiastical circles.
Hector’s work, anchored in the discipline of spiritual care and pastoral counseling, draws on the work of Eric Yamamoto’s interracial justice model.1 To derive the desired racial reconciliation, the four-stage model calls for recognition and confession, responsibility and repentance, reconstruction and accountability, and reparation that is transformative. Hector believes that, with some adaptation, this can serve as a model for the complex but necessary work of racial healing in the church. He challenges church leadership to engage in the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus prayed for in John 17, describing it as “restoring fractured relationships and ending estrangement.”
Hector expertly outlines arguments for both the continuance and the closure of regional conferences, advocated by pragmatists and idealists, respectively. The pragmatists argue for the structural accommodation of regional conferences based on cultural solidarity, “mission particularity,” and the development of black leadership. The idealists proffer the “unity defense” for dissolving regional conferences, arguing that they represent a visible sign of the church’s racial legacy and current divisions. Hector posits that idealists say little about the process for reconciliation, the form of the assimilated, unified structure, or the resultant effects on black and white members in abolishing regional conferences and establishing a new structure. Nevertheless, maintains Hector, the conversation is worthwhile.
Of course, he argues, it is quite difficult to talk about race relations without addressing the specter of white privilege. Hector asserts that failure to confront this historical legacy, defined by Peggy McIntosh as “an invisible package of unearned assets,”2 will frustrate any efforts at racial reconciliation, no matter how magnanimous the intent. This issue has become a potent national discussion, and the church is well advised to seize the moment and examine the effects of this ongoing legacy on the church. This calls for courage to confront what I refer to as “the brutal facts of the organization’s current reality.”3
Hector expresses his honest convictions with academic vigor and professionalism—a quality to be welcomed, not derided, as may often be the case. His call is also timely, given the international interest in issues of race relations arising from the death of George Floyd and the resultant global impetus for systemic change leading to racial equality. Aneeta Rattan admonishes, “And if you are currently thinking that this moment—the protests, the pandemic, the economic outlook—is not the right time to act, ask yourself what more you require, beyond a global movement, to make you see diversity as a priority?”4
Hector’s work is a must-read, especially for church leaders. Current global trends demonstrate the wisdom of the church immediately engaging in a process addressing biased systems and policies, thereby moving the church, and its diversity, forward. Too much is at stake to do otherwise.
- Eric Yamamoto, Interracial Justice: Conflict and Reconciliation in Post-Civil Rights America (New York, NY: New York University Press, 1999).
- Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies” in Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, eds., Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror (Temple University Press, 1997), 291.
- Clinton A. Valley, Straight from the Valley : A Christian Leader's Journey (Atlanta, GA: Xulon Press, 2020).
- Aneeta Rattan, “An Open Letter of Advice to CEOs,” Financial Times, June 9, 2020, https://www.ft.com/content/7216ad9e-aa30-11ea-abfc-5d8dc4dd86f9.