050. Regional Conferences & the Preservation of Minority Voices (Dr. Douglas Morgan)

Welcome back to Advent Next a theological podcast curated for curious faith discussions. This week we are continuing our conversation with Dr. Douglas Morgan, Author of the biography Lewis C. Sheafe: Apostle to Black America. This week we are discussing Dr. Morgan’s upcoming book (although still unpublished) tentatively titled Change Agents, which explores the role of the laity in the formation of regional conferences. So I want to take a quick aside to explain why I’m continuing on this topic of race and the church and will continue to do so for a few more weeks. This week we’re discussing church government. It’s a topic that can seem peripheral to the gospel, but really understanding how to organize a diverse group of people under the unity of a single denomination WITHOUT losing the voice and interests of minority groups is an enormous task. Protecting the interests of minority groups IS the gospel. It’s why Jesus commanded his people to care for widows and orphans, those who were vulnerable to exploitation and hardship within structure of their society. Understanding church government provides us a lesson in leadership for how to interact and participate in society as well as with fellow believers. By observing our past mistakes we can also define principles that will make us better leaders for the present. One method that arose with Adventism (not naturally I might add but through the insistence, protest and perseverance of the marginalized Black community) were Regional conferences. Regional conferences have been used to preserve the voice of marginalized interest groups by creating sub-structures within the majority structure in order to voice the interests of minority groups to majority leaders. It’s the same reason why the United States has a Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus. It is the means by which those in power can be informed about the needs and issues that may be periphery to majority leaders but are unique and important to minority communities. So we continue this week detailing how the Adventist Church developed a system of representation for the African-American community within the majority structure beginning with the formation of Regional Conferences in 1943.This system is unique to Adventism since at this very moment in history other churches were splitting on racial lines rather than developing a system that could empower minority groups.


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