From Sept. 23 to Sept. 24, Compass Magazine presented an extended series of discussions and presentations, held in the PMC Youth Chapel, under the title of “Repairing the Breach: A Pathway to Racial Unity”. Michael Nixon, Legal & Policy Coordinator for the Fair Housing Justice Center began the event 8:45 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23, outlining “CLIMATE” change and offering his insights on what is needed to alleviate racial tensions within the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“CLIMATE” change is an acronym which provides people a step-by-step linear framework with which to initiate racial reconciliation. The acronym stands for confession, lamentation, introspection, message, authenticity, transformation and expectation.
“As a black man in this country, I am viewed differently,” Nixon said. Nixon stated that being viewed differently is what led him to promote “CLIMATE” change and racial reconciliation in Seventh-day Adventist communities.
Colby Maier (first year, Master of Divinity), who participated in the discussions, resonated with Seventh-day Adventist communities’ need for introspection.
“We need to have a moment individually and corporately as a church doing introspection. We need to look at the emotional mental health of our church and the emotional mental health of each and every individual in the church,” Maier said.
Nixon continued, emphasizing that, “Reconciliation across racial lines in the church is a gospel issue.”
In response, Maier noted that, “The idea of a social gospel will break down barriers which might impede reconciliation.”
During the presentation and discussion, Andrews University students voiced their desire the implementation of “CLIMATE” change.
Kaniel Hunt (freshman, exercise science) said, “There are still things in the present that are happening to people of minority groups that we can still bring up in response to people saying ‘times have changed,’ because when you look times really haven’t changed—things are still pretty bad.”
Hunt is not the only one who believes this issue is a present-day need.
Sarah Brockett (sophomore, communications, pre-law) stated that, “This is a problem that is embedded deep in the roots of our church. You can't really be a part of the problem; you have to be a part of the solution and actively change.”
As the program came to a close, the atmosphere buzzed with questions from audience members young and old.
Gabby Ziegler (senior, English), present at the discussion, said, “I think it’s nice that an alum is coming back to share his awareness through his experience here at Andrews and bringing light not only to the current students but to staff and community members as well.”
On Sept. 24, several more speakers, including David Penno, Cleran Hollancid and Jerome Skinner, were present; they continued the discussion on race relations within the church.
After they spoke, the room broke off into small groups, each one lead by one of the speakers. In these groups, those present were able to address the speaker with questions, continue the discussion or simply share a takeaway they got from the series.
The night ended with a unity prayer, as people held hands forming a circle and Penno offered a word of prayer, asking God to “change the climate of our church and induce change towards a better future.”
Although the series had come to an end, Garrison Hayes (second year, Master of Divinity) stated the two-day series was only the beginning of the discussion.
Hayes said, “This was a great starting point, especially getting the history of race relations in our church. Understanding that we are the sum total of our history is important to understanding the racial divide that exists today. I think this series did a great job in setting up that history that brings us to where we are right now.”