Conference Public Affairs and Religious (PARL) Directors agreed at the Lake Union Year-end Meeting to adopt an anti-racism pledge. From left to right top row: Lake Union PARL Director, Nicholas Miller; Indiana PARL Director, Violo Weis; Wisconsin PARL Director, Jonathan Fetrick; Bottow row: Michigan Director and Associate Director, Andy and Laura Im; Lake Region PARL Director, Edward Woods III; Lake Union PARL Department Administrative Assistant, Jana Quetz.
The Pledge was initiated by Adventist leaders and scholars in Tennessee, though its support has expanded to include pastors and leaders of many denominations throughout the country.
“The PARL leaders within the Lake Union believe that racism is one of the biggest challenges facing us as both a society and a church” said Nicholas Miller, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Director of the Lake Union Conference. “We stand in support of an explicitly Christian-based, image of God focused, biblically-based approach to the question as exemplified in the LEAD Anti-racism Pledge.”
One of the initiators of the Pledge, Elder Tony Brand, Pastor of Orchard Park Seventh-day Adventist Church, explained that “the thought was to launch a 100% Christian-based initiative that would be attractive to people of all races and ethnicities and political persuasions.” Brand approached Nicole Parker, an adjunct faculty at Southern Adventist University, who along with her husband, Alan Parker, Ph.D., a Religion Professor at Southern Adventist University, and their teenage children, drafted the Pledge.
They introduced the Pledge to a local interdenominational network of clergy that were part of the One Kingdom One Church race relations initiative. The clergy had expressed a desire, said Brand “to make a strong moral statement about the racial unrest that erupted because of the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Brionna Taylor, and George Floyd.”
The Pledge, which is about a page long, states: “Rooted in the conviction that the followers of Jesus are called to reflect their beloved Creator and Redeemer as a mosaic and symphony of humanity, I choose courage instead of comfort . . . . I pledge to do my part to fulfill Jesus’ prayer ‘that they all may be one,’ trusting Him to weave ‘every nation, kindred, tongue and people’ into a beautiful tapestry of love, until the day my soul is at rest, free at last.”
The acronym LEAD stands for Listen, Embrace, Advocate, Dream. To paraphrase: It’s a pledge to Listen to others, even when it’s uncomfortable to do so, with an open mind, examining our own actions; to Embrace others with hospitality and to build a community that welcomes harmonious diversity; to Advocate for those facing discrimination, to speak out, to stand up, to respond with respect, kindness and non-violence; to Dream of equality for all.
The Pledge has been signed by over 700 people, including over 200 clergy (several from varying levels of leadership in the Adventist Church). But what does signing the Pledge mean? Those who were instrumental to its creation say their goal is to “end racism in the Christian Church in America.”
"It's only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can eradicate systemic racism both inside and outside of the church," states Edward Woods III, PARL director for Lake Region Conference. "I am Godfident that the L.E.A.D. Anti-Racism Pledge places the onus on individual responsibility and accountability in order to change people, families, congregations, communities, organizations, countries, and the world.”
The team behind LEAD (nine people of varying denominations) have developed their next initiative, the LEAD 40-day Challenge, which is an anti-racism devotional challenge based on the “I will” statements found in the Pledge. Nicholas Miller has contributed to the devotional, which is written for individuals or churches as a tool to engage people in opposing racism.
To read the Pledge in its entirety and add your name, visit https://leadpledge.org/.
Janna Quetz is the Lake Union Public Affairs and Religious Liberty administrative assistant.