July 31, 2020

Growing Pains

I am a millennial, a person of color, a woman and a Christian. I have experienced what most young people do during their college years: a desire for enlightenment, and an understanding of what the world is and what part I play in it.

I have experienced the Black Lives Matter movement, the “Me Too” movement, presidents leaving office and new ones coming in, children separated from their families and put in cages, and climate change, all while in an Adventist environment. This has forced me, and many other students in various other Adventist environments, to see the world around us through the Adventist lens that has been passed down to us. 

 As a young person I can’t help but wonder where my place is in the church, how my church feels about issues that matter to me, about issues that flood so many of my conversations with peers and are constantly broadcasted in the media. 

I will be honest. College has been a time where I have been most disappointed and disheartened by my church. Freshman year during the #ItIsTimeAU video movement, I saw people who claimed to be Adventist sending death threats to students in the video. Sophomore year I saw my church split in half by an election. Junior year racist slurs were painted across different Adventist avenues as DACA students seeking safety in the only home they have ever known were being threatened. In the midst of the “Me Too” movement, I witnessed the General Conference declare that they could not support the equality of women when it came to pastoral ministry.  

So, this begs the following questions: Does being an Adventist mean I can’t be a feminist, or stand with immigrants, or not march for black lives or rally for climate change? Or, am I to look towards the doctrine of Christ and see that He has always been champion for all humans and for all injustice? 

As a young person, along with my frustration comes an overwhelming sense of hopefulness. How can we go out and spread the mission of Christ with love and empathy, without looking down on others? 

Despite these feelings of despair, I am an optimist. I’m hopeful that my church will follow the doctrine outlined by Christ and no longer hide within the confines of the church walls we have built to keep out the issues of the world around us. I am hopeful I will see my church begin to value the voices of young people and not let tradition cause them to lose the young people. 

I am hopeful we will all be vessels of hope for the world. I hope to see my church on the frontlines of change, standing alongside all of God's children. My hope is rooted in both the message of God and the people I have met — activists, young and old, working every day to make the church a better reflection of what is outlined in the Bible. Even if it sometimes means being critical of a church I love, I am hopeful I will find courage to be like Christ and always stand for what’s right. 

Leah Wooten was the Andrews University AUSA president for the 2019‒2020 school year. The article was submitted February 2020.