WISCONSIN — Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) leaders gathered at Milwaukee Central Church last fall to celebrate the prophetic heritage of the church and expound on the vital role PARL ministry plays outside the walls of the church.
Nicholas Miller, Lake Union Conference’s PARL director, was the main presenter and he spoke on the importance of embracing the entire prophetic message of our church and not falling for the false dichotomy that would divorce divine revelation and personal salvation from community concerns.
Later in the program, Miller moderated a panel discussion featuring a range of perspectives, which helped shed light on the scope of the PARL mandate of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Bria Grant explained how the non-profit she founded, Unite MKE, has put her in a position where ministry and career merges. Her Milwaukee-based organization works to use data management tools collected around the social determinants of health, as a way of increasing health services to vulnerable populations while reducing health care costs to governments. “There is no greater work than doing work for the least of these,” said Grant, who also serves as PARL director of Sharon Church. “We make sure people are well — not just in their physical, but in their mental, social, emotional (health) — so we can speak to them spiritually through the lives we live. So, if we want to witness to a dying world we want to make sure they’re well, so they can receive the word of God.”
Allen Ruppel, founder and executive director of the non-profit, Unity in Motion, an organization creating a steady pathway to success through relationally relevant interventions for at-risk African-American youth, stressed the importance of building relationships that bridge barriers. He said that religious liberty isn’t about legislating morality, but instead it’s about allowing individuals to “experience it without interference.”
Jonathan Fetrick, pastor of the Wisconsin Academy Church and PARL representative for Madison spoke from the perspective of lobbying activities of the Adventist church. He shared how lobbying is an interesting arena. “We (Adventists) tend to be well liked in legislatures because we are very centrist: we don’t line up with the Religious Right and we don’t line up with the so-called Liberal Left: We believe in religious liberty for all people.”
Carmelo Mercado, Lake Union Conference general vice president with responsibilities for multi-cultural ministries spoke about the humanitarian crises that affect people groups within the U.S., especially in light of a skewed view of Scripture. “It broke my heart to hear the stories of these unaccompanied children and separated children who are separated from their families all in the name of security. When I hear that and see that, I don’t see that as biblical. I don’t see that as truly scriptural.”
Lake Region Conference’s PARL Director, Edward Woods III, stressed the evangelistic opportunities created by PARL, which shows that our members truly care about people. For instance, he mentioned the devastating impact of the Flint water crisis and that people in the economically depressed community were not looked at as people in the image of God. He counseled, “We have an opportunity, as a church, to use our Public Affairs and Religious Liberty ministry as a dynamic tool to evangelize the world, by showing that we care about people.”
Photo credit: Sheldon Bryan