by AT News Team
Over the past ten days a number of Seventh-day Adventist pastors and administrators have made public statements of concern about the shooting death of a 17-year-old African American young man in a suburb of Orlando, Florida. The tragic death of Trayvon Martin has opened a national debate about race and violence, and Adventist voices have been included, perhaps somewhat late.
Sabbath, March 17, “a predominantly African-American Seventh-day Adventist congregation” in the Orlando area held a forum on race issues, according to the CNN Belief Blog, and Pastor James Coffin was on the panel. A man in the audience asked why the white leadership of the denomination had not yet spoken to the events.
Coffin “admitted the man was right” and “later wrote … an impassioned e-mail … acknowledging his guilt for his inaction,” according to CNN. “African-Americans shouldn’t be waging this battle on their own,” Coffin is quoted. “While it certainly has racial overtones and undertones, it’s a problem that’s bigger than just racism.” It is such a fundamental issue Coffin said that people outside the African-American community “need to get involved … for our own well-being.”
“Hundreds of students, community leaders and elected officials marched along Grandville Avenue in Grand Rapids,” Michigan, the same day. Then joined “a community gathering … at La Paz Seventh-day Adventist Church,” reported local television news. The event celebrated the legacy of Cesar Chavez, the activist that organized the farm workers union. There are many migrant farm workers that work in Michigan.
By Monday, March 26, the denomination’s top leadership was speaking out on the issue. “We join with others in deep concern of the senseless, violent acts,” said Pastor Dan Jackson, president of the North American Division. “Trayvon Martin [was like] many of our youth, many of our own children. We join in mourning with his family and friends and pray for justice.”
The majority of Adventists in North America under 18 years of age are people of color. “For that simple reason alone, we must deal with this issue,” said Monte Sahlin, research director for the Ohio Conference and a researcher affiliated with the Bradford-Cleveland-Brooks Leadership Center at Oakwood University. “Young people like Trayvon Martin are the future of the Adventist faith.”