19 October 2020 | On October 2, Religion News Service (RNS) published an interview with the president of the Adventist denomination’s North American Division (NAD), G. Alexander Bryant. The conversation focused on the idea of leveraging the church’s “strength of diversity.”

Bryant was identified as “the second African American to lead his division of the global religious group.”

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America and around the world, the diversity that we are experiencing now, we celebrate it and we appreciate it,” said Bryant to RNS, “And we’re learning how we can best leverage the diversity and the strength of diversity. I think we’re still growing in that as a church.”

Bryant made the point that of 1.2 million members in the NAD, “more than a third are of African descent.”

He responded to an RNS question regarding a 2014 Pew Research Center finding that the Adventist denomination was the most racially and ethnically diverse in the United States. RNS asked whether this positioned the denomination to better address US-based racial tensions.

“It’s a part of who we are. I think it makes it very relevant to us and very near to us,” said Bryant. “We can’t distance ourselves from it because it’s a part of who our church is.”

Bryant admitted that a number of Adventist congregations in metro areas are all African American or all Hispanic but said many churches were mixed.

The president explained the involvement of black Adventist ministers in get-out-the-vote efforts as going back to the civil rights movement “where the Black church was the epicenter of all activity, including voter registration.

“We do not get involved like in a political party, but they do encourage members to vote, to be a part of that process as citizens of the country and because of George Floyd and so many other Black deaths and trying to find out what positive (action) can be done. We do have many of our members of all colors who have protested peacefully in marches.”

Also related to diversity, RNS asked about women’s ordination:

“At your church’s last General Conference in 2015, a global decision was made to not permit regional church bodies to ordain women pastors. The next meeting has been postponed until 2021. Do you anticipate a change or further action on that issue then?”

Bryant said he’d been told the issue was not on the 2021 agenda.

Asked if this would be disappointing news to some, Bryant said, “It’s been a very divisive issue in our church. I believe this will change in the church, but it will just take time.”

RNS pressed for more:

“You think eventually women may be ordained as pastors?”

Bryant replied “I think that eventually will take place. Yes. I don’t think people will rest with the current response. And because of that, I think eventually the church will take another look at it. And, in that look, that there may be change.”

Image credit: NAD

To comment, click here.