October 23, 2018

In North America, Conscience and Justice Council Educates and Empowers

Mid-America Union Outlook, and Adventist Review

The Third Annual Convention of the Conscience and Justice Council convened under the theme “Freedom and Equality” in Houston, Texas, United States, September 13-16, 2018. The Conscience and Justice Council is another name given to the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) directors of the nine regional (African-American) conferences in the North American Division, regional representatives from the North Pacific Union and Pacific Union, and representatives from Oakwood University.

Church leaders and religious advocates said the Conscience and Justice Council annual event in Houston, Texas, empowered and motivated them to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world across their communities. [Photo: Mid-America Union Outlook]

As the group of leaders survey the landscape of the country and current cultural climate, they feel compelled to continue emphasizing and highlighting the public affairs components of this ministry, organizers said. The times demand a focus on justice and fairness and on being strong advocates for liberty of conscience.

Injustice and People of Faith

During the event, Conscience and Justice Council chairperson Edward Woods III posed a series of questions: “Are you tired of the injustice … and the silence of people of faith? Have you witnessed disparities in the criminal justice system and the silence of people of faith? Do you have any family or friends who question the role of communities of faith in the face of injustice? In showing empathy to those suffering from injustice, have we forgotten how to advocate?”

Woods further reminded attendees that in the Bible, Proverbs 31:8-9 emphasizes, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Throughout the convention, participants were encouraged by all the presenters — including Wintley Phipps, Elton DeMoraes, Claudia Allen, Timothy Golden, Cryston Josiah, North American Division PARL director Orlan Johnson, and others — to do exactly what God’s Word through Solomon admonishes each person to do.

A Long History of Activism

Cryston Josiah, Central States Conference vice president for administration and PARL director, as well as one of the organizers and presenters, said, “From the birth of Adventism in the 1800s, our pioneers spoke out against injustices and were strict abolitionists. They were so Spirit-filled and Spirit-led that they even advocated for obeying God rather than man if some civil laws were unjust.”

In his Sabbath sermon, Wintley Phipps shared that throughout the history of Christianity as far back as Martin Luther, when the church lost sight of its mission, the persecuted church became a persecuting church. He shared that members must be mindful to remain mission driven, lift up Christ, and always advocate for the freedom of liberty and conscience.

Some of the workshops dealt with U.S. immigration laws and how church members can help those families affected by child separations without breaking any laws. Other workshops emphasized the need to pray sincerely for the Latter Rain (the pouring out of God’s Spirit at the end of times) because members will need the power of the Holy Spirit to take courageous stands, even if it means sacrificing everything.

Inspired to Be Salt and Light

Liberty Magazine editor Lincoln Steed, North American Religious Liberty Association (NARLA) executive director Melissa Reid, and Dwayne Leslie, General Conference PARL associate director for legislative affairs presented on current religious persecution situations taking place inside and outside of North America.

Pastors and laypersons alike said they were inspired to be more “like the salt of the earth and light of the world” — to be in the world for the benefit of humanity.

Beverly Russell and Judy Lane, from the Berean Church in St. Louis, Missouri, shared how meaningful the event was for them. They emphasized that they not only had a great time learning and fellowshipping together but also promised to take what they had learned back to their local church.

“By God’s grace, [we expect to] make a difference for the good of all people in our community,” they said.

The original version of this story was posted by Outlook magazine.