Seventh-day Adventism lives aware—even if insufficiently so—of the evangelistic, theological, social, administrative consciousness and impact of our Black leaders: Ella Simmons, first female General Conference vice president; Hyveth Williams, celebrated preacher, first female professor of preaching at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. We content ourselves, today, with hearing from but a few—their word historic, at times prophetic, always for the cause, and in the name of the Lord:
“People who are watching Adventist Christians are not looking for perfection. Neither are they expecting us to be quiet little church mice who never rock the boat. Most understand that oneness is not blandness, and peace is not always silence. Instead, they’re looking to see fellowship in our fellowship. . . . If they can see Christian virtues in us rather than vices, we will win more people to this church by accident than we now win to Christ on purpose.”
ROSA BANKS, first female associate secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists; “United in the Fellowship of the Fellowship,” Adven- tist Review, October 2003.
“In the plans and purposes of God, the whole church may profit by the experience of its African- American brothers and sisters. This struggling yet victorious people make their greatest contribution to their church and the larger society when they are assured of their self-worth and affirmed by the belief system they have espoused—the message. When African-Americans, ordinary people, come to see themselves as laborers together with God, identify- ing with His plans and purposes, a sense of security maximizes their ability to serve their fellow human beings with dignity. They will not envy the rich and privileged, nor will they despise the poor and underclass. Buying into the divine economy helps the believer to see the big picture and thus transcend the injustices and inequities of the present.”
CHARLES E. BRADFORD, first president, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, in Perspectives, Calvin Rock, ed.
“Evangelism is the elixir that warms up a cold church, the force that moves the members from standing on the premises to standing on the promises.”
C. D. BROOKS, media ministry founder, whose passing earned a headline article in the New York Times, June, 2016: “C. D. Brooks Is Dead at 85; Preached Seventh-Day Adventist Message”; from blacksdahistory.org.
“I have seen God, for so long, do so much, with so little, I now believe He can do anything with nothing—meaning me.”
E. EARL CLEVELAND, first Black to integrate a de- partment at the Adventist Church world headquarters, and the man who conducted national evangelistic campaigns before the advent of satellite technology; from blacksdahistory.org.
Roll call of Cleveland’s impact: “I could experience no greater joy than seeing the power of God exhib- ited in the ministry of [those] who worked with me. George Rainey, Leonard Newton, E. C. Ward, Warren Banfield, Richard Barron, and Lucius Dan- iels were among them. M. T. Battle was originally hired at my insistence and went on to serve faith- fully and efficiently in the secretariat of the world body. Benjamin Reaves became president of Oak- wood College. James Edgecombe became president of the Southeastern Conference. Elbert Shepperd became vice president of the Pacific Union Con- ference. And William Scales became secretary of evangelism for all of North America. Wintley Phipps became a world-renowned minister of music. Delbert Baker became editor of Message magazine. John Street became president of the City Council of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“Outstanding women have made their mark. . . . Lillie Evans, Ola May Harris, Mildred Johnson, Bertha Bailey, Ellen Anderson, Vivian Perry, and Beatrice Hampton brought hundreds to the foot of the cross in my campaigns.”
E. EARL CLEVELAND, Let the Church Roll On, pp. 40, 41.
“The question of a little gray-haired Bible instruc- tor, Ella Johnson, I met as a young preacher in 1947 is relevant here. She asked, ‘How are Black people in the United States represented in Reve- lation 14:6? The text says, “. . . every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” ’ Answering her own question, she mused, ‘We are not a nation, nor a kindred. We do not have a tongue [language]. We are just “people.” All mixed-up people.’ ”
CHARLES E. DUDLEY, SR., 311⁄2 continuous years an administrator, South Central Conference; Thou Who Hast Brought Us.
“He was looking straight at them, challenging their scruples, belittling their person—throwing them under the gospel bus; so infuriating them that they ran Him out of town and actually tried to throw Him of a cliff [Luke 4:28, 29].”
CALVIN B. ROCK, former president, Oakwood College (now Oakwood University), and, for 17 years, general vice president of the General Conference
of Seventh-day Adventists, in “The Radically Social Jesus,” Adventist Review, https//adventistreview.org/ radically-social-jesus.
“This time, after the shock, the outrage, and the pain [of George Floyd’s murder], let us not return to an unhealthy, inhumane business-and-ministry- as-usual, only praying and hoping for that better day of change.
“There was a time when God told His people to get up off their knees, to stop praying, and move forward. So let us arise and ‘let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!’ [Amos 5:24, NIV].
“I hear that charge to move now.”
ELLA SIMMONS, “Deeds, Not Only Words,” Adventist Review, June 2020.
“Love is free. Coercion and control are its opposite. . . . The tree drags no one into its shade, even if we are in danger of a sunstroke. A lamp will not force its light on us lest we stumble in the dark. They respect our freedom to use or not enjoy their resources. Think of all the coercion and control that we submit to on the part of others when we so anxiously live up to their expectations in order to buy their love and approval. . . . Each time we submit to these, we undermine the capacity to love and receive love that is our very nature, for we cannot but do to others only what we allow them to do to us.”
HYVETH WILLIAMS, “Love Alive,” Adventist Review, February 2018.
“Scales have valued sons over daughters, or a spouse over children, relatives over strangers, and fellow citizens over foreigners. The underlying principle for preference has often been likeness to me. The end result is a diminished reflection of God and godliness in humanity, and diminished human ability to see life as God sees life.”
HENRY WRIGHT, “To God They Matter,” Adventist Review, February 2016.