The SDA Church in South Africa II

May 11, 2006

One of the SDA Church's biggest problems has been its willingness to compromise its Christian teachings in exchange for societal approval. This might seem an odd statement in view of the SDA Church's perceived separation from society–its insistence on keeping the seventh day (Saturday) Sabbath, its lifestyle distinctives (no pork, no alcohol etc.), its belief in the separation of Church and State etc.–but in the important areas of race relations and gender equality (to name but two), the SDA Church has been anything but a prophetic voice in the wilderness. Rather, the Church has allowed the inequalities and injustices present in society to determine its attitudes and actions.

In the the same letter quoted previously, Pieter Wessels stated:

"So there is the colour line drawn which is very distinctly drawn here in society. For my part I do not care. [Of course he cares! See the previous post on Pieter's refusal to allow his children to mix with non-Whites socially.] I can shake hands with the coloured people and so forth. But our association with them is going to spoil our influence with others who are accustomed to these things…to have any influence with the higher class of people, we must respect these differences."

P. J. D. Wessels to Ellen G. White, January 14, 1893.

Thus for Wessels, it was more important to retain the values of his surrounding culture than to take a moral stand on the issue of racial equality. Ironically, his aim in doing so was in order that members of society with racist attitudes could be reached with the gospel. One has to ask though–is a racist gospel really the gospel of Jesus Christ?



  1. You raise a very poignant point. Where do we draw the line when we try to follow Paul’s advice and reach people where they are? Do we allow racists to dictate how we will treat others or do we have to take a stand from the beginning on the issue?

    As you’ve mentioned, I think the church definitely used that as an excuse to perpetutate racism and hide their true racist tendencies and beliefs. I think the reason we aren’t dealing with the issues today is becuase there still is a lot of racism in the church so of course we aren’t going to raise the issue.

  2. I would agree. When it comes to racism and other political issues, Adventists have generally been more like the head rather than the tail.

  3. […] 11, 2008 I have previously blogged on Race and Seventh-day Adventism in South Africa: here, here, here and […]

  4. A racist church CANNOT BE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
    The SDA church has continued the way the Dutch Reformed Church has been doing….They have perpetuated the myth that black folks are second class citizens.. Why can’t black people control their churches.. I am a black woman in the SDA but the SDA church leaves a lot to be desired…Seems the only motive of the church as it relates to blacks is MONEY…which the bible claims that the love of…is the ROOT OF ALL EVIL. Wondering what God is saying.

  5. Many people are wondering why on Mrs White’s gravestone there is an obelisk. Do you have any explanations for this please.

  6. Please see my post:
    Obelisks were simply common decorative structures of the time & need not be interpreted at any more complex level than that.
    From my comments on that post comes the following:
    According to the Association for Gravestone Studies (See, there’s an association for EVERYTHING!!):
    “The obelisk is, to quote McDowell and Meyer in The Revival Styles in American Memorial Art, one of the “most pervasive of all the revival forms” of cemetery art. There is hardly a cemetery founded in the 1840s and 50s without some form of Egyptian influence in the public buildings, gates, tomb art, etc. Napoleon’s 1798-99 Egyptian campaigns, the discoveries at the tombs of the Pharaohs, and our new Republic’s need to borrow the best of the ancient cultures (Greek revival, classic revival, the prominence of classical studies and dress, etc.) led to a resurgence of interest in the ancient Egyptian culture. Obelisks were considered to be tasteful, with pure uplifting lines, associated with ancient greatness, patriotic, able to be used in relatively small spaces, and, perhaps most importantly, obelisks were less costly than large and elaborate sculpted monuments. There were many cultural reasons for the revival styles of the nineteenth century. Freemasonry, while part of the overall cultural influence, was not responsible for the prevalence of obelisks. If you would like to read more about some of these styles, see The Egyptian Revival: Its Sources, Monuments and Meaning, 1808-1859, by Richard Carrott.”
    From: http://www.gravestonestudies.org/faq.htm#Symbolism%20on%20Gravestones

  7. I have read some of the comments that people who think they know what Adventism is all about have placed here . I think that people should go into more detail before they start throughing rocks around. As for the black woman that commented that the only reason Blacks are allowed in the Adventist church is because of their money well sister I have news for you, God does not need your money to function and most of the members that belong to the church pay tenth so if you’ve had a bad experience in this field and someone has offended you in this way confront them personally and sort it out before you are the one that looses out on your trip to heaven feeling the way you do, as that is what the Bible teaches us to do. In anycase if you are blessed and have a lot of money then you should be glade to give some back to God. As for this racism bit the people are nailing the Adventest church with, please do not class everybody under the same umbrella, being a racist is a personal choice and decision a person makes and is not the view of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. You cannot condem a whole religion / chruch because of the views of some members who feel this way. I am a teacher by trade and have tought in an Adventist church school and I can truly vouch that there are more black children in our schools than any other race and they get treated like any children would be treated if Jesus Himself were teaching back here on earth. We have young adults that go out and build churches for mostly black commuties. We have meals on wheels and this organisation feeds elderly folks no matter what race. We have ADRA that helps and support people throughout the world. Please feel free to visit our websites in our Afrika devisions and see for yourself what we are doing in black commumities. You see this is how I understand what being an Adventist is all about. Firstly it’s accepting Jesus as your personal Savour and that He died for you and everyone else no matter what race they may be,who will accept this beautiful gift that He has given unto us for FREE, Secondly one needs to die to self and start living by His expample and stop worring about what people are doing and saying. The devil is always trying to get us to stumble and will even use church people to do his dirty work and us as Adventist are not amune to the devils temptations but through the love of Jesus Christ. One should always when in a difficult situation ask ‘What would Jesus do,’ and commite to prayer before going ahead and putting such demoralising comments of any demomination as one should remember that there are folk that truly love and respect our Lord very much.

    Yours faithfully
    Your loving sister in Christ

  8. It a pity that the church is being associate with all these bad thing as church member and a leader we to say the devil is doing this because he afraid of being exponsed,yes the of race seem to be there when you look to our two conferance but down in church we are preaching the coming Jesus let all those who here about JEsus come And I promise only JESUS name is lifted up

  9. Sou Pastor de uma Igreja, e ghostaria de fazer parte dos estudos esacrito, por que sou escritor de estudos bíblicos, inclusive desejo saber como eu mandaria alguns exemplares grátis para para a Africa para evangelizar de forma escrita. Me mandem o endereço postal e a informação como eu poderia realizar esta obra. Ok.
    Pastor Jeseriel N. Cruz, End, Rua Santo Antonio Nº 8 -B Vila Embratel CEP. 65080-110 São Luís Ma.

  10. God is not a God of colour, His blood is red like ours it was shed for all of us, we are all His children. We are to be careful that we don’t lose our souls, our salvation because of things that God is not concerned with. He left his commandments for us to follow if we love Him and to yield to His way. The world is this way as a result of sin, black, white, yellow, we are all God’s children and in the end He will have the final say, so work our your salvation with fear and trembling as He is coming for a people who has kept His commandments.


  12. I am proudly coloured from Athlone and i think from today i will visit as many SDA churches in and around Cape Town (especially “white” churches) and will make a project out of how i was received and treated at each and every church. . .

  13. I was born in Racist South Africa. I am a white African. I now live in Australia, and attend a church where we have a black African from Zimbabwe as Elder. We had a Carribean from St Lucia spent some time in our home, she is but one of many colored people that spent weekends in our home. In South Africa we visited the Athlone church as well as the Riverside Churches which was for colored people, many times. You err when you think that racism is based on color only. Ethnicity is far more racist than that based on color. I have been in many parts of the world, and there is prejudice everywhere. Prejudice because of color, prejudice because of ethnicity and yes prejudice because of social standing, within and without the SDA Church. Speaking to a Colored lady from Cape Town recently, she lamented that when the whites ruled the country under Apartheid, the Colored people weren’t white enough. But now under the ANC black regime, the colored people aren’t black enough. The bottom line here, is that the root cause for many of the ills in society and yes, in the Christian church, is lack of the New Birth. For the world at large, the New Birth is meaningless. For the Adventists, we need to have the “mind that was in Christ Jesus”

  14. I live in the US-15 years, and am from Southern Africa. The most important thing that we need is Jesus in our hearts. Do we know the scriptures enough? are we studying and preparing for the coming of Jesus? Are we reading and studying the Spirit of Prophecy? Are preparing to be among the 144,000? Racism will end when Jesus comes, because we have been promised the God will make all things new.

    At the tower of Babel we were one. What happened? Instead of focusing on God, man decided to find ways to continue their mischief, when we spoke the same language, etc. Before the flood, there was no racism, the issue was about worship of idols or God, and in that state, man became very evil minded which resulted in a flood. Then God decided to separate us at the tower of Babel. So don’t worry about segregation. In my opinion is a waste of energy and time. From the book of Daniel we are told, they shall mingle themselves with children of men, but they shall not cleave to another. Separation of nations is God-designed because of what happened before the flood and at the Tower of Babel.

    Commit your ways to the Lord and he will lead you to greater heights. Are we praying for the “former rain” and the “latter rain”? Surely we can visit any church you want, but how does that improve our relationship with Jesus? In 2007 the church prayed for the latter rain. Many people did not. Some in our churches did not receive it. In that time, the Lord gave me the latter rain on two occasions, June 9, 2007, and October 27, 2007. In May 2010 I was shown the number 144,000 in large font silver numbers in response to an experience I was going through. Racism is there and will not go away until Jesus comes. It was there in Jesus time, but he had not come to deal with that; He came to give us salvation. Racism will end, when the new world is ushered. Best thing to do? Keep close to Jesus, prepare for the latter rain that will be given just before the close of probation. Do we understand how Satan has come to us like he did to Eve to have us focus on the non-important things. Time is short. Your sincere brother, Will Mash.

  15. am kateregga paul my e mail is paul.kateregga@yahoo.com for sure its amazing

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