Sabbath afternoon, September 22, was a wonderful celebration of the total prophetic heritage of Seventh-day Adventists. Together, members from the Greater Milwaukee area congregated at the Milwaukee Central Church to participate in a Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) presentation and panel discussion led by the Lake Union Conference in partnership with Lake Region Conference.
Nicholas Miller, PARL Director for the Lake Union, was the main presenter and moderator for the evening. Dr. Miller spoke on the importance of embracing the entire prophetic message of our church and not falling for the false dichotomy that would divorce divine revelation and personal salvation from community concerns.
Later in the program, Dr. Miller moderated a panel which included fellow PARL directors Edward Woods III from the Lake Region Conference and Bria Grant from the Sharon Seventh-day Adventist Church, in Milwaukee. In addition, Bria serves as the Executive Director of Unite MKE, a non-profit that works to use data management tools collected around the social determinants of health as a way of increasing health services to vulnerable populations while reducing health care costs to governments. Also on the panel was Elder Carmelo Mercado, General VP of the Lake Union Conference with responsibilities for Multi-Cultural Ministries, Jonathan Fetrick, pastor of the Wisconsin Academy Church and PARL Representative for Madison, and Allen Ruppel, a community member who is the Founder and Executive Director of Unity in Motion, a non-profit based in the Central City segment of Milwaukee, creating a steady pathway to success through relationally relevant interventions for at risk African-American youth.
Each panelist brought an interesting perspective to the discussion that helped the many church members in attendance to broaden their vision of the scope of the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty mandate of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. “The work that I do has put me in a position where ministry and career merges. There is no greater work than doing work for the least of these.” echoed panelist, Bria Grant, as she shared how her non-profit was instrumental in addressing the healthcare outcomes and economics of Milwaukee.
Allen Ruppel, stressed the importance of building relationships that bridge barriers. “(Milwaukee) really is a tale of two cities. Milwaukee is the most segregated city in the United States. And what that really means is that two or three miles away, we really don’t know what’s going on with our neighbors.”
Pastor Fetrick spoke from the perspective of lobbying activities of the Adventist Church. He shared how lobbying is an interesting arena. We tend to be well liked in legislatures because we are very centrist: we don’t line up with the Religious Right and we don’t line up with the so called Liberal Left: we believe in Religious Liberty for all people.”
Elder Mercado spoke about the humanitarian crises that affect people groups within the US especially in light of a skewed view of Scripture. “I hear the stories… It broke my heart to hear the stories of these unaccompanied children and separated children who are separated from their families all in the name of security… When I hear that and see that, I don’t see that as biblical. I don’t see that as truly scriptural.”
Finally, Edward Woods III stressed the evangelistic opportunities opened up by the ministry of the PARL department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. “We have an opportunity as a church to use our PARL ministry as a dynamic tool to evangelize the world… by showing that we actually care about people. We might not agree with them, but we fundamentally care about people.”
To add to the presentation and discussion, the Wisconsin Academy Choralaires, under the directorship of Bruce Rasmussen, blessed the gathering with inspiring music. Sis Joyce Smith, from the Sharon Church sang from deep down a reminder that we will be known for the love we show the world. The gathering was blessed by Elder Mike Edge, president of the Wisconsin Conference.
Pastor Sheldon Bryan of Central and Southside Churches welcomed the gathering and Dr. Richard Sylvester of the Sharon and Hosanna SDA Churches dismissed with the benediction. Over 200 members from the greater Milwaukee and Racine areas were hosted by the Hospitality department of the Central Church.