The changing ethnic composition of Seventh Day Adventism will likely decide the future of the church in the US, write Malcolm Bull and Keith Lockhart in Spectrum (Spring), an independent Adventist magazine.
Adventism’s change from a predominantly white to a multicultural membership (with significant numbers of Caribbean and American blacks) has been taking place for some time, but the authors see shifts in everything from theology to politics resulting from this development. White Adventist patterns are similar to their European counterparts as they remain static or decline, while immigrant and minority membership are increasing significantly.
The white community in the US is aging and has had the lowest rate of retention and recruitment of any ethnic group. Thus, the importance of West Coast Adventism is now diminishing relative to that of the southeast, “not traditionally an area of strong Adventist penetration, but now the first stop for migrants from the Caribbean and Central America.” For other ethnic communities, the pattern is likely to be one of forming a “patchwork of diasporas in which there are stronger links within dispersed ethnic groups than there are between neighboring Adventist communities of differing ethnicity,” write Bull and Lockhart.
In terms of theology, black and Hispanic Adventists have shown little interest in white Adventist attempts to liberalize belief and practice. In other words, it is not so much as a contextual faith stressing inclusivity, but as one that has a strong and unifying body of doctrine that makes Adventism hospitable, “allowing a series of minority ethnic groups to find shelter within it.” Yet within the political sphere there are clear indicators that a Democratic preference is rapidly overtaking the traditional Republican one; between 2000 and 2006, 43 percent of Adventists identified as Democrat and 31 percent as Republican.
Bull and Lockhart add that Adventist politics is still at the “protest stage,” but that Adventists may soon embrace a similar activist stance to their counterparts in the Third World who have served in political office.
(Spectrum, P.O. Box 619047, Roseville, CA 956619047)