In preparation for Black History Month, the Office for Regional Conference Ministries, the Regional Conferences of the North American Division, Bermuda Conference, the Regional Ministries of Pacific Union and North Pacific Union, AdventSource, Dr. Calvin Rock, Dr. Mervyn Warren, and a distinguished panel of writers and editors of color came together in a historic collaboration. This collaboration produced the first Black History Study Guide called Social Justice in the Word of God.
The study came as a result of a burden that was felt by Dr. Calvin Rock, former General Conference Vice-President, former Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) President, and a pastor and evangelist in our church for 62 years.
In studying the Sabbath School lessons last year on the book of Isaiah, Dr. Rock was somewhat disappointed at the minimal mention of what the prophet Isaiah said on issues surrounding social justice – particularly since Isaiah 61 contains these stirring and often quoted words (Jesus Himself quoted them in one of His sermons when He was on earth):
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me
Because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted
To proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God
To comfort all that mourn
Rather than simply complain about what he felt had not been done, Dr. Rock decided to do something. He contacted his long-time friend and Oakwood colleague, Dr. Mervyn Warren who served for many years as a professor, dean of the Department of Religion, and provost at Oakwood, as well as one of the major Biblical scholars in the Adventist Church. Dr. Rock shared his idea for writing a study guide on social justice in the Bible with the idea of publishing and distributing it during Black History Month.
He then reached out to the executive director of the Office for Regional Conference Ministries who connected him with the Regional Conference Presidents Council. This group includes the nine Regional Conference presidents, the president of the Bermuda Conference, the vice-presidents for Regional Ministries of the Pacific and North Pacific Unions, and the president of Oakwood University. Along with the executive director of the Regional Conference Retirement Plan, Dr. William Cox, Sr., who agreed to provide a study guide for each retiree enrolled in the Regional Conference Retirement Plan, they committed to purchase 30,000 plus study guides for their constituents. This enabled AdventSource to produce the 30 page study guides for the unfathomable price of 99 cents per study guide.
An eclectic group of scholars was assembled to write and edit the study guide. Along with Dr. Calvin Rock and Dr. Mervyn Warren, the scholars included:
- Pedrito Maynard-Reid, Th.D., Religion Professor and Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Walla Walla University
- Hyveth Williams, D. Min., Homiletics Professor and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University
- Leslie Pollard, Ph.D., President, Oakwood University
- Ricardo Graham, D. Min., Past President, Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
- Olive Hemmings, Ph.D., Professor of Religion and Ethics, Washington Adventist University
- Tarsee Li, Ph.D., Professor of Hebrew and Biblical Languages, Oakwood University
The scholars wrote on the following weekly subjects:
- Social Justice in the Old Testament
- Social Justice in the Ministry of Jesus
- Social Justice in the Book of Revelation
- A Prophet Among You
Inside these weekly subjects are daily topics similar to a Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly. The beginning of each lesson features a Did You Know? question, which highlights facts from African-American Adventist History.
The authors dedicated the study guide to the memory of the late Elder Henry Fordham, former President of the Allegheny East Conference, and his wife, the late Sharon Fordham.
Major kudos to this team of scholars who produced these study guides. There are plans to produce a similar study guide for Juneteenth, as well for Black History Month 2023. Special thanks to Dr. Calvin Rock, who at the age of 91, is still serving our church. May his example inspire us all.
Elder Dana Edmond is Executive Director of the Office for Regional Conference Ministries.