Elder Carmelo Mercado meets regularly with pastors in our major metropolitan areas to enhance understanding of cultural bias that permeates society. For the past four years, Elder Mercado has resourced approximately 30 pastors in three of our four major cities, having conducted multiple meetings in each to develop interracial understanding amongst our leaders and lay leaders at the ground level and encourage discourse, develop a sense of common purpose, and enhance cultural intelligence resulting in broad-based missional thinking as evidenced by the following example:
Utilizing teleconferencing, individuals specializing in this area have been secured to present on this sensitive subject to regional and state conference pastors together. In these meetings each presenter shares on the subject of cultural diversity and the historical challenges to growth in this area, hears subject matter that increases awareness of each other’s world view, after which discussions have taken place that have led to an enhanced sense of brotherhood. Elder Mercado has reports that these pastoral cohorts have drawn our church leaders closer to each other, and each group has become more cohesive and less defensive as regular dialogue has resulted in a greater understanding of each other’s perspectives and enlarged each other’s capacity to understand each other’s viewpoints. Recently, without prompting from Elder Mercado, one group called a meeting to address current issues illustrating a growing sense of ownership, camaraderie, a need to affect change and brotherhood in general.
- Through Elder Mercado, the Lake Union also has sponsored Sabbath afternoon gatherings of lay members in Berrien Springs, Indianapolis and Milwaukee where dialogue on the importance of unity amidst diversity has been encouraged. Leadership development is critical to accomplishing cultural and organizational shifts in thoughts, ideas and understanding relative to this subject. As pastors and lay-leaders grow in cultural competency, so also their congregations will grow. Today’s fastest growing congregations have been identified as those that are multicultural faith communities. Grounded in the work of the Holy Spirit, a ministry of reconciliation has been advanced through Elder Mercado which has been critical to the success of spiritual and social maturation not only of individual leaders, but also toward helping the Lake Union territory experience a gradual paradigm shift by advancing a change of heart and mind toward each other that is rooted in the work of the Holy Spirit. Revival must always proceed reformation. As evidenced by the book, The Great Controversy, when God is not a part of the process of transformation, then reformation is not sustained because there hasn’t been a change at the source of the issue, our hearts. Having spiritual substance, as was the case in the Civil Rights movement that gave it its life, vitality and longevity, non-violence was taught by Jesus because God knows love begets love and hatred excites hatred. Hence, it was a movement that was rooted in the heart (Jer. 31:3).
Diversity Training and Speaking Engagements — General vice president Elder Mercado has presented for multiple conferences both within and beyond our borders and internationally. Also, he is currently, at the Lake Union Administration’s encouragement and expense, pursuing a doctoral degree to enhance his ability to address this issue.
Lastly, Vice President Mercado organized a prayer conference known as “Our United Cry” which was held in Indianapolis the first weekend in March 2020 with the goal of having people from different cultural backgrounds come together to pray for the Holy Spirit.
The event was planned by a handpicked, diverse group of leaders from around our union territory in the hope that all groups represented would attend, resting assured that, as they were represented in the year-long planning phase, they also would be represented in its execution. Over 500 people from our five conferences and beyond attended this weekend event at which great diversity was represented on the stage and in the audience.
View album here
Moving forward, as the official birthplace of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and stewards of the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus Christ has committed into our hands to reconcile man to both God and each other, we are committed to be conduits of Christ-like behavior and catalysts for change as we pray regularly and take actions to undergird three Lake Union executive committee strategies of leadership development, discipleship training and starting a movement of the Holy Spirit in our churches and communities in this quinquennium. We will continue to engage the Adventist faith community by continuing to resource our local conferences and schools, and engaging and encouraging our health systems to continue to hire employees of diverse backgrounds, especially those persons of African descent who are sparsely represented at the leadership level of our multiple health systems.
Maurice R. Valentine
Lake Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventist