Adventist World assistant editor Sandra Blackmer recently talked with Dan Jackson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada, at the Canada church headquarters in Oshawa, Ontario. The candid and informative interview spanned topics from U.S./Canada relations to the role of women in leadership to how Canada’s official sanction of gay marriage is affecting the church. Jackson has served as president of the 60,000 Adventists who live and worship in Canada for the past eight years.
ADVENTIST CHURCH IN CANADA PRESIDENT: Daniel R. JacksonWhat’s been your greatest challenge as president in Canada?
We have a 1,000-member church in Markham, in the greater Toronto area, called the Apple Creek church. It’s primarily a West Indian church. One way they’ve witnessed to the community is through public awareness campaigns. They’ve been very active in the areas of health, community development, and so on. Their pastor, Mansfield Edwards—who recently was elected president of the Ontario Conference—actually became chaplain of the York Regional Police.
The Cornerstone church in Coquitlam, British Columbia—which has recently completed an amazing facility makeover—has a predominantly Caucasian membership but is situated in the middle of a very densely populated Chinese area. They’ve held cultural events, they have a daycare center, they rent the church facility to a Chinese community group. Community involvement is the key.
We also have two congregations meeting in Port Hardy, on the northern tip of Vancouver Island. One is a Native congregation. About 15 years ago, an American Adventist teacher from Oregon wanted to minister to First Nations people in Canada. The British Columbia Conference hired him as a taskforce worker in northern Vancouver Island. He spent a good part of his first year there just walking the streets of the area. He would pray with people, tell them that Jesus loved them. He became known as the “Jesus man.” He was supported by First Nations Adventist folk up there. Today there’s a beautiful church that’s a testimony to the perseverance of that person’s commitment to God. They built this church like a Native longhouse and have a congregation of about 55 people. The teacher and his wife have been adopted into the local tribe. It’s a wonderful multicultural story in which an American is working in Canada together with Natives, or First Nations, and other Canadians to develop this beautiful congregation.
CANADIAN UNIVERSITY COLLEGE: The Adventist university in Alberta, Canada, experienced a 17 percent increase in student enrollment this past school year.Are you ministering to First Nations people in other ways?
Some of the students go home to no food, some to very violent situations. Many of the people in that community sleep in the basement. They won’t sleep on the main floor of their houses because of the gunplay. So this school, a Seventh-day Adventist school, is ministering to these kids. It’s a ministry in the trenches, on the front lines.
Pastors who were not raised in the church sometimes don’t have a full understanding of how Adventist education got started, how it kept going, the sacrifices involved—so they only partially understand Adventism. I believe that no one should enter the ministry without some instruction about Adventist education and its history. About 300 pastors attended the convention, and I would say one third of them had never before seen our college.
If an Adventist pastor says, “I don’t believe in Adventist education,” I have a real problem with that. There are too many issues at stake. The lives of our children, the spiritual foundation of our children, are far too important for us to place them into the hands of [a public school teacher] you don’t even know. You may get a very fine teacher who respects your child’s religious worldview; but you also may get one who doesn’t. If your child is taught not to believe in the Creation story and becomes unsure that God even exists, try to reverse that when they’re 18.
I fear that some people in the local communities may wake up after they’ve lost their church school and say, “Our kids were so much more a part of the church when there was a church school.”
So where do I see it going? I see us trying very hard to encourage our members to brush out those intellectual and spiritual cobwebs and ask, “In light of the fact that Jesus is coming, why would I deliberately, willfully, place my children into the hands of somebody who has no faith in God, no belief in God’s intervention in human events? Why would I do that?”
A VITAL MISSION: Adventist teachers instruct about 180 day students in grades 1 through 12 at the church’s Native school.We want our schools to be strong. We invest a significant portion of our budget in our schools and will continue to do so.
It can depend on the culture of the local church and conference. No matter how talented and gifted the woman is, the people in leadership there must be committed to her success or they will be setting her up for failure.
As long as we have the attitude that somehow the gifting of the Holy Spirit happens only in relationship to gender, then we really are minimizing the power of the Holy Spirit—and we’re also minimizing our work.
NATIVE ADVENTIST SCHOOL:Mamawi Atosketan Native School in Ponoka, Alberta.The Olympics are coming to Canada in February in 2010. [This interview was conducted before the Olympics were held.] Will the church be involved?
The Adventist Church also has been challenged to knit scarves for the athletes and participants, so we’ve set a goal of 10,000 scarves.
This is definitely a great chance to witness, and we’re putting in significant time and money to do everything we can to take advantage of this opportunity.
Sandra Blackmer is an assistant editor of Adventist World.