An advertisement which greviously misportrayed the Seventh-day Adventist Church and received national media attention was published in the Nashville Tennessean newspaper June 21, 2020. The ad by a splinter group predicted a terrorist nuclear attack in Nashville on July 18, 2020, and mentioned Islam as the perpetrators. It also used the name of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the writings of Ellen G. White. The ad, published by “Future for America,” caused great concern for Seventh-day Adventists, in particular the Nashville area Adventist churches. The North American Division (NAD) immediately issued a statement denouncing the views presented in the ad, and a copy of the response was sent to the Nashville Tennessean. Additionally, Gabriela Phillips, Adventist Muslim relations coordinator for the NAD, contacted one of the Islamic mosque leaders in Nashville.
Steve Haley, Kentucky-Tennessee Conference president, asked Nelson Mercado, pastor of the Nashville First Church, to participate in the meeting with Phillips and the leader of the mosque on Friday, June 26, 2020, at the Islamic Center of Nashville. Phillips and Mercado met with Imam Ossama Bahloul, resident scholar at the Islamic Center of Nashville, and two of the mosque leaders. Phillips thanked them for hosting the meeting and apologized on behalf of the Seventh-day Adventist Church concerning the ad. She explained that it was published by a splinter group which was not associated with the Adventist Church. Further, Phillips and Mercado expressed to the Imam that Adventists believe and practice the equality of all races, and do not condone demonizing or threatening any faith group.
Imam Bahloul and his team were very thankful that Phillips and Mercado had reached out to them. They explained that the Islamic community was angry and hurt about the ad because it seems that everything is blamed on Islam. However, they understood these things sometimes happen because they have splinter groups in Islam as well.
Mercado asked if they would be willing to meet and share a meal so they could begin building bridges between their faith communities. They agreed to get together after the COVID-19 crisis has ended.
Kentucky-Tennessee | August 2020