A Response to William Johnsson’s One Project Concerns (And Some Concerns of My Own)

Even though for me there was more “missing” from the One project than what was a blessing, you have not heard or read of me vilifying it or advocating that it be banned from existence for what I see as serious omissions. Why? Because it is really important to me not to demonize or threaten those who may have convictions or emphasis different from my own. Jesus may be using some of those presenters’ words to reach people who I cannot.

In a similar vein, I’m shattered to my core by the vitriol I’ve read on the web against fellow Adventists who support women in pastoral leadership and women's ordination. The words of the “anti’s” on this subject are often bitter, mean, condemning, harsh, and characterized by a seeming “kill ‘em before they multiply” mentality. (This is not to say I have not also read some pretty uncharitable remarks written by those who are supportive of women in spiritual leadership.)

In His final words and prayers, Jesus talked so much about unity and love among the followers of His words and dogma. (Yeah, some presenters mock doctrine, but for Adventists, doctrine is simply the teachings of Jesus. All of our 28 Fundamental Beliefs are centered in the words of Christ found in Scripture.) It would even appear that the coveted gift of heaven, the Latter Rain of God’s Holy Spirit (Hosea 6:3) will not be bestowed until we quit the in-house fighting and negative labeling.

So you can imagine my shock and disappointment to hear that the General Conference has set up a committee for the express purpose of punishing the North American Division Unions who have voted their conscience in regard to the ordination of women to the mission for which the Spirit of God has gifted them. The word from some on site who cannot be identified because they do not have permission to disclose information is that this committee is seriously considering nuclear fissure—completely dissolving—these Unions. (Apparently, for reasons not disclosed, the European Unions which have voted the same get a pass.)

Here are my questions: In order to put real teeth into the threat of “grave consequences,” this committee would recommend bringing certain chaos, disunity, and a fighting spirit into the ranks of God’s professed people? Getting the last word is worth a delay of the gift of the Latter Rain and the coming of Jesus, while this thing is tied up for years in courts as a spectacle of Adventist priorities? (see 1 Peter 4:17 and EV 696) And all to defend a practice which is against the consciences of hundreds of thousands of Adventists worldwide? A practice that is not even a policy, much less a fundamental belief or core doctrine?

I can find nothing in either the Bible or the writings of Ellen G. White which would defend this kind of divisive action. In fact, I find much food for cogitation in this citation: "Organizations, institutions, unless kept by the power of God, will work under Satan’s dictation to bring men under the control of men; and fraud and guile will bear the semblance of zeal for truth, and for the advancement of the kingdom of God" (Testimonies for the Church, 7:180, 191)

We can’t get much more incongruous than to write documents using copious Bible and Ellen White comments on how much Jesus prizes unity and then conclude that the best thing for the church of Christ is to fracture it.

If there is a work of separation which needs to occur over this non-doctrinal issue in His church, God is able. Nowhere does He call on us to be the agency that “purifies the church” of those who disagree with our convictions on ecclesiology. This Jesus, of whom we all sing, pray and preach, is the redemptive, unifying, Shepherd of all His people. He wants us to press together so He can bring us home. He wants us to meet together at His cross, one “melded humanity,” united in our mission and believing and living our oneness in the Spirit.

Rabid vilification and cries of “Crucify them!” never originate with Jesus.

Cindy Tutsch is retired Associate Director of the Ellen G. White Estate at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Silver Spring, Maryland.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7657
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“kill ‘em before they multiply” mentality is a perfect description of how things seem right now. I pray cooler heads prevail and there is a majority of council goers who advocate diverse unity and grace and refuse to dissolve an important voice in our global denomination. If the NAD is fractured there goes the $$$$$$$. That might be crass to say but it is a most likely scenario.

Also I think one of the reasons the One Project reaches our youth is because your list of things you miss are missing! It would be refreshing to just focus on Jesus and worship without having to add all our qualifiers and 28 fundamentals etc. Those things are positive but can stifle focusing on Jesus and sometimes it’s nice to have a break!

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That is the biggest problem in our denomination as well es in every single dying local church. There are not two groups, where one is just more conservative and the other more liberal. No there is a group that wants to follow Jesus and another group that thinks their call is to purify the church or denomination of those who disagree with their convictions. May be we should start to realize that. The solution may be the power of the gospel. If The BRI couldn’t even find fault in the One Project…More people should realize that one group is for Jesus and his Gospel and the other group is not.

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“What I Missed” tells the whole story. It seems from the discussion that the One Project is attempting two things. 1. A format to attract the millennialist, 2. To shed the doctrinal detractors from the Gospel of Grace.

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Where is Dan Jackson in the face of the purported punishment committee?

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Why must each and every unique doctrine of Adventism need to be contained in a message that focuses on Christ? What the writer missed is what should be relegated to teaching the SdA doctrines to a group who is anxious to know about them. Trying to cover the entire bundle of doctrines erases the need for Christ and points the listener away from Him to Adventism. Christ never endorsed a denomination; those doctrines have been established by men over time.

If someone wishes to know what Adventists believe and promote, attend a 6-week evangelistic meeting for indoctrination. The One Project was never planned for that purpose but to attract young people who want to know of God’s love, not his severity. This is a wrong approach.

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When you walk into a Seventh-day Adventist church, you might not be aware that there are people sitting in the pews who do not want you present. They are praying that you leave the church. They are acting behind the scenes and often overtly to push you out of the church. They are mobilizing support to persuade you to leave. They believe that in order for the church to purify itself, you must go. And if the church is not purified of a sinner like yourself, Jesus will not come again. What’s worse, they believe that if they are not diligent in their effort to push you out of the church, then they will not be saved but will bear responsibility for the pollution of the church your sins have caused.

Ted Wilson and his closest advisers believe in this theology–Last Generation Theology. They believe that unless they succeed in purifying the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Jesus will not come again. We know as students of the history of Christianity that purification can be draconian, like the Inquisition, or more subtle, like shunning. And we also know that bigotry, the alt right, and mean-spirited attitudes have become normalized in our American culture, including Seventh-day Adventist culture. But it is noteworthy that Last Generation Theology is a unique belief of some Seventh-day Adventists, including Elder Wilson and his closest advisers.

What persuades Elder Wilson and his closest advisers that God has anointed them to purify the Seventh-day Adventist Church is their impression that they are sound in doctrine and worthy of not being purged. If you believe in Dispensationalism, i.e., Last Generation Theology, you get to stay. If you reject the Trinity and embrace pagan Tritheism by promoting the view that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father, you get to stay. If you believe that women are assigned by the Creator to a sphere that is lower than the sphere assigned to men, you get to stay. If you believe that Jesus was burdened with the post-fall nature of Adam, you get to stay. If you are so ignorant that you believe in the “plain-meaning” method of biblical interpretation, you get to stay.

Certainly, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has a right to promulgate doctrines and make policy. But what happens if there is no consensus about a particular doctrine or policy? Everyone agrees that the San Antonio vote regarding women’s ordination was close and not representative of a consensus. Scripture teaches that under such circumstances, personal conscience should be respected. If Elder Wilson and his closest advisers desire to trample upon personal conscience, they should begin to understand that Scripture does not authorize the making of church policy by a close vote. Instead, we see in Scripture that church policy is made by consensus. Indeed, the only precedents Elder Wilson and his closest advisers can look to as justification for trampling upon personal conscience are the only votes recorded in the NT, the votes to crucify Jesus and stone Stephen.

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Is it possible that the kerfuffle over “The One Project” is simply a smoke screen intended to distract from deeper and darker agendas being worked out in hidden rooms by elderly men desperately trying to hold onto power against the wind of the Holy Spirit sweeping through the church? Perhaps we need the presence and wisdom of a Gamaliel in those secret meetings. (Acts 5:33-39)

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Thank you, Cindy, for sharing your honest perspective. I agree that unity is the litmus test that will determine whether any movement is a Godly movement. Jesus himself prayed for our unity. If His prayers cannot be answered, then…God forbid.

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This church governance and unity discussion that will happen at Annual Council, made me sick the moment I read it. I am praying that God’s Holy Spirit will do some amazing things at that meeting and keep our church unified with the goal of sharing the gospel and let people follow their personal convictions. I firmly believe that the church does not save anyone, Only the blood of Jesus. So a discussion of this magnitude is really out of place unless it is used to put people into the correct mindset of the saving power of Jesus. Please pray with me to that end.

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Which action do you speak of? The divisive Unions? Or is it only divisive when its the 2nd divisive? The Unions being the first?

Shall I search the record to find your articles and posts complete with EGW quotes rebuking the Unions prior to their divisive actions? Will there even be such a record?

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Phillip–as always thanx for your well thought out responses- Another similar motivation to LG theology might be that there are those that believe we must act to bring about the ‘Shaking’. Thus they are purifying the Church and then Christ will bring the Latter Rain. When the impulses of men are mistakenly supposed to be the acts of God then we all tend to act in a 'beastly ’ manner. -j

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Sure. It’s the opening line of a tirade, excusing the arrogance of complimenting oneself for not doing what one thinks ought to be done, in this case.

I suppose one could have memorized the 28 FB to submit as The Passport at the Pearly Gate? It may get one on the observation deck. One does not meet Jesus but at the foot of the Cross.


None of this would be a problem had SDAism been founded on the Truth of Jesus instead of the deceptions of the well-meaning Wm. Miller. It’s been said before: One cannot make a silk purse of a sow’s ear. That this is the work of men is blatantly evident. For the love of $$$$$.

Lord! Have mercyI

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I can’t imagine why Cindy is so worked up and distressed over the formation of a committee. Forming a committee is not a precursor to action, but to inaction; not a call to arms, but a call to put something on the back burner and let it cool off. Cindy should know this, since she and I were both on a committee which did nothing but travel to the location, eat, pray, listen to lectures, eat some more, socialize, pray some more, and then travel home. (Lather, rinse, repeat three times.) This committee accomplished nothing, engendered no official church action, and its many papers went straight into David Trim’s dusty archive, never to be seen or heard of again.

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These actions will split the church—and that’s not a greater concern than variance on extra-Biblical policy? How can Wilson be this bent on controlling other adults? What is this mad endeavor going to cost in legal fees? If my Union is dissolved, I won’t allow my membership to be held by a substitute mandated by this unhealthy GC leadership.

Perhaps we’re being manipulated to eventually react in relief if dissolution is rejected, and be more likely to accept some other authoritarian hand slap. Perhaps this is a sham to satisfy the members who’ve been demanding punishments for the two NAD Unions. Strong signs of dysfunction nevertheless.

Edit: My guess on why the European Unions are not being targeted is that they are held to governmental requirements on equality. Our discrimination is illegal there.

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Yes, unity IS a litmus test for determining a Christian community’s authenticity. But the question is: in what does unity consist?

Nowhere in the NT do we read that it consists in absolute uniformity of doctrine. Nowhere in the NT do we read that it consists in absolute uniformity of practice.

We do disagree of matters of real substance: Does mission involving peacemaking as well as preaching? Must we be a proud sect, or shall we be partner with others toward fulfillment of Christ’s will? Are we God’s “last word” or one crucial manifestation of God’s will? Is the idea of the “remnant” a call and incentive to discipleship, or the description of one tiny (and currently dysfunctional) community? Does the “plain reading” of Scripture, with no attention to its narrative thrust or its ultimate Christ-centeredness (Hebrew 1:1-3), shed light or preserve darkness? Are men God’s favorites for leadership and ministry, or are men as needy and limited–as needful of the cross–as women, so making for equality, not patriarchy?

Yes, these are big issues. But they do not entail irreparable disunity so much as the need to press on toward the mark. By background we differ; by length of experience in the faith we differ. This really does complicate things.

Unity isn’t easy, but wouldn’t we all (I allow for a few outliers) welcome one another at the footwashing or at the communion table?

Perhaps, though, unity is IMPOSSIBLE when the totalitarian impulse engenders effort to force uniformity by administrative fiat. If so, we must, without leaving aside the kindness and humility to which we are call, bear witness to that impossibility.

Chuck

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I find it telling that both William Johnsson’s and Cindy Tutsch’s articles were written beyond the confines of denominational employment. I am not criticizing them for this; I am sad for current employees who find it necessary to stay silent in order to keep their jobs.

“Organizations, institutions, unless kept by the power of God, will work under Satan’s dictation to bring men under the control of men; and fraud and guile will bear the semblance of zeal for truth, and for the advancement of the kingdom of God” (Testimonies for the Church, 7:180, 191)

This may be a new favorite EGW quotation for me…

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Cindy’s litany of things [a very long list] that she MISSED was NOT the focus of the One Project’s Concerns in its presentations.
THAT is WHY they WERE NOT there. [HELLO!!]
The One Project concern is Jesus. What to do with Jesus.
What to do if [or when] one answers the call of Jesus – Follow me. Leave all and follow me. Remember he said to let the dead bury the dead, dont even take time to say good-bye to family.
Preach the Gospel, along with a short list of other things to do when finding a need.

No. Cindy’s List is unnecessary for preaching the Good News of the life of Jesus, death, resurrection, and ascention to heaven, and seated at the right hand of the Father.

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Thanks Cindy!

Last Sabbath at church I didn’t hear every one of the things you missed at the One Project gatherings. That would be indigestion extraordinaire.

At the One Project I attended there was a time at the beginning of each section devoted to someone speaking personally about what one of those meant to them. Covered over the weekend just about everyone of them. I also didn’t hear them mentioned at the vegetarian cooking demonstrations, the prayer weekend, or the healthy lifestyle weekend based on the New Start or CREATION acronyms. All those doctrines don’t belong in everything. Sometimes I go to things just to hear about Jesus. There are other times and places I can go for all the other Adventist peculiarities in doctrine and behaviour if I want. (I don’t any more!)

As for everyone of them being found in Jesus’ words, I must be reading a different Bible!

My journey in Adventism is far different to Cindy’s. What Adventism means to me is far different to Cindy. At the same time I have appreciated following her from afar over the decades. I hear her soul, see her heart, know her dedication, and have read of her active involvement in the church. We may live in different religious perspectives and understandings - and I very much value her. The best unity comes when we may not agree or even understand another’s different way of thinking and being, yet we value them and their journey and treat them with respect and worth. Thank you Cindy for the way you have shown that.

As for the punishments for those who deviate from the Adventist Pope and his Cardinals and Curia, we have heard the threats over the years. I know they are deep down well meaning from their perspective and come from a desire from their spiritual journeys - but very unfortunately the attitudes, actions and words that come with these approaches are born out in history in Adventist, other churches and religions, as well as other cultures (secular and religious) as very dangerous and damaging. We don’t need the mentality of Trump and others in our international church. Unfortunately what we are seeing is the unravelling of USA political, culture, religion and society being played out as a microcosm of that within our church - which is very American to the core and is in its DNA even though we are international in our membership and spread.

What I see happening in the sda’church has me less and less identifying with the denomination and more and more with local people and community - whether the individuals and groups consider themselves SDA or not. This is becoming less and less a church and denomination and religious movement I want to be associated and belong to.

Thanks to those who speak up. I have long noticed that it is only when they have retired that people of leadership speak out. There has always been a lot of silencing about lots of things in the SDA denomination from the personal level to the highest leadership levels.

I wish the church well, and I choose to live my own life with openness, authenticity, integrity, compassion, diversity, inclusion, creativity, connection, healthy communication, deep spiritual journeys, and healthy community.

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having just read the GC secretariat’s 50-page “A Study of Church Governance and Unity”, i remain convinced that there’s less than no chance that the GC will be moving to flex any muscle in the wake of san antonio…after a brief summary of the purpose and scope of the study, and its context of WO, we read on page 1 the following:

“As we move forward, there will continue to be dialogue at administrative levels regarding the issue of compliance with policy.”

to me, this is certain destruction of the notion that the purpose of next month’s annual council is to disband unions like NPUC and PUC…a year has passed since san antonio, and my impression is that cooler heads are now seeking ways to implement the benefits of a yes vote, while upholding the authority of the no vote…

at the top of the list of such attempts is probably what appears to be this study’s emphasis on the concept that annual council, given its union representation and worldwide make up since the second half of the 20th century, is apparently now on par with an actual GC session in terms of church authority…in this study they are both cited as the “highest authorities” in our church, p.14, but the authority of annual council, drawn into extraordinarily sharp focus through a relatively extensive comparison with union authority, pp.15-16, seems to be a deliberate thrust…implied is that annual council’s authority operates unchallenged between GC sessions, which is the period we’re in now, and while i didn’t see explicit discussion on the possibility of annual council overriding a decision made in a GC session, there seems to be a slight nod not only to the view that an exemption from policy doesn’t alter policy, but more importantly, that divergence from policy is acceptable as long as it’s formulated collaboratively, and not unilaterally…

is this perhaps a GC invitation to unions to consult with them directly before formulating ordination policy, and that exemptions from a GC session vote - the san antonio no vote - will be granted readily as a result of such a consultation…

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