Adventist Farm

There are a bunch of stories and novels that many people were first introduced to in their middle school or high school reading lists: The Scarlet Letter, The Crucible, Lord of the Flies. One such novel that is emblazoned in my adolescent memory is Animal Farm by George Orwell.

For those who need a refresher, in this dystopian tale, the animals are subjected to unjust treatment by the human farmer, Mr. Jones. Empowered by the teachings of one of the older boars, Old Major, the animals stage a successful revolt. Although Old Major has passed away, his legacy of liberation ideology propels the animals forward to create a more equitable society. Two pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, become the farm leaders and seek to teach the rest of the animals principles that made up the fundamental ideals of their new community. However, slowly but surely, over time the principles get a bit muddled. Things get added, subtracted and modified on the list. Snowball, when seeking to introduce reforms to improve farm life, is run off as an enemy. Napoleon, once a leader concerned with upholding ideals for the entire community, soon becomes more and more like the humans he led the reformation against. Obsessed with power, he changes the principles dramatically, reinterpreting the fundamentals and taking advantage of the fact that not all of the animals recognized or remembered the inception of the movement. In one of the most profound alterations, the foundational principle that proclaimed that “all animals are equal” was changed to read “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”. At the end of the novel, Napoleon had become so much like the ones he had originally organized against, that the book states that the animals “looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which”.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

It's fascinating to talk to those who were Adventist before the codification of the Fundamental Beliefs. Those of us who are younger and/or joined the church later in life may be inclined to believe that these principles were around since time immemorial. But church history informs us otherwise.

Of course, our church history didn't just begin in 1844. Although many people commemorate the Great Disappointment at the end of October, that is not the only prominent day in our ecclesial datebook. We are Protestants. October 31st marks the day almost 500 years ago when Martin Luther catalyzed the beginning of the Reformation. Outlining 95 areas where the Catholic Church was errant, his nailing of the list to the Wittenburg Church doors ignited a wildfire of ecclesiastical change. His actions propelled Christianity forward as the “Protestants” became liberated from Catholic ideology. The way we teach it, the Spirit of God has been continually leading in more truth, ending of course with Adventism, when we finally got everything all right! Obviously, I jest (although some may actually believe this). However, our denomination's establishment was indeed distinguished by the eschewing of various ubiquitous Christian practices that we felt were not supported by the Bible, such as: observing Sunday as the Sabbath, infant baptism, the distinction between clergy and laity, etc. It didn't matter to Adventists what traditions said—we were adherents to the Bible: our one and only creed.

When it was suggested that Adventists ought to codify their beliefs, it was a cause of great discord. J.N. Loughborough wisely cautioned against it. In an 1861 Review and Herald article, he was quoted saying, “The first step of apostasy is to get up a creed, telling us what we shall believe. The second is, to make that creed a test of fellowship. The third is to try members by that creed. The fourth to denounce as heretics those who do not believe that creed. And fifth, to commence persecution against such." Yet here we are, on the brink of adding #29. How subtly those changes happened over the years! Meanwhile, like Snowball, those who seek to help continue positive reformation in our community are run off as enemies! And although we supposedly champion equality in Fundamental Belief #14, we have found “some are more equal than others” becoming a more widespread sentiment. All the while, the Catholic Church we protested against seems to be more of our example: looking from our Adventist structure to that of the papal hierarchy, it's becoming harder to distinguish between which is which!

So is this inevitable? Can we take Animal Farm as a cautionary tale instead of a prophecy? I'm not certain if we’ve reached the point of no return—is a split inevitable since the bright red line has been drawn and the ultimatum has been given? I should hope that we could somehow step back and take lessons from another Good Book. In it, I find very simple beliefs: Micah 6:8, James 1:27; Matthew 22:37-38…these are the real fundamentals. How about we start true “revival & reformation” by “holding each other accountable” to these principles instead.

Dr. Courtney Ray is an ordained pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7727

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Animal Farm. Adventist Farm. What a TRAGIC parallel has occurred since 1861. A Creed stifles advancing Truth. A Creed does not allow for greater understanding. A Creed does not allow for “Seeing” new things.
However, an open ended Creed like the Nicene Creed does allow for new truth to be enjoyed. Just DO NOT attach the “New Truths” to the Creed and thereby CLOSE the door to continued thinking and understanding. “I believe in One God, maker of heaven and earth.” This statement ALLOWS for Sabbath understanding. It attests to God the Creator, AND it also ALLOWS for one to study God’s Creation and Not be Limited as to what one discovers and May Discuss about it. It allowed for the earth to be round. It allowed for the earth and moon to encircle the sun [not the other way around]. It allowed for European Theologians to study Ice Flows, rock formations, ancient sea creatures and bones discovered in rocks and in the earth. And be comfortable with information shared as they communicated around Europe in Latin letters to each other. [North Americans were NOT part of the conversation at that time. And were unaware of the discussions.] Theologians to study Genetics, Chemistry. It is tragic that at Autumn Council 2016 many would have liked to joined the Policies and the Doctrines as one in some cases.

Edit-- In Early days James White said we did not have a Creed. He did say though, that there were some Generally Held Beliefs by MOST SDAs of the time. And listed one hand-ful.
Notice – Generally Held. Notice – Most.
He was OK that NOT ALL subscribed to ALL beliefs discussed.
Adrian P – perhaps this will answer your Concerns.

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Until he changed his mind.

I think the SDA point of no return happened long before women’s ordination became a flashpoint.

I’m not yet convinced that all of this isn’t just a kabuki dance.

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George Lindbeck has suggested that ‘creedless Christianiy […] is not genuinely creedless. When creedlessness is insisted on as a mark of group identity, it becomes by definition operationally creedal.’

So one wonders whether the ideal of creedlessness is actually possible. The question comes then as to how the creed is used. The issue that most seem to have is that rather than a general summation of the community’s belief system at a given point in time, the FB’s are destined to become a disciplinary tool as Loughborough suggests.

The propensity to increase the number of FB’s is reminiscent of those political entities that generate a plethora of new laws in an attempt to control, rather than those who minimize laws and regulations and seek to empower and trust. Having lived under both regimes, the former’s activities become meaningless and the latter’s merely idealistic.

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1888, 1919, Dallas, Glacer View, Dire Consequences, now GC take over. The history in brief of a owner play, an easier route to power. The Gospel lies in the dust to leadership. tz

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It has: See the article on the Spencerville Church on Spectrum a few days ago. The leadership has long recognized it which is why all the apparent eagerness to lock the barn doors now that many of the oldest and most reliable were aware that the barn was almost ready to collapse. They had watched when minor repairs were made that would not withstand a real storm.

Putting new barriers and locks on the doors and painting over the old wood only shortens the time before a strong north Atlantic wind blows it south.

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as i think this article implies, being in power really is getting to TW…whatever good he has done in the past, he’s gotten to the point now where he is willing to inflict punishment for non-compliance with a policy vote that he doubtless engineered to begin with…it’s a sad regression to watch…

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It is interesting how we can see the similarities to Animal Farm in others, but not in our own aspirations. Although I support women’s ordination, I have a deep concern that there are those within this movement who are like Napoleon in “Animal Farm” and are not satisfied with equality but want to push on to dominance. This is human nature and why “Animal Farm” speaks so clearly to all of us. There are female “Ted Wilsons” awaiting their opportunity at the helm just as there are male ones. If we cannot discover how to handle heavy-handy authoritarianism under male rule, we will likely be no better off simply from switching gender at the top. When power is abused, it makes little difference if the name is Athaliah or Manasseh. It’s still a problem.

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It must be extreme desperation that would cause someone to imagine that there is any similarity between communism, a brutal totalitarian system (complete with thought police, group think, and torture for dissidents), and the SDA Church. So far I haven’t found the “Berlin Wall” that would prevent me from leaving for “the West,” and “freedom.”

Spectrum is becoming less Adventist every day.

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The plethora of analogies - and “Adventist Farm” certainly is a worthwhile addition - is frightening. Whether you look to communist totalitarianism, to Nazi fascism, to the Brexit dilemma in the UK, to papal abuse of power during the middle ages … you can find parallels.

This suggests a couple of things to me:

  1. The situation is serious. Of course, there is no torture for dissidents - just demotions, there is no Berlin Wall - but glass ceiling, there is no “thought police”, but an increasing sense of Gleichschaltung of Adventist media, with highly selective, even distorted reporting on current events…

  2. The dynamics we experience are not all that special - but a mirror of our humanity. There is comfort in that - and an opportunity to learn. Solzhenitsyn, Bonhoeffer, Luther are names to remember … or indeed Orwell. There is hope in being “protestant”.

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A very apt and well thought out description Courtney Ray.
It is sad. I like your idea of using those scriptures for our basis on revival and reformation and I think Jesus would heartily approve. Blessings and peace to you!

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Orwell (according to his own explanations of the novel) did not intend ‘Animal Farm’ to be just about communism. It is an analogy that shines a spotlight on the human tendency to abuse power.

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I want ot speak about the idea of equality. There are at least two views:

  1. Equality means that every one in every detail is the same. In this way of thinking, equal means uniformity. All are equal in the same way.
  2. Equality means that all are respected in some necessary equal way, but that there are differences among the equals.

I would submit that the second is the only way in which we really are equal. Men and women are equal in worth before God, but are very different. God created us differently: we think differently, have different ways of doing things, and are very different in outlook on average.

As an example, one would think that the Obama White House would be the epitome of equality. But in fact, the women there only get paid on average about 77% of what the men are paid. It is not because there is is unequal pay for dong the same work, but because there is a difference in what the goals of each group are. The women prefer positions that make it so they are paid less overall, even though if they are doing the same job as a man, they are paid the same. Is Obama a bigot, a woman hater? Hardly. But the sexes pursue different goals.

In this light, a difference in ordination is not such a terrible idea. Women in scripture had a different role than men, and so there was a difference in how they lived. The western idea of equality as exposed above #1, uniformity, is not actually reality at all, it is an idea of forced uniformity based on the idea that men and women are “equal” in every way. They are not.

Even in Animal Farm there were differences. The horses did one thing, the chickens another. They were equal in respect, but different in ability and station. To insist on uniformity is to insist on something that is really not so.

One more thing.

The implication of the essay is the that TW is grabbing power and ruling over the church. Dr. Ray gives him too much credit, and besides, it was not he who voted the policy. In animal farm a group of animals took over. At the GC, the whole church voted, not exactly a coup. Unless representative governance is considered a coup.

Can power be used legitimately, or is it always illegitimate? Even Jesus used power, and did so in love. So such a cynical view misses the mark.

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Interesting analysis and commentary, @ajshep. While you and I disagree on the crux of this issue–the Holy Spirit bestowing spiritual gifts NOW to men, women, youth–I know deep in your heart you–and you have said this many times–that you would have voted for divisions to decide who will be ordained.

I love that Jesus used his power to uplift, single out, communicate with and empower women to take the Gospel message. He rose above the politics of His day where women were dirt, victims, lowest of humanity, and outcasts, especially in the dominant religious machine of the day. Yes, his equalizer was love.

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Christianity did not start with the establishment of the Roman Church by Constantine. The root , so to speak, of Nazarene Christianity was started in Britain when Joseph of Arimathea built the first above ground Christian chapel in Glastonbury England in AD 63. A year later Jesus Justus(Col 4:11) first son of Mary Magdalene and Jesus (who was also known as Jesus the Younger) dedicated the Glastonbury Chapel to his mother Mary. Joseph of Arimathea was of Jesus own family , in fact his brother James. Jesus the Younger was often taken to England by his Uncle Joseph who was a large wealthy ship owner who provided the Romans with metals to make swords and armour. A stained glass window in a Scottish Christian Church depicts Jesus and his bride Mary in Scotland. The event known as The Reformation was, of course, over a millennium and a half away. Mary’s third and last child was a Joseph (meaning Crown Prince), He caused her to be immortalized into the Christian Eucharist. There are Many descendants of Jesus in Europe and even in India it is claimed where Indian scholars claimed he died and a mausoleum containing his bones exist to the present day. But What of the ASCENSION one may ask? The event known as the ascension was a code for events Jews did not want the Romans to know. The Romans were also well known for tampering with the Bible text in order to give their religious views prominence. The ascension was so named by the Romans 300 years after it took place to add mystery to the Christian story. It simply meant that according to the existing rules of dynastic marriage the dynast was supposed to resume the celibate life after pregnancy was secure and therefore an heir was on the way to be born in September the month of Atonement .This would last until “the time of restitution”. This meant 3 years if a girl and 6 years if a boy when he could return to co-habit with his dynastic wife. When he was received into the Kingdom of heaven by a cloud the meaning was this: The Monastery at Mird was called the kingdom of heaven using Bible imagery. The chief priest was called CLOUD after the cloud that led the trekkers through the desert. However , the Romans were livid at the influence of Mary and her descendants in Europe especially and strove might and main to discredit her. She was declared a whore, and therefore a woman who could not possibly be the wife of the Messiah. Her descendants were later hunted and massacred in the Inquisition. To round things off ALL WOMEN were declared unfit to hold ecclesial office. And so Paul’s misogynistic views are prominently displayed in the New Testament. These views are now being adopted by Protestant newcomers such as our SDA church. BUT what will the harvest be?

Interesting. Would you expound on what is spiritually crucial to being an ordained pastor that a man can do but a woman cannot do?

Another matter of importance is to understand that giving everyone an equal opportunity is not demanding that everyone be equal. The former is best done as a corporate/social policy whereas the latter is best addressed by preparing one’s self for a mission. It is for this reason that we have educational centers, some even presided by women.

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I don’t remember writing this article . . . but somehow it feels, and fits, like I would have, if I could have. Thank God Courtney Ray did !

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In other words, All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. Well done, Napoleon!

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Basketball has Michael Jordan. Baseball has Babe Ruth…

Christianity has the Apostle Paul, who gives us a revelation into the heart of God and his Son like no other. No other.

Paul said that a woman should not have leadership authority over a man in two environments: The home and the fellowships of believers.

If you feel this line of thinking falls short, consider the gender of the leaders that Christ chose to serve as his disciples as well as his most trusted, endowed inner circle.

It doesn’t matter how many people rail against the facts, it is just the way it is. My wonderful wife and my amazing daughters are blessed and empowered by this truth and all the truth that God bestows through His Word.

@laurel Ann, I don’t see where Jesus or Paul or Peter, etc, ever yield to “patriarchal Jewish society” or any cultural barrier per se. Truth is not veiled in order to avoid conflict or awkwardness. If Peter had been a lady, how could Paul ever have said what he did about male leadership? There is no conflict between the actions and the writings.

Jesus may have had women in his social circles but not within his leadership/authority sphere. I was referring to Peter, Andrew, James and John, with Peter being often referred to as primis inter pares or “First among equals.” It is apparent that his fellow apostles willfully submit to his leadership, not resist or resent it. This is our example! It’s okay!

My daughters are empowered by truth, not who Jesus chose to be in the twelve! I believe the author of this article once proudly wore a shirt that said “anything boys can do girls can do better”. That saying has its origins in radical feminism and it is patently false. Many things they can by all means, but some things they can’t. Does anybody really believe that their daughter will be in the NFL someday? I think it is a shame for a parent to raise a boy or girl with the need to go out and try and prove something. The truth sets them free and the truth is that my girls aren’t preoccupied about being better than boys at anything. They are free to do their things with excellence…nobody to impress or beat.

The reality is that we are both free to each raise our children as we are led. And to remain loyal to our consciences. But within a Bible-based fellowship of believers, we are subject to identical inspired mandates regarding orderly worship. And the models of pastors, priests, bishops and elders we are provided with happen to all be male.

We have to submit liberally to authority in all walks of life, and it doesn’t seem like an ugly thing at all. But let it be suggested that it is supposed to be normal and healthy in godly fellowships, and the sky starts to fall.

Now we have the galactic version of Battle of the Sexes right in our churches…not fun.

It’s interesting to think about what a creed can do. Perhaps it’s more interesting to think about what those who create or modify a creed are trying to do:

It can serve to set out general principles/it can be specific
It can allow for individual experience and growth and thus accept differing views within the principles/it can seek complete group agreement and unity on each point

If the right balance is not found, it can be too inclusive by being so general it has no pillars on which to rest and test doctrine, or it can be too exclusive by being so specific it’s restrictive and doesn’t allow for differing understanding or progressive revelation.

FWIW, here is a creed that I like. It’s on the general principles side because it’s
the result of the amalgamation of three Christian faith groups in my area.

We are not alone,
we live in God’s world.
We believe in God:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus,
the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others
By the Spirit.

We trust in God.

We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.

In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.

Thanks be to God.

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