Annual Council Business Session Day 2 — Simplifying Things

Newly elected General Conference Treasurer Paul Douglas made the complex financial statements of the international organization that is the church easily understandable in his presentation to the General Conference Executive Committee on Monday. Simple charts that work on Zoom were used to make his points, rather than the actual pages from the financial report documents that were emailed separately to the committee members. He told them the state of the church’s finances for the next year are stronger today than a year ago, with positive trends year over year. Cash and investments are up 26% at $53 million, while accounts receivable are down 31% and notes receivable down 66%, thus contributing to the increase in cash. Tithe is up 5.2% over last year, and offerings are also up 14.2%. Program expenses are down 9.9%. However, as it relates to how money was budgeted for 2021, expenses are 11.6% higher, which he attributed to the exchange rate between US currency and that of the currency for the places where the money was being sent. He praised the leaders at the General Conference for keeping down expenses and said the financial markets have been good this year, with the investment return 50 % higher than was anticipated. He said Division treasurers are reporting financial gains this year, even when compared to 2019, the last pre-COVID financial period.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11452
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Glad to see they’re finally saying the quiet part out loud…

““We should teach our students to think biblically, not critically,” Ed Zinke said.”

SDA Education has an explicit goal of indoctrination. Look at any presentations on the subject from church leaders over the past decade or two. The goal isn’t to open minds, it’s to close and lock them into SDA dogma. If the response to people leaving the church after going to university is better mind control… I think Ted Wilson and co have fundamentally missed the problem. We leave because this is wrong and harmful to people and our society at large. Clowns like Zinke should not be anywhere near the subject of education. With epistemic B.S. like this, is it any wonder that so many SDAs are deep in the grip of harmful conspiracy theories? It’s beyond embarrassing. On the one hand you have health ministries folks desperately trying to provide some evidence-based grounding for personal decisions… and then you have Wilson promoting, more or less directly, the moral value of credulity and ignorance. Way to go ya’ll.

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Do any of these current leaders read AToday or Spectrum, the 1919 Bible Conference Minutes, the historical essays by our church historians, the essays by anyone? Their list of theological concerns is indefensible as written.

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I just finished viewing on Vimeo the first 3 ½ hours (up to the financial reports) of the session. The reports demonstrated, as never before, the huge chasm between the current leadership and many members in the North American and European church. None of the presentations reached out to listen and were open for a genuine dialogue. There was no nuance. The truth was and is clear, well-defined, and not up for debate. In the discussion session, most speakers strongly supported the presentations. At 3:38 in the video, Jan Poulsen, in his gentle, ever diplomatic style, hit the sore toe on the nail…by encouraging administrators worldwide to build bridges of trust to our theologians.

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I enjoyed reading the report, and in particular the list of theological concerns. On every concern, there is a defined traditional Adventist position that the gang of four want to stick to. And on every single one, I am not aligned with the gang of four.

How far I have drifted. I recall that old hymn, “This world is not my home”. I could quite easily sing it, substituting every instance of the word “world”, with “church”, and “passing” with a past tense version.

I think back to the report of the first day, which suggested a deep concern at senior levels over the theological state of the church. This concern is akin to that of many older people, who don’t like what the younger ones are doing. I would suggest to these dam-hole pluggers - get with it, or get out of the way.

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Honestly. I am SO tired of hearing from these men! Finley, Ryan, Ng, Wilson–all retired or past retirement age. Please, just get out of the way. You’re time is over! But if, in your old age, it’s answers you seek, here they are:

  1. The authority of the Scripture—is it culturally conditioned or the infallible word of God? Culturally conditioned and the trustworthy word of God.

  2. Adventist identity—are we raised up by God, or just one of the many on the religious landscape? Raised up by God who works in a variety of ways and through many different groups and individuals.

  3. Prophetic interpretation—do we need to re-evaluate our prophetic understanding of things such as the universal Sunday law? Yes, absolutely! Glad you asked.

  4. Creation and evolution—are the first 11 chapters of Genesis historic or an allegory? Neither. They are primarily theological.

  5. Jesus and doctrine—is there a distinction between Jesus and doctrine? No comment. Just a question in return. What is you obsession with the One Project, anyway?

  6. Moral issues deviating from Scripture—is it loving or unkind to take a stand against moral issues such as divorce, co-habitation, and LGBTQ+? It can be. Lots of people have been hurt-- very badly, even–by the church in the name of “taking a stand” on any one of these. And BTW, LGBTQ+ isn’t an “issue.” It’s people–precious children of God.

  7. Advent fatigue from the delay in Christ’s coming—after 175 years can we still say that Jesus is coming soon? I suppose you can. Just don’t blame the “delay” on hapless church members or leverage the “urgency” of His coming for your own ends. I don’t think Jesus would be happy about that.

  8. Sanctuary Doctrine and Pre-Advent Judgment—what happened in 1844, and is it relevant today? Who really knows? If by 1844 we mean that God cares more than ever before about bringing justice to His planet and longs for His people to address the injustices of worldly systems, then yes! But you seem to have a thing against social justice.

  9. EGW and divine inspiration—is Mrs. White spiritually inspiring but not authoritative? Spiritually inspiring, but definitely not authoritative in the way that she has been used/abused.

  10. Re-imaging of Adventism—should we shift from being biblically-based to addressing the perceived needs of seekers? Really? “Seeker-sensitive” evangelism was so yesterday. Why are you tilting at all these windmills?

OK Boomer. There are your answers. Now, please, go away. Let the next generation do its work.

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Nobody has specifically said this yet, but you really, really owe it to yourself to look at that PowerPoint linked in the article. In fact, I’m going to relink it right here.

Watching Crosswalk’s online services? Way to go, you’re making the church dumber. What even is this?

There are over 20 objects of interpretation when one reads the Bible, but I don’t have time or space to explicate each one.

The most important object of interpretation is not the biblical text but the reader. But the unlearned GC personnel mentioned in this news story mistakenly regard the Bible as the object and themselves as the subject. As the subject, they manhandle the Bible like one might an apple, screwdriver, or petri dish and exercise authority and dominion over the sacred text. What they should do is submit to the Bible’s authority, let the Bible function as the subject, and in all humility become the object. If they were to do this, these questions would come to mind as they read the Bible: What is my position before God? Am I going to be saved? What commonalities do I have with the characters in the Bible? How are my sins similar to their sins? What changes are happening in me as I read the Bible? What changes in how I perceive myself are occurring as I read the Bible? Etc. As you can see, these are questions that arise in the mind of a reader who has humbly submitted to the authority of the Bible, allowed the power of the Bible to act upon him or her, and made himself or herself the object of interpretation.

If there is a phenomenology of reading the Bible that is separate and distinct from the phenomenology of reading in general, as discussed in the brilliant essays written by Georges Poulet and Wolfgang Iser, then the universal experience of the reader of the Bible is the sensation that he or she is standing before God’s throne of judgment. This is the universal claim of Scripture: we are standing before God’s throne of judgment. This universal claim is what remains, the essence as it were, after a phenomenological reduction of the Bible.

Granted, GC personnel do not understand hermeneutics. They have not read the standard literature on hermeneutics. But is the problem mere ignorance? I shudder to think the problem is more of a spiritual nature. The reason why GC personnel have never bothered to learn hermeneutics is because they cannot psychologically abide the reality that there is a body of knowledge they should know in order to precisely and accurately interpret the Bible. That psychological hang-up, I fear, mirrors the reality that they cannot psychologically abide the notion that they are standing before God’s throne of judgment. They don’t want the reader to be the object of interpretation, because they don’t want to examine themselves. Such introspection is too traumatic for them to undertake.

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I don’t want to dominate the conversation, but let me say this:

The denial that the Bible is historically and culturally conditioned is fundamentally a denial that we worship a personal God who has inserted Himself in our time and space.

In order to possess what the hermeneutics literature refers to as historical consciousness, you need to read the literature. GC personnel have not done that.

Watching GC personnel grapple with hermeneutics is like watching toddlers play basketball. The basketball is never hoisted through the net. It is a sad spectacle to behold.

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[Artur Stele] said that Satan’s strategy throughout history has always been to cast doubt on what God says through a selective use of Scripture and then reinterpreting it to suit his needs.

Now where does Mr Stele get this from? What talents and insights does he have to see into the mind of “Satan”? It seems Mr Stele is just making things up to suit his own purposes?

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All of the issues were framed as a “yes/no”, a classic tactic designed to entrench established dogma with no room for nuance.

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What work?

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)

It is difficult to see the spirit of the Lord at work in your very disrespectful comment. Do you think that you are more spiritually equipped than your elders to face the challenges ahead? In this case, prove it, starting by showing a more respectful attitude.

If you want to work for God this is commendable but don’t think that you will go far without humility because “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

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I think you badly fail to understand the pain and anger caused by the SDA Church. When valid complaints are met with calls for “respect,” it only shows that the hearer cares more about their own ego than the pain of others. It’s difficult to be sympathetic to those who show no sympathy and keep right on perpetuating the abuse. Yes. Abuse. The doctrines of the SDA Church have been abusive to many, many people. If you don’t like these answers, I invite you to honestly examine your reaction to consider what exactly it is that you fear.

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Oh, I see… the entire SDA church caused you pain and anger.

Valid? According to whom?

Also, even if some complaints may be valid, it doesn’t mean that people can start being insulting.

As far as I know, no one is forced to stay in a church whose doctrines are supposed to be wrong. So, if people are staying in the SDA church in spite of the “abusive” doctrines maybe they found something (or maybe they are masochistic and should seek therapy :thinking:).

The doctrines of the church caused me pain, not specific people. It’s the theology and teachings that are damaging. And this happens to vulnerable people like children who are not able to leave the environment freely. So yes, people are forced to stay in the church against their will, unless children are not people in your eyes. When I was a teenager, considering my future and life, the 9/11 attacks occurred. At the time, I was extremely devout and was urgently expecting the second coming of Jesus. I interpreted this, as many around me did, as a direct sign of the beginning of the end times I had been told to expect. I honestly believed, at age 14 or so, that the world would end within my lifetime, and I would be hunted by the U.S. government, possibly tortured, because I worshipped on Saturday. For many years, I literally couldn’t imagine a future life for myself. I couldn’t picture it, no career, no family, no nothing. Because all I had been taught to expect was a literal end of the world. Now go on, tell me that this isn’t an abusive teaching.

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So well said. In neither their minds nor ours are these hard questions. They are just generally not particularly useful questions.

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How?

How are they damaging?

If children stay in the church against their will, it is because of the decisions of the parents, not of the church. So, why do you blame the church for the decisions taken by your parents?

Interesting… When 9/11 occurred, I (and many around me) never interpreted this a direct sign of the beginning of the end times. And I am an Adventist too. So, does your experience represent the general experience in the SDA church, or mine?

Do you consider Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 24 abusive? I mean, He gave a really grim picture of what was about to happen, stuff of nightmare. Kingdom against kingdom, famines, pestilences, earthquakes. And as if it was not enough, Jesus added that it was just the beginning of sorrows. (Mat 24:8)

Now, what to do with that? Did Jesus tell all of this to traumatize people, or did He do this to warn people so that they are ready? You know the answer.

What about today? We know that the end times are not going to be a walk in the park. But they are different ways of presenting the subject. Jesus asked us not to be afraid. Unfortunately, it is easy to be all gloom and doom. Yes, difficult times are coming (and we have to talk about that) but Jesus told us that He would be with us until the end. This is good news.

Maybe you didn’t receive the proper teachings or receive them the proper way but is it the fault of the church or is it the fault of your parents (who are supposed to be your primary instructors), or of your pastor, or of your local church (it could be nobody’s fault too)? Personally, I didn’t have the same experience as you. So we cannot simply blame the entire church or make a blanket statement concerning its doctrines since I didn’t experience these doctrines of the church as being abusive (which doesn’t mean that I like everything that is happening in the church, far from it).

This being said, I hope that your situation has changed and improved and that you are having a very fulfilling walk with Christ.

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It’s difficult to continue this conversation respectfully, but I’ll try. I believe in several places I clearly said that the church caused “me” pain. Not everyone. I don’t claim to know the experiences of others, that seems to be your thing. For some people, the teachings of Christianity and Adventism specifically can be incredibly harmful and abusive. My parents are loving and kind people who did their absolute best to instruct me in SDA beliefs. Both my grandparents were SDA ministers. My dad is a career church employee and I worked for the church for five years. We were not outside the mainstream of church doctrine or practice. You may not have interpreted current events exactly as I did, and I’m sure you are better for it. But that doesn’t excuse the doctrine itself. Teaching children that the world is literally about to end in a “time of trouble” where they will flee for their lives is psychological abuse, and if you can’t see that then I’m not sure what to tell you. The kind of anxiety that generates in someone who really believes these things can be immense. Maybe you didn’t take it as seriously as me. Good for you. I wasn’t smart enough to see through the B.S. as a child. The only reason I hang around SDA forums like this is to try to raise awareness about the danger of these beliefs in the slim hope that it might help other naïve children still stuck in the abusive cycles of SDA belief and practice.

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I agree with you Matt. A lot of spiritual abuse goes on because of the doctrines and teachings. Some people do okay in spite of it, but I think that everyone is affected to one degree or another. I don’t think that people are trying to be damaging to others. They are just doing what they think is right, because that is what they know.

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I question whether Ed Zinke knows what “critical thinking” is!

  1. It is NOT being critical.
  2. It IS carefully and thoughtfully “thinking” about information and weighing its validity.

Such a lack of understanding of a basic thinking skill for even a high school graduate give me great concern.

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