Cheap Copies of "The Great Controversy" Fill Big City Recycle Bins

(system) #1

"The Great Controversy Project is a unique presidential initiative with the goal of distributing massive quantities of Seventh-day Adventist Church co-founder Ellen G. White's book, The Great Controversy, as part of the church’s worldwide Tell the World emphasis." That presidential initiative, as described on the Great Controversy Project website, is well underway (it started with Wilson's inaugural address in 2010). While there may be reason for the president's office to take heart, the response from the Web-going public has been tepid at best.

In 2013, when the Great Controversy Project placed over one million paperback copies of "The Great Controversy" on top of mailboxes throughout Manhattan, David Blend, writing for Thrillist, wrote an article entitled "Seriously, what the hell are you supposed to do with this?" The article began:

You come home at 1015p to find four copies of this ominous work displayed over your apartment's mailboxes. Do you:

1. Move out immediately -- screw the deposit. 2. Laugh that there's somebody out there so crazy they think people still read books. 3. Take a copy for the novelty value

The article, it turns out, is indicative of the way many city-dwellers, who are among Adventists' favorite target audiences for evangelistic efforts, have responded to the "Great Controversy" mass-mailings, but the way Adventist-Laymen's Services International (ASI) characterized the initiative, you'd never know it.

"Last spring Justin Montero, a New York City Bible worker, began noticing a strange phenomenon. Everywhere he went, people were reading The Great Controversy!" ASI wrote on their website. ASI, a powerful, conservative network of Adventist bussinesspersons and fundraisers, helped organize financial backing for the project. Remnant Publications, a parachurch publishing company took on the task of publishing and distributing the books.

Remnant Publications laid their cards on the table in a website post outlining their effort to reach San Francisco:

Over the past year Remnant Publications has been sending mass mailings of The Great Controversy to major cities in the United States. So far we’ve blanketed New York City; Washington, DC; and Charlotte, NC, with nearly two million copies of this crucial end-time book.

Our supporters made this possible by funding the printing and mailing costs for the books. Now we’re reaching into the San Francisco Bay area in California.

San Francisco is not the easiest community to reach. For years the city has been at the forefront of the gay movement. In fact, 15 percent of San Francisco residents are homosexual. The area is home to the University of California-Berkeley, a hotbed of liberal ideas. It also contains the affluent communities of Silicon Valley, where high-tech companies like Google and Facebook are changing the world on a daily basis.

San Franciscans were unamused. "Did anyone else get this religious book in the mail?" wrote a Reddit user called NightWriter500. "There's no address on it at all, so we're wondering how it ended up in the mailbox. My roommate is screaming bloody murder about a renegade mailman putting unsolicited religious text in people's mailboxes. Did everyone get one?"

In the comments section of a separate online article about Remnant's blanketing of Charlotte, North Carolina with the paperbacks, a mail carrier talked about the mailing from the Postal Service's point of view.

As a mail carrier, I had to deliver these books to every one of my customers. The Post Office was flooded with calls after the carriers delivered to their respective routes. Some would call blaming their carrier for leaving a "religious book" in their mailbox trying to "convert" them. Others on my route would either leave the book on top of the mail box or leave it in their box while only taking the mail out, as if to protest in their own silent way. These books were not well received in Los Gatos, Ca. I have been carrying one around with me for months with the intent of reading it, but just couldn't get past the first sentence for some reason. I finally Googled the book title and found out what it was and who it was written by.....needless to say, it's now in the recycle as of this morning. Something I should have done a very long time ago.

Perhaps the most damning indictment of the Great Controversy Project to date came just this morning from Jules Suzdaltsev writing in San Francisco-based The Bold Italic. Suzdaltsev wrote to San Francisco residents explaining why their mailboxes were recently flooded with "God Propaganda" (his words). He called the Great Controversy's arrival "unwanted, unordered, and inexplicable." Suzdaltsev suggested that to impress San Francisco residents, Adventists would have done better donating to a non-profit than trying to impress people with books from their gone prophet.

What these Seventh-Day Adventists have missed, however, is that SF’s gay-friendly, liberal community isn’t easily reachable through a somewhat homophobic web crusade and an unsought religious text. The Adventists would probably have more luck getting support by donating that quarter of a million to any number of SF charities. You know, like Jesus would’ve done. Just a thought.

Title Image: Delivery of "The Great Controversy to San Francisco, from a story by

Jared Wright is Spectrum's managing editor.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Daniel) #2

This is not surprising. I wonder what would happened if the church distributed Steps to Christ instead of Great Controversy. I am pretty sure the results will be different.

(Jonathan Cook) #3

Perhaps a message of love, acceptance and inclusion would work better in San Francisco. As a gay Adventist, that is what would resonate with me.

(Daneen Akers) #4

Just two weeks ago, an Australian filmmaker who is also a part-time resident at the San Francisco Film Society’s FilmHouse, watched our documentary about the stories, challenges, and spiritual journeys of gay and lesbian Adventists ( She told us, at a production meeting with all of the other residents: “Your film isn’t just fighting homophobia in religious circles. It also is fighting Adventist-phobia in me.” I couldn’t help but hope that somehow her mailbox got skipped because this sort of very unthoughtful, mass mailing of propaganda simply underscores the very worst ideas about Adventists and religious people in general.

We lived in San Francisco for ten years, and I was always horrified when the church would mass-mail brochures or advertise evangelistic meetings with images of beloved SF landmarks being destroyed in end-time scenario/beast of Revelation graphics (but under false pretenses without saying it was at an Adventist church with an Adventist pastor speaking). The people who underwrite these campaigns think the city is something people should be saved from. They completely misunderstand the urban professionals who love their city. And this article makes a fantastic point–if the church wanted to make a positive impression, maybe supporting some worthy project in the city with such a donation would be a lot more effective.

(Tony Parrish) #5

I was embarrassed when I first head of this project. I thought to myself “this is what the ‘brightest’ minds in Adventism can come up with - we are in trouble.” Whatever happened to mingling amongst people and desiring their good? Who said that line again? Was it the same author as the G.C. - EG White rolls in her grave.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #6

Steps to Christ is also 180 out… the Gospel is the steps Christ took to us. the Poem The Hound of Heaven is more redemptive. it was the catalyst that brought John R. W. Stott to Christ and an amazing career. Tom Z

(Ron Corson) #7

I love it so typical of so many people particularly in Progressive politics areas. What do you think is homophobic in the Great Controversy, especially when you consider that very few would even read it. Yet to this guy it is “somewhat homophobic web crusade”. The reason most likely is that the SDA’s are Christians and it matters little what a Christian actually says or does. In SF’s gay-friendly liberal community Christian is homophobic if only somewhat. the “somewhat” being the very liberal acquiescence that he did not have any facts to base the homophobic comment on. But the baseline assumption of Christian equal homophobic must be maintained.

(Frank Peacham) #8

Looks like a slimmed down GE. Maybe more positive material remains and the Aims of the Papacy chapter has been removed. The church needs to do this so they can see the results are merger. I doubt even dropping NT paperbacks will have the desired effect of converting hundreds.

(Jared Wright) #9

The author of the article, by all appearances, is talking about the way the publisher, Remnant Publications, characterized San Francisco and assumed that San Francisco was in great need of being saved. Remnant Publications on San Francisco:

“San Francisco is not the easiest community to reach. For years the city has been at the forefront of the gay movement. In fact, 15 percent of San Francisco residents are homosexual. The area is home to the University of California-Berkeley, a hotbed of liberal ideas.”

(George Tichy) #10

One of these days some newspaper may end up publishing articles titled,


This type of irresponsible and childish distribution of boox will end up having “grave consequences” for the Church…


(le vieux) #11

I’m not sure how relevant it is that most of the copies were thrown in the trash. Truth is never popular, and, based on some of the comments here, it is even embarrassing for those who are in the church, but not of the church. If even a few people read it and were led by it to search for more truth, it was worth it.

(Bill Garber) #12


A few are actually not worth it. The only one’s who are most attracted to that explanation are those whose evangelistic methods have fallen on def ears and who are left seeking an explanation.

There is no biblical evidence for Jesus having created the many but is able to only save a few.

Jesus created the world, and as John explained, God sent Jesus to save the world, His creation. And it is the creative mightiness of Jesus that did and will save the world. Genesis 3 is the root of that truth.

A possible explanation for trashing the printed efforts may well be that what the people are observing is not the Gospel, but the labored struggle to save a denomination. This is a far more defensible explanation for the scattered response than there being something wrong with those who hear or see. What other explanation option is there?

(Carolyn Parsons) #13

If it is the “truth” then why would the people who mailed it lie and leave out that it was an SDA mailing? There is nothing on the book or in the card that has the mailing information that it came from SDA groups.

Images of the actual postcard

(Johnny Carson) #14

It seems to me that many of my fellow SDA’s are still stuck in the mode of using a Joseph Bates/J. N. Loughborough approach to evangelizing a Justin Bieber/Neil Patrick Harris world. I see this phenomenon happening not only with people I love and respect but also with people I don’t know except through various online communities and whom I carry fundamental disagreement with over many of today’s hot button issues. It’s time that Adventists, whomever we may be and whatever our spiritual paradigm, lived our lives authentically enough that folk will know we are Christ’s disciples by the love demonstrate. Maybe then these ineffective and ill-conceived campaigns will once and for all a thing of the past.

(David P R) #15

I became embarrassed too because the whole project turned out to be a sham because The Great Controversy was never given out by this initiative, but an 85 page imposter in its place called The Great Hope.

As for this mass mailing of the full text version of The Great Controversy, yes this is the Remnant/Project Restore version that was printed up because the GC/Ted Wilson chose to put out an imposter book. The mailing to San Francisco was done by a ministry in Virginia. This same ministry plans to mass mail the full version to Philadelphia just shortly before the Pope visits there in September. Thank God there are ministries like this who God is blessing financially to make this possible.

David R.

(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #16

It seems to me that we have a responsibility to reach people in the wisest manner possible. This mass mailing not only was ineffective for most recipients, but it created a lot of negative reaction, a lot of hearts & minds closing against the Adventist Church.

This project felt good to certain people whose own need was to feel that they were doing something, anything. It was not a project chosen for the sake of making the best true impact, as many factors were already known against sending out unsolicited religious material & unsolicited religious material in an outdated form.

Do even a few results really justify any effort? We can almost always get a few results w/ any evangelistic project. The question remains whether we’re doing the best we can w/ the resources we have. It’s clear to me the answer in this case is no. And when we do poor witnessing we can’t excuse ourselves by blaming people for “rejecting the truth.”

Nobody who rejects an unsolicited 85-pg religious book is going to accept the full version of the Great Controversy.

(Kevin Paulson) #17

An attractive young couple who came to the Peekskill (NY) Church when I was pastor there, had found a copy of The Great Controversy in a telephone booth. They read the book, became increasingly impressed with its Bible-based message, and subsequently looked for the church that published the book. Eventually they were baptized, and the husband became head elder of the Peekskill Church.

We keep forgetting, some of us who are so obsessed with the world looking favorably on us and our message, that only eight people were saved in Noah’s day. But then, many on this thread think that story is a myth, which of course means Jesus spread a falsehood when He compared the destruction of the world in Noah’s time to what will happen at His return.

This helps explain why postmoderns and theological liberals have to fabricate an unscriptural Jesus in order to speak favorably of Him. The Jesus of the Bible simply doesn’t fit the mold of so-called “progressive” theology.

(Psychometrics) #18

George, if we were still using the old forum format, I’d “Like” this comment. But alas, the failure of handing out copies of the GC, if it is ever acknowledged at all, will be reframed something to the tune of “Well, people just reject truth in these wicked days.”

(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #19

So that’s our m.o.—we purposely do what brings in the fewest results possible? Nobody’s denying that God can use a book left in a phone booth. But that’s hardly an excuse for us to not try to do the best we can w/ the resources we have. We certainly would be out of luck persisting in leaving books in phone booths…

(Psychometrics) #20

Note to Editors: When I reply to a comment and happen to use the letter “q” strange things happen in that the forum thinks I’m wanting to quote. Nothing happens using “q” if I use the general “Reply” button at the bottom of the page. I’m using Safari on OS 10.10