Could the Solution to the Church’s Stalemate Come Out of Africa?


(Spectrumbot) #1

The night before the historic October 14, 2018 Annual Council vote that enacted a compliance/ shaming policy, a friend called to tell me the contentious proposal was likely to pass. My friend’s “reliable” informant relayed that a key voting bloc, weary of being ensnared by the non-ordination parts of the compliance document, and on the verge of voting “no,” had been unofficially assured that enforcement would be narrowly targeted. Thus mollified, this group would now side with the President.

At the time I chalked this off to one more conspiracy theory. But the next day as I sat through the long procession of African delegates pledging to vote “yes,” I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.

At the previous year’s Annual Council, only a handful of delegates from the three African Divisions had bothered to speak at all. And when the vote came that defeated the measure, the results seemed to mirror the depth of their unease. A few hours prior to that vote, the definition of noncompliance had been broadened to include other issues that implicated over 80% of all world church entities. What changed?

None of the essential dynamics changed during the past year. But now Elder Wilson has, admittedly through process influence, secured his coveted vote, with a major assist from the African church. But as the post-vote depression begins to lift, so too are the prospects that the Divisions and Unions who deplore the discrimination emblematic of the newly passed compliance policy and the undue influences used to secure it will find a lasting solution to curtailing this abuse.

I see two components to permanently resolving this stand-off. In the near term those “non-compliant” administrative units need to affirm their current non-discriminatory ordination policy. The North American Division (NAD), Inter-European Division (EUD) and Trans-European Divisions (TED) — and nearly all the Unions within these divisions — have expressed serious concerns about the vote, and more importantly assured their female pastors of continued support. If no changes are made by the Unions who had refused to discriminate against women pastors, the status quo ante continues, and Ted Wilson is checkmated. This is particularly germane since the Divisions and Unions have ratification responsibilities after the Annual Council vote.

But we need to go beyond stalemate or escalation. We need a solution that endures. And that road needs to pass through the three African Divisions. Ted Wilson and the GC have succeeded in this divisive effort only because of the unwavering and near total support of this constituency. It’s a symbiotic relationship that has been mutually beneficial to Wilson and the African church leadership. The president’s right-of-center positions align with the many male-dominated sub-Saharan African communities. But this is not new. What is new is the nearly reflexive support the African church leaders have given to this GC president.

There are several reasons for the deference observed among African Division leaders towards President Wilson, but there is little credence to the oft repeated postulate that African leaders are paying the Western church back for some past colonial or neocolonial “debts.” This would only make sense if the African church was withholding a vital material good that the West needed and could only be supplied by Africa. Instead, in the Women’s Ordination disagreement, where this tendency has been most evident, African leadership seems unwilling or unable to let the Western church chart a different untethered path.

The African leaders’ relationship with Pastor Wilson is driven by his personality, and a generational shared vision between him and his African counterparts. Theology is only a small part of the dominant anxiety among the African leaders. The real animus is anchored in money. The African church is exploding with young membership, but it lacks a commensurate financial base to fund the basic needs of a growing church. And Africa is not alone in this situation. This is a phenomenon seen in many developing countries. African leaders, like their counterparts in other church communities, are desperate to attract enough of an ever-dwindling funding source and see the GC as their only option. This is a situation President Wilson has capitalized on.

Wilson has exploited two things in dealing with the African leaders: the bully pulpit and the power of the purse. Both were used to the max heading into San Antonio. The president went on his “African Tour” where, in countries like Uganda and Zimbabwe, he provided funds to local Adventist institutions. In Uganda he met with the country’s president. In Zimbabwe, he told the Adventists gathered in the stadium that Mugabe, who was the country’s president at the time, was “appointed by God.”

As the de facto face and voice of the world church, Wilson has the luxury of picking his time and place in dealings with the African church. He pits Divisions against one another by who he appears to favor. For example, in 2017 and early 2018, Rwanda and Ghana respectively were the sites for the Pentecost Evangelistic campaigns. These campaigns are supposedly under the umbrella of the Total Member Involvement team which gets significant funding from the GC. At the end of the Rwanda campaign, over 100,000 were baptized. Elder Wilson showed up as was advertised from the beginning and participated in the mass baptism.

The Ghana campaign this year also widely advertised that the GC president would take part in the final baptism. But Ghana, with “only” 50,000-plus, did not meet its goal to baptize over 100,000 new members. President Wilson did not show up because other pressing engagements took him away. What has not been discussed regarding the different outcomes between the two campaigns is that they were funded significantly differently. It is situations like these that often make the leaders in Africa careful to not get on the wrong side of the one controlling the purse.

Similarly, President Wilson has shown loyalty to African leaders even if they have proven to be ethically challenged. He initially refused to accept the resignation of then SID president, Paul Ratsara, even after Ratsara had confessed that a ghost writer was involved in his doctoral dissertation. Wilson thus demonstrated to African leaders his indispensability.

This is background to the dynamics of why African leaders continually support President Wilson. It is not only the larger world that is becoming a global village. Our Adventist universe is likewise increasingly intertwining our destinies. We in the Western church should therefore pay careful attention to what happens in other Divisions if we desire a global church. The Western church in general doesn’t oppose the African church’s preference for a male only ordination stance if practiced in their territories. But under present church governance rules, their choice seems to bind the West as well.

One solution to this dilemma requires leveling the playing field. The Western church, especially the NAD, should have a targeted engagement strategy with Unions in the three African Divisions to reduce or eliminate the GC’s influence monopoly in Africa. This could begin in three areas:

1. Higher education. At present, there is a vast mismatch between the laity and its leaders in Africa. The median age of church membership in the three Divisions is between 27 and 35 across the continent, but the average age of Union and Division leaders is around 60 years. If resources are provided in education it will target in the future those who would tend to be more progressive in their outlook. Every African Division has at least one, often two universities that need help. But funding should not be restricted to only Adventist-specific schools. We should also help organize the many Adventist fellowships in the large prestigious state universities because these invariably are the future stakeholders in the African politic. We find the Adventist Fellowship phenomena in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, to name a few.

2. Healthcare. Presently there is no higher or existential need in Africa than healthcare. The church has a few hospitals dotted throughout Africa, but hundreds of clinics, where life and death negotiations are made daily with scant resources. These cry out for help.

3. Church buildings. Sometimes one wonders why we conduct such massive evangelistic campaigns in Africa anymore. We spend large sums up front baptizing thousands of new members, only to see half the number exit the revolving door in less than three months. The number one reason for this huge drop off is lack of meeting places. The usual practice after a large campaign that establishes a new church is to rent classroom space for church services on Sabbaths. What the African church needs is modest assistance to accommodate the huge influx of new members from Sabbath to Sabbath.

A meeting to coordinate needs assessment should be convened in Europe, the U.S. or in Africa, with a broad spectrum of stakeholders from the African church, to look for solutions. This involves money, so how should it be funded? We could start with the NAD, which for years has sent more tithe money to the GC than their obligations require. Part of that money has been used in Africa by the GC to subvert NAD’s values. We should stop sending extra funds to the GC. The withheld funds could shore up our future interests in Africa. The European divisions and others similarly inclined could find ways to fund this project.

Is this a call to the “West” to do an end-run around the GC to help Africa in order to get the African church to see things our way? Why, Yes! Is this bribery? Maybe. But it would be bribery only to the extent that the prevailing GC operation could be similarly construed. In that sense this proposal would constitute bribery with conscience. Whatever the monetary cost to the Western church, it may turn out to be money well spent if it contributes to our global Adventist togetherness.

Matthew Quartey is a transplanted Ghanaian who now lives in and calls the Adventist ghetto of Berrien Springs, Michigan, home.

Photo by Slava Bowman on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9160

#2

There will be change in the church in Africa when the wasteful expenditure and even corruption within the church is addressed. Hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted or lost every year.


(Sirje) #3

We can pray relentlessly and invite the Holy Spirit to lead our meetings and decisions, as we have for the last fifty years (when it comments WO), but it all boils down to political maneuvering i.e.:

Is this a call to the “West” to do an end-run around the GC to help Africa in order to get the African church to see things our way? Why, Yes! Is this bribery? Maybe. But it would be bribery only to the extent that the prevailing GC operation could be similarly construed. In that sense this proposal would constitute bribery with conscience. Whatever the monetary cost to the Western church, it may turn out to be money well spent if it contributes to our global Adventist togetherness.

It may be fighting fire with fire; and I’m sure it would work better than more “study groups”, but it sounds bad when we write it down as a solution.

The big question is, WHO IS ACTUALLY BEING RECALCITRANT? - unions acting on their ethics, or an administration that has been politicizing its decisions in the name of power, all the while supported by unions looking for financial support.

The Gospel is a message that creates a spiritually cohesive family. It’s an oxymoronic method of evangelizing to create a group that is bullied into compliance and call it a remnant “people of God”.


(George Tichy) #4

Great article again. Matthew Quartey is becoming one of my favorite writers here at Spectrum. Straightforward to the point, nothing under the rug! “My kind of guy!” (Not in the sense that Trump said about his candidate… :roll_eyes: )

When Doug Bachelor called for allowing pros and cons to talk one at the time, and Wilson said, “we are doing it different this time,” that was it, I knew there was a plan in action.

Bachelor became very nervous seeing so many pros talking at the beginning. He panicked, basically yelling, “Ted, manipulate this thing, it’s going south!!!”

And what did Ted actually say? “Don’t worry, it’s all been taken care of. Chill out, sit down, and relax.” He knew what was coming, he just forgot to tell Bachelor ahead of time. The “block” was in place, and it would become very vocal within a few minutes!

No wonder Ted’s body language betrayed him throughout the whole session. So calm, so cool, eventually a little joke here and there,… everything was under control. The mafia works that way, since they already know who will be the winners and who will be executed by the end of their meetings.

No need to panic Bachelor! Everything has been taken care of!!!
Indeed.


(Joselito Coo) #5

Won’t it be of interest to hear Matthew’s response to @AfricanAdventist?

What African unions would Matthew Quartey endorse, whose leaders he can trust?


#6

Reading this, I am literally crying.

I guess I am naive, I guess I trust too much. I thought we were Christians, seeing to the welfare of others and esteeming others better than ourselves…we are no different than ‘the world’. Our leadership - what can I say…I am so sad right now.

I know, you will think how sheltered she must be…well, I guess I am. I actually believed the Bible’s words about ‘doing good to those who spitefully use you’.

Going back into my prayer closet…when I read that not one in 20 is ready for the Lord’s return, I wonder if anyone will be. I wonder if I will be…O Lord, save us lest we perish!

Blessings to anyone who reads this.


(George Tichy) #7

My Bible does not say that.
Stats like these may discourage people who may well be experiencing salvation by grace because they are ready to receive… salvation by grace.


(jeremy) #8

this wouldn’t be worse than if hundreds of thousands of dollars are stolen each year, and they no doubt are, which is just the situation jesus and 11 of the disciples dealt with in the case of judas…jesus’ solution was to shower more love, rather than less, which eventually caused judas to hang himself, thereby ending the problem…

i don’t think circumventing the GC, as this article suggests, is the answer…i also seriously question the suggestion that african leaders don’t see that the money TW gives them ultimately comes from NAD (i find this suggestion condescending, actually)…it goes without saying that i disagree with this article’s premise that the reason africa is thick with TW is because they’re looking for hand-outs…

but i do think reaching out to and helping africa and others from the global south directly, and outside of the context of an annual council or GC session, is the answer…the more we rub shoulders, the more we’ll know and trust each other…i think it’s likely that africa’s voting as a block against NAD is because they’ve bought into the conservative narrative that NAD is in apostasy, and needs to be checked…more direct interaction, and financial assistance, will help them see for themselves that this is a false portrayal…this in turn will help them understand that they need to reciprocate in making allowances for our culture just like we have always done for them in the past…


(Peter) #9

Ted has failed, I believe, by pushing uniformity. Had he taught harmony in unity in a pastoral manner he would be remembered as a great and successful GC president. Sadly, I believe he has failed his true pastoral responsibilities. As a result, Africa may have even fewer financial resources. They cannot display antagonism, resentment, and disregard for North America and Western Europe repeatedly and not expect those regions to reduce the amount of tithe they send to the GC.


(Peter) #10

Probably fewer than 1 in 20 are “ready” now in the 21st C compared to when Ellen White made that guesstimate. Christ did not purchase our redemption knowing that no one would be ready. Remember, you don’t need to be an SDA to be saved! Only God knows our hearts.

Blessings to you, Lynn! May the Lord reassure you that He is in charge.


(Lincoln Dunstan) #11

LynneD, it is with fear that I have to inform you that if you are still “wondering”, then there’s a good chance you are lost. May I, with love of your soul, encourage you to listen to this (turn the volume up;) )https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmxNhI4YHaI&index=4&list=PL_Fe3V_25Yve2O30uQLVV-2faaT-KqRiD


(Kim Green) #12

Thank-you, AfricanAdventist, for telling us the unvarnished truth. I appreciate your honesty. Perhaps some of the “solutions” may have to “come out of Africa” by cleaning their own house first.


(Joselito Coo) #13

Whoa!:confounded:In my part of the world, this sounds like vote buying which is punishable by law! I’m sorry but I’ve met Ghanaians and other African nationals who, thank God, cannot be bought or sold!


(Steve Mga) #14

Lynne –
Like George failed to say –
That “One In 20” was stated FOR A CERTAIN TIME AND PLACE.
It was not necessarily meant FOR ALL TIME in the SDA World-Wide Organization.
We have to take Ellen’s writings in context. And for WHOM they were written.

Acts 2:21 – “Whoever calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved” This is Peter
quoting Joel 2. Salvation was the same in Old Testament AND the New Testament times.
Acts 16:31 – “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your
household.” [NOTE – this ALSO included any servants in the household.]


(Peter Marks) #15

Even blind Freddy could see the outcome of the vote. No one in their right mind would have anticipated any other outcome.


(Allen Shepherd) #16

There seems quite a bit of speculation here on a lot of TW’s and the African’s thinking? Does this author really know that all this is what they really think, or is this some sort of theory going along with the authors thinking? Does he really have that sort of insight into these folks thinking?

I sort of doubt it.


(Kim Green) #17

Did you notice that the author is Ghanaian? This might give him some insight into what he wrote about, Allen.

"Matthew Quartey is a transplanted Ghanaian who now lives in and calls the Adventist ghetto of Berrien Springs, Michigan, home."


(Allen Shepherd) #18

Yes’m I did. Because he came from Africa and has a friend who speaks to him of he goings on does not meean he has such insight. I think it would have to be a close associate of TW and the African leaders to have that sort of insight.

Such would not write in this forum, nor disclose such things to this group. Why put yourself ins a position to be cut off from the group, and to open up their supposed thinking to the onslaught of criticism that you would certainly get here? That is why I have my doubts.


(George Tichy) #19

I am astonished :astonished: that you never get tired of doubting what is evident and obvious Allen.
Are you a GC’s agent in charge of throwing doubt on every fact that is revealed here on Spectrum?
It reminds me of this:

  • The Russians didn’t do it, Putin assured me…
  • The Saudi King? No, some rogue killers…
  • There are good people among the Nazis…

(George Tichy) #20

You really despise Spectrum, don’t you?
I wonder how badly is your sleep disturbed every night after you see that some facts are posted here, facts that you would rather see under the rug.
It must be indeed frustrating seeing that those who you called “fools” are not actually as fool as you thought, uh?
@cincerity @elmer_cupino