Discouragement and Optimism for Our Adventist Future

It was 1986, during one of my first church-related trips to the United States, and I was staying in a guestroom of Columbia Union College (now Washington Adventist University) in Washington, DC. The day before, I had bought a book that left me quite confused. It was titled Betrayal: The Shattering Sex Discrimination Case of Silver vs. Pacific Press Publishing Association. The book chronicled the conflict between the Pacific Press Publishing Association and two of its female employees (Merikay Silver and Lorna Tobler). It gave a shocking picture of the way workers were dealt with in this church-sponsored enterprise and detailed the unchristian way in which two female employees were treated. I read for most of the night, wondering how such terrible things could happen in my church. The manner in which the management of this denominational publishing house handled the issue of gender equality and the way in which the General Conference (including the president) reacted were so far below any level of acceptability that it took me a few days to recover my spiritual equilibrium.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/views/2023/discouragement-and-optimism-our-adventist-future

Perhaps it is the people you hang with that are really moving to the left!

The article in the quote above says there is a split between progressive and conservative adventists. Is that because the church has become more conservative? Or incursions by the Progressive politics of the left.

So are those who defy the GC conservative (moving to the right), it seems your argument is not sustainable even in your own article.

So the ultimate position seems to be that the so called Adventist right is worshiping the Baal of Traditionalism and fundamentalism. The Progressives are the remnant. Really it makes me wonder how you and your friends can see this shift to the right in the Adventist church. Apparently, they are becoming more traditionalist than they used to be…or again what you are seeing is a move to the left by you and your friends and that makes you the remnant. Hanging onto the label of remnant though is truly part of Adventist arrogance, just a bit of a twist on that remnant thing. I would love to see how that is developed from the book of Revelation. SDA’s have a hard time doing it for the Adventist church, but to make it the Progressives in the Adventist church will truly be a staggering bit of eisegesis!

Thank you for a very open, honest and serious look at the crisis in which Adventism finds itself. At the core of the situation is the definition of what is at the core of Adventism. Any vision of the future of Adventism must somehow present it as preserving “Adventism.” I would suggest that the pioneers were driven by their understanding that they had to tell the world Present Truth. The problem is that their present is not longer the present. Insisting that the truth they proclaimed is “Eternal Truth” is to lo longer be “Adventists.” In other words, to be optimistic about Adventism requires to have the space in which to establish what is “Present Truth,” In the same way in which the founders of Adventism were able to come over time and friendly conversations to establish their Present Truth, the church now should encourage an open dialogue with suggestions for the message to be proclaimed to our contemporaries. A message is not a communication unless it is relevant.


Thanks for your contribution Reinder, your optimism is noble.

Today would have been my Dad’s 102nd birthday. That he lived well into his 99th year is partly due to his avoidance of combat in WWII. In 1939 he volunteered in his conscription to be a ‘camouflage artist’. Somebody who artfully obscures a real object. He ended up as a cartographer in India, transcribing the obscurity of aerial photographs into pen and ink maps with detail representing reality.

This latter skill carried through into his ministry and artwork, sometimes adding unwarranted detail to the mysteries of the Gospel story. That is who he became.

We are frustrated by the polarities of Progressive vs Historicist, Liberal vs Conservative, Scholarly vs Plain Readers, Ordained vs Laity and more.

It seems to me that a more useful divide would be between those who appreciate impressionistic art - the beauty of Monet & Turner for example, and those who need representational art requiring unwarranted detail, not to speak of the Salvador Dali fans.

Indeed it seems that some people have a psychological need for detail and certainty.
Maybe we need to offer classes in art appreciation - ‘for now we see through a glass darkly’.

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This is rather a tangent. But kind of an important view of art. Not Impressionist art but abstract art. Which some I like as interesting but my main reason for liking it is that I could do that. Probably the only kind of art I could do:) Andrew Klavan has a very good discussion of abstract art and since he is part of the arts community it is more impactful and better thought out in ways I would have never considered. Bringing together religion and culture literature and art. Very worthwhile for people to hear. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLb7EAhwspU

So well put. Science and absolutes can be a bummer, if you intend to hang on to things that have been absolutely proven to be wrong. Even ethical and scriptural and moral issues, when proven to be wrong, can be hard to swallow. I have said it many times on this site, but it needs repeating: The people who authored the bible were flawed humans with an understanding that still included that they were living on a flat earth and that earth was the centre of the universe. The bible simply was not written to disprove scientific truth. It was written for our moral direction.


I applaud Pastor Bruinsma for his very honest and well presented article. His book on facing doubt helped me greatly in my struggle with church issues.
However his reasoning for the church not splitting will require some relaxation of the hard (and inflexible) line that the current GC is pursuing. Its impossible to reach a compromise if one party will not move. Time will tell.


As I told you before, Dr. Bruinsma (@reinder), I admire your optimism but personally I opted to deal with “realism” in a way that it wouldn’t keep hurting my feelings. Until 1980 (age 30) I was an enthusiastic supporter of the Adventist Church, but it all changed when I realized that, like everyone else, I had been intentionally duped by the Church that I had once loved so much. Everything changed since. I decided "to stay, but as the years went by and more literature was produced revealing an immense amount of falsehood and deceit, I finally decided to seve my relationship with this Church, now my “former” Church.

When Covid hit I realized that there is another option to participate in spiritually supportive groups without having to take all the burden of being part of a Church that is dishonest and venerates its prophet keeping her as “the last word” in doctrinal matters. Well, since I believe in the Book of Hebrews, I can no longer support a system that teaches a heresy for its own vindication. I am talking about the 1844/IJ so-called doctrine.

I don’t think that the AC will ever split. But for those people who become better informed about the reality, it will be extremely difficult to stay.

But, again, I really admire your optimism! And your articles/speeches are always superb!!!


The concept of “Present Truth” has been utilized in a very selective manner. It’ has not been applied consistently to ALL matters. For example, the so-called doctrine about 1844 and the IJ has been debunked by several scholars for a long time now, but the Church refuses to apply the “present truth” tool to eradicate the current heretic teaching. My prediction is that the AC will NEVER correct this error (because the “prophet” said so…)


Hi Victor!
In January of this year my Dad would have been 118 years old. He experienced two world wars and fled the Communist Czechoslovakia in 1948 to assure that the family would live in a free country. Though my parents were not SDAs, we moved to the vicinity of the then called, Brazilian College ( no UNASP, an University with 3 campuses and over 17K students!). He gladly paid for our (4 boys) education in that school. He never became an Adventist but kept the Sabbath and, oh boy, he knew his Czech Bible extremely well. His acquired wisdom led him to abide by “the Bible only” principle, though we learned in school that it was actually "the Bible + the SOP…

It took me a few years to realize that my old man’s wisdom was right and I was walking in a wrong path. But I finally succumbed to the truth and to the reality that the Bible is, indeed, the only source of faith, doctrine, and belief

Edit - In case you are interested in the whole story, here is the link:


I’ve just read “Ostriches and canaries” and finally realised that these issues (1844. IJ, EGW inerrancy etc) has been pedalled by the GC leadership virtually all through the 20th C and is being reinforced by our current leader in the 21st C.
Sadly the vast majority of SDAs are not aware of this, or just " go with the flow". So sad.


That’s a great book Since I basically can no longer read, Gil was very kind and provided me a PDF copy so that I could listen to it on my Chromebook.
It’s sad and unfortunate that the majority of church members have no idea of what Adventism actually is. They are fed worldwide with the same food being repeated every 4 years or so and never told the truth that is hidden in the backstage.

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Such an important and consequential article, but I am appalled by the extremely low flow of reactions/comments so far. This article should have a much more significant impact within the Adventist community, isn’t it? I wonder what is causing it, is it denial, is it shame, is it carelessness? What is it???


I have found that reactions to Spectrum articles are often inversely proportionate to their importance, particularly when the author calls for intentional unity. News reports are more likely to report on disastrous divisions and open warfare than on healing of rifts. Sadly, human nature craves carnal curiosity.

That said, readers owe Reinder Bruinsma immense gratitude for this perceptive and healing article–and for his voice and work throughout the decades.

Thank you. May your remnant tribe of transcendent, courageous, and healing lovers increase.


Spectrum had problems with their comments section for about a week. This is the first time I have gotten on here without going through the visit topic from email responses, so that may be part of the problem

The second problem is that you find the call of this article to be “intentional unity” when it is really not, it is calling for radical change but just not immediate change. A person really can’t have an argument where after they talk about Ted Wilson then say “I suggest that we can also apply the term “remnant” to the section of the church that is willing to think outside the box of tradition and is eager to make their Adventist convictions relevant for Christian discipleship in the twenty-first century. As in Elijah’s days, this “remnant” which has not bowed its knees to the Baal of traditionalism and fundamentalism may be much larger than what our troubled sight allows us to see.” Really does that sound like the quote: " “We cannot reduce polarization by throwing mud at each other. We can only diminish polarization by campaigning with decency.”

I actually focused on his use of “remnant” because of the recent series of vespers at Loma Linda by Jon Paulien as he is trying valiantly to redefine the term remnant, It is and always will be ineffective because it is simply trying to read a people into the book of Revelation. What was interesting to me was that most of the things we progressive Adventists of 10-20 years ago were trying to do could no way be seen as putting us into the book of Revelation. For instance back then we set forth some of the issues of Progressive Adventism:

  • Investigative judgment. A different view of the investigative judgment, or a denial of its biblical basis.
  • Remnant. An inclusion of other Christians in the term remnant.
  • Ellen White. A less rigid view of the Inspiration of Ellen White, from recognizing her fallibility to perhaps even denying her prophetic gift.
  • Sabbath. An emphasis on the benefits of the Sabbath, but a denial that it is the ‘seal of God’ or that Sunday keeping will ever become the mark of the beast. The Problem of Progressive Adventists – Adventist Today

So at that time, Progressive Adventists saw the remnant as inclusive of more than just Adventists. Reinder Bruinsma flips that to be the Progressives inside the SDA church, But the focus of Progressive Adventism was away from trying to see their unique church in Revelation, getting rid of the 1844 IJ, Ellen White as the Spirit of Prophecy and even that the Sabbath is the only way to worship God.

There is simply no way that one can produce the Progressive Adventists as the remnant and we had no desire to do so, it was built on disconnecting from those ideas that supposedly made us the remnant. Then it occurred to me Reinder Bruinsma is not talking about Progressive Adventists he is talking about progressive political beliefs in the Adventist church. But how can they be the remnant since they don’t follow those things that the Adventist church uses to say she is the remnant? The answer is because this new remnant is as you say " transcendent, courageous, and healing lovers". The power of believing a political view that says you are inclusive, diverse, filled with social justice and equity, and the other side is narrow-minded racist, homophobic (transphobic etc) bigots.

There it is, the true religion of God, political progressivism, the remnant! When politics replaces religion.

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Your last paragraph, and especially the last sentence, hit that nail square on.
The question is, WHICH DRIVES WHICH… Does you faith (religion) drive your politics; or, vice versa…

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I agree completely.

When people who have no faith in their internal guidance systems lose trust in traditional forms of religion-whether they become agnostic or atheistic-they go looking for an external substitute, *et voila, there is the siren allure of politics and a political leader assuring them that he knows the way to the promised land, if only everyone will vote for and idolize her or him.

Whether, and to what extent, these rudderless individuals flow left or right is a flip of the coin and can change instantaneously, if and when the winds change, or as a new, more charismatic leader comes along.

As more truth is revealed about the Adventist Faith, it’s history and how the AC (Adventist Church) has handled all sorts of situations and how it treated individuals who dared to “ask tough questions” and those who challenged the Church’s secrecy, the more I hear people asking, “What do we have to do now to save this Church?”

This question always pops up at the end of all presentations by Dr. Bruinsma. It happened again yesterday when he was the featured presenter on the ATSS (Adventist Today Sabbath Seminar). It was a superb presentation/discussion on “Dissent.” (For those interested, here is the link: Redirecting... )

Someone mentioned that Ted Wilson, and Mark Finley are [people with “good intentions.” Which reminded me of the well known saying, “The path to hell is paved with good intentions” …

Another commenter referred to the importance of “theological integrity.” which reminded me of the secrecy and manipulation perpetrated by the White Estate and the General Conference throughout the years since inception. What theological integrity if the words of a human (widely plagiarized) are given more authority than the words in the Bible?

As I see it, a major problem in the AC is that anyone who “dares” to challenge/bring up any of the many problems that are so alive in the A ends up being called “an apostate.” Without any explanation, the Church just spreads the word around the world, in the hope that the members will just avoid listening to those who are categorized as “apostates.” Since the Church appears incorrigible in this sense,I believe that it will NEVER change, that it will keep insisting on a blind fundamentalism that keeps ignoring the facts and denying reality.

So, the question remains, " What can be done, if anything, to corrects the distortions in the Adventist Church?"


I was around when the progressives emerged, seemingly out of nowhere, mostly from" Harvard Square". Roy Branson and Alvin Quiram were at the forefront and were refreshing. This was followed by the birth of Spectrum. All good stuff. This was also the time of racial awaking - Martin Luther King, and Selma; and some from AUC got involved in the racial demonstrations in Alabama etc. The church was automatically suspicious.

I lost track as life took over, kids were born etc., but I did have Spectrum. Then Des Ford Arrived and took up all the oxygen. US politics ran along predictable rails at that time.

Then came some sort of cultural explosion, it seems to me. I guess I wasn’t paying close enough attention, but coming out of nowhere, cities were burning and marches were yelling profanities against the “cops” - racism was proclaimed to be everywhere as if Martin Luther King never happened - and presumably all “cops” had it in for blacks.

Right on those heels, exploded grotesque displays of sexually explicit gays confronting kids in libraries and schools, as if new genders had been born in the last couple of decades. Politicians, with their fingers in the air, were quick to take advantage; and everything became racist and homophobic. “Women’s Libers” fell silent as men took over women’s sports and even motherhood.

With the race issues that accompanied the emergence of progressives in the church, also came their leaning to the LEFT, which I never understood since it was the LEFT that was responsible for racism in the South (KKK etc). Having hung their hats on that hook, they followed the crowd into the BLM craze (now proven to have been just a money maker for the leaders - as in, “where are they now”?).

The church has always been conservative, as socially defined, because it still abides by Old Testament rules, where men run the world, and women are property, at best. They can’t get out of that box. Racially, it’s about bigotry, plain and simple; politically - it’s about some long-standing tradition from somewhere.

The solution - drop the labels (conservative and liberal) they drag too much extemporaneous stuff with them. Start actually thinking about what these issues are about, and how they relate to our faith. Politics runs on “what’s best for the politicians”.

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The first thing would be to leave the generalizations and be specific. Be specific about what you think are the problems and what are the solutions. But as with most things, there are at least 2 sides to an issue, 2 sides to what is the problem, and 2 sides to what are the solutions ( likely more than 2 sides to the solutions really) To deal with that there has to be much better communication. We can’t have one-sided organizations like Spectrum and AToday. I don’t know what they can do with Adventist Review, not sure anyone reads it or goes to the website.

Ultimately like most denominations if we don’t learn to listen to both sides and let them argue the pros and cons the denomination will split. One thing to remember is that it does not mean that it is a bad thing for a denomination to splinter. What was once does not mean that it was optimal at that time. The SDA church has set itself up to keep what it has (property wise), I do think that the denomination would have split long before this if that had not been the case. To a large extent, this has become crows feeding on the carcass before it even dies. When many of the Adventist pioneers left their churches such as the Methodists they did so because they had unique beliefs that they thought they could defend and persuade. Unfortunately for what I used to call progressive Adventism and I now call political progressive Adventism. They don’t have anything unique to offer from the culture. Now instead of reconstruction, most political progressives are involved in Christian Deconstruction.
" “Deconstruction” is the heading most recently applied to the process of questioning, doubting, and ultimately rejecting aspects of Christian faith. This is an application of deconstructionism, an approach that claims to disassemble beliefs or ideas while assuming their meanings are inherently subjective. Both the trend and its title reflect backlash against the unfortunate habit within some religious circles to downplay deep questions and ignore those who hold them. To openly investigate the nuances of belief, even changing one’s convictions, is a biblical concept. In practice, though, “deconstruction” almost always acts as a polite cover for “demolition.” Modern “deconstruction” usually means replacing uncomfortable tenets with culturally or personally [popular ideas]What is deconstruction? What does it mean when people say they are deconstructing their faith? | GotQuestions.org