General Conference Presidential Election: Growth or Development?

 

This past Monday, June 6, Ted Wilson was elected president of the General Conference (GC) of the Adventist Church for the third time. This reelection appears to be both a validation and a reinforcement of the identity, certainty, functional compactness, and administrative growth that President Wilson has been able to secure, with great will and discipline, in his long and careful stewardship.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11829
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This writer’s analyses and insights are so helpful, this one especially. What he does not highlight, though assuredly understands, is that this leader is convinced, against abundant evidence to the contrary, that our “fundamentalist” heritage concerning Scripture and Ellen White is “near-perfect.” We are God’s “last-generation” message church, the possessor of the final “gift of prophecy” before Jesus returns (so have extra-special knowledge) and need, under the power of the Holy Spirit, to reach the world’s “billions” with our message before Jesus can return. No wonder there is no room for “development” in administrative thinking. What needs to be developed? We have it all; no questions are legitimate.

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I wonder how many generations will pass before the SDA organization outright collapses, or they will admit that EGW and the other pioneers just got it wrong.

I would have thought that after 180 years none but an infinitesimal percentage would still be preaching EGW, the “investigative judgement” and the “end times”. I would have thought that with the Catholic church and the papacy having receded into irrelevance, none but the extreme nutcases would still be preaching “sunday law” and a papal conspiracy.

But it seems the institutional inertia is just too great, and just about everyone who wishes to inject a dose of truth and reality into the SDA dogma eventually determines that the effort just isn’t worth it. It’s much easier and more productive simply to walkaway than to try to reform SDAism.

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I understand your frustration. But a number of us are not willing to cede Adventism to its most fundamentalist members. They do not realize that history is not on their side, or truth, but when they do, it could be catastrophic for this community if they see no other viable alternatives.

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Ted Wilson was elected president with 1,284 votes. But, with 2,673 people eligible to vote, it is clear that 1, 389 people did not vote for him.

That reality demands that he seek an agenda for the denomination that is more inline with what people want.

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This article resembles more of a political smear article than an analysis of Ps Wilson tenure & vision. Is all this a result of frustrations over Women’s Ordination. Church members inside can sometimes be the most insidious & harmful more than outsiders because they do not agree with one or more of your views. The more we focus on mission, membership growth, the more the church infuses new blood & re energises. New growth impetus is realised. In South America & Africa the church is experiencing tremendous growth in membership. The energy is palpable. Ps Wilson is a child of a missionary, he once lived in Africa, he knows what church growth is all about. He also knows what happens when the church isn’t growing
& when members are not involved in evangelism. Factionalism, internal fights take centre stage. I live in a region thats going through exponential growth both in members & tithes despite poor national economies. I can only offer one advise. Visit these areas where the church is growing in leaps & you will understand Wilson’s thrust.

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This is SO true.

Are you aware that the focus on all members using their Spiritual Gifts is the foundation of focusing on mission and membership growth?

Are you aware of the ordained women of China who have built up churches there of 6,000 and 8,000 members?

Are you aware that ordaining women with Spirit-given gifts of spiritual leadership doubles the authorized leaders who grow the church?

Are you aware that 57% of church members are women? Are you aware that only 2 in 10 delegates are women?

Talk about infusion of energy! Talk about growth. Have you visited our churches in China and talked to those church leaders? It’s about bringing men, women, and children to Christ.

As you know, these women with gifts in spiritual leadership who have been authorized have been the target under Wilson of punishment, public dressing down, and refusal to even publish their names in the Church Directory for their legally elected positions. Punishment for authorization to lead does not promote church growth.

Looking forward to the day when our leadership reflects support for ALL members with their Spirit-given gifts for leadership, and when at least 57% of leadership represents racial AND gender equality.

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Increasing membership is the last thing the church should be interested in. The mission of the church is not to increase its membership. The mission of the church is to spread the gospel, which may or may not result in increased membership.

Membership does not equal salvation. The sooner the church starts to focus on its mission, and not the perceived measure of success of said mission, the sooner it resemble Christ.

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Brillant essay. Thank you, Hanz. I particularly value the clarity of differentiation between “growth” and development; a major point I might wish to consider further - especially after watching all the colourful and numberful reports from the Divisions of the General Conference. Uncountable baptisms were shown and money was another emphasis. Both in very quantitative terms.

However, it is here, where I would hope for further discussion.

A fellow pastor reminded me of Bonhoeffer’s famous essay on stupidity, of which I would like to quote:

“Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of good than malice. Evil can be protested against, it can be exposed, it can be prevented by force if necessary. Evil always carries the germ of self-destruction in that it leaves at least a feeling of unease in man. We are defenseless against stupidity. Neither protests nor violence can achieve anything here; arguments do not work; facts that contradict one’s own prejudice need simply not be believed - in such cases the stupid person even becomes critical - and if they are unavoidable, they can simply be pushed aside as meaningless individual cases. At the same time, the stupid one, unlike the evil one, is completely satisfied with himself; yes, he even becomes dangerous by going over to the attack easily irritated. Therefore, more caution is required toward the stupid than toward the evil. Never again will we try to convince the stupid by reasons; it is useless and dangerous.”

I am not sure, what to wish for, if Bonhoeffer is right and if we continue to have the feeling that some developments in Adventism need to be attributed to either stupidity or malice.

(Just found an English translation of the whole essay: Bonhoeffer on stupidity (entire quote) | Religious Grounds)

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This single-minded cognitive-tunnelling focus on Women’s Ordination is the sole purpose of everything on Spectrum. It has become like the maddening wine of Adulteries of Babylon. There are other things besides Womens Ordination in the World church. Lets rather focus & build on where we have common understanding than this unrelenting attention. Its extremely divisive in Africa. It will split the church through the middle, as abominating as polygamy to white westerners. It appears to be far much more important than church unity to some. Come to Africa & experience how devastating to the church it will be if implemented.

Women can still find fulfilment in mission to God without ordination, without Pastoring & assuming full priestly-role of a credentialled minister. Its unwise to move “ahead” of the church. Amen

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So leave issues like this up to individual unions. Women preaching or not preaching does not determine salvation. Is women preaching more immoral than having three wives?

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I think you meant, “besides the push for Women’s Ordination”, since the SDA Church doesn’t have Women’s Ordination.

I suppose there are other things, but for me it’s one of the standouts. As stupid as ideas like a “literal reading” of the bible and the insistence on a literal, recent 6-day creation epoch are, making women 2nd class members - especially those called to ministry - seems worse to me.

Why? Areas where we have a common understanding don’t need to be discussed. In any case, I suspect those areas are far fewer than you imagine. If you ask 100 Adventists, even from one church let alone from around the world, to explain each of the 28 fundamental beliefs and to what extent they agree with them, you’ll likely get about exactly 100 x 28 different answers.

I don’t care. Equality is better than bigotry.

That sounds racist. White westerners? Do you think attitudes towards polygamy are based on skin color? Have you met a Mormon? They’re mostly pasty-white and they have a bit of a soft-spot for polygamy, though it’s hard to get them to admit it.

You appear to be confusing unity with uniformity. The church can be united while observing faith differently in different regions. And in fact it already does so to a great extent. My grandfather was an SDA pastor, and my grandparents were both missionaries in several parts of the world. My mother and her husband have done so as well, as medical missionaries. Their stories and pictures make this all too clear. Adventism today is not uniform.

There is no reason whatsoever for the southern regions to have a hissy-fit if the progressive northern regions ordain women. If they feel justified doing that, when the northern regions are just as justified when they castigate the south for something that bothers them. Something like their misogynistic treatment of women, for example.

Which is more Christ-like? Accepting all members of the church as equals, no matter if their reproductive organs are on the outside or the inside of their bodies, or regulating women to second class status?

Yes, so can men. But as a church we still find it important to ordain and credential ministers. So men have two options and women have one. That relegates them to second-class members.

Your statement sounds exactly like statements made by those that once barred women from getting a grade-school education. And later from University. From being Lawyers. From being Medical Doctors. From the military. From politics. From assuming any profession that was a “Man’s Profession”. I find it nauseating.

There are still groups in the world that have these ideas and overtly oppress women. No matter the oppression, they insist it is appropriate. They say it is “cultural”. For example, the Taliban.

What is it the bible says? Oh yea…

But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian [the law], for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. [therefore] There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Paul meant that the societal roles we fill outside of the church should stay outside of the church, and within the church we should treat each other as equals, blind to the traits he mentioned, because we have been “clothed in Christ”. It could not be clearer.

There is no such thing as “separate but equal”, and that is especially obvious when those in power make the proposition.

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As I’ve mentioned in previous comments, I spent almost a year in West Africa working with and befriending some of the most genuine and sensitive souls I’ve met, either before or since.

And all of the people there are capable of surviving and even thriving for entire lifetimes in an environment which would have destroyed me within days, if not hours, if left to my own devices…

However, it is also the case that “selling” some percentage of them on SDA-ism and EGW idolatry is tantamount to the Dutch claim of having “bought” the Island of Manhattan from some of the Native Americans for a few coins and trinkets…

That is, one suspects that the inhabitants of the third world who are being baptized into Adventism have no better concept of what the missionaries take this act to indicate than the Lenape People understood the European concept of land ownership.

So yes, WO will divide the membership.

But the underlying truth is that in it’s push to recoup flagging participation in purportedly “more advanced” countries, SDA’s have once again achieved quantity at the expense of honesty.

Ultimately then, the fact is that there was never any sort of consensus or sense of egalitarianism between the two groups in regards to what being an Adventist really means, or how complicated EGW’s “Steps to Christ” actually are, and in the end, the split will be a final recognition that the congregants were never truly of one mind.

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It’s incredible how many people don’t seem to get this, isn’t it? I’m about convinced the leadership must be intentionally confusing people. After this long, nothing else makes sense to me.

That in a way makes him a minority president. Sounds nice anyway. I am really curious, whether the non-voters are abstainers or tourists… There were no technical issues during that particular vote, I don’t think.

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Maybe the thinking is that a new pres wouldn’t have time to make a visible difference in just three years and would be voted out next time. You can put up with a ittle more of this and give a new “guy” more time to work on something meaningful. Just hoping. Other than that, you have to think they’re willing to let the rest go?.. nah, too much funding lost - for a few more years until the next generation takes over. By then the US will be bankrupt or heading for “those hills”, so who knows what they’re thinking.

Sorry ! Repeatedly I see some common line in Putin and T.W: Insecurity - the pandemy, the climate - -

And now two are preaching “Back to XIXth century values !!!” (with XIXth century visions !)For quite a number fo followers this is an answer to their longing for certainity in the darkbness of their future - and the todays darkness !! (jes 60 : 2 - “for darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people - - -” )

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You are exactly right…which is why, in my view, it is insidious, non-Christian and in total defiance of the Gospel to require converts to pledge an oath to ALL 28 Fundamental Beliefs BEFORE they will be considered for baptism.

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I truly appreciate the opportunity to be able to contribute in this forum-which forum I know to be the result of some of your personal efforts-just as I understand the appeal of attempting to find brotherly love in some congregation of one’s peers.

That said, I also think it clear that any notion of commonality in the so-called “Christian community” will be dispelled within 15-20 minutes of reading Spectrum comments, to say nothing of undertaking a detailed study of the past two millennia of Christian history.

I don’t know who said this, but it’s been observed that there was no need to introduce lions into the coliseum because if left in a room with each other, Christians inevitably start trying to devour each other.

So the question is; can this historical bent toward internecine conflict and verbal cannibalism be corrected by leaving a flock of blood thirsty sheep?

Obviously not.

On the other hand, in the self-preservationist act of “packing one’s bags” it seems at least possible that one might be able avoid, to some greater or lesser extent, becoming a casualty due to “collateral damage”.

I respect and appreciate your sentiments. No one who has learned to love the Adventist Church for many reasons (which I share), reasons that included the belief for at least 20 years that Ellen White was inspired by the Holy Spirit (very much like the writers of Scripture); hence I believed she could not be mistaken about the age of the earth, specific social/cultural norms, the authorship of Hebrews as well as many Hebrew Bible “books.” Then I learned that in 1919 the Bible Conference convened by the GC President A. G. Danielle to deal with this issue recognized the problem and then decided to keep it quiet; they feared it would disrupt the church to lose their conviction that Sister White was nearly “infallible” (as was the Bible–another misconception) on the matters she addressed. At the same time, a fundamentalist mindset gripped the conservative Christian world about the absolute perfection of the Bible which had been adopted by Adventists as well. So for the next fifty years, we were trapped unnecessarily in a fundamentalism/conservatism that hurt this church, hurt many members and ruined the careers of many dozens of young scholars who, seeing the difficulties through historical and theological study, were punished for urging the church to look at the truth. Out the door they went from our colleges and seminaries (Des Ford being just one of many) as “threats” to the truth because they pursued and proved the “truth.” It’s all documented in books and articles fundamentalist Adventists despise (not true of authentic conservative Adventists) like Spectrum, Adventist Today, and dozens of volumes. Our established Church papers won’t touch the material because, appallingly, the GC leadership still keeps its head in the sand. If you want a quite recent study discussing this history, you can find OSTRICHES AND CANARIES on Amazon. It’s written by Gil Valentine, retired History professor at La Sierra University. I could easily make the case that the spirituality and passion of countless Adventists, not to mention our young people, have been stunted or destroyed by our unwillingness to grow in the Spirit who was promised to “guide us into the truth” by Jesus himself. We need to be honest. Allowing a “lie” to continue to fester in the church is wrong, wrong.

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