How Millennials Perceive the General Conference

Day One of GC Session 2015 is complete, and as a Millennial observing the session, it was hard to miss that young adults are a rare site on the Alamodome floor. As Spectrum previously reported, only 6% of GC delegates are under 30. Only 10% are ages 30-39. These two groups make up 62% of church membership, so it’s fair to say we are an extremely unrepresented demographic.

As a way of hearing Millennials, we're featuring Millennial voices throughout this General Conference Session. We will be posing a series of questions to many young Adventists who will share their perspectives.

The first questions posed to our respondents were these: As a Millennial, what do you think about the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists? Does what the church is doing at this Session have any relevance to you and your relationship with the church? With God? Do you care what the church does during this session? Why or why not?

Below are their responses:

Joshua Estrada, Religious Studies major, La Sierra University, Singer/Songwriter // Tread The Heights This General Conference Session…sets before us the grand intention of our Jesus—to be amongst a united humanity. As we walk the halls of the Alamodome and behold in each other the great diversity of what it means to be human, in the midst of the 50K+, the importance of this Session begins to emerge. This Session asks of the Church to make a statement on what we believe God believes is the value of humans. This isn't just about gender roles, or ordination. This is about what God thinks of humans. Are they equal in value or not? If we are equal, then both men and women are allowed to take up their calling in Christ.

You know, I do think about the General Conference. I don't want them to just be reflective of what the church as a whole believes in terms of ideology. I want them to see themselves as led by Christ to be the voice of progress, a machine for justice. I want the GC to see themselves as Jesus sees them: men and women chosen and called not just to reflect a perspective of the Gospel that fits for everyone. But that they would take a decisive lead on earth as it is in heaven. That the GC would truly guide the Church forward as she seeks to honor God in both becoming and praxis.

I will not stay in a denomination that is discriminatory. This is why this Session is so important and relevant. I myself, along with both young men and women who are theologians, pastors, and leaders currently for the Seventh-day Adventist Church – we will not stay. We cannot stay. Unless we are given a hope that the Church we are part of locally will allow us to truly enact God’s call for ourselves both as young men and women.

If I can be part of a Local Conference that values me as much as Jesus does and if I am given room both to learn and to innovate on behalf of the Gospel, then this Church would truly be a blessing to be part of. It is this Church that I will give myself to. In this Church, I will honor God as I wait on the return of Jesus the Christ—accompanied by my colleagues, humanity in service, and in the company of the Spirit.

May we truly honor the God who has given all on behalf of us. May we be blessed by the courage and gentleness of Jesus with us. And may we be the Church that God lovingly envisions and empowers.

Brittany Crawford, recent Andrews Alumna with a BA in Religion As someone who has just finished attending the NAD's Called meetings and is planning on attending the entire GC session, I have to say that the gathering of people sharing my own beliefs is very uplifting. I am surrounded by strangers that are not strangers. On the other hand, unlike the Called session this will be more of an 11 day political/business meeting. Although I do understand the necessity of these meetings, I feel that the people are only gathered to witness as our church's decisions are left to others.

I care very much about the decisions that have been and are going to be made at the General Conference Session but I feel helpless in my own ability to actually influence the church I care so deeply about. Yes, we have delegates but I don't remember getting a chance to choose who represented me! At some points I question is it just a show that we are gathered to watch so that we are made to feel as if we actually have a choice and a voice? I know nothing of the spiritual reliability or relationship of those making such important choices but I pray to God that they are listening quite earnestly for "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:48)

Daniel Peverini, Religious Studies major, La Sierra University I am attending the General Conference for the first time this July! As a millennial who is also a religious studies major, I definitely have concerns about the General Conference and the way decisions made here might affect myself and other church members. Some of the decisions that might be made at this GC (especially the predicted decisions on women's ordination and fundamental belief changes) will affect how Western millennials perceive the Adventist church, and whether or not we think there is a place for us in it.

While I hope that the outcome of this GC will be something that millennials can live with, I'm not too concerned about how our relationships with God will be affected. God works where he will, many times in places that surprise us and exceed our expectations. God doesn't need the GC or the SDA church to accomplish his purposes. But God can work among us, even at the GC.

Karl Wallenkampf, Biology and Humanities double major, Walla Wall University When I was younger and singing medleys in Sabbath School, I didn’t give a thought to the GC. Now, however, as my schooling has intensified and I have become more acutely attuned to the diverse challenges to thoughtful faith posed by current research and social mores, I think about the GC with some regularity. Many of its myriad components or responsibilities—overseeing ADRA, the BRI, organizing global missions—have incalculable value, and I affirm its importance. Now, the GC has decisions to make about how to relate to the challenges inherent in the world today, and it is in these decisions that I think more nuance, and greater allowance for alternative interpretations, is appropriate.

When we change the Fundamental Beliefs or make a possible universal decision about women’s ordination, we might best realize that not every person has the same convictions. Our thoroughly Adventist idea of "present truth” involves a wariness about making doctrines more stringent, less malleable. Global organization is necessary, however it can sometimes interfere with what I think could be the best presentation of our message to people in very different areas. What might reach (or put off) people in San Francisco might be quite different from the message that would inspire or offend someone in Kampala. Making the same decision for both is unwise.

Whatever the GC decides has moderate relevance to me and how I interact with the church. I was reminded by my pastor the other morning that the church (and its workings) is mostly local, thus whatever goes on at the GC cannot really define my relationship with my own Adventist community of believers. Yet, if some decisions are made, I will have to rethink how I relate to the church hierarchy and how I share my Adventist faith with others. I can never be impeded in sharing God’s love for any individual I meet and wishing that he or she accept Christ’s saving grace, but I might pause in recommending Adventism if I thoroughly disagree with GC decisions. What the GC does in session is relevant to my relationship with God when I struggle to love those whom he loves while they say things or vote in ways I think are unjust. A GC session can’t stop my faith in God, or damage it to any major degree.

I care what the church does because I care about organizations I am dedicated to. I want Adventism to be vital, viable, and vibrant! I will work in my own life to make that a reality (which relates to the essential locality of our church). What the GC does is out of my hands so I cannot be too concerned. After all, Christ told us to never worry. I think God’s will can always be done, but I know that some decisions we make can throw a wrench in his plans.

Theron Calkins, Math Teacher at Korean Advanced Preparatory Academy The General Conference is a powerful symbol of the Seventh-day Adventist Church's unity and commitment to cooperation. Beyond setting the topics and tone for the church's collective discussion in the years to come, the General Conference brings countless people from all over the world with myriad experiences and diverging perspectives into a single location. But what draws them all to this event is their enduring commitment to many key tenets of the Adventist faith. Beliefs like the Sabbath, the primacy of the Bible, and Ellen White's legacy unite these multicolored faces under a single, unifying banner: Adventist.

To me, the General Conference proves that Adventism really is a worldwide movement, and in order to succeed in our global mission, we need to pay attention to that diversity. The GC brings the church together to discuss and address issues from an international perspective careful to consider the effects and ramifications of world events, church policies, and fundamental beliefs on Adventism's health and future. Personally, I'm always comforted to witness such self-reflection on the part of the church. It's vital that we reexamine our core commitments to guarantee both their Biblical foundations and their sound application within the Earth's many cultures. The church's pursuit of "present truth" should extend not only temporally to our deepening understanding of God's eternal Word, but also spatially to appropriate manifestations of that truth which account for the cultural milieu individual conferences find themselves in. Such thoughtful consideration about how the church's beliefs and policies affect not only one small part of the world, but Adventism's global mission is the biggest benefit of gathering these diverse voices at the General Conference.

Alisa Williams is Spirituality Editor for SpectrumMagazine.org (and a Millennial).

Photo Credit: NAD / Steven Norman


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6904
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Hmmmm… Two LaSierra, one Walla Walla, and one Andrews. Appears like the polling tower of Spectrum is leaning left.

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Invaluable perspectives. Thanks Alisa!

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for me personally, this is the sentiment that causes me to lose sympathy with millennials…where did they get this hold-a-gun-to-the-head approach…

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Jeremy, you don’t have to like “the millenials” (there are very different millenials anyway). However, let me make a couple of remarks:
It is not unusual that young people are less than “diplomatic” in their language. At least it is clear what they stand for - with passion. The interviewees here are observers (not delegates), if I am not mistaken. They express their hopes, their fears, their expectations (because they were asked). I am not sure, whose head you think they hold a gun to.
And my suspicion is that there are quite a few - well beyond the “millenial age group” who have similar concerns.

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Hello, sir! I indeed study at Walla Walla University. I have heard people refer to it as “left” before, but I wondered how that applies to my sentiment, or those shared by others in this article. What is your concern?

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I don’t think they were holding a gun to anyone’s head. They were simply expressing a view that the adventist church may not be the church for them. They are willing to live out their beliefs, rather than be hypocrites.

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Jeremy, thank you for reading our perspectives. I hope you wouldn’t lose sympathy because of my words, nor think that I am about to leave the church. What a waste that would be, and no solution at all. Rather, I like to assess any governing organization which makes decisions that concern me. If I heartily disagree, I will have to rethink how I relate to my church. I think I affirmed those things of eminent importance: a belief in God and a desire to share Him with everyone, a mind and memory for Christ and His teachings, a dedication to Adventism, and an affirmation of the GC.

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This group is not representative of their demographics and not by a long shot! I am sure even Spectrum recognizes their sampling bias in polling young left leaning western educated people. I fall in their age group and i do not by any means share their sentiments.

This is a false and misguided premise.

I believe he/she took entitlement to a whole level. So the church better do what they want or they will leave wow talk about spiritual blackmail! It makes more it interesting that they joined a church they knew full well to be “discriminatory” I guess 1st John 2:19 best describes this situation.

Please refer to 1st John 2:19

This attitude of wanting to leave the church is the same attitude that we see in John chapter 6 (It seems John had issues with these ‘i will leave if what i want is not met’)

Joh 6:66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

I am thoroughly disappointed that this breed of self entitled (forgive me if too strong) millenials has been chosen to reflect millennial thoughts

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It is interesting that when millennial who espouse left leaning sentiments it is often said that they have passion, and are simply expressing their hopes and dreams etc. Yet when another millennial espouses a dissenting view he is accused of naivety inexperience disrespect etc. These millennials are not representative of their demographic and only speak for themselves.

I find their threat of leaving reflective of the self entitlement attitude that is pervasive in left leaning young people. Churches that have ordained women to the clergy are dying and have all subsequently ordained homosexuals as well. Conversely churches that have maintained biblical roles have maintained steady growth even in countries where feminism is rampant!

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my post.

Actually - I have done no such thing. I simply pointed out that young adults have different ways of expressing themselves - no matter which side they lean to. However, if we wanted to generalize the accusation of “disrespect” probably more often comes from those leaning more towards conservative values.

Indeed - and they should not be taken as “representative”.

Again - you may or may not be right in your evaluation; but that doesn’t change the fact. If our church becomes irrelevant, discriminative, even disgusting to some of our young people, they will leave, whether or not we think of it as “self entitlement attitude”. In Europe we lose about 2/3 of our own children by age 21. And - sorry, again whether we like it or not - there are no indications whatsoever that this is due to a lack of conservatism.

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You might want to consider “egocentric” thinking instead of “self-entitlement attitude.” The former is a milestone everyone has to resolve as they mature to adulthood, the latter is a personality trait which crystalizes in the mid 20’s and become stable through adulthood. Those students interviewed are far from being mature and adult in their cognition.

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Jeremy, are you criticizing the millennials because they refuse to support discrimination of women? It takes courage to make a statement that if discrimination of women continues they will just get out of the boat.

I highly commend those millennials that refuse to be part of a Church that supports discrimination of women. The stats also show that their chance to make changes is reduced because their representation keeps them percetagewise in disadvantage. When 62% of the Church are not properly represented, it only tells that the control of the Church has been carefully retained but some other group, the minority… - usually older white males who don’t listen to the youth. Maybe it’s just a hearing difficulty caused by age…, sure…

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Would you prefer they say nothing and just walk away? Many are doing that. they simply cannot envision a church where someone would be excluded based on gender. The gun, in their view, is pointed at the heads of women who have been called by God.

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THE GUN

Jeremy,

I am not exactly a millennial anymore… but I have been holding the gun for about 35 years now. I wouldn’t ever attend a (local) church that supports discrimination or preaches heresies like the LGT, etc. I can be a member of LSU Church very comfortably, since the environment is not corrupted by those issues. But if I had to move to where @tjzwemer lives, I will certainly use my “gun” and would attend his church. Certain things are not negotiable. Why would they be?

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If majority of the delegates were to vote NO to WO, will those favoring WO leave? OTOH, if the YES side were to win, will those opposing WO still choose to stay in the church?

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I would surmise that things will settle down a bit, some will leave, some might leave, some might want to leave, others will stay and stew while others might be converted to the other side, that is until the next “conflict” comes along. Viva la SDA!

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That is a false claim. We might also call it false witness…Chinese churches are anything but dying,…that alone is enough to prove you wrong.

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Would you not leave the church if you find out that this church insists on discriminatory behavior in the face of biblical evidence to the contrary?

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The term “Millenials” refers only to a specific generational group and does not reflect the group’s philosophical/religious leanings such as: Self-Supporting, LGTers, Conservative, Moderates, Liberals, etc., etc. All of these groups are present within Adventism to one degree or another. I am sure that you could drum up enough of your own “people” to reflect your own point of view if you wished. :slight_smile:

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