How The Adventist Church Changed its Fundamental Beliefs in San Antonio

Work on the Fundamental Beliefs zeroed in on the nuances of specific words Monday at the Alamodome where General Conference delegates gathered for their fourth day of business sessions.

The conversation began with the matter of how many votes would be needed to pass changes in the beliefs—a “simple”majority or two-thirds. A delegate had requested on the first day of meetings that given the importance of the Fundamental Beliefs any changes be treated like changes to the constitution and bylaws that require a two-thirds majority vote to alter.

President Ted Wilson told the group that the Steering Committee had considered the request, but decided not to move away from the simple majority vote. He said, “it is not our intention that the fundamental beliefs be changed with a close vote, but a consensus vote. We recommend that we do not insert into the rules order a requirement for a two-thirds vote.” He appealed to the delegates to “Calm our hearts so we do not get caught up in parliamentary process and block the progress of our work.”After some discussion, the delegates voted to accept the recommendation of the Steering Committee to remain with a simple majority.

Drafting Committee members Artur Stele, Bill Knott, and Angel Rodriguez were introduced and on the platform ready to answer questions. Stele, chair of the committee that also included Gerhard Pfandl, led the way through the Fundamental Belief documents. He said the committee had been given a specific task—first, to review all the beliefs to make sure that the language is clear and distinct, and secondly, to find a way to integrate the language of the “Affirmation of Creation” document approved by the 2005 General Conference, into Belief 6 on Creation and Belief 8 on the Great Controversy (the most suitable place for mentioning a global flood). He emphasized that there were no recommendations to change what we believe. Rather the effort was directed at making the Beliefs clear, given the changes that occur over time in the understanding of words and phrases.

The Preamble and Beliefs 13, The Remnant and Its Mission; 14, Unity in the Body of Christ; 15, Baptism; 16, The Lord’s Supper; 26, Death and Resurrection; 27, The Millennium and the End of Sin; and 28, The New Earth, only had biblical references put in canonical order, so they were quickly voted. Other simple changes to Beliefs 25, The Second Coming of Christ; 20, The Sabbath; 11, Growing in Christ; and 9, The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, were voted. Throughout the entire Statement of Fundamental Beliefs changing to gender neutral language was achieved, mostly without controversy except in a few specific beliefs.

The word “apostolic” in Belief 17 on Spiritual Gifts and Ministries sparked extended discussion. Since it could be misunderstood without more clear definition, the committee said in its recommendation that it be removed from the sentence: “Some members are called of God and endowed by the Spirit for functions recognized by the church in pastoral, evangelistic, apostolic, and teaching ministries particularly needed to equip the members for service, to build up the church to spiritual maturity, and to foster unity of the faith and knowledge of God.” There were suggestions for alternative words such as cross-cultural and pleadings to leave the word in place. Eventually the vote to refer this Belief back to the Drafting Committee for reconsideration was defeated and “apostolic” removed from the Belief that was then approved.

Belief 21, Stewardship, was voted without extended discussion. A delegate then suggested that discussion move to Beliefs 6, Creation; and 8, The Great Controversy, which everyone was waiting for but Artur Stele demurred, not wanting “to destroy the good movement that was occurring.”

Belief 22, Christian Behavior, was easily voted.

Proposed changes to Belief 23, Marriage and the Family, brought defenders of the gay community to the microphone, because the proposed changes included removing the word “partners” given its current connotation with gay marriage. In the midst of the conversation, President Ted Wilson went to the microphone and said in an authoritative tone, “We want to leave no ambiguity about marriage”. His comment received thunderous applause. All proposals to alter the proposed changes then met with defeat and the revised Belief voted as is.

Finally, Belief 6 on Creation was introduced. Not long into the discussion, Arthur Stele said the Committee knew that it would need to review this Belief and Belief 8 on the Great Controversy, so rather than going through vote after vote on parliamentary procedures, the comments from the delegates should simply address what the committee should review. Suggestions included (from the Seminary) whether to use the creation language of Genesis or Exodus in Belief 6, and (from Geoscience) to substitute “global” for “worldwide” in Belief 8. But most of the extended discussion centered around the fundamental words: “recent,” “literal,” and “historical.” Because of the Committee’s mandate, it was clear that even though these words do not appear in Scripture and are clearly debatable based on increasingly well-known evidence, because they are used by Ellen White, they had to be in the statement in order to “exclude any possibility of the concept of evolution creeping in to the church.”

Monday afternoon, the only sticking point in Belief 24, Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary, was the use of the word “symbolized” in the phrase: Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary “was symbolized by the work of the high priest in the holy place.” Some preferred a word like “typified” which was referred to the review committee. Perhaps it is worth noting that this relatively brief discussion was in contrast to the 1980 GC Session in Dallas where this particular Belief was debated at length and was the last Belief to be adopted (on the last Friday of the session).

Belief 19, The Law of God, was easily approved. There followed some controversy over Belief 12, The Church. As revised, it reads in part, “”The church derives its authority from Christ who is the incarnate Word revealed in the Scriptures.” Several South American delegates, wanting to distance themselves from Catholicism, argued for a dual source of authority: Scripture and Christ, but current GC officials expressed the view that Christ is the only authority and their view prevailed.

Belief 10, The Experience of Salvation; Belief 2, The Trinity; and Belief 3, The Father, were easily voted. Not so Belief 4, The Son. The issue raised by several delegates was the phrase: Christ “became also truly human, Jesus the Christ,” where it had originally been “truly man.” The review committee argued in response that the issue was the incarnation, not gender, so referral lost and the proposed belief was voted.

Belief 7, The Nature of Humanity, and Belief 5, The Holy Spirit, were adopted as presented. Belief 18, The Gift of Prophecy, provoked quite a debate about Ellen White’s relation to the Bible. For instance, Cliff Goldstein spoke strongly in support of the wording, while Ray Roenfeldt felt Ellen White herself would be “scandalized” by the wording. Several spoke in favor of referring the statement back to the committee so it could be strengthened. Some wanted to add “truth” into the statement: “Her writings speak with prophetic authority and provide comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction to the church.” A delegate questioned the “canonization” of Ellen White. But the delegates voted the Belief as presented.

With Belief 1, The Holy Scriptures, being the last one to be considered, and yet, in some ways, the most important, Artur Stele suggested referring it back for review, presumably so as not to prolong discussion on such issues as whether to include the word “final” in the proposed addition, “The Holy Scriptures are the final, authoritative, and the infallible revelation of His will.”

By the end of the day, Monday, during sessions ably chaired by Vice Presidents Ben Schoun and Lowell Cooper, all Beliefs were voted as presented except for four: Beliefs 1, 6, 8, and 24. Comments and concerns about them were to be reviewed by the Drafting Committee overnight and brought back to the delegates for disposition on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday’s chair was Vice President Ella Simmons who endeavored to handle business carefully and compassionately. In many ways, she had the most difficult chairing task of all, but throughout the morning there were several delegates who complimented her on the way she conducted business; she deferred to the Spirit’s guidance. “Right off the bat” Tuesdaymorning various delegates had general suggestions. One was the importance of modern language for the Beliefs so they could be better understood, including by youth. Another was an appeal to leadership that they really listen to the body of delegates even though they seemed determined to stick to what they had already written. Artur Stele then reported on the “hard work” overnight of the Drafting Committee, indicating that they would proceed from “the easiest to the hardest”.

On Belief 24, Christs Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary, the committee accepted the previous day’s suggestion to incorporate “typified” instead of “symbolized”. This provoked many objections to “typify,” as Old English and hard to translate, but the body voted the new word and passed the Belief as presented.

On Belief 8, The Great Controversy, the drafting committee accepted Geoscience’s recommendation that “global” replace “worldwide” for the extent of the flood. A young delegate asked if there had been consideration of eliminating the sentence which had been added by the committee, “as presented in the historical account of Genesis 1-11.” Stele said yes, but the decision was to keep it in. And the delegates duly voted the Belief as presented.

On Belief 1, The Holy Scriptures, Artur Stele reported that they wanted to strengthen the statement so looked for a word other than “final” that would not have chronological implications, and chose “supreme,” thus reading “the Holy Scriptures are the supreme, authoritative, and the infallible revelation of His will.” Many other words were suggested, such as “normative” and “ultimate.” Roger Robertsen from the Israel Mission was the first to speak. He reminded the delegates that the Preamble speaks of the Bible being our “only creed,” so suggested that to strengthen the “sola scriptura” concept, the following statement should read, the Scriptures are “the sole revealer of doctrine.” Artur Stele’s rejoinder was, “there are many words and this is the one that came up!” Gerard Damteegt again objected to inclusive language being sure that no females were involved in writing the Bible. There followed quite an involved discussion as to the meaning and use of the Greek word “anthropos” (man, human) and how it should be translated. It appeared at times that some delegates enjoyed showing off their knowledge of New Testament Greek. There was also a debate over the term “author” vs. “writer” which one delegate tried to settle with Ellen White’s well-known statement in 1 Selected Messages 25 that “God is author, but writers are human.” He was countered by Ellen White’s own statement that her writings are not to be used to settle arguments! Ultimately, Belief 1 was voted as presented.

That left to the last Belief 6, Creation. Angel Rodriguez said the committee knew the wording for this Belief was controversial but their work proceeded on the following basis: First, they decided not to use ambiguous words that would allow evolutionary thinking. Second, the word “recent” was necessary to combat the notion of “deep time”; the biblical genealogies place creation not that long ago, even though we know they are incomplete. Third, “SDAs assume the history of our planet began in Genesis 1,” so a literal reading of Genesis is necessary and seven literal days has to be a part of the statement. Bill Knott, a member of the drafting committee, said how proud he was to be an Adventist as he watched the process, including the “year of listening”by the committee. After a review of the statement the evening before, a “clean copy” of the Belief was put up on the screen; Artur Stele then moved Belief 6 as amended. At that point President Ted Wilson came out to speak: “Essentially this version of the Belief was brought to the floor at the 2005 GC Session. I personally endorse it. This wording will help us in our work. You can put a spin on any word, such as ‘recent,’ but it means ‘not old.’ There is no room for theistic evolution. I will tell you I personally believe, based on the Spirit of Prophecy, that the earth is approximately 6,000 years old.” From then on, all speeches were either supportive of the Belief as presented, or wanted to strengthen it further. Typical was Cliff Goldstein’s comment: “This issue didn’t arise in a vacuum. We are purposely doing this to exclude evolution.” There followed a bit of discussion about whether the entire universe is 6,000 years old but the consensus was that the wording presented was adequate for the church. An African delegate admitted he was now relieved. “It is now time to trust the Holy Spirit and the scholars who have worked on this. My children will be safe. I call question on the motion.” Belief 6 was voted as presented.

See also Dr. Larry Geraty's Partially-aborted Remarks on Fundamental Belief 6.

Artur Stele telling assured the assembled delegates: “None of what we voted has changed what we have always believed.”

That is what happened on the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs on Monday and Tuesday. This author tried unsuccessfully to participate in the process but the outcome was predetermined. Good people, able people, were involved but no meaningful discussion of the issues could take place in two-minute segments. As a result the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs looks increasingly like the work of a committee rather than a convincing literary masterpiece. It’s hard for several hundred delegates to make a positive difference in two days. Maybe the hopes of delegates to improve the wording of their beloved beliefs was unrealistic from the start. Certainly the administration of the General Conference got what it wanted. The question now is how will they use what they have crafted? Will the words of our pioneer, John Loughborough, quoted on the floor, be prophetic? A guiding hand was evident throughout; let’s hope it was the Holy Spirit’s.

Larry Geraty is President Emeritus of La Sierra University and a delegate at the 60th General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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Hope, it appears, is all there is now that it was indeed God’s.


The leaders’ emphasis, supported by most delegates’ desire, on moving quickly through decisions leave one wondering why we gather to vote at all.


i support the tightened language of fb#6…i think angel’s motive was correct: we can’t allow for evolutionary thinking such as concepts of deep time, or that life on our planet preceded genesis 1…and i agree with cliff’s explanation that the backdrop to tinkering with fb#6 in the first place was not to craft a way for evolution to coexist with fiat creation, but to exclude evolution…


Surprising statement after a marathon of unnecessary, politically motivated changes. I wonder who the “we” actually means - and how Arthur Stele knows.


When TW says “I personally” is this suppose to give more credence to his opinion than others? Very revealing of the man.

This comes across more as a “political” message we frequently hear during election in the U.S.


It was expected.
There was a time when the SDA geoscience institute supported the notion of the “gap theory” (recent creation of life on an old planet). This fixes some of the dating problems with rocks and is an idea still accepted by many ardent non-evolutionist in the church. The new wording of FB6 seems to be pushing even this view out. It would seem that the church leaders are just accepting the views of the Ken Ham crowd without thinking it through for themselves. This is dangerous as anyone who has looked into the creation science version of origin should be aware that it is no more comparable with Adventist theology than evolution as they promote among other things the creation of angels and satan during creation week.


The prologue is clear that the Bible is the Church’s only Creed. Then why not use Scriptue to high light the essential points rather than merely using textual references. I would suggest that Jesus interview recorded in the Third chapter of John head the list, followed by Romans 3-8, and concluded with Hebrews 11 and 12. These are essential Gospel based passages that include the work of the Spirit., These represent the pure Gospel of the Apostles. One might also make reference to Paul’s letter to the churches in Galacia to forestall legalism that was worried the Church from its beginning. What has happened is a forthright move into cultism without a glimmer of Gospel. S.A. Will mark the last gasp of the Cross in Adventism. Tom Z


EVERYONE will now have to burn the Current “Seventh day Adventists believe…” and purchase a NEW ONE.
THIS should save the Adventist printing press.


We say that the Bible is the Church’s only Creed.
But, if anything that the Bible says is questioned, EVERYONE looks to see what Ellen says about it, and THAT becomes the understanding.
I am not trying to be controversial, just illustrating what happens in most SDA Bible Study groups.
It makes for lazy thinking among most SDAs when it comes to “Bible Study” and “Bible Thinking”.

A lot of times it is refreshing to be among Christians who have no Spirit of Prophecy. True discussion takes place, and many times new thoughts, new nuances, new pictures pop up among the group that were not visible before, and those Scripture verses become NEW while reading the friendly OLD words.


Ted Wilson is certainly a powerful force for change.

With the above described actions, the SdA denomination now has a set of FB that are out of touch with reality, voted for by a majority of people who lack a knowledge of reality. Clearly this is what the majority of the delegates wanted.

They have established a creed containing things that many people will find repugnant.

Now comes the big showdown. What happens when an SdA member does not believe everything that is on this list.

Will the SdA local congregation, the SdA local conference, or the SdA union conference decide not to require members to believe the things on this list? Will they refuse fellowship to the constituent that does not enforce belief?

I resigned circa 2001 because I could see the train wreck happening. With this GC, the head of the train has crashed full-tilt into the wall. Now I get to see whether the rest of the denomination rejects these leaders and does something sensible, or becomes a social club for people who like to believe nonsense.


In thinking about this recent voting action on our fundamental beliefs, I wonder what James White would think?
In 1870 he gave a list one could count on one hand, and then said “GENERALLY BELIEVED”.
It was ALSO said, We have NO CREED.

The Nicene Creed, as short as it is, STILL embodies ALL of our SDA beliefs in it. And, is much easier to understand.
[and memorize]


I am going to wait for the 2020 edition…


In fact, the only real SDA creed is “the boox.” If the Bible is always interpreted by “the boox” then it’s obvious which one is the higher authority.

Now go and order the most recent production added to the “boox collection.”


Were these changes simply “proposed” or were they voted “in” at San Antonio? DId the delegates vote to make all those changes without discussion? Or, did I miss something?

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You DID NOT miss anything.
Perhaps ALL you missed was the quiet raising of a fist with a voting card attached.
And, YES, All Things ARE New!

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When I was about 12 I was on a hike and looked at the sun shining through the leaves of a plant and thought of the process of photosynthesis. At that point I decided that such a complex system and all the complex systems of nature didn’t seem to be chance to me, but the design by an incredible God and not a random accident.

From then on, I have never worried about what I don’t know. I don’t know the age of the earth. Or how God made it, or over what period of time. I have also never made any of those questions a determinant of my faith in Jesus.

As my youngest child says when she asks a question I don’t know the answer to “That’s a question for Jesus”. I’ll learn all about the age of the earth at the great resurrection and that’s just fine with me.


President Wilson is most uncomfortable with ambiguity; like a lawyer who goes through everything with a fine tooth comb looking for any stray wording that will not be clearly definitively.

It’s an old but very appropo cliche slightly paraphrased: Never look to closely at how sausages and church doctrines are formed What a farce and waste of time and money when everything was pre-planned and when Wilson rebuffed any but majority voting seeking the consensus he had planned to cap the church’s overwhelming approval of his re-election.

What a way to do “God’s Work”! Casting lots, even throwing dice would be more honorable. :confounded:

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But Ken Ham says his view is biblical, and surely no real Adventist would say that Ham was lying when speaking on this topic?

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The majority of delegates come from cultures where authority is almost revered and when Wilson has publicly stated his preference, like sheep they follow. Note his preference for majority or “consensus” voting that would solidify his standing with the majority. As a devout leader he is a born politician. :wink: