Infamy and Afterwards

“We’re not leaving the church; the church is leaving us.”

So a pastor from Europe told me last Sunday. For Adventists who want grace-oriented faith, equality for all, unity without uniformity, and leader responsiveness to the particular concerns and situations of lay members, San Antonio feels so far like a disaster. The church’s older strongholds—North America, Europe, and Australia—have ever-weaker influence, and the rest of the church (along with old, white fundamentalist males who still gravitate to microphones) seems determined to re-establish a more rigid, centralized and doctrinaire version of Adventism.

Delegates have already said No to fresh perspective. They have made noises (in conversation about proposed Church Manual revisions) that cause friends of equality and openness to feel beleaguered. Many or most have responded positively to preaching that is insistently narrower and more cavalier than that heard just five years ago in Atlanta.

The vote on whether it is “acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to gospel ministry” (full text here) will take place at 4:30pm tomorrow, July 8, 2015. Although some are still hopeful that Yes will prevail, most see a windsock blowing the other direction. As for the extra-biblical doctrinal stringency in proposed revisions to Adventists official statement on biblical creation, the fundamentalist outcome seems (despite many insightful speeches in opposition to it) as certain as sunrise.

There is no logical bar to a miraculous change of heart. And there would certainly be no better time than now for that to occur. One delegate familiar from his role with the Biblical Research Committee told me Sunday morning that if the proposal on ordination does not pass, the issue “will never come up again.” The General Conference culture is changing that quickly. A No vote would be, he then said, “a deep wound to the church.”

Many are praying that their dream of grace will not, these next couple of days, disappear like a match flame in a wind gust. Another apt subject for prayer is the possibility that the flame may be re-lit.

It seems likely now that this General Conference session will go down in infamy. It will deal a blow to the hope that Adventism in secularizing locales can hold on to its children, or even to its wavering, educated members. And as for the hope that believers from the older strongholds and those from other cultures can flourish together, that now seems practically impossible. The same pastor from Europe who spoke to me on Sunday said that the direction we seem to be taking “will make it impossible for us to function as a world church.”

So if all the outcomes in San Antonio disappoint, what can be done? With the relevance of the General Conference becoming less and less plausible, who could be the new Voice of Adventism for our children and our friends? How could the defining of Adventism fall to persons more sympathetic and biblically responsible?

I don’t really know. But I still love the ideal of an international people called to a radical faith. I still love the energy of the Exhibit Hall at a General Conference session. I love the wonder of friendships made and renewed. I love the crowd of hopeful faces, the rafter-raising song, the Sabbath parade of families in costume and women (fewer now) wearing their hats like crowns. But when uniformity has the upper hand, and the dream of grace stands bloodied on the ropes, I really don’t know what to do.

Still, I will take a shot at something. What if in the older strongholds the best pastors—the ones who in thought and deed venture forth like Abraham—became a Pastors’ League for Adventist Renewal, or Faithfulness, or whatever seems best? What if they founded a website (and exploited social media) so as to achieve a wider and deeper reach into Adventist consciousness? What if negative drift could be overwhelmed, at least in North America, Europe and Australia, by the energy of university and other truly adventurous Adventist pastors and their congregations?

From the Alamodome podium it was said, earlier this week that the work of God cannot succeed until church members unite their efforts with church “officers.” The best pastors know that it is at least as important for church “officers” to unite their efforts with church members. These pastors live, as we say, at the front lines, and they know how important it is to listen. They also know how important it is to read Scripture for fresh perspective, and to let the Jesus story shape our lives on earth as well as our dreams of heaven.

What better hope than our best pastors, the ones who, besides their other virtues, recognize and support the best lay leaders? The One Project is pastor-led, and it has become a vehicle of energy and hope. The “Called” convention in Austin, Texas, which just prior to San Antonio featured and focused on pastors, was by most testimony, really energizing. And what smarter move could administrators make than to uphold and support the church employees who, arguably, have the toughest jobs and make the biggest difference?

Could our best pastors become the Voice of older-stronghold Adventism? Could our children, when they grow restless and need to rebel, be able, at least, to rebel against something other than exclusion and narrow-mindedness?

Let’s just say that somebody, sooner and not later, had better become such a voice for such a version of Adventism.

And by the way, if the vote tomorrow surprises everybody, and I turn out to be a crank and a doomster, I promise to absolutely revel in the pleasure others may take at my expense. Laugh it up and I’ll laugh with you.

Charles Scriven is chair of the Adventist Forum board, and a member of the General Conference reporting team in San Antonio, Texas.

Photo Credit: Steven Norman / NAD


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6937
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Only the unwary are still expecting a YES vote.

Read my lips! It will be NO.

This was a very well calculated maneuver by the GC: TOSC backfired on them, so they just disregarded the million dollar project and invested in a simple question that they already knew how the world Church would vote on.
One does not have to be a genius to figure this one out!
Three simple steps:

  1. TOSC-gate (4 years)
  2. Question-gate (at the AC)
  3. Voting-gate (tomorrow!)

And … VOILÀ!!!

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Charles Scriven, you are a seer. You see the future, and it is bleak. But true.

A dear friend and leader in Glendale, now deceased, used to preach that in the last days the Adventist church organization would cease to exist. “There’ll be no conference president to whom you can go to ask about technicalities of our beliefs; there will be no church officers issuing white papers on doctrines of the Adventist denomination. There will be NO Adventist organization!”

I wondered at the time how he came to that conclusion. But that was in the 1970s. Today I can see his predictions coming true.

This does not shake my faith! I still believe in the saving grace of God our Heavenly Father, as demonstrated so graciously by His Son Jesus when He was here on earth, and in His soon return to this earth. And thanks to God for prophets whom He has given to us to point His love and grace to all of us. [I won’t name names here, because I believe each SDA member has one or two pastors who have led them into the faith; these are probably different for each member. But I thank God daily for the ones who years ago opened my eyes to God’s love and forgiveness.]

Thank you, Charles Scriven.

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what was patently clear in the 1980’s Is now being expressed by Senior officers who stood by the stuff in those trauma filled years… Better late than never. Tom Z

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George
What many are waiting on is Pastor Dan Jackson.
Many are already lined up at the starting gate.
Many are waiting on him to drop the GO FLAG after SA2015.

It seems others also have a GO FLAG in their closets.
I think what saddens many is that where women are relegated to 2nd, 3rd class citizens, that this attitude will remain the same. That these women will not be able to use their gifts for the church, for God, for the Gospel. And perhaps in turn, bring about a Women’s Revolution in their countries by example.
BOTH the Colonial Christian Church, and the Modern Christian Invaders from the 1st World have brought devastation to these 3rd world countries by perpetuating women powerlessness, promoting the death penalty upon persons who were “born different”.
There has been NO CHALLENGE to both of these invasions by the World Wide SDA Church. By NOT speaking, we HAVE Spoken. And these curses upon humans that God made continues unabated.

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Brethren we need to have discerning eyes. Where is the eye salve??? Can’t you see that this is the SHAKING that E.G. White predicted. The church indeed needs to return to the true form of Christianity and come out of apostasy and this is what is happening. THE STRAIGHT TESTIMONY IS GOING FORTH. I will let Sister White words speak, from excerpts from the book Last Day Events and if you don’t clearly see that this is what is happening then Lord have mercy.

Divisions will come in the church. Two parties will be developed. The wheat and tares grow up together for the harvest.–2SM 114 (1896).

There will be a shaking of the sieve. The chaff must in time be separated from the wheat. Because iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold. It is the very time when the genuine will be the strongest.–Letter 46, 1887.

The history of the rebellion of Dathan and Abiram is being repeated, and will be repeated till the close of time. Who will be on the Lord’s side? Who will be deceived, and in their turn become deceivers?–Letter 15, 1892.
I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen, and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this will cause a shaking among God’s people.–1T 181 (1857).

The shaking of God blows away multitudes like dry leaves.–4T 89 (1876).
Chaff like a cloud will be borne away on the wind, even from places where we see only floors of rich wheat.–5T 81 (1882).
Soon God’s people will be tested by fiery trials, and the great proportion of those who now appear to be genuine and true will prove to be base metal. . . .
When the religion of Christ is most held in contempt, when His law is most despised, then should our zeal be the warmest and our courage and firmness the most unflinching. To stand in defence of truth and righteousness when the majority forsake us, to fight the battles of the Lord when champions are few–this will be our test. At this time we must gather warmth from the coldness of others, courage from their cowardice, and loyalty from their treason.–5T 136 (1882).

THE CHURCH MAY APPEAR AS TO FALL BUT IT DOES NOT FALL. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out–the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place.–2SM 380 (1886).

As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition.–GC 608 (1911).
Some had been shaken out and left by the way. The careless and indifferent, who did not join with those who prized victory and salvation enough to perseveringly plead and agonise for it, did not obtain it, and they were left behind in darkness, and their places were immediately filled by others taking hold of the truth and coming into the ranks.–EW 271 (1858).

We indeed have a prophet, i urge you all to pay heed to her. Don’t be shaken out of God’s church because you will not humble yourselves to His plain word.

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The quotes suggest that the chaff will be blown away while the application of the quotes to this GC suggests that the chaff run the church? This makes little sense.

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Agreed, for this is indeed the problem with the Adventist church for some of us believe that it never had it to begin with.

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Regarding the comment:

North America, Europe, and Australia—have ever-weaker influence

This seems elitist… Maybe even racist? Colonial at the very least!

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Steve,
Re-electing Dan Jackson (thank God!!!) is a clear message from our Division to Ted Wilson: You may control the WC but not the American Church. And it is also a green light for Jackson, now strengthened, to go ahead and do the right thing despite of what the WC is going to do tomorrow, i.e., voting NO on the infamous question.
As this article says, “Infamy and Afterwards.”

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It’s sad that it’s taking a shaking of the church to eliminate the infamous and shameful discrimination of women from our Church.
But, if this is what is needed to stop this un-Christian practice, so be it!

By the way, the Bible doesn’t say anything about this shaking.

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I see a different perspective on these issues it appears. What takes place at a General Conference session does not appear to me to be about what is right or wrong so much as it is a political forum played out not that much differently than happens in many local churches. At every level there are “kingmakers,” those with wealth and the desire and ability to turn that wealth into political momentum, These individuals seek out those who are sympathetic to their agenda and push those people forward into positions of prominence while they themselves remain behind the scenes, applying financial and political pressure as needed to advance their agenda.

At this point, it would seem liberalism/progressivism consists primarily of political naifs who do not have the necessary backing to advance their agenda. Truth alone is not enough to ensure victory in a political forum. In fact truth often suffers defeat in the face of a lie backed by a well-oiled political machine. (In this instance, oil is not a metaphor for the Holy Spirit, but for money.)

Some might appeal for God to work a miracle and override all of this, but perhaps that is naive as well, to think that God would override the free will of the opposition. That might possibly undercut a foundational principle of grace, the idea that we can choose to follow God or our own desires.

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God never promised that it would be the Seventh-day Adventist church that would survive; it was the Christian church that would survive. The Church of Paul and the apostles who preached “Christ and Him crucified”, not a set of 28 Fundamental Beliefs that must be agreed to before being baptized; not a requirement that a very specific day of the week be observed by Christians; not certain foods that were declared unclean; and not preaching of a papal power that would persecute His people.

The simple message has been consumed and almost hidden by a massive list of beliefs in a creed that has absolutely no resemblance whatsoever of the simple message that Christ wants to save the world and that no one should perish. And that He is no respecter of persons: all are equal in HIs eyes.

If the church ever returns to the original message and lives it, it might possibly become what it was once intended to be.

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We are talking a lot about how the GC is conservative regarding the WO, and how they are classified as citizens of 2 class, But i also want to remind something at NAD , in some conferences and churches if you eat clean and kosher meats, you will be classified as an heretic , because you are not following the Health Reform, i had an interview with a conference and the first thing that he asked me was if i was vegetarian i said no, basically i lost my opportunity of getting the job there, also if you wear a ring bad for some conferences is the same thing that wearing jewelry, and there you go again, no hope to get a position with that conference. Our pioneers will be surprised today, if they could see how far we are walking away from the real Gospel of Jesus, EGW probably will be shocked with so many false assumptions about what She wrote and how people of our time understand her. Its sad.

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Sounds good, but might be a little late…Still it would be worth trying.

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I agree only because in the sentence before Scriven talks about the session feeling like a disaster. I don’t know if this was intended, but it certainly reads like part of the problem is in the developing world.

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The codification of revised FB 6 about twenty minutes ago theoretically should be re-assuring to proponents of women’s ordination. Jesus has been reaffirmed as Creator. Male headship theory diminishes Jesus as Creator by virtue of the diminishing of His exalted female creation. Seventh-day Adventist male headship theorists have told us that God assigned women a sphere that is lower than the sphere He assigned men. The theorists have told us that Eve was deceived because she left her husband’s side. Based upon the strength of that factoid, the theorists claim that the Creator did not endow Eve (and all women who follow) with the capability placed in Adam (and all men who follow) of differentiating right from wrong. Indeed, Clinton and Gina Wahlen have recently reaffirmed their belief in the inferiority of women in their book by way of a personal anecdote: Gina decided not to buy supplemental coverage for cancer, she submitted to Clinton’s decision to buy the coverage, she contracted cancer, and because of her submission to her husband she was saved as a result. The personal anecdote illustrates their belief that women are inferior to men, that women have been rendered so stupid by their Creator that they are not capable of making correct decisions. The additional lesson taught by the Wahlens in their personal anecdote, given that the temporal is a metaphor of the eternal, is that women cannot be saved without the mediation of men. Dying from cancer is intended by the Wahlens to be a metaphor of the fall of Eve at the Tree. Dying from cancer is intended by the Wahlens to be a metaphor of eternal damnation. Women are not to think that they can decide to follow Christ, because such decision making capability has not been placed in them by the Creator according to the thrust of the Wahlens’ personal anecdote; the salvation of women is vicarious and dependent upon whether their respective husbands whom they are to submit to have chosen to follow Christ and are saved.

Whether Jesus is reaffirmed as Creator tomorrow in the vote regarding women’s ordination remains to be seen. It would be a colossal embarrassment for the denomination and a cosmic joke if today we exalt the Creator and tomorrow debase and disparage the Creator and His creation.

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So NAD are looking to one individual to lead them out? I am looking forward to a church without NAD if that is inevitable. NAD won’t be the first to go out and certainly not the last. Meanwhile stats indicate the church is growing rapidly in areas that used not to be strongholds for Adventism. When NAD goes out, we will be saved from having to explain to the world the issue of racial segregation for which the Church is often accused of, thanks to NAD

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I wish if you could take me through a comprehensive study on the early church and the SDA Church and how the two differ. I also asked you questions on Adventism without the SDA Church

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Thank you, Chuck, for this insightful piece. I’m a 6th generation Adventist and was baptized 55 years ago. However, I do think of this GC session as infamous, and the last shred of confidence I have had in the world leadership of this church is broken now. I, too, am very happy that Dan Jackson was reelected - a ray of hope to me.

I am not afraid! I’m not afraid of being “shaken” out because Christ has already purchased my salvation, and the Adventist church is not my ticket to heaven, only the vehicle in which I’ve chosen to travel.

It is not only the millenials who feel the church is leaving them. “Old” people like me (65) who are well educated professionals fear this as well. I would gladly devote my energy, time, and what resources I have to the kind of League for Adventist Renewal.

Oh how I hope and pray that will happen!

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