Laura Alipoon Highlights Adventist Diversity in Chapter 2 of “Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio”

“Where did you grow up?” implored Laura Alipoon in a rhetorical response to a severe criticism she had heard about Adventism’s “exclusiveness.” Although she did not make this question the centerpiece of her presentation, it made two important points. These are that (1) Adventism is diverse and that (2) we all have tendency to think that the form of it that we know best is the only one there is.

This is not true. A lifelong Seventh-day Adventist, Alipoon grew up in Southern California where she still lives. This has made a difference, a positive one in my view.

Alipoon asked this question and did many other things in her July 1 Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School (RBLSS) commentary on Chapter 2 in Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio by William G. Johnsson. She is the Chair of the Department of Radiation Technology in the Loma Linda University School of Allied Health Professions in which there are fourteen undergraduate and graduate programs. An Australian from Adelaide, Johnsson was editor of the Adventist Review for many years. Before that he served at Spicer Adventist University and Andrews University. RBLSS meets in Loma Linda, California.

The title of this Chapter is “The Chosen: Exclusive or Inclusive?” After fully summarizing it, Alipoon described some of her experiences as an Elder in a congregation to which she previously belonged and in her travels and professional interactions with Adventists and others. These experiences were diverse!

Describing it as a “microcosm” of global Adventism, she highlighted the diversity of Loma Linda University. Sixty-one percent of its students are from groups that are minorities in the United States. Forty percent of them are women. They come from ninety different nations and sixty different faiths. In addition to English, they speak sixty-nine different languages. Despite these differences, or perhaps because of them, LLU typically makes good on its attempts “To Make Man Whole” and “To continuing the healing and teaching ministry of Jesus.”

Challenging the idea that Southern California Adventism is “liberal,” she described it as “diverse.” On this, as in other matters, she was precisely right. Some of Adventism’s least traditional members are active in the area around Loma Linda University; however, so are some of its most. These theological differences are eclipsed by the region’s racially and culturally diverse congregations which serve a steady stream of newcomers from all parts of the world.

A recent Pew Foundation’s report confirms Alipoon’s description. With 1/3 white, 1/3 black and 1/3 other, Adventism is the most racially diverse Christian denomination in the United States. I think that this is partly because end-time intensity makes current differences seem less important.

She was not shy about the shortcomings of LLU and Adventism in matters of diversity. Her summation was that “LLU is ahead of most other Seventh-day Adventist institutions but behind society in general.” Her recommendation was that we not complain but change. “What is LLU? What is Adventism? I am! You are!”

Among other things, the discussion subsequent to her presentation focused upon the relationship between LLU and the denomination as we move into the future, particularly as the differences among some Adventists around the world are becoming more pronounced and less charitable.

RBLSS is grateful to Adventist Forum for making Doctor Alipoon’s discussion available to a wider audience. It also expresses gratitude to Alan Alipoon for making the video.

WATCH: Laura Alipoon on Chapter 2 in "Where Are We Headed?" by William G. Johnsson

See also:

William G. Johnsson Explains Why He Wrote Where Are We Headed? Adventism after San Antonio and The Professors Valentine Expand Upon Chapter 1 in "Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio"

Dr. David Larson is Professor of Religion at Loma Linda University.

Image Credit: Video Still

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Ms. Alipoon’s video presentation was illustrative of the uncertain commitment to change that many Adventist church employees find themselves in. I watched the entire video anticipating some fundamental basic alternatives to the status quo of slow progress towards gender equality and other issues that the Adventist church is facing and instead I was resented with a “repackaging” of half-hearted apologetica for institutional SDA cultural lifestyle at Loma Linda. Many “cans” (issues) were opened but not dealt with in depth. The anecdotal parts of the presentation were more illustrative of what identity challenges Adventists living in cramped quarters face living in this community. The powerpoints were interesting but I would have preferred a more robust specific case about understanding Adventist diversity.

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i found the comments by the back to back SS members, beginning at around 51:25, quite interesting…the first person made the point that he didn’t appreciate the version of interfaith exchange where we go to other christian groups and essentially seek their validation of our faith…he brought up the case of the late walter martin, who always seemed to relish putting adventism under a critical microscope, and suggested that perhaps walter matin should have been seeking our validation of his brand of christianity…

the next person began with the walter martin “interogation” of william johnssohn on the john ankerberg show, and made the point that she didn’t appreciate martin’s hostile attitude…i remember watching that exchange between martin and johnssohn yrs ago, and thinking that martin was being needlessly hostile, and that johnssohn could have made a stronger come-back on many fronts…the woman who didn’t appreciate martin’s attitude - a pastor’s daughter and a previous pastor’s wife - went on to give her view that certainty is a virtue when mingling with those not of our faith…she cited her own experience of being in the workplace with non-adventists, and that being certain and upfront with her faith didn’t prevent her from forming and valuing friendships with non-adventists…she ended with a thank-you to loma linda for putting up a huge seventh-day adventist sign, making clear its affiliation…i appreciated her approach…i agree that there’s no point in being adventist if you aren’t certain and intentional…vagueness and constant apologies don’t cut it, in my view…