Question: What do Alfred Lord Tennyson, Leo Ranzolin and William G. Johnsson have in common?
Answer: The Poem “In Memoriam” which Tennyson wrote and Ranzolin cited in his commentary on Chapter 5 of Johnsson’s book Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio.
Tennyson, who lived much of his life on the Isle of Wight, remains one of England’s most popular 19th century poets. Leo Ranzolin is the Associate Dean of the Loma Linda University School of Religion. A New Testament scholar, he earned his doctorate at Boston University. Also a New Testament scholar, Johnsson earned his doctorate at Vanderbilt University. After serving at Spicer Adventist College in India and Andrews University in the United States, Johnsson edited the Adventist Review for many years. He has also published many articles and books.
The title of this chapter is “Organization: Thinking the Unthinkable.” In it Johnsson argues that Adventism’s administrative structure has become too large and wasteful of human and material resources. As illustrations, he reviews the bankruptcy of the Review and Herald Publishing Association, the enormous cost of the General Conference sessions ($35 million and more), the duplication of the same department at each level of church governance, the size of the General Conference building and the number of people it employs, and the decreasing membership and financial contributions in Adventism’s traditional strongholds.
His conviction is that Adventism will downsize and that the only questions are when and how. He is among many who believe that in most matters changes in the church should be “bottom up” but that in this case it should be “top down.” “Let’s start at the top,” he writes. From there, he believes, we can work down the levels of church administration in favor of a way of doing things that is “simple, small and fair” and “lean and lithe –focused on mission rather than on bureaucracy, on the local church rather than the top.” As a starter, he recommends that we reduce the expenses of the 2025 General Conference to $5 million, or 1/7 of what they now are.
Leo Ranzolin summarized this material in a very attractive PowerPoint presentation. The many hours he had invested in preparing it were a tribute to Dr. Johnsson and a gift to the class. I think that the video is worth watching just for these “visuals.”
Those who watch the video will benefit from the discussion that followed Ranzolin’s presentation as well because in it a variety of different reactions to the chapter surfaced. Some of these related to the size and expense of the every-five-years General Conference sessions. In my own words, three different analogies were proposed. These were that they should be like (1) a business meeting (2) festival (3) or the convention of a professional society.
Ranzolin had three concerns of his own. In reverse order, they might be: (3) too much emphasis on Ellen White’s counsel at the expense of Scripture in the Church Manual, (2) too little attention to the three primary ways that the first Christians organized themselves and (1) insufficient sensitivity to how impermanent everything that we humans do actually is.
These are the lines from “In Memoriam” that he cited:
Our little systems have their day; They have their day and cease to be: They are but broken lights of thee, And thou, O Lord, art more than they.
The Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School thanks Adventist Forum and this website for the opportunity to post reports about these sessions.
For more information, please visit bransonlegacysabbathschool.com.
WATCH: Leo Ranzolin on Chapter 5 in "Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio" by William G. Johnsson
William G. Johnsson Explains Why He Wrote Where Are We Headed? Adventism after San Antonio, The Professors Valentine Expand Upon Chapter 1 in "Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio", Laura Alipoon Highlights Adventist Diversity in Chapter 2 of “Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio”, Calvin Thomsen’s Discussion of Chapter 3 in “Where Are We Headed? Adventism after San Antonio” Assails Neo-Calvinism, and Carla Gober-Park Expands “the Main Thing” in Chapter 4 of “Where Are We Headed?” by William G. Johnsson
Dr. David Larson is Professor of Religion at Loma Linda University.
Image Credit: Video Still
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