Making Adventism Great Again?

The beards and dress-ups at the General Conference’s 2018 Annual Council meetings in Battle Creek were possibly worse publicity than the debate about what was voted at the meetings. And, in that context, it was hardly surprising that Elder Wilson then had to “clarify” — later during the Annual Council meetings — his Sabbath sermon comments seeming to discourage the church’s engagement with “social issues.”

When we have made church in our own image or seek to revive some imagined “golden age” past, we then tend to fit our version of the gospel around that same image: “A gospel message that doesn’t try to change the world and that concentrates only on individuals works only for those who don’t need the world to be changed. Therefore, it ends up being too white, too privileged, too male and too American” (Jim Wallis, The (Un)Common Good). This seems to sum up many of the problems our church is wrestling with today. Visuals matter — and the photos from the costume play in Battle Creek prove the point.

Too white? It was the leaders of the regional conferences — read, Black — from North America who met with Elder Wilson to express their concerns with this aspect of his sermon at Annual Council. We need to hear and listen to more of their voices in our church. The more I read from Black Adventist leaders and some other cultures around the world, the more I hear of the broader possibilities of our church and its mission, particularly in responding to those who have suffered injustice, oppression and racism for so long.

Too privileged? On the whole, majority-culture Western Adventism is middle class, educated, healthy, and well off. And these are mainly the people who lead and speak. As Wallis suggests, this shapes the gospel we preach and practice. We might talk about justice as a righteous cause — if and when we do — but for much of our church membership around the world, the struggle for justice is their everyday reality. Their world must be changed or they will be crushed by it, and we are invited into the privilege of being able to listen to, speak with, and sometimes speak for them to others who refuse to listen.

Too male? Beards? Really? When our continuing failure to recognize the equal and unique ministry of women is one of the key tensions in the church? The greatest challenge for the church on this issue might be that we are yet to speak strongly enough in recognition and defense of women and the equality that is acknowledged in our Fundamental Belief #14.

Perhaps we were right to vote No in San Antonio — the proposal was not good enough. When women around the world remain inordinately the victims of poverty, violence, exploitation, and discrimination, equal respect and recognition of women cannot be a cultural matter. The church must lead on these issues — how we love, value, and treat all people — not merely follow our respective cultures.

Too American? Our church has always struggled with its American-ness, given our traditional understanding of Bible prophecy, but we have probably not wrestled enough. And in some quarters this tension seems to have dissipated at the same time as an American Adventism is increasingly being broadcast to our globalized church. This is a problem for our credibility, our prophetic voice for justice, and our witness in many parts of the world.

On the other hand, given the principled stand of North American Division leadership on this particular issue, we might argue that our church is not being American enough, but the reality is that we are not being Jesus enough. The larger issue is that we tend to make everything — even our faith — about ourselves and in an organizational context, this often comes in the style of those who are “in charge.”

This is not about making anyone feel guilty about finding themselves in any of these categories — or even most of them, as some of us are. Rather, it’s a call to be aware of the cultural lenses, privileges, and assumption that many of us bring to our understanding of church, evangelism, and the gospel.

Jesus said that, before all the things we are tempted to be distracted and subverted by, we should seek first the kingdom of God and live with His righteousness and justice (it’s the same word, see Matthew 6:33). His kingdom is not white, privileged, male, nor American — when we look at the story of Jesus, it was definitely not that — but thankfully it is large enough to include and redeem all of these. And then “he will give you everything you need” including an Adventist Church with a renewed understanding of itself and its mission, a gospel that includes and welcomes everyone, and perhaps better representations of who we are than more pictures of bearded, old, white men.

Nathan Brown is book editor at Signs Publishing Company in Melbourne, Australia. He is completing a Master of Social Justice through Kilns College. His most recent book is Engage: Faith that Matters, available in paperback and e-book.

Image: General Conference President Ted Wilson preaches the Sabbath sermon at Annual Council on October 13, 2018. Image credit: / ANN / Brent Hardinge

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Favorite quote: “we might argue that our church is not being American enough, but the reality is that we are not being Jesus enough.”

Thank you for putting first things first!


Jesus’ ministry was one of words and deeds that proclaimed that his new kingdom was breaking into the kingdoms of this world.

When He ascended on high, He sent His Spirit to be His Vicar and His Viceroy to impel His followers to continue His kingdom ministry to the world.

Jesus performed his ministry with one individual at a time. Yet the redemption He provided had social implications big time. Redemption and lift is a well understood phenomenon. It has often been seen in the ministry of Adventists.

People who have been redeemed will work intently for the uplifting of their society. This is how we love each other.

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The best way to end this nonsense in the Adventist church is to adopt wholeheartedly the desires and wishes of the GC leadership. Give it enough time, everyone will realise what a failure that course of action is and change direction, and will never be tempted to revert to this line of action again. Don’t give it too much time however, as one will end up with a rump of old men, who won’t ever change their ways.

At the moment the church is split. The different factions will continue to seek support for their factional positions. The middle will be hollowed out. Not my idea of an organisation I would want to be a part of.


My reading of church history is that has always been full of division of opinions and good things can come out of it. More important is to treat each other with grace through the miracle of forgiveness that we have received.


I continue to advocate moving the GC to Africa where support is strong and costs of support personnel could be much lower. The NAD is no longer the center of the church.


This little book was written by Ellen White.
But it interesting that she did not TRUST it in the hands of the Seventh day
Adventist church.
She contacted Revel Publishing, and they published it and sold it through
MANY Secular outlets. The story goes that it was such a popular book for
them that they asked Ellen to compose another book for them.

What is interesting in our time is that Steps to Christ comes in many different
covers, is printed by a number of SDA persons. Given away by the 1000’s, but
the Local churches themselves are not making the Message of Jesus the
primary topic that is shared VERBALLY with the community.
REASON-- we are too busy worrying about END TIMES that we have NO TIME


The Bible doesn’t say to conform to the GC policy. It only ask that we love God, love others and serve God. Y’all making up the rest.


Well leave our money here. Y’all can move all you want. I vote for that. And while you at it I want a refund on all $34,678.55 of my 13th Sabbath money too.


We can collect the $.55 among us here as a starter for you, but for the rest of it you will have to talk to the “other guys”… Good luck though… :rofl:

By the way, welcome to this discussion!


Want to destroy a country? Just destroy the middle class.
This is exactly what is being done to America as we speak.


What country has the highest per capita SDA?

“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” Alexis de Tocqueville

Is Adventism…no good?

Anyone notice if any pastors have integrated/included GC-disunity issue in their recent sermons, at your local church?

Paranoia will annoy ya


So who presents local church sermons & teaches local SS classes? Ted Wilson? Dan Jackson, Doug Bachelor? Clifford Goldstein?

In 2004 it was San Vincent and Grenadines. Not sure today.
Also, in 2004 Brazil had the biggest number of SDAs, 1.33 million, followed by the US and India. I believe Brazil still has the trophy.

I bet someone with more time available today can find a more updated info.

Maybe Adventism in America has been excessively good, this why it’s getting the African booth now… It happens often, even between parents and their children.

Many pastors don’t even know what is going on, they read only official literature. And, regarding members, I bet 99.999% have no clue of what is going on. Not providing information is the best way to keep the ignorants supporting the GC believing that it is still “God’s voice.” :astonished: