Michigan Conference Brandishes the Sword of Authority

I live and attend church in Michigan. This makes me a member of the Michigan Conference, which provides some legitimacy for me to comment on affairs within this conference. Michigan has earned the label of being the most conservative conference in the North American Division (NAD). I’m not sure whether this designation is good or bad. But over the past few years, actions taken by my conference have caused not only Michiganders, but also the larger Adventist community in the NAD, some unease.

In August 2009, the Michigan Conference Executive Committee (MCEC) raised eyebrows when it unilaterally declared that La Sierra University (LSU), an Adventist institution of higher learning, was in apostasy, contending that the school and its board of trustees had tolerated the teaching of evolution. What made the MCEC declaration peculiar was that, of the 58 conferences in the NAD, it alone took this grave step.

Apostasy usually requires abandonment or renunciation of a cardinal belief. LSU never renounced its or the church’s position on evolution, and vehemently denied the accusation of abandonment. Anybody with a cursory acquaintance of the higher education environment knows that scholars are highly protective of their academic field. It is safe to postulate that teachers in higher education, who often have terminal degrees in their areas of specialization, know more about their subjects than pastor-administrators unacquainted with the subjects or how best to impart content to their students.

University professors tend to demonstrate acute academic integrity, almost at par with religious belief. So, in the La Sierra debate, it became a clash of honesty – to the “truths” of one’s academic training and religion. Here lies one of the key paradoxes of Adventist education. The church has almost a worshipful respect for education and teaches its members to drink deep from its well. But it is from this trough of knowledge acquisition that uncomfortable questions get asked and some in church circles demand that boundaries be built. I do not recall any of the LSU biology teachers stating that the church should not have a position on evolution. What the teachers would not do was misrepresent the facts of evolution as they understood them.

But this was not good enough for the MCEC. The Conference not only tagged LSU with apostasy, it took the additional step of removing the school from conference employee subsidy. As they put it, they did not want “to see our youth sacrificed on the altars of evolution and skepticism”. With this step, the Michigan Conference employees whose children attended LSU effectively had to pay full tuition or have their child transfer to another Adventist institution. If LSU was the only Adventist university offering their child’s major, and they couldn’t afford full tuition, then the only recourse for these students was transfer to an affordable non-Adventist school.

One wonders whether the MCEC truly believes that LSU is so evil that it could be better for Adventist students attend to attend non-Adventist schools. When our conference forces these students to go to non-Adventists schools, what altar are they sacrificing on?

Two years after this policy was instituted the La Sierra University student choir toured some Midwestern Adventist high schools. Before the tour commenced, the choir sought and obtained the usual permissions to perform at selected schools, including academies in the Michigan Conference. At some point during the tour the Michigan Conference Board of Education learned of the scheduled performance at a Michigan academy. The board then rescinded the prior permission, knowing that the tour was already in progress.

When this became public and the Adventist “world” began decrying the callous refusal to allow the choir to perform, the conference issued a memo justifying their action and casting LSU and its student choir as “promoters of faith destroying evolution”. At the same time they compared the Michigan conference to “a mother bird … flapping her wings in the face of a threat”. But there is a better imagery of the mother bird. She gathers her children, all of them, under her wings. She does not toss some of her own outside the protection of her sacred wings, just because she can. Reading the conference memo, one would think that the LSU choristers were an evil horde on a mission, instead of college students from Seventh-day Adventist homes, whose only crime was being members of an Adventist university student choir.

There is something very wrong with this picture. The idea of Conference Board of Education members voting to deny young adults the opportunity to perform at another Adventist school, ostensibly because they perceived these students as potential agents of heresy – is unsettling.

When the Michigan Conference banned George Knight’s books from Michigan Adventist Book Centers early this summer, our conference had come full circle in confirming our unenviable status as outlier among the 58 NAD conferences. George Knight made some unflattering but appropriate comparisons between the General Conference, the medieval Catholic Pope and Nazi Germany. And that ruffled some hyper-sensitive feathers on the MCEC. So, as if on cue, these leaders came out, book-banning guns blazing, to show their power. But, within a week the rashness of their action had caught up with them, and Dr Knight’s books were quietly returned to the ABC shelves.

For a while I could not comprehend these erratic pronouncements from my conference elders, but it is becoming clearer now. I think it hinges on the MCECs conception of authority and what to do with it. Elder Gallimore's September 2017 editorial in the conference newsletter, Michigan Memo, titled Freedom Authority and the Church helped clarify things for me. The editorial is a thinly veiled support for President Wilson's attempts to supplant the will of Unions who affirm women who feel called to ministry, by ordaining them – just like their colleagues who happen to be men.

In this editorial Elder Gallimore implies that once a policy is voted at the GC it attains infallibility. This is the argument that equates the GC with the voice of God. Surely Elder Gallimore is aware of the nuances in the many E.G. White declarations referencing the General Conference and the voice of God. Consider Mrs. White's 1901 statement: The people have lost confidence in those who have management of the work. Yet we hear that the voice of the [General Conference] is the voice of God. Every time I have heard this, I have thought that it was almost blasphemy. The voice of the [General Conference] ought to be the voice of God, but it is not. ("Regarding the Southern Work," MS 37, April 1901)

Another is her classic1909 pronouncement, penned six years before her death, which demonstrates the caveats she attached to those statements:

At times, when a small group of men entrusted with the general management of the work have, in the name of the General Conference sought to carry out unwise plans and to restrict God's work, I have said that I could no longer regard the voice of these few men, as the voice of God. But this is not saying that the decisions of a General Conference composed of an assembly of duly appointed representative men from all parts of world field should not be respected. God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority. (E. G. White, Testimonies, vol. 9, 260-261)

The quote above shows clearly that E.G. White did not give the GC a blank check in its use of authority. If she were alive today, she would see through the manipulation of data presented to the general gathering of the world church as an example of a few men using the gathered many to rubber stamp their own wishes.

In his short piece Elder Gallimore uses the word “authority” 12 times. And I don’t think this is coincidental. The message seems to be: authority needs to be exercised. What is the good of power if left unused?

But wise leaders use their powers judiciously. Decisions we make have consequences and, in all church relationship matters, the wise leaders keep a keen eye for the overall good. The wellbeing of the total church should supersede the injured theological sensibilities of our leaders. Our current leaders have demonstrated the impulse to divide, instead of uniting. They seem to exhibit too much willingness in singling out some members of our Adventist family and making them the “other”. It is time the conference woke up to its actual responsibility – healing the wound, instead of continually tearing us apart.

Matthew Quartey is a transplanted Ghanaian who now lives in and calls the Adventist ghetto of Berrien Springs, Michigan, home.

Previous Spectrum columns by Matthey Quartey can be found at: http://spectrummagazine.org/authors/matthew-quartey.

Image Credit: Gerry Chudleigh/NAD


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8246
2 Likes

Popery first hand with self-Rightousness .

19 Likes

Many of us worry that Adventist fundamentalists raise Ellen White to a stature equal with that of Scripture. It often seems that way, not least when it comes to the age of the earth, about which the Bible says nothing at all.

But the lust for power that now tarnishes some church leaders manifests itself in refusal even to bend before the insights of Ellen White herself. Some of her key comments about the General Conference are just…IGNORED.

A plague of self-idolatry. That’s what we’re dealing with.

Chuck

27 Likes

I know God loves baseball, because his partial and abridged biography begins with the words
"In the Big Inning"…but I am quite certain that one pitcher who imagines himself to be The Referee brings a tear or two to His eye. Homer goes Lowe again, strikes out.

…the maddening hubris of those who graven themselves to be demi-gods,
needful to punish and shun those it deems beneath them, what will their answer be, when the one who knows how to ask questions requires of him his soul?

May God bring him to his knees, and raise him up as bat boy, and then perhaps a short stop.
I’d offer him a vegedog, or a soybeer, but, well, you know what they say about offering food to idols.

6 Likes

Matthew Quartey,
Thank you for your articulate, eloquent, insightful exposé of life in the Michigan SDA conference…

How horrific for the Andrew’s faculty and staff to be forced to inhabit that hostile hotbed of hatefulnes - a veritable hatchery of heinous heretical "headship "dogma and homophobia.

The profound pettiness of Jay Gallimore is both pitiful, paltry and pathetic .

His most egregious act, among many, was his outrageous harboring and mentoring of a revolting rapist.

But when women’s rights, and women’s wellbeing are not paramount among headship proponents, what is mere rape?

Rape is the ultimate humiliation, degradation and debasement of the female sex!

Are not all females supposed to subjugate themselves to stifling male authority under this heinous, heretical " headship " hogwash?

How long before Michigan Adventists oust this embarrassment or may we hope for his immanent retirement?

24 Likes

Driven by fear and suspicion is the greatest weapon of Satan to domineer others. The same suspicion is geared towards African universities as seminarians are forced to further MA in theology in Kenya. But for how long can one control? Too much control abuses power.

5 Likes

I would like to see statistics from an unbiased poll to back up this statement. I’ve heard mostly praise for the stand taken by the Michigan Conference–except here at Spectrum, of course.

But, liberals will never be comfortable with a church entity which takes a strong stand for one of the pillars of our faith.

6 Likes

It always amazes me how some people can view what someone says and ignore it in favor of what they think it implies. In this case infallibility…how would that work as something implied but not stated? Where does authority move to infallibility. seems a big stretch to me. I would love to know just how the author arrived at the implication he stated.

4 Likes

FTC[quote=“spectrumbot, post:1, topic:14298”]
In August 2009, the Michigan Conference Executive Committee (MCEC) raised eyebrows when it unilaterally declared that La Sierra University (LSU), an Adventist institution of higher learning, was in apostasy, contending that the school and its board of trustees had tolerated the teaching of evolution. What made the MCEC declaration peculiar was that, of the 58 conferences in the NAD, it alone took this grave step.
[/quote]

The only resolution to validate MCEC’s assertion that LSU is “in apostasy” is for our fearless and highly esteemed GC president TW to declare his intent to close LSU for being in apostasy. Anything short of this action is to acknowledge that the MCEC is but a group of paranoid individuals who will benefit from a psychiatric evaluation to determine their competency to lead, particularly in light of being the only one of “58 conferences in NAD” to find LSU in apostasy. Scary and disturbing.

Clinical evidence show that the most effective way in engaging a person with paranoid traits is to link negative consequences of his behavior to his cognitions or skewed beliefs and then bringing these points to his attention. Challenging his beliefs usually ends up as an exercise in futility. Individuals with paranoid traits will have unsatisfactory interpersonal relationships because they believe everyone is against them and the world around them cannot be trusted. As such the negative consequences could include suspiciousness, isolation and social withdrawal, among others.

Whether JG harbors any of these traits is not known but I would ask JG why out of 58 conferences in the NAD, Michigan was the only conference to declare LSU in apostasy and why did the GC not support his declaration. Then decide whether his answer makes sense with the real world and bring it to his attention if not.

12 Likes

Can you explain what a “liberal” is? In my experience Adventists are real people with different loyalties to different doctrines and traditions.

For example, some of the most “conservative” Adventists seem to be very blase’ about gossip and attacking other members.

Some who drink caffeine are devout with personal devotions and support of missions.

Some who are considered liberal are some of the most loyal to Adventist education.

On and on and on…

21 Likes

Between 2009 and 2016 sda membership grew by 3.3% in Michigan, while it grew by 11.1% overall for North America.

It is not good for any organisation to have one person at the helm for too long, unless that person owns the organisation. Gallimore has been there for decades. As a minimum, he needs to be moved to another conference.

If I was comparing Gallimores performance to Jesus, I would not consider Jesus to have failed. He went from 1 to 12 to 1’000s. Both in comparison to the growth of other religious organisations of his time, and relative to population growth generally, Christ was a winner.

10 Likes

It is easy to divide people, everyone can do it, but to unite people a person has to be an artist! Jesus was an artist and he calls peacemakers his children (Mat 5,9). He Himself was the greatest Peacemaker by reuniting earht with heaven. As a child of God I would like to imitate Jesus in his artistry :slight_smile:

4 Likes

Authority is like soap - the more you use it - the less you have!

12 Likes

It would seem to me if we use numbers and percentages as you have, then Jesus was a failure in His day. We could use the story of Gideon as our guide and realize it is not numbers that count as much as the heart and mindset of those we will enter into battle with.

4 Likes

Talk about controlling. :confounded:

2 Likes

Points and percentages can be misleading…but it IS what the Adventist church uses when deeming any of its enterprises (baptisms, memberships, etc.) as “successful”. If you use their own yardstick then the Michigan Conf. is NOT a success. Perhaps it is the lack of spiritual attitude manifested by its leadership?

5 Likes

This man sounds like he has his own deep issues that need to be addressed. Unfortunately, it spills out onto those who he feels are “fake Adventists…” (sounds like another leader or two who are in power right now). Adventists who don’t toe the doctrinal line as he and his colleagues determine are to be ostracized and banned. Lovely!

This seems born out of a shockingly reductionist, deficient, and anemic view of what comprises the church. As if the church and belonging is determined by nothing more than adherence to a series of doctrinal formulations. Such faulty vision leads to blind and hurtful actions.

Secondly, it simply breathes the spirit of intolerance and beastly behavior. Who inspires that? Not Jesus!

Thanks…

Frank

9 Likes

If he has done so much harm to Michigan then he should not be allowed to harm any other conference; he should be retired or whatever it takes to get him off the payroll. Same with our GC president and a few who follow him.

13 Likes

Last weekend my latest spiritual thought appeared in Spectrum at: Where Are The Ears?

“Where Are the Ears?”, a modern-day parable, based on a couple of parables of Jesus, speaks to one of the major problems in the SDA church.

From the end of calendar year 1991 (the first year that Jay Gallimore is identified in the SDA Yearbook as Michigan Conference president) to the end of calendar year 2016, NAD membership growth has been roughly 42.7 percent, whereas Michigan Conference membership growth has been roughly 14.1 percent. It is important to understand that population growth is not uniform across the NAD. And immigration, which we know drives membership growth, is concentrated more in a state like Texas than in a state like Michigan. My hunch is that the membership growth numbers in Michigan compare favorably to the membership growth numbers in other northern industrial states.

Gallimore deserves credit for the Michigan Conference’s continual operation of what appears to be a respectable boarding academy. Everyone should peruse the website of Great Lakes Adventist Academy. Gallimore looks pretty good in comparison to those NAD conference presidents who do not possess a meaningful commitment to the importance of Adventist Christian education.

I think Gallimore would be best served if he strived to remain within the ambit of his particular strengths. He, Ted Wilson, and a few others we can name could be effective in helping various Seventh-day Adventists transition from a traditional-folk type of Adventism to a learned form of Adventism. Ignorant and prejudiced Seventh-day Adventists will not listen to a scholar who teaches at Andrews University, but they will listen to Gallimore, Wilson, and a few others we can name. I regret my observation that opportunities to promote unity and provide helpful direction are being squandered.

1 Like