Outside the Alamo 1: Diversity University

In the morning, they arrive. From every direction, carrying a whelming arsenal like General Santa Anna, representing every race and nearly every nation on earth, dressed modestly and crossing crosswalks in orderly confusion, masses stream toward the Adventist hive.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/article/2015/07/04/outside-alamo-1-diversity-university

Thank you, Chris Blake, for your erudite, poetic, and wonderfully sensitive Ode to “We”… our challenges and opportunities to… as we are “immersed” in God’s Grace… “discover ourselves and enjoy the bright journey.”


My respect and affection for Chris Blake runs deep. Healing the church’s divides is one of his passions, and it is a virtuous one. However, I would point out, many church members and leaders argue convincingly that they have been turned into “theys” by members and leaders who do not want to hear their concerns about the anti-rationalism and bibliolatry pervading leadership and large numbers of the rank and file. In my lifetime, current church leadership has been the most vocal in demonizing pastors and scholars who ask questions or challenge received wisdom about things like how to study the bible or how to think through the challenges science may pose to traditional understandings. When world-wide conferences on the Bible and science for example, are held with only a certain perspective being entertained, how are those whose perspective differs supposed to feel? I well remember one of the early Theological Consultations on the Bible surprising, even stunning, church leaders when they began to understand the complexity and nuances pervading thoughtful biblical study. One leader said to me quietly: “How in the world are we going to relay this information to our people?”

No attempt has ever been made, except in the pages of Journals condemned by the church as "liberal"
and untrustworthy.


This is a superb essay, Chris. Your insights and gracious eloquence truly bless me this summer Sabbath.

I have longed wondered why we hang around the margins fearfully treating God as nothing more than a big “No Trespassing” sign instead of looking to Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith,” the Center from which the life He pronounced good at creation grows as He nourishes it in all its diversity. Unity trusts God who first loved us to make us lovers. Uniformity trusts nothing but a template that has us checking boxes and filling in blanks anxiously waiting accumulation of enough points to be loveable which never happens because try as we might we just don’t have the strength or the wisdom to make the grade.

There are no more welcome and unifying words than "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’ (Matt 11:28). Thanks, Chris, for pointing me His direction. I am grateful to have an encouraging brother like you.


Yes, yes and yes.
Thank you for this beautiful and poetic statement.
It makes reality even harsher though. Similar to coming out from a nicely air-conditioned house into the blazing heat.
Now the question arises. If the environment, the official one, is in blatant contradiction to this, to God, I daresay, what do we do?
Is remaining (and thus being affiliated with) an environment we are at best unwilling to accept the right choice?
I don’t know.
Should Dietrich Bonhoeffer have left Germany? Did his life or death change the regime? Did his life or death make any difference for the people within Germany?
Could he have made a bigger difference outside of that toxic and dangerous environment?
I don’t know, we can’t know.
I am torn and weary awaiting the verdict over my hopes for a better church, a more tolerant one, one that works in anticipation of a wonderful new creation where all will be good.
But the evidence I am seeing is bleak.
The Church seems to be heading towards even more polarisation, proselytism, radicalisation, let’s face it, that is the will of the vast majority, the Wilson voters, and the nominating committee refusing sternly to react on the desperate calls for a new era.

How long can one be affiliated with a movement that is heading in precisely the opposite direction than one’s own values and convictions?


Manni who are you? This was exactly what I have been thinking for some time now, only you expressed it so well. Thank you! Wish I could talk to you about it much longer!


This statement stands alone and is in rebuke to the current thought within Adventism.

Thank-you for an excellent essay, Chris.


I have not observed Seventh-day Adventist Church leadership, including Ted Wilson, demonize anyone for promoting the following heterodox beliefs:

  1. Subordinationism–the ancient anti-Trinitarian heresy that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father;
  2. Speculative and lawyer-type arguments about Being in the context of the Trinity and men-women relations–that Being is comprised solely of essence and not of essence and function;
  3. The inferiority of women–the view that (a) women have been assigned by their Creator a sphere that is lower than the sphere assigned to men and (b) women are not endowed by their Creator with the ability to differentiate right from wrong away from their husbands’ respective sides;
  4. Patriarchy–the belief that a culture depicted in Scripture in which women are property and in which they do not have a right to enter into a covenant with God, pray directly to God, choose their husbands, or exercise any other meaningful incident of personhood is essentially God’s culture that should serve as a model for Seventh-day Adventists;
  5. A new hermeneutic regarding sanctuary typology–an insistence that types are not necessarily fulfilled at the Cross, which allows for us to infer from the exclusively-male OT priesthood that the post-Cross church pastorate must also be exclusively male;
  6. The theology of “intermediate heads”–the Catholic Church teaching that because Christ has left the scene, He has delegated His authority to ordained men and that such ordained men and only ordained men function in His stead and with His authority;
  7. Skepticism about the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit–the attitude that all of the baptisms and other fruit produced by women in their ordinations, pastorates, and offices are illusory.

The reality is that the Seventh-day Adventist Church during the five years of Elder Wilson’s presidency has suffered an unprecedented and astonishing level of doctrinal fragmentation and division. And I am only focusing in this comment on male headship theory, which denudes and eviscerates probably 24 of the 28 fundamental beliefs. I think it is fair to say that at present as long as you believe in the Sabbath that is sufficient to qualify you as a member in good standing.


Many thanks Marianne, good to hear that there are other people who think like myself and my wife.
I decided to respond to your question by finishing my profile.


Thanks for such insight, Chris. As a musician, the statement, “unity is music,” struck a chord…pun intended! :smile:

Speaking of which, a single chord is comprised of three or more distinct and different tones…thus creating harmony. Add to this type of harmonic framework, polyrhythmic parts, or the counterpoint of independent melodic lines forming such harmony, as well as the colors of various instruments producing them, and there is then living and breathing art… filled with texture, tension, release, drama, and communicative power.

Without all of these diverse elements being coordinated by the artist into a unified whole, all we are left with is the monotonous drone of a single note…being played over and over and over. Johnny One Note, if you will. Full of sound and fury…but signifying nothing.

Seems that our institution has been content with an imposed one note approach to many aspects of the life of the body…and continues to be with this pretense of an election. In this case, the fury comes from an enforced strait jacket, with no acknowledgement of anything deviating from an imposed status quo…that is often far from biblical and humane.

I write this on a Saturday evening! :smile:




And all God’s (wonderfully diverse) people say, “AMEN!”


An essay of wise insights by the master of metaphor and simile! Thank you Chris (I always want to spell your name Christ!) for describing the vastness of our diversity, and the observation that we can only succeed in unity by accepting and appreciating it. (And thanks for including that little word, “orientation.”)


Unity trusts God … Uniformity trusts nothing …

Well said, and tucked within your brief commentary, appealingly said. Like Chris, and as deeply, you inspired me, Kent.



Bear up, friend.

Things are looking up.

Church growth is slowing.

If the church were growing at the same rate as the last 20 years of the 20th century, we would have 28 million members, not 18 million or so. http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Statistics/Other/MembershipAndPopulationEstimates2002.pdf And the growth rate appears to have progressed in the wrong direction the last five years.

As liabilities for retired ministers continue to outgrow the membership, and as members in 30-church districts in pockets where church growth is concentrated realize the inequities of the present system, the leadership of the church is increasingly under pressure all around the world.

Whether flora or fauna or economies, growth is the Tree of Life.

The oncoming leaders of the church already know that the future is a Seventh-day Adventism fully kitted theologically for the age in which we live.

And they know the church is not so equipped.

And they are impatient.

Oh, and Elder Wilson is right. The future of the Seventh-day Adventist church is in the cities. And after the General Conference full-court press in New York City three years ago, the result was another average year in baptisms compared with the previous five years in the participating conferences.

The numbers don’t lie. Time is not on side of church leaders, because time is not on the side of the church as we know and love it.

Nothing improved in that regard with the re-election of Elder Wilson. And this may be good. The longer the Second Coming is delayed, the more universally undeniable it becomes that the relevance of historical Seventh-day Adventism is fully amortized in the world in which it lives everywhere around the world.

The good news is the Sabbath and the Second Coming offer an unrealized opportunity for re-kitting the theology of the church. And the promised world-wide impact of the First Angel’s message offers a compelling opportunity for re-understanding the Gospel of Jesus.

Re-tour John 12, and be inspired. Our message, yet to be realized, will be universally appealing. And it is right that our theology will be measured by this biblical principle of universal attention, and in keeping with the prophecy of the Three Angels, near universal appeal. Of course it is an angel who carries the message to its conclusion. It is just increasingly obvious that we are not preaching that message. Yet.

Inspiring times are before us, Manni!


Jim, I don’t see any disagreement between you and Chris. He wrote in a poetic and literary fashion… taking full advantage of the literary devices available to convey both the ideal of a “kinder, gentler church” and the hard facts that we are very diverse and all too often are anything but “kind” to one another. You wrote in a more direct and factual way of the same disjunct between the way “current church leadership” relates to diversity in the church membership.

I think you both point to the only real solution… which is that church members will increasingly have to divest themselves of the notion that they have to have “permission” to really think through the issues for themselves and choose carefully the views they adopt as their own. Fortunately there IS wide access to information on every topic and there ARE scholars, pastors, and other professionals who are leading the way in this process.

(Depending on who is doing the “condemning” as “untrustworthy”… such condemnation may actually be an excellent recommendation.)

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Bonhoeffer’s life had an influence on me - if that would suffice … but then - I am post-war, of course.

One of the most haunting phrases by Bonhoeffer “dem Rad in die Speichen fallen” is coming to mind as I read your post. And the Barmen Declaration - formulated by Barth, Niemöller, Bonhoeffer et. al (actually its content is so much needed within the current Adventist context), and the Pfarrernotbund connected with it. Sometimes a little history can bring amazing insights.

@marianne_faust Manfred Lemke is the “director” of Newbold Academic Press… :wink: Just thought, I’d mention that again. Three months, three books - all relevant for the pain of this GC session: Journeys to Wisdom; Reaching Post-Christian Europeans; Ordination Reconsidered.


Your name sounds German??

oh…I am impressed and delighted!!

This was not meant to be a disagreement, but a reminder in which Chris is undoubtedly well-versed, that while there is an ideal to which he calls us (“we” and “unity in diversity”), the question begs to be asked: “Who” or “which groups(s)” are resisting such unity?


That’s right, Marianne
I am half German, half Swiss, but I emigrated to Iceland 26 years ago. Within Adventist context I am a noone, I have no Adventist heritage nor family.