Outside the Alamo 5: Surprise, Surprise

The recently concluded General Conference 2015 Session in San Antonio produced voteloads of random surprises.

Not that all of them literally astonished.

In the animated film Aladdin, the parrot Iago, voiced by Gilbert Gottfried, exclaims at one point, “Oh, there’s a big surprise! That’s an incredib—I think I’m going to have a heart attack and die from not-surprise.

For our final “Outside the Alamo” post, here are some “surprises.”

1. Technology can be unreliable. People can be even more unreliable, especially when talking about technology.

2. Thursday night’s opening talk by the sitting General Conference President is an election campaign speech for the vote to be held the next day.

3. The behind-the-scenes maneuvering between the North American Division and the General Conference for “special delegates” is fascinating. It reminds me of U. S. major league sports bargaining. “I’ll give you Chuck Sandefur for Doug Batchelor, a first-round draft pick in Indianapolis 2020, and a player to be named later.”

4. On Friday, July 3, on the Mission Spotlight stage, the Breath of Life Quartet sang one of my favorite songs: “I Ain’t Got Time to Die.” That supplied some much-needed vitamin S for my soul nourishment.

5. Cliff Goldstein stopped Bonnie Dwyer and me on a sizzling sidewalk to regale us for 25 minutes about how the Affordable Care Act had saved his son’s life. “He would not be alive today if it weren’t for Obamacare,” he concluded.

6. In one of his numerous entreaties to delegates Ted Wilson implored, “If we stick to the letter of the law on everything, it will destroy the spirit.” There’s a concept, I thought.

7. David Asscherick’s talk to young adults at Impact San Antonio 2015 included a call for more Adventist artists and poets to share “the Adventist message.” He also said, “Truth is truth no matter who says it,” and “Jesus is the master contextualizer. He became [human].”

8. What a cavalcade of gifts delegates generously provided for us with the new, improved interpretation of our creation fundamental, which goes far beyond the Bible’s original wording. Now we don’t need to exert troublesome efforts attempting to align our beliefs with reality. Such a relief! No more seeking deepening levels or acknowledging nuances or grappling with contradictions. It’s all settled. We’ll have more time to post cat photos on Facebook.

9. “The Alamodome is not even a dome” (Bethany Krause, age 9 ½).

10. For the Wednesday vote, we were promised “an entire day” to hear speeches from the floor. Instead, after an extended introduction, we heard only 12 minutes of speeches before breaking for lunch at noon. In the afternoon, from 2:00-4:35—between delays, impromptu prayers, and literally 35 points of disorder—there remained about 68 minutes of actual speeches. In all, 40 people each spoke for two minutes. Thus an “entire day” telescoped to 80 minutes.

11. Please euthanize me if I hear “point of order” one more time.

12. This session proved to be a sea-change for Adventist journalism. Spectrum had three people live-tweeting throughout the meetings. The day of the ordination-jurisdiction vote, the official Spectrum Twitter account (run by Jared Wright) received more than 805,000 impressions—just one of our team's three tweeters. For one day. Astounding. That’s never happened before in Adventism. But it will happen again.

13. In some ways, July 8 felt like September 11. Tears fell, words flew, and anger grew. Many will remember the day for years to come. Does anyone really believe there will be gender-based hierarchical distinctions among the redeemed in the new earth? We ought to be new earth people now.

14. The human body can perspire up to 78 gallons a day and still survive.

15. A representative from an Adventist university outside North America communicated his all-too-common perception to Dave Ferguson: “We don’t have any gay people on our campus.”

Dave replied, “Well, we have students from your campus who are members of Kinship International, and they are asking for an opportunity for conversation with other LGBT+ people.”

The rep’s mouth dropped open.

16. Chris Stanley, a young adult lead pastor near Melbourne (pronounced “Mebben”), Australia, surprised Yolanda and me by scooting into a seat next to us and introducing himself (What? Another Adventist?) on our flight from San Antonio to Phoenix. He told us about his conference’s hiring a woman associate pastor for his local church because she brings different gifts.

As we leveled off at 35,000 feet, we chatted about the astounding diversity of booths in the convention center. His favorite booth introduced the host, who appeared fairly prominently in a flow chart replicated below. Chris and I concurred that what happened in the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center represented the Adventist Church even more accurately than what transpired in the Alamodome. Confused? Let me break it down.

If you have further questions, contact the Director of Apostleship.

17. In his opening Sabbath sermon, charming and hilarious General Conference Secretary G. T. Ng announced of the GC Session, “There is not going to be another one.” If so, God is merciful indeed.

18. Speaking of which, I love God. Our surprising, diversity-fan, creative, redeemer God can take any bad and turn it into the best, as evidenced by the worst occurrence in history—the death of Jesus—that became history’s most liberating and glorious event.

This living God is yet at work in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Today, you can feel a resolute groundswell, or maybe a Holy Spirit windstorm, of godly commitment to get back to the gracious fundamentals of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Christ’s followers are going to need them all.

“The wind blows where it wills,” Jesus explains, “and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know from where it comes or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

So I’m wrestling, attempting to compose an accurate phrase to describe this fresh, wild, resolute, Holy Spirit windstorm. What expresses it best? Ah, got it.

Revival and reformation.

Chris Blake is an associate professor of English and communication at Union College and the author of many books and hundreds of articles. He was a member of Spectrum's General Conference reporting team in San Antonio, Texas.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6967

Ah… that sounds remarkably like the promised Fruit of the Spirit!

Thank you again, Chris Blake, for another wonderfully erudite and insightful essay.


Succinct summary.
Loved to read it. What’s next?


Could this be your cynicism showing?

I’ve been to many constituency meetings. I understand you feelings about “point of order.” Some folks (and seems to always be the same ones) appear to major in minor points, which, when analyzed, have no real relevance to the proceedings.

If James Traficant were there, I’m sure he would have said, “Beam me up.” :slight_smile:


You do my soul good, Chris! No. 8 - a fine example of satire. No. 13 - a statement I agree with wholeheartedly! No. 15 - a sad example of ignorance.


In commenting on number twelve on your list:
Adventists world wide should be in AWE
of the superb, splendid, transparent, articulate,
amazing postings of the Spectrum crew.
We are truly indebted to them.
Those who were unaware of, or unable to follow
the Spectrum GC postings, can access them
in future days/weeks/months for
a blow by blow (literally!) documentation.
What an awesome archive this will become!
Thanks to all for your sleepless nights,
tiring days, and eloquent reporting!


Spectrum earned many accolades for its up-to-the minute news and behind the scenes as well as video, tweets, and all possible ways of informing your eager public. We can always rely on Spectrum reporters for telling it “like it is” without a bias often seen in SdA official sources. Thanks for keeping us informed. Great work for all reporters!


"David Asscherick’s talk to young adults at Impact San Antonio 2015 included a call for more Adventist artists and poets to share “the Adventist message.” He also said, “Truth is truth no matter who says it,” and “Jesus is the master contextualizer. He became [human].

It would be great if this sharing were possible within the institutional context and young people were supported financially by the church to tell their stories in a cutting edge manner. However only as independent storytellers will this truly happen with any degree of authenticity. Look at the record keeper and what happened to the director and that project - canned and banned for daring to look at things differently and in talking with friends from Australia in San Antonio the new film tell the world which has been marketed heavily at GC by the Australian union conference also ended badly for the adventist director who apparently resigned from church employment over his treatment by administration in that part of the world. What message are we sending to our young creatives when we hear stories like this, that the church doesn’t understand you and will abuse your gifts and talents? Come on church encourage our talented youth and stop discouraging them with stories like this.


Terrific. Item #5 is enough to provoke any number of good essays, itself, some of them serious.

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This is a clever satirical piece, and satire is meant to instruct obliquely. That’s why satirical publications are typically the first ones to be shut down in a totalitarian regime. Too many religionists don’t have much of a sense of humor because thye confuse seriousness with solemnity and insight with argument.


Now that my frustration and shall we say anger have simmered down a bit since GC, I can vouch that Blake’s article is the frosting so much needed on the cake.


That’s the funniest thing I’ve read all day. Given my experience with the SDA school system, not only are some of their students gay, but probably about 5% of their faculty are as well.


Oh, very likely…I have met some through the past 30 years :slight_smile: Nice people.


Yes. In all likelihood, many more than you know.


[quote=“ageis711Oxyain, post:8, topic:8940, full:true”]
We can always rely on Spectrum reporters for telling it “like it is” without a bias often seen in SdA official sources. [/quote]

Absolutely. It has its very own.

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…and considering the other official Adventist publications, a refreshing and challenging change indeed :wink:


Ah, Chris. You remind me of Calin Grondahl, a satirical cartoonist who has a regular feature on the editorial page of the Ogden, Utah, Standard-Examiner (at least he used to). Cal does an great service to the LDS church in assisting them with their need for achieving true humility. How many times have I thought someone like him would be a boon to SDA’s. Well, my friend, you’re beginning to approximate him–at least with words, if not the visual. But then, aren’t words as powerful as the visual? Enjoyed the article. Spectrumbot, I concur with your “wonderfully erudite and insightful essay”. Keep your pen tip sharpened, Chris.


Did anyone else notice how frequently the church and it’s entities use young people in their video presentations about the great work they are doing? Their bright shinning faces and attractive smiles were large on the large screens. Then contrast that with how many of the young people were involved in the leadership of the church and the paltry presence of young people in the delegation.

They are happy to use young people to sell the church and it’s accomplishments but no really interested in their concerns. Young people are putting their creativity into many aspects of their lives, but they are almost always resoundingly excluded from decision making that could tap into their creativity and gifts.


Here is a link to a frank and heartfelt sermon by Pastor Seth Pierce of Puyallup, WA that touches on many of your comments. Select “For Those Saved” (July 11, 2015). It’s not your typical Adventist sermon (if there is such a thing). From anger to healing…