Perspective: An Organ Performance Too Contentious for Adventist Review

Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States, his first since becoming pope, provided an opportunity of a lifetime for one Seventh-day Adventist musician, but the story proved too contentious for official Adventist media coverage.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

My wife was a church organist. she played, of course, for the Augusta Adventist Church. she also accompanied a soloist at the christian Science assembly. she also played for the St James Baptist Church, and for several mortuaries on call. Except for Christsin Science she was quite comfortable in these various settings.
with failing eye sight she no longer plays for anyone but me. I love it. Tom Z


Let’s assume for a minute that you run a convenience store. One day, a guy walks in with a clerical collar and brings a bottle of water and a package of crackers to the cash register. Would you sell it to him?

Suppose you were a roofing contractor, and the local priest asked you for a quote on re-roofing the parsonage. Would you do it?

The organist plays the organ, it’s a job. You don’t turn down a good job. She wasn’t going to make or break the Pope’s appearance. I’m glad she got the gig.


it’s amazing how many of us have had something to do with the new england youth ensemble, directed by virginia-gene rittenhouse…actually, joy looks young enough to have been in neye since it’s been directed by preston hawes…


It has happened again.

My comment has been taken down for the second time. Why? Protestants have always regarded the Catholic mass as blasphemy against God.

The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney declined to meet Pope Paul VI when Papa Paulus VI was visiting in 1967.

Several months ago I sat in St Martin in the Fields church in London on the Sabbath morning. I was involved in a Family Commemorative Service, to honour our ancestors who worshipped at that church 240 years ago. I heard beautiful luturgical music .Some of it was written by a distant cousin, Gabriel Jackson, one of Britains’s foremost contemporary choral composers.

I appreciate good music in the right setting!!

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Like Joy, I am surprised that the Review would have been interested in the story in the first place, given our history of institutional discomfort in showing Roman Catholicism in a positive light, even peripherally. As a musicologist working on Catholic liturgical music, I understand the (at best) awkward ambivalence and (at worst) open hostility that comes from working with, as some put it, “the other team.” Also like Joy, I worked as a music minister at a Lutheran congregation, and they similarly did not care a bit that I was not a Lutheran, just that I could direct the choir, hire good musicians, and be a decent cantor.

I wish Joy the best in her doctoral studies in musicology. I am very familiar with the work of her dean at CUA, who has done great work on Spain and colonial Mexico. We need more good SDA musicologists; our current state of worship art often suffers from extreme poverty. We might take a cue from the St. John’s and Immanuel’s and St. Catherine’s and other small churches that, despite the lack of a large congregation, place real value on excellence in music for worship. This could be done in SDA congregations of all sizes.

A brief comment to Peter. Protestants have not always regarded the Catholic mass as blasphemy. You will need to state which Protestants, when, and where.


David Kendall
Assistant Professor of Music
La Sierra University


Congratulations to Joy-Leilani Garbutt!

Adventists world wide should be bursting with pride when one of us excels in an impressive achievement. A gold medal in the olympics, a Ph D from an Ivy League institution, or the stunning rise of an esteemed neurosurgeon to the top of a political race!

Adventists have achieved all of these, and we as family members should be justifiably filled with vicarious heartwarming satisfaction, as if one of our own offspring had been the valedictorian!

A pipe organ is the most fiendishly difficult instrument to play. Both feet pummeling the pedals, while two hands move from manual (keyboard) to manual in a flurry of virtuosity. Furthermore each pipe organ is unique.
The multi-million dollar instrument at the National Basilica, no doubt has a myriad of stop settings allowing a multiplicity of tonal combinations, all of which would require learning from scratch. More power to you Joy-Leilani!

Regrettably, just as the three million member National Rifle Association, has a disproportional detrimental influence on our politicians, a TOXIC minority of fanatical fundamentalists holds sway over Adventist leaders.

Our college presidents, bless their hearts, walk a veritable tight rope, between running an accredited academic institution, requiring academic freedom, and a few vociferous donors who hold them hostage to rigid right wing intransigent demands.

When our leaders backtrack due to a backlash from a babble of blowhards they appear bancrupt.

Regrettably, when a miserable minority “rules the roost” the affluent and affirming majority are tempted to move themselves to greener pastures!


Luther’s fight was a fight with the Vatican. There is no doubt that he was right in accusing church leadership of having betrayed Christianity and that Rome was worthy of whatever scriptural opprobrium he could hurl at it. But the Vatican was merely the General Conference of the 16th century, and as “western” Adventists have discovered, it is possible to rebuke a wayward leadership clique without placing an entire church under interdict.

Subsequent to this break with Rome (which he did not initiate), Luther had the freedom of reassessing 1500 years of Christian thought and practice, and, not surprisingly, his views began to diverge from those of Rome in some areas:

  1. He rejected the “healing” metaphor of salvation in favor of an instantaneous and lasting forensic declaration of “righteous.” This positive verdict could be obtained without the intercession of priests and the administration of sacraments.

  2. He rejected the idea that believers could ever reach God’s standard of righteousness, let alone supersede it (as in the case of those worthy of canonization).

  3. He dismissed 1500 years of tradition as non-authoritative in order to make sure that his interpretation of the Bible remained unchallenged.

The rest belongs in the section for theological footnotes. Once the Vatican was purged of its corruption (subsequent to the Catholic counter-reformation), Reformers and Catholics probably agreed on 90 percent of what remained, from the NT canon to the doctrine of the Trinity. All the classic creeds remained unchanged. And yet, the two sides hated each other and each side reached for the foulest Biblical imagery to characterize the other. (As today’s Adventists can attest to, it doesn’t take much to be demonized by church leaders you disagree publicly with.) But why should theological disagreement qualify for such eternal hatred? How can you explain that a quarrel over theological issues in the 16th century was elevated to a doctrine that forever doomed the Vatican-led branch of the universal Catholic church to be labeled Satanic?

After all, neither the Vatican nor the Reformers did complete justice to the New Testament when it came to exegesis. The New Testament is just like Augustin, it can be cited on both sides of the 16th century conflict. Few NT theologians today would say that Luther read Galatians correctly. At best, the NT does not contradict Luther, but it certainly does not contain the Augsburg confession. And the accusation that Catholics believed in salvation by works, is a stretch. Catholics believe that God’s grace, like a celestial, healing liquid, is free to all, but that you can only access it through the sacraments of the church. In principle, this is no different from Luther’s demand that you must sign on the dotted dogmatic line of Lutheran orthodoxy in order to enjoy the same free saving grace. That is why Luther had anabaptists killed (drowned) for refusing to accept infant baptism. That is why SdA ministers are not permitted to assure anybody of salvation, no matter how free, unless they go through the “work” of indoctrination.
The idea that the Bible speaks with one, unambiguous voice, that all sincere people would arrive at the same conclusions from studying the scriptures is neither true nor born out by 2000 years of contending with the Biblical texts. It is flatly wrong.

Isn’t it about time that the 16th century be left alone to bury its dead so that we all can move on?


Congratulations, Joy. So proud of you, your scholarship, your accomplishments. You represent Adventism well. Many Adventists place a high appreciation for trained and educated musicians. At our universities, the music department is the football team. But Adventists don’t seem to appreciate organists like other denominations.

I’ve played for nearly every denomination as a paid organist. As a member of the Executive Board in my city’s local chapter of The American Guild of Organists, I and other organists know that playing for another congregation is a “job.” The AGO has standards and recommendations for employment practices, salaries, and ethics. Few Adventist congregations pay their organist; offering their gift to the congregation seems an expectation.

However, in playing fine organs for congregations that appreciate fine organists, we also know that our congregations accept us as a valued and integral part of their music ministry. At one Methodist Congregation I was also dedicated, set apart, and prayed over along with the rest of the leadership team every year. They didn’t ask my religious affiliation.

As for playing for the mass, congratulations. It was an honor for you and one you should never forget. I listened to several of the services just to hear the organs, choirs, soloists, and organists. And the sacred praise music.

The Adventist Review story? The insane obsession that the pope’s visit was somehow fulfilling prophecy is driving the massive outcry of negative commenters. I’m sorry the censorship occurred about your amazing story. I’m delighted to know and to read about you and wish you well in your doctoral studies. God has given you a wonderful gift.

@blc Could you provide sources for and expand on your statement that Protestants have abandoned being Protestants?


Musicians have a long history of getting the religious to finance their art.

Mathematicians have had much less success.

It took me a long time to understand why religious people love music and dislike logic.


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It’s odd that people post things that they know are pushing the bounds of good taste, even saying “…And this comment will probably be removed…” as if daring a moderator to remove it, and then complain that they are being discriminated against when their comments are removed.



I just happened to have some time to watch and listen to your music performance along with the other musicians. It was very good and I enjoyed it.
As I watched Barry Black sitting in the audience while the Pope spoke to Congress I thought it might “excite” some folks but I haven’t heard any “backlash” on that event.
As a physician I work with folks from all faiths. One of my favorite EGW quotes reminds us that the greatest number of God’s people remain outside the SDA church and “let there be no more rude thrusts towards the Catholics”.
Good advice to remember today!!
All the best to you!


I congratulate you, Joy. What an honor; what an opportunity. I’m (righteously!) envious for my brother Fred, who for many years has played variously at the Sligo, Takoma Park, Spencerville, Frederick, Capitol Memorial and other Adventist churches in the greater Washington area. For 20 years he has been organist at the Franciscan Monastery just “down the road” from the National Shrine where you played (he plays for four masses each weekend). I’ve been with Fred when a friend let him practice some music on the powerful organ at the National Shrine. And so I wish Fred had been at the keyboard to have that memorable experience of yours. True to form, he never expressed any disappointment. But I’m happy for you. And I’m proud of him as I am of you for stepping out and mingling with those of other faiths where they worship as you both make use of a tremendous skill God has given you. What if the rest of us Adventists could be as open to mix in some way with the many sincere followers of Christ who are “not of this fold”!


The organist profiled in this article is my sister, Joy-Leilani Garbutt. I remember with pride and gladness, being the one who often drove her to her various organ performances and also to her jobs as organist for various churches (some even Adventist) I remember being the proud “big brother” as I watched her play so effortlessly what I know to be a very complex and challenging instrument!
I am so very glad that she was afforded the opportunity and honor to play for the papal mass! The pride in my heart has been legitimized before a global audience, and that is something no one- not even the Review can ever take away from me!
Brava-Joy! Keep playing and praising! God is listening…


Amen! Wonderful that she could share her God-given talent.

I’d love to listen to it if someone can provide a link…


I just watched a video where Jon Paulien says the Adventist church doesn’t believe in conditional prophecy in only two areas. The identity of Remnant church being the Adventist church and the identity the Catholic church being babylon.


Apart from the human interest story (nice one!), and even apart from the issue of what position the Adventist church should take towards the RCC today (certainly something to be discussed) … I hear yet another story about AR confirming worst nightmares about our church.

How much longer does Bill Knott intend to play along with these dirty journalistic games, unworthy of a church?

Thanks, @JaredWright, for listing a few examples - though I think it would be worthwhile to make a more compelete list and make it a story of its own. With such “tricks” and “strategies” AR is quickly losing all credibility - another Adventist “institution” going.


Thank you Joel, for posting on this story. You certainly have every right to be proud of your sister! Those of us here in the Takoma Park-Sligo area have enjoyed the experience of seeing Joy’s rise in developing her musical talents and cheer her on in her accomplishments as well as a most mature attitude toward spiritual matters. There are always nay-sayers and those who try to tear down but I’m glad there are more voices cheering on our talented artists. My older sister and her husband (Elizabeth Ann and Donald Vaughn) are still organists-choir directors for churches up in the Allentown, PA area and continue to bless their congregations with their musicianship and dedication to what matters. So I understand your family pride a bit. I will continue to encourage as much as I can the developing of talents and the dedication it takes to do that at the high level that Joy has achieved and is still striving to improve. Those of us who know her can only respect and encourage if we are honest.
I pray that those who criticize and attack will grow up and understand that bad behavior is never acceptable in a Christian.


What/who comprises the “Adventist church” ? The 18 million members, the majority of scholars, the GC admin? Yesterday, in church, I heard a new definition or meaning for Babylon. What will be the result of revisionist Adventism? --Increased cynicism, apathy and discord.
" I’m of Paulien, I’m of Wilson, I’m of Batchelor, I’m of White, I’m of Ford, I’m of Maxwell. I’m of Jackson.