Stopping by After Forty Years — Part 3

This is Part 3 of Douglas Ort’s three-part series. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

"I have to wonder if the SDA community ever really resolved its tension with Mr. Brinsmead."

The SDA Church never truly “resolves” anything with “dissenters” (there’s a long list) except to banish them as quickly as possible to where they are diminished and/or silenced. Though, in theory, there is room for “New Light”- in practice this never has been true.

Adventism finds itself in a Post Modern world…and it is still floundering for footing in the “Modern”. It is at “war” with the “World” and I suspect that this keeps the denomination feeling “worthy” (and anxious). Some of the most "militant’ SDA “True Believers” that we have encountered on this site have unknowingly embraced the negative so throughly that it seems unlikely that they could ever be at peace.

"Those women led me to believe that my skills and talents would honor God and bless others if they were harnessed to Adventism and the Sanctuary Awakening message."

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven–” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Yes, you have blessed us with your observations and your insights in your spiritual journey. Thank-you for sharing.


As I recall, “dissenters” have been pushed aside and when they would not go away $millions were spent in damage control. How much better it would have been to look at the issues up front and come together in unity and avoid the drama and divisions.


The only difference between us and the little rodents that run endlessly on the treadmill is that we, sometimes, ask “why”. Blessed is he, who wasn’t born on that merry-go-round - who hopped on because it was there, on the path; and jumped off when the answer never came.

We, the church, can’t afford to accommodate the “Brimsmeades”. To do so, places into question the very basis of life itself. If “he’s” right, then “I’m” wrong - and that means there’s work to be done. But beyond that, the security that fuels all our decisions gets disrupted, and we have to make up a new “code book” – and so it goes. It always ends up with a code book. The more chapters, the better.

We don’t like to say it, but the name by which the church is established, erased the codes of the past. He replaced them with his own life - because those rules ultimately lead to a sacrificial lamb.


To some extent, the way denomination leaders avoided reality in 1919 (The Bible Conference!) is similar to the way they responded to Brinsmead, Rea, and others. I think of the phrase: “You can’t handle the truth.” It seems in both instances, leaders pursued a half-measure that obfuscated deeper issues. Such fear-based responses have not served us well in the long run.

I am glad Ort reminded us of the Brinsmead/Fudge connection. By establishing a strong annihilation thread in American Christianity, Brinsmead may have done a lot more for the case of God and His kingdom than Adventists are willing to concede.

Bowen’s Family Systems Theory has been powerful in my life. Long ago, I chose to speak truth firmly when a family member began the traditional tirade of berating another family member. Without getting into details, I’ll just say everything changed after that. Rea, Brinsmead, Ford, and others have been examples of how Bowen’s Systems Theory will work in an organizational context. Those scholars chose to stand as individuals, ignoring the anxiety that comes with differing from the “family lore.” Everything changes because of that stand.


I’ve given thought to my postings and the more thoughtful responses from readers, for which I remain quite grateful. As a lifelong teacher of individuals and families, of small and large groups, I like to offer students “homework” (okay, some of my students have bristled at homework on principle, so there’s that).

I am only now fleshing out this idea, so it might be a bit rough around the edges, so here’s something:

What if a group of SDA college students (likely upper-class, men and women) were offered the opportunity to take a class for credit, as an elective? What if that class were “A history of Dissent in the SDA Church in the 20th Century”? What if this were not relegated only to theology types, but open to curious students from a variety of disciplines?

What if it covered the 1919 Bible Conference, the German Reform Movement, Questions on Doctrine, Wieland and Short, Robert Brinsmead, Walter Rea, Desmond Ford? Who else would be added (not every dissenting voice was significant, but these surely are)? Don’t try to say everything about everything. Stick with the ones who really were more than annoyances.

What if, because technology would permit it, the class were open to SDA college students internationally, with classes on Skype or a similar technology?

What if there were a way to give students the freedom to share what they actually find, not just what some in authority only want them to find? My point here is to tease out special pleading (driven by elevated anxiety) either naively for or stridently against the denomination.

What if professors in each student’s institution could mentor students who volunteer for this kind of class? What if these students from around the world could decide for themselves who among professor-mentors would be designated to lead this class?

What if the students were asked to focus research the process that drives dissent and not merely recite the content of dissent, thought some content materials deserve a place at the table?

What if there were a feedback mechanism for class-members to keep their respective institutions and peers informed of progress, as kind of an accountability thing?

What if final papers were required? What if Spectrum offered a way to vet the best of the best and post them for the world church to read?

What if this process required courage and didn’t default to comfort? What if the emphasis were on responsible representations of dissenting peoples, and not on the impression management often found with some mid-level and senior denominational employees, to spin a happy face on the outcome?

As an aside: How about sending a couple of students (a man and a woman) from Avondale up to Duranbah NSW to interview Bob Brinsmead over, say, two days?

I’m just thinking out loud here. Is this doable? Are there college or Conference or Union people who might like to weigh in?



Not to be too pessimistic, but I don’t think so. At least not in a truly honest, open way. The history and MO of the SDA church is not to be open and honest. But, to add to the wish list of people to be covered, I would add Canright. He was there with the Whites, and others. There is a lady on FB whose grandmother was “Canrights Secretary” She has a lot of insights and first hand accounts of the subject of the book, how it was actually written, and the inaccuracies that it contains. I would love to provide a link, but it’s a closed group on FB, so I wouldn’t want to do that without permission.


I concur Carol. Canfield was a very important author. We looking for truth about Adventism would share copies of his books before the internet. I would add Mark Martin and Dale Ratzlaff who were very influential with many boomers and gen x’s.


I agree that D.M. Canright ought to be on the list.

As Bowen theory has informed my life and work, the integrity of understanding family process is foremost. My focus is not on outcomes. Every anxious family wants me to join their quest for an outcome (usually involving changing someone else, not self). I re-frame the conversation around to how family leaders can function more responsibly (and less anxiously) in a process that challenges what’s stuck in their story.

This partly accounts for my attraction to Context Group thinkers over the past twenty years. They meet annually (beginning around 1990), numbering perhaps thirty, over a long weekend. Fellowship and meals are interspersed with papers provided by those who anticipate publishing. Some of the finest NT scholars in the world weigh in, and in the end the eventually published paper is better for its writer having been exposed to professional critique from loyal colleagues. They close on Sunday with worship, celebrating the Eucharist.

Not every Context Group book or paper has carried the same lasting quality. And differences between authors is owned up to in papers and books, when writers believe it matters. But there’s a genuine integrity to all this. These men and women are not put off by differences. Social-scientific criticism of the New Testament (the umbrella term for how they do what they do) has brought much clarity those of us who care about understanding how early Christ-followers lived and thought.

My appeal to Spectrum readers is not to valorize CG members, but to commend the integrity of a process that many within their tent have embraced for thirty years and more. This is a bridge for me between Bowen theory and the Context Group. Each holds to the contextual nature of its observations. Each, in its own way, knows that it sees only in part.

This is a core problem with the 28. The entire assemblage is all about end-stage beliefs and actions, and not a process that promotes an ever greater measure of personal and community maturity. Focusing on outcomes is other-focused and fear-based. This is why tweaking this or that feature of the 28 doesn’t matter. And, in point of fact, the 27 were not created to foster conversation. They were created to end it.

I wonder if a group of college students and a few faculty could craft the kind of course I mentioned above. If they all met quietly off-campus and shared wine, maybe no one would know they are Adventists and they wouldn’t draw too much attention to themselves.


Are you referring to Canright’s book, i.e., to inaccuracies in it, or are you referring to the book entitled, “I was Canright’s Secretary,” and inaccuracies in it? If the latter, it is readily available online and a Google search will find it. I read it years ago. If you have insight into errors, etc., in “I was Canright’s Secretary,” I would be interested to hear at least a summary.

I was referring to the “I Was Canright’s Secretary” book. I will try to bullet point some of the comments and insights made by her granddaughter later today or tomorrow.

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One thing is certain: Those Seventh-day Adventists who take their stand under Satan’s banner will first give up their faith in the warnings and reproofs contained in the Testimonies of God’s Spirit.—[Selected Messages 3:84 (1903)] The very last deception of Satan will be to make of none effect the testimony of the Spirit of God. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” ([Proverbs 29:18] Satan will work ingeniously, in different ways and through different agencies, to unsettle the confidence of God’s remnant people in the true testimony.—[Selected Messages 1:48 (1890)] The enemy has made his masterly efforts to unsettle the faith of our own people in the Testimonies … This is just as Satan designed it should be, and those who have been preparing the way for the people to pay no heed to the warnings and reproofs of the Testimonies of the Spirit of God will see that a tide of errors of all kinds will spring into life.—[Selected Messages 3:83 (1890)] It is Satan’s plan to weaken the faith of God’s people in the Testimonies . Next follows skepticism in regard to the vital points of our faith, the pillars of our position, then doubt as to the Holy Scriptures, and then the downward march to perdition. When the Testimonies , which were once believed, are doubted and given up, Satan knows the deceived ones will not stop at this; and he redoubles his efforts till he launches them into open rebellion, which becomes incurable and ends in destruction.—[Testimonies for the Church 4:211]

And now …?


Actually, things like these do happen. But no one knows because it has to be private. As soon as it is official, things change, and researchers can’t be and won’t be that honest. Thank you for your input! It’s now here, people read your contribution and start a process. One step at a time.


I really like the broader focus of your worldview that sees the bigger picture. When my parents were prepping me as a 14 year old immigrating to the US, the idea wasn’t “success in my lifetime”. They always repeated, you have to work hard, so that your grandchildren could have a better life. And it’s an extreme and strange position for someone who doesn’t understand the view of the cultural continuum that abstracts the life of a person to a singular and individual “born - died” on a tombstone.

That generational sacrificial mentality seemed to come to an end and get lost somewhere. I’m not sure if it’s because all of us think that we’ve finally arrived, or because few old-timers shown us how to feed at the expense of the future as opposed to give and leave more for people who will come after us.

I’ve read this article recently:

The takeaway should be rather obvious for something like Adventism. The problems that people face today are not “spiritual” in nature. And the church doesn’t merely ignores these problems. It exacerbates it, via mandates that people aren’t experiencing in the same manner.

So, for a retired person in their 70s the church is a place of experiencing community context of familiar belief structure. For someone like myself, with 2 kids and a stressful job schedule, Sabbath isn’t a day of rest as it’s advertised. It’s not very accommodating for parents, with energetic kids who can’t sit still. It doesn’t address the problems we are dealing with as parents in post-modern age, as it still imagines that “sex drugs and rock&roll” paradigm as the generic problem of the world out there. Our problem is to maintain some sanity as we try to survive through church as a procedural necessity that requires more of us than it provides us. And that’s why many of us leave. It’s a place that can amass half a million in retirement funds for “ministers”, as it ignores the problems and needs of people in its very ranks… for which ministry is for.

It doesn’t consider that in this setting, a child born with a minor and treatable health defect means a mountain of debt that one has to dig oneself out of. It doesn’t consider the real stressors of our reality, which are not spiritual. And saying that Satan is attacking people who face these real problems with real solution is a generic way to shift these problems into a realm where solutions are fixed by getting together, praying about it, and doing nothing as a community to really help people in our very own midst.

So, it all shifts into a game of pretentious escapism from perspective of someone like myself. It almost seems like those Harry Potter or StarWars conventions where people come together, and fly on imaginary brooms and fight with imaginary swords, and quote and discuss fictional narratives as they are inspired by characters in these. It’s pure escapism. It’s a means of coping with a harsh reality instead of confronting it and resolving issues.

So, I guess, my question is as to why casting it into the past of Bob Brinsmead, or Glacier View is in any way relevant? History helps, but it seems to be just another layer on top of the political narrative that shifts the focus from real problems that people are dealing with, and where applications of Christian ideology could really help if we actually began to practice these in communal settings.


I believe it was several years ago when a small group of
SDA University professors met in one of the home to
socialize. Wine was served.
SOMEONE BLABBED to the Administration.
It turned out AWFUL. And was soon talked about
among SDAs and here on Spectrum.


There are several similar stories. And right now, it’s just not the time for such official honesty at our educational institutions. Unfortunately.


So, Arkdrey, lets talk about spiritual. I’ll get back to Brinsmead another time.

Michael Hudson ( is an economist who had studied the history of debt going back nearly five thousand years. His most recent book (2018) . . . and forgive them their debts: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year, explains in more detail than most people will care about how debt amnesty was a regular feature of monarchic transitions, and how amnesty was an ordinary feature of social stability and community identity formation, going back at least to the middle of the third millennium BCE.

The Rosetta Stone, discovered by Napoleon’s forces in Egypt in 1799, provided a way to understand Cuneiform writing because it was written in three languages. Turns out it was a document providing debt amnesty instructions to the young Ptolemy V.

The Hebrew Scriptures, in Leviticus 25, describe the Jubilee Year, an echo of Clean Slate decrees (Hudson’s term) going back two thousand years to Sumer. When a new king was enthroned, peasant crop debts and other personal debt bondage to palace and temple were routinely wiped out (but not debts between merchants). This process regularly occurred from at least the middle of the third millennium BCE, through the Babylonian period (2000 BCE – 1600 BCE). Leviticus 25 signaled the initiative shifting from kings toward codification in the Mosaic Covenant. What used to occur solely at the discretion of a monarch was now set into the structure of the covenant.

In Luke 4 Jesus defined his ministry in terms of Isaiah 61 and Leviticus 25. By the 1st century the tables had been turned on how debt was handled: creditors were protected and debtors were severely circumscribed. While Jesus ministry clearly involved other features of social organization and identity formation, it is clear that some sought to kill him from the beginning (Luke 4: 28-29) because they saw the implications of his inclusion of debt amnesty in his kingdom proclamation. In this Jesus was no innovator. He was tapping into a tradition going back two and a half thousand years from his own day. I’d say this makes him a small-c conservative.

As with reform movements in every era, to enlarge one’s understanding of what is happening in 1st century Judea and Samaria, I find it useful to follow the money.

So, what about believers in the modern era?

What if believers gathered each Sabbath day to facilitate and celebrate debt forgiveness, following a mechanism similar to Jubilee Baptist Church?

What if the weekly Sabbath day was celebrated as an echo of, an anticipation of, the Jubilee Sabbath when debts are cancelled and life is set right?

What if when we recited “forgive us our debts . . .” we were actually helping people to resolve the crushing burden of their indebtedness?

What if all this were a vital expression of a congregation’s spirituality?


Thanks. I will very much look forward to as much information on that book as you can share. I have recently been engaged with issues in Canright’s book and had read the “I was Canright’s Secretary” book which provided insight that seemed to jibe with perspectives published in the Review at the time of Canright’s departure from the denomination. If the IWCS book was somehow “tweaked” to achieve particular denominational objectives, or if there were other issues associated with its writing and publication that might alter one’s view of Canright’s book or Canright himself, that would be important information to know.