The Church Is On the Wrong Side of History

We as a church get things wrong from time to time — sometimes dreadfully so. All churches do, actually all organizations do. Such was the case in our church in South Africa during apartheid, as Dr. Peter Landless detailed from his personal experience and intimate knowledge during Sunday’s Annual Council debate in Battle Creek on non-compliance. I wonder if there were a few voices who spoke out against the organized church’s practice in South Africa? I wonder if they were seen as rebellious and out of compliance? What about when the General Conference was racially segregated? Were those who fought for integration seen as rebellious and out of compliance? What about when policy had our church’s hospital refuse to admit Lucille Byard due to the color of her skin, which ultimately led to her death. If a courageous nurse or doctor had spoken up in that moment, would they have been reprimanded? Would they have been removed? Would they have been seen as rebellious and out of compliance? The church has been on the wrong side of history — sometimes dreadfully so. Friends, this is precisely why some of us have taken a stand for the equality of women in our church. This is why women’s ordination is here to stay! This is what it means when so many people say it is a matter of conscience. These people who are labeled as rebellious and out of compliance are that nurse, they are that doctor, who says, “No! I don’t care what policy says. It is wrong to deny this person due to the color of their skin. It is wrong to deny this person due to their gender.” What do those who voted for the compliance document think is going to happen? What does the president of the General Conference think? Do they think that just because there is a punitive measure in place, those who find the unequal treatment of women in ministry morally abhorrent will simply disregard their conscience because of a vote? Would our president even want these elected leaders in ministry, leaders who could so easily dismiss their conscience? Or is it that they are supposed to distrust their conscience, or forfeit their conscience, in exchange for voted policy of the world church at Annual Council? The church has been on the wrong side of history — sometimes dreadfully so. Twenty years from now when we look back, how many of us will mourn that we were on the wrong side of history? How many of us will be able to look into our children’s eyes and tell them the role we played? “An unjust law is no law at all.” —Martin Luther King Jr. Daniel Xisto is Pastor for Community Engagement at the Takoma Park Church of Seventh-day Adventists. He is passionate about connecting with his community, making his church’s presence felt in their neighborhood, and empowering the marginalized in the DMV area.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Amen brother…we as a church cannot create policy that usurps the Holy Spirit and must never shame or tell those who follow their conscience that they are in rebellion against God in an effort to enforce the traditions of men.


Well said. When the powers that be exist in a vacuum, they are oblivious to how others operate. They believe that even their errors are correct.
My cousin was the first child of color to be born in Washington Adventist Hospital after my aunt, the wife of a pastor, was initially turned away. Wrong side of history.
God, help us to survive this GC2018 decision. It won’t be easy.


Well said, for standing on the right side of scripture’s “long arc of justice.” Would that all our representatives had similar courage and understanding.


I just want to understand - if the GC, in session, votes one way or another on any given issue, are church entities free to ignore the vote without consequence?


Don –
UNJUST behavior is STILL UNJUST behavior even when “Men of the cloth” vote
for the UNJUST behavior.


Just curious how you think: when the papal council voted that Luther’s theology was heresy, what was Luther supposed to do?


We are so focused on being on the winning or losing side of church policy debates that we have lost our moral compass and no longer worry about the ethical imperative of being on God’s side.
We prefer a “costume ball” where we dress up as pioneers and ponder the “good old days” rather than prioritize the message of the last days we are living in.
We have come to a point in our journey where “unity” has become a gimmick that is manipulated and defined by a few elitists who are clueless about what the church needs are. As church historians look back on this period of retrenchment and division in the church I hope we can recover from all this!


First one has to consider the consequence of following fallible humanity that hides behind ‘authority’, ‘God’, ‘Prophets’ . . . to cover their own ‘nakedness’.

I first stopped going to the SDA church and church school when I was 14. My 4 older sisters were gone from home, it was just my non-SDA father who only wanted my help with his home projects, and my SDA mother who was too wrapped up in her own issues to believe me when I told her that the Strong Male assistant SDA Youth Pastor was harassing me, sexually. Even calling me out of school classes to try to seduce me.
(“No-o-o-o !”, she said, and I can still see her disbelieving face.)

I had an ulcer that school year and my chronic stomach aches laughed at Maalox, so I began using the ‘F-word’ that I had learned in 3rd grade from a troubled step-child sent to my SDA church school to ‘straighten him out’. In order to calm down and get relief from the gnawing pain, I’d repeat over and over, “If this is life, F— it !” It worked.
A ‘sin’, but it did the job my ‘official’ SDA ‘Youth Pastor’ would not.

After a terrible year in Public School, I tried an SDA boarding academy. My work assignment was man-handling 500 lb. batches of bread dough for 4 hours immediately after classes until study hall time at 8:00 p.m. ( I also lifted weights for the first time.) So, even in SDA Academy, I knew very few people.

One night I returned to my room from work to take a shower and I walked in on the ‘official’ dorm/hall monitor from a good SDA family and one of his more popular friends. They were ramming a closet clothes-hanger pole up my room mate’s backside through his underwear. Stunned, I got my stuff and crossed the hall to the shower while the rage caught up with my eyesight. When I was done, I returned to our room to find my room mate curled up in a fetal position on his bed, weeping.

One of my greatest life’s regrets is that I was so slow to respond,
and one of my greatest reliefs was that I was so slow to respond.
I could easily have ended up in prison for life with the high-octane rage that wanted to burst out through every young muscle, but that visit from the SDA ‘official authority’ figure was over and gone. ( I still shake in remembering, though.)
Clearly SDA ‘authority’ would not help.

Now, you tell me:
As a miniscule ‘church entity’ am I still free to ignore the SDA GC in session vote, without consequence ?
And my shaking innards scream, in answer, “If this is life, F— it !”
. . . because, either way I face terrible consequences of guilt, regret and shame.

So, that’s why I’m leaving the ‘official’ SDA religion, yet again – ‘to take a shower’, again, and hopefully, at least, stay safe from SDA strong male ‘authority’.

Mind you, this is just my personal opinion for which the authoritative SDA GC in session is not responsible . . . along with the rest of those many, many gut-wrenched souls who have suffered repeatedly from abuses of trust in such ‘authority’.


Yes! Conscience matters!! We of all people should understand this!


Man can never obtain a righteous conclusion on a matter through the teachings, philosophy, opinion, or education of another fallen man. No man is righteous therefore all final judgements and decisions reached must be from God alone.

We are directed through the prophetic word to “not enlist the support of the congregation”, to pursue our believed rights. We have only one choice; refer this sacred matter to God. We must prostate ourselves just as Moses and Aaron did, our faces down before the God of heaven and earth and plead our cases. Then wait for the Lord to respond to our cry for help and our need of direction. Then my fellow believers, heed His Holy voice.


I agree with every word written in this article. More SDA fracturing to come. The SDA church is lock step with the totalitarian air that is now sweeping the globe. To be a church so proud of its interpretation of historical prophesy it is so COMPLETELY blind to the effects of these enacted policies. There is nothing but trouble, and more trouble ahead. And all the world will be astonished.


Not only that but it is on the wrong side of Scripture.


Very different situation. One man, inspired by God, shared a message that challenged the ‘status quo’ at the time. In our situation, the world church voted against a specific practice.

Can’t find the words to express how sorry I am that you were abused by people in authority. Abuse isn’t unique to Adventism or any other denomination. Praying that you find the God of Love who has the power to heal your wounds.


I am so sorry you had this experience. I wish young people weren’t left so alone with their suffering. Your thoughts and experience reveal so much about authority gone wrong either due to commission or omission. You are a brave man on many levels.


Of course conscience matters! When the GC in session takes a vote, everyone should feel compelled to vote according to the dictates of conscience. Once the vote is taken, does conscience not also compel us to accept the results provided that they don’t contradict a clear principle of Scripture?


How so? Based on which of the primary hermeneutics?

Twenty years from now when we look back, how many of us will mourn that we were on the wrong side of history? How many of us will be able to look into our children’s eyes and tell them the role we played?

Twenty years from now many of the leaders who made this decision will no longer be alive. And that, of course, is the problem. Many of our leaders are in their late 60’s and 70’s and they are making decisions they won’t have to live with for much longer. I can tell you this, I for one will not mourn their passing from leadership. They cannot retire soon enough.


One glaring example Glacier View. Their eschatology effects their entire theology making the final generation the vindication of God. Christianity is based on the Cross not man.