The King Is In Residence: An Interview with Dr. Charles E. Bradford

Like many Seventh-day Adventists, I’ve watched as church leaders and lay members have struggled with issues that threaten the unity of the church. I know Adventists who have researched these issues prayerfully and who have come to very different conclusions. How do people carefully comb the Scriptures and the Spirit of Prophecy yet come away facing so many different directions? What do we do when convictions become so strong that other points of view aren’t allowed?

Numerous books have been written defending different ideas. But when I read The King Is In Residence I realized that it was special. The author, Dr. Charles E. Bradford, has drawn on his decades of leadership experience at all church levels. Yes, he has expressed eloquently his own carefully considered ideas, but he also demonstrates patience with, and openness to, other points of view and a realistic, Scripture-inspired plan for how to reconcile differences in our feuding family. I recently talked with Dr. Bradford about his book and his many years of service.

Question: Dr. Bradford, your family has a long and storied history within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Can you tell us a little about that?

Answer: My parents, Robert and Etta, attended the Oakwood School in the 1890s. Mother was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Dad was born in Athens, Alabama. Upon finishing the course at Oakwood, Etta enrolled at the sanitarium in Melrose, Massachusetts. She attended Ellen White as her chamber girl when Mrs. White paid a brief visit to the San. Mother remembered accompanying the prophet to Boston on a Sabbath. Robert and Etta married and moved to Arkansas where they opened a school for underprivileged children and cared for the small company of believers. This was their pattern for ministry for more than 40 years in some of the great cities of the nation — Dallas, San Antonio, Omaha, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

I grew up in the parsonage and married a Florida girl, a perfect partner in ministry. My ministry began in the bayous of Louisiana. We learned from our parishioners and grew together. The brethren assigned me to departmental ministry, and then the people asked me to serve as conference president. All the time I was forced to say, “Who is sufficient for all these things?”

You’ve personally served your church for more than 70 years, including becoming the first president of the North American Division. How has this given you a unique perspective on the issues facing our church today?

My conviction is that the journey is not solo. Every member is a part of the team and must be recognized. The situation calls for leaders “who understand the times and know what Israel should do.” Jesus recognizes every disciple as His witnesses, “Well done, good and faithful servants.” We are watchmen on the walls.

We desperately need a renewed focus on the local church as God’s agency for salvation. We are now well into the 21stcentury — the time when the local church, the congregation, must come into its own, the time when the Word must get out of the seminaries, conference offices, pastors' studies, and committee rooms and into the pews and into the hearts and lives of the people who are, in fact, the church.

The vision is about the church — the centerpiece of God’s plan, His dream. Jesus is the guarantor. He is our sufficiency, able to pull it off, take care of business. The deed will be done. The Creator makes the church His primary instrument, enfeebled as it may be. The church has everything going for it. We must think church. Go beyond the arrangement of systems, structure, or even doctrines. All depends on the emergence of the people that John saw. There is no discharge in this war. The remnant will have to face trials, temptations, Satan’s final most brutal attack on God and His remnant people. We will need more than bumper sticker, sound-bite theology. The Great Physician prescribes a wholesome Bible diet. “The Word must be found and eaten.” Jeremiah 15:16, NIV.

In your book you speak of cultural wars, both between the secular and the sacred and between Bible truth and the light-weight, feel-good religion many seem to practice. What is our role, as individual Adventists, in these conflicts?

We must always keep in mind that we are one body. Ellen White says, “The secret of unity is the equality of all the believers.” The church must seek to be a model of the just society. Elitism has no place in the just society. All are respected and assured of their worth. “The work of God is retarded by criminal unbelief in His power to use the common people to carry forward His work successfully.”

You view Job’s story as a template for what is going on in our world today. What is the most important lesson we can learn from Job?

Job is the first written account of the Great Controversy. It is revealed to be the entire universe in scope. Satan had brought charges against the Creator that He was the cause of all suffering and pain. Satan’s charges had to be refuted and the real destroyer called out and eliminated. Job was not an Israelite or priest; he was a gentleman farmer. But God used him to deal with the deeper issues of life — good and evil, suffering and death. The first lesson we learn from the narrative is that God will have a human being, a child of Adam, as His surrogate, His representative in coming to grips with the human situation.

The 8th Psalm is almost an enthronement of His human assistants, “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings.” It tells us what God thinks of the people that He has created. The restoration of the lost planet is always a joint operation. All through the developing story, God makes us His assistants. He counts on us to portray the true God. We are His witnesses. Job’s experience vindicates God: His character, His impartiality, His willingness to hear us even when we are ignorant of His ways.

You spend several chapters in your book looking closely at the ministry of Ezekiel, Malachi, and Isaiah. What can we learn from their messages?

They spoke for God to the people of God in varied situations.

Ezekiel spoke at the time when it seemed the godless nations were in ascendancy, their gods above the God of Israel. The prophet himself was in exile. The people could scarcely sing the Lord’s song in this strange land of tyrants when suddenly a storm was approaching, furious and devastating. As Ezekiel prepared to defend himself, a vision appeared that God was in control. The God of Heaven proved to be the ruler of all.

Malachi’s ministry was to exiled Israel who were settled in the homeland. They lost real worship for a worthless attachment to ritual. Like priest, like people. All was futile, even disgusting. Israel’s God threatened to close the temple door and shut off all communication with His self-centered people.

Isaiah, in a time of great peace and prosperity, lashed out with a gospel of inclusion. Eunuchs and strangers were to be brought to the temple and included in the power structure (priests), their names in the record alongside the fathers of Israel. This took great courage. This kind of preaching could be incendiary! It is a picture of the Spirit-filled church that is yet to be seen. And when it is, Messiah will come.

You make some very strong statements about the importance of women’s ordination. By what process do you feel this issue should be resolved?

Justice and fairness are the hallmarks of the saints. It must be admitted that women have been horribly treated, most of all in the name of the Lord and in the authority of His word. It takes a vision from God to tear down these walls. We have built a temple with its walls of separation. The growing, Spirit-filled church of the remnant will break every chain that impedes the progress and strength of the people of God as they go to every nation, kindred and tongue and people. It is an issue that sucks the oxygen out of the room.

How would the apostles have handled it? They would have sought the Holy Spirit in prayer and fasting and coming to consensus would say, “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.” This book purports to be a call to the church to study the apostolic approach to matters that affect the whole body of Christ. This one has been before us for more than a century.

In your book you compare local churches to rainforests. What makes this an accurate comparison of the importance of the local congregation?

Jesus spoke to the ages when He said, “Upon this Rock I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” These words were spoken to the twelve who constituted the church.

Rainforests are important for the health of the biosphere. The phrase fits the reality of the church. The local church is a rainforest. Accordingly, the local church is capable of making decisions that govern its members. Please keep in mind that no officer of the so-called higher bodies can act for the congregation with greater authority than any member.

The local congregation recognizes the gifts of the Spirit and under the guidance of that Spirit prepares the member for wider service. When the Lord says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom,” He is speaking to the consortium of local congregations.

In spite of our current challenges, do you still see the Seventh-day Adventist Church as the remnant in Bible prophecy?

Finally, there will be, in time, and history, a demonstration of the ideal community. The Spirit’s rule will be unchallenged. Every member of the community will be affirmed and participate in ministry. It cannot be a racial community, permitting racial discrimination and separation within its own fellowship. Class and caste will be unknown. It will not be a male church, tolerating male dominance, nor a national church, tolerating national arrogance. As it nears the end, the community will conform more and more to the liberating rule of Christ — freedom and justice will prevail. Understanding and acceptance will permeate the fellowship. Every potential maximized. The gifts of the Spirit will burst into flower. This is the challenge of Adventism — a pilgrim people “between the already and the not yet,” always in transition on their way to the Kingdom of God.

Finally, what is the number one thing you would like readers to take away from this book?

The need for humility. We all need it. Only the disciple who sees the purity of Jesus finds little to boast of. The apostle said, “In my flesh I see no good thing.” We are all a part of God’s plan. “We have met the enemy and they is us.” All are members of the “House of God and Sons.” Daniel, the model of the sanctified life, identified with the struggling church in prayer: “We have sinned.” And the perfect Son of God spoke as the son of man, “Suffer it to be so, for thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Yahweh is determined to settle the rebellion, “The fierce anger of the Lord shall not return, until he hath done it, and until he have performed the intents of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it.” Jeremiah 30:24, KJV.

The King Is In Residence is available at your local Adventist Book Center, from the ABC online, or on Amazon in paperback or e-book. Click here to read the first chapter online for free.

Doug Church is Vice President for Sales and Marketing at Pacific Press. This interview and image were provided by Pacific Press.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8894

This gives hope:
“Finally, there will be, in time, and history, a demonstration of the ideal community. The Spirit’s rule will be unchallenged. Every member of the community will be affirmed and participate in ministry. It cannot be a racial community, permitting racial discrimination and separation within its own fellowship. Class and caste will be unknown. It will not be a male church, tolerating male dominance, nor a national church, tolerating national arrogance. As it nears the end, the community will conform more and more to the liberating rule of Christ — freedom and justice will prevail”

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I appreciate this interview- thank-you.

"Isaiah, in a time of great peace and prosperity, lashed out with a gospel of inclusion. Eunuchs and strangers were to be brought to the temple and included in the power structure (priests), their names in the record alongside the fathers of Israel. This took great courage. This kind of preaching could be incendiary! It is a picture of the Spirit-filled church that is yet to be seen. And when it is, Messiah will come."

The “Social Gospel”…Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

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I think his message is that the Christain community is much broader that the SDA Church. His story suggests that SDA should open its doors and hearts, in the words of Jesus come unto Me all ye—-.

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The Regional Conference in Illinois was on the South Side in Chicago. they would have frequent requests for hand outs. they would give them ten Life and Health and say these will cost you .25 cents each. you can sell them on the street for a dollar each. when you have sold them all you can pay us the 25 cents and keep the 75 cents. most would just dump them in the nearest trash can. But it did sort out the real from the cons.

Is it me, Doug Church, or is Charles Bradford a mystic?

Or is he just the ultimate political animal? He didn’t seem to answer most of your questions directly, especially the penultimate one: “Do you still see the Seventh-day Adventist Church as the remnant in Bible prophecy?”

It’s a question, the answer to which, I take very seriously. Though I remain a lifelong Adventist in good standing, remnancy is the first SDA belief that I doubted. (This is another one.) It’s also a doctrine about which I’ve written in some depth, while also discussing my ideas with gracious SDA thinkers, like Jon Paulien and William G. Johnsson, among others.

In his answer, above, Bradford seems to be saying that SDAs can become the remnant, if they let the Holy Spirit take over their bodies and minds.

If that’s what he means, I would agree with him. Except, then, I would ask, "If so, why need we the appellation ‘Seventh-day Adventists’? That is, anyone can become God’s remnant if they let the Holy Spirit take over their bodies and minds. Bradford can’t be saying SDAs are more likely, or willing, to let God do this than other people.

So, if not, what is he saying?

Which brings us back to do.

HA

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So needed. Tear-provoking.

I think you’re right Harry. He carefully avoided answering directly the questions posed to him for reasons that are probably best known to him.
One of the things that he said which has resonated with me was this comment:
‘How would the apostles have handled it? They would have sought the Holy Spirit in prayer and fasting and coming to consensus would say, “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.” This book purports to be a call to the church to study the apostolic approach to matters that affect the whole body of Christ. This one has been before us for more than a century.’
I think that is the best way for the church to proceed at this time, rather than having ,for example documents drawn up to discipline other churches or divisions that may see the issue differently and seek to move in line with their convictions. I strongly believe it is of the will of God that we are studying the book of Acts now for this quarter.Lets look at one of the issues that was raised in the last week’s lesson-the murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
Lets look at the response to the problem:
2Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.

3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:

6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

I believe that incident is instructive for us today as regards the ordination of women. Some persons may argue and suggest that God has already spoken in His word about male beings selected to lead etc, but what would the Holy Spirit actually recommend were we to ask Him in sincerity? Perhaps the answer He would give may surprise many or all of us. Perhaps the leadership of our church should have appointed instead people from every division of the church- male and female to assemble together , using the same qualifications by which the seven deacons were chosen to deal with the matter- people filled with the Holy Ghost , wisdom and of good report to deal with the issue.
I am of the view that the way to settle many of the issues which may seem to threaten unity of the church in any way, is by the direct work of the Holy Spirit working through the lives of consecrated believers- male and female. Notice also, that before the Holy Spirit was poured out, there were men and women together in an upper room and they continued in one accord in prayer and supplication. When the Holy Spirit was poured out then, the believers spoke in different languages.I believe the women who were also there who formed part of the group upon which the Holy Spirit fell( the 120 individuals), were also equipped to speak in different languages.

My point is essentially this: We can never go wrong when we allow the Holy Spirit to settle the differences which may arise on account of any issue which can potentially divide or bring disunity to the church.If we try to settle an issue ourselves we can create further tension, which can lead to a greater spirit of combativeness and ultimately polarisation, not to mention complete separation.It us up to us to seek the Holy Spirit in prayer, while we continue seeking for wisdom and living in integrity( of good report- both inside and outside the church. I think this issue can be solved satisfactorily and fairly if we are willing to let the Holy Spirit direct.

Andrew.

There are two things that I would say about this topic.

  1. The truth is that none of us will believe that the Holy Spirit has had His way unless or until the WO Vote is reflecting of our desires concerning this issue.

But we must remember… the Holy Spirit job description is to lead us and guide us into all truth. That “truth” is the word of God. John 17:17 Which leads us right back to the biblical construct of the religious order established and maintained by God throughout His word; that being that spiritually qualified males are to lead.

  1. The “disunity” on this issue is not caused by the church voting (three times) against ordaining women… but rather entities of the church not accepting the vote of the church and showing their willingness to run contrary to the vote; regardless of what damage it does to the church.

In fact… the “damage done to the church” is not accepted by those who “go their own course”, but rather is charged upon those who try and put checks and balances on those who “go their own course”. It’s amazing to me that all attempts at disciplining non-compliant Unions/Conferences are seen as malicious; as if the church and its delegates of 1990/1995/2015 have no concern whatsoever as to whether or not their vote is actually carried out. Supporters of WO believe it is no big deal if Conferences and Unions just ignore the vote of the church. If this issue is really no big deal… why did we have a “Sabbath Morning-sized crowd” attend the Women’s Ordination Discussion and Vote?