The Unacknowledged Protest at Ted Wilson's Q&A


(Spectrumbot) #1

Overcast is an appropriate word to describe not only the weather in Berrien Springs on Saturday, March 2, 2019, but also the afternoon Q&A with Elder Ted Wilson, General Conference President.

Overcast days are full of contradictions, liminal weather spaces that seem like out-of-body experiences. It is somehow bright, but grey at the same time. Dull but day. Likewise, Pioneer Memorial Church was overcast. A mix of emotions, expectations, and intentions filtered into the sanctuary as the crowd of Seventh-day Adventists from the community, PMC church members, and Andrews University faculty and staff gathered to hear from Elder Wilson.

For a college campus, there were surprisingly few students in attendance. If one were to scan the sanctuary, you would have found fewer than 100 individuals under the age of 24 present that afternoon. Despite the lack of generational diversity in the crowd, there was a great diversity of reasons why the crowd gathered. Some were excited to be visited by the GC President who was in town for the Andrews University Board Meeting, hoping to shake a hand and get a picture after the event. Others were indifferent, just there to see what would happen without any real desire or hope for change.

Then there were the Adventists who were frustrated. It is no surprise that over the past four years dedicated Seventh-day Adventists, young and old, have grown tired of the status quo, the theological gymnastics, and the political antics. The frustrated ones were the ones who came and watched hoping that by some miracle, there’d be a change. A few of the frustrated ones were weary of just being frustrated and decided to take seriously the idea that we cannot expect sustainable change to happen from the top-down, but the bottom-up. This group, largely made up of Andrews University students (graduate and undergraduate) decided to hold our leadership accountable, and call for transparency, authenticity, and integrity through a silent protest during the Q&A portion of the afternoon. Shortly after Dr. Andrea Luxton, president of Andrews University, and Elder Wilson sat down on the platform and the two began discussing the first question, an organized group of concerned Seventh-day Adventists lined up in the center aisle of Pioneer Memorial Church behind a microphone on a stand that they brought with them. They formed a question queue. This group stood in a line, quietly watching the Q&A occur before them, clearly noticed but unacknowledged for over 35 minutes by both Dr. Luxton and Elder Wilson.

At the end of the Q&A, Dr. Luxton used a few of her concluding comments to acknowledge the group. She said, “When I was younger, I sometimes did some acting, you know, in plays. And one of the things they said to you is when something unexpected happens, ignore it and just carry on. And to some degree we did that today when some of our young people came down here. I had no clue that was going to happen, neither did you. And we just carried on. They aren’t here to speak. But I think what they are here to say is how important they want their voice to be in the church. They’re passionate about the church. They’re passionate about the things, they may not always agree with things that we who are a little bit older and grayer might do…But the reality is I just want you to know that’s why they’re here. It is not a disrespect to you. But it is a statement of the importance to them of the church, their role in the church, their part in the church and that’s why they’ve been standing here.”

Elder Wilson made a few remarks, none of them directly to the group, then closed with prayer. The meeting had ended, but the dichotomy between all the talk from church leadership about greater involvement of young people and the value of everyone’s voice was overshadowed by the failure of our leadership to actually take the opportunity to listen to the young people who are already involved and fighting to engage. As Dr. Luxton mentioned, yes, the group wants their voice to be heard and yes, the group was filled with young adults who are passionate about the church. But protests do not occur because of people who are indifferent. Protests occur because of people who are rightly concerned and engaged.

There is a lot of speculation about why the group lined up. But, as a participant in the planning stages of this protest, I can tell you the core group intentionally took a week to plan not just how the protest would occur but come to a consensus as to why.

The protest was initially sparked out of concern about the format of the Q&A. The campus was emailed weeks in advance of Elder Wilson’s visit about the event and asked to submit questions either via the Pioneer Memorial Church webform or directly to the email, questions@andrews.edu. No questions would be taken at the actual event. The group felt that pre-submitting questions was problematic and not conducive for authentic and transparent conversations. Not taking questions from the floor leads to questions not being asked in the way they were intended and rephrasing that leads to inadequate answers. For example, one of two questions submitted by the group who planned the protest was, “What are you doing to remedy the hurt that has been caused by the church through discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation?” But the question was phrased by Dr. Luxton as a question about “perceptions,” as in, the perception of discrimination. The nuance between the two is vital. The original question was not about the perception of discrimination, but about real discrimination as perpetuated by and within our very own denomination. So, while pre-submitted questions should streamline the conversation, many times these questions and answers lack the necessary nuance and care to adequately address the issues.

Thus, the protestors sought to hold our leadership accountable to its proposed dedication to transparency and conversation. But March 2 was evidence that the church says it wants young people to be more involved, but only the young people who agree with the current trajectory of the denomination are welcome. The church is looking for young people, but they are not looking for the young people who are present, engaged, and standing in lines. Why didn’t Elder Wilson meet with the young people who lined up after the meeting? What kind of narrative is being pushed to the wider church by his team posting a photo of him on his Facebook page surrounded by young people after the meeting, but none of those young people were the ones who were part of the protest? Looking at Elder Wilson’s Facebook page, there was no protest. It has still gone unacknowledged.

We are a church of two realities and two narratives. There is a story of listening, engagement, and transparency being talked of, but not being lived up to. For the protestors and others, it is still quite overcast. We are living in a constant state of contradictions within our denomination, and this protest just adds another layer to an already eternally cloudy season.

WATCH “Your Questions Answered. Mission. Unity. Church.” — the livestream of Ted Wilson’s March 2, 2019 Q&A Session at Andrews University (Q&A begins at approximately 1:05:26):

Danielle M. Barnard is currently completing her MS in Community and International Development on the campus of Andrews University and working towards peace and justice as Coordinator for Southwest Michigan Interfaith Action.

Photos by Jo Amaya, Josephine St. Hilaire and Stherline Larisma.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9472

How Healthy is Adventist Hermeneutics? Misconceiving the Text (3)
#2

Wow…so decided not to go with the “have you stopped beating your wife yet” question. Would there be any possible answer that could answer their question. It is rather scary that they think the President even has the power to remedy anything!


#3

The question as originally posed would force him to first acknowledge the fact that hurt is being caused. That would seem a larger, more pressing point. I don’t think the question suggests that Wilson has so much power. Then again, we all, as Christians, have lots of power to remedy discrimination by not practicing it.


#4

By her reference to acting, Dr. Luxton’s comments seemed to characterize the stage play that had just been performed, script and all. There’s no business like show business, like no business I know…


(Steve Mga) #5
  1. I see President Wilson has removed his Battle Creek persona, according to
    the picture of him on stage.
  2. Presidents can SET THE TONE through speeches that they would like their
    organization to take on various issues.
    President Wilson has never taken the opportunity to do so, because he does
    NOT PERCEIVE that anyone feels injured, feels hurt by the continued policies
    which PREVENT the discussion of perceived injury, hurt by the Church through
    the present Administration in the GC level, the Division level, the Unions and
    Conferences levels.
    There is a “WHAT ME WORRY??!!” response.
    When he retires [and he knows that he will] there will be all the perks as a former
    GC president available to him, there will be his guaranteed annual income and other
    benefits of being a retired employee of the SDA church. So WHY WORRY??

#6

Not taking questions from the floor is an obvious acknowledgement that the church is divided by issues that they cannot resolve. So the leadership must be taking the position that if you are not happy where you are at, go somewhere else. Clearly those of us that are unhappy need to accept the leadership’s desire to be rid of us and find a place to worship that is serious about faith, hope, and love.


(Steve Mga) #7

IM –
There ARE Two [2] churches.
There is the world-wide Seventh day Adventist church.
Then, there is the local Seventh day Adventist church which is far removed
in so many ways from Silver Springs, from the Division, from the Union and
can be even of the local Conference offices.
So… as the saying goes – DONT throw out the Baby with the bath water.
Maintain your friendships, and continue to worship with your friends.
Get on a Bible reading program.
I would suggest this. 1. Read all 150 psalms monthly. 2. Read all 31 Proverbs
[one for each day of the month] monthly. 3. Go on-line and follow the Lectionary
for either the day, or the week-end. Read the 4 Scriptures in several different
translations, not JUST the KJV or the NKJV. [I like theRSV or the NRSV, Message, NIV, one or both of the Living translations.]

This is Lent, the Season of the Year when we go with Jesus into the Wilderness for
40 days. A good time to begin a NEW Bible reading plan with Jesus.


(Andrew) #8

While not a supporter on TW, of course their protest was disrespectful. Mainly to the people who came to both hear and be able to actually see him at the same time, rather than someone’s back.

If you think this sort of protest should be rewarded with a meeting, I can’t imagine that happening to often in any setting.


#9

No it would force him to try and tell how he will remedy a vast of array of unknown hurts from through out the history of the SDA church. What is his remedy for 1950’s racism etc. The question was" What are you doing to remedy the hurt". Not what can the church do to remedy something specific.


(Kim Green) #10

Andrew, I cannot speak for the protesters…but I would think that the thrust of the protest was not whether or not it was “disrespectful” to the audience. The greater purpose of the protesters was probably to be “seen” if not able to be “heard”. Sometimes, this is the only option that is given and obviously this was the case here. I don’t believe that the students had any illusions that they would have the opportunity to really “talk”. Ted certainly doesn’t do “open air” discussions.


(ROBIN VANDERMOLEN) #11

Ron Carson:
You plaintively suggest that
“it is rather scary to think the president could remedy anything! “

NONSENSE!

For starters, TW could disband the largest of his “compliance committees “ — the one that is consumed with a homophobic witch hunt against our LGBT members.

Secondly, he could divest himself of his hateful, heinous, heretical “ headship “ dogma.

Thirdly, he could find some creative way not to be so overtly discriminating against the women members of the church, more particularly, but not confined to our Adventist clergywomen.

Fourthly, he could find some creative way to disband the racially divided “ regional ( black ) conferences “ and integrate them into the larger church body.

All these steps would go far to dispel the odious optics of overt discrimination based on RACE, GENDER and SEXUAL ORENTATION.

A travesty that an event held on our major theological institution, deliberately prevented the students of that institution from participating.

This whole shoddy episode besmirches academic freedom and is an affront to the tithepayers that fund Andrews University.


#12

Asking what he is doing to remedy the hurt is a broad question, really a softball compared to the questions many would like to ask TW. His refusal to even address it is appalling. A purported minister of the Gospel ignores the disenfranchised (and I don’t mean the protesters) and chooses to pretend they’re not there in the everyday workings of the Church. The presentation was his administration in microcosm. Move along, nothing to see here, go about your business? Sad.


(Steve Mga) #13

As we have seen in other “Ted Talks” –
He ALWAYS pre-screens [by his handlers] ANY questions from the audience.
No one is allowed to come to a microphone and expect him to answer ANY
questions “off the cuff”.
I doubt that Pres. Ted travels alone. He probably needs his unseen, unacknowledged
“handlers” to run interference for him.


(Alice C ) #14

I appreciate the articulate writing of the reporter. And the metaphor. Well done. These are interesting times; conservative groups don’t change course quickly or skillfully. As a senior citizen I have hoped for more from my church over my lifetime.


(Steve Mga) #15

Alice –
I am sure many Catholics felt the same AFTER Vatical II.
Changed clothes and make-up. But remained much of the same.
SDAs tend to do the same at times.
The CHANGE HAS TO COME at the individual member level.
NOT depend on the bureaucracy to change.
If I can’t Welcome ALL to fellowship with me with Jesus, certainly the
“church” is NOT going to do so.


(Andrew) #16

I don’t like TW’s actions generally and am pro WO but there are many ways to protest. Silent though it was, this is edging toward the type of anti- free speech protest that has become all too common on other campuses. It’s a slippery slope.

While I don’t agree with them, I respect a more conservative Adventist’s right to a different opinion.

I am picturing a packed out Andrew’s chapel waiting to hear from an ordained female pastor,
watching in shock as a group of old conservative
freedom riders from out of town file down the aisle and stand in silent protest. Me thinkest this wouldnt go down too well.


(Sam Matthews) #17

It does my heart good to see that protest is still alive and well at Andrews. It has been a grand tradition at Andrews for decades for students to protest various things and is a sign that those who participated are not among the ranks of the apathetic.

Each generation seems to think they have perfected the art and the standing silently at various events is certainly not new and can gather attention for whatever cause they are advocating. This particular protest seems to have gathered specific attention which is good and I bid them well as they continue to address this and other issues. Back in the day it was bonfires and burning various articles that represented the subject so this peaceful event was well done and permitted throughout.

I do think that specifically expressing disappointment that one’s protest was ignored is perhaps a step of getting attention that diminishes the original power of the protest because it shows that the effort was neither valued nor devalued and perhaps not as effective as intended.


(Andrew) #18

Why would he disband the black conferences when they prefer them? Yes, let’s make them integrate with “white” churches and force them to have less autonomy and inflict a worship style on them they often don’t want.

What could go wrong.


#19

If you think it is hard to be heard by, and engaged with, by SDA church leaders as a young person of color, try doing so without a college degree, or without a hefty tithe check in your hand to buy their time with.

There is no telling how much farther along the SDA church would now be on the road to the ‘second coming’ if talented, energetic and sincere young souls like
Merikay Silver-McLeod (who first went to work for the Pacific Press without a college degree), Max Phillips (who was blacklisted by the SDA church simply for supporting Merikay in the face of GC discrimination) and Lorna and Gus Tobler (who dared to stand with Merikay against that same discrimination) had not been sacrificed on the altar of SDA General Conference almighty, all-controlling pride. . . and they were even ‘white’.

Recently, I contacted an old co-worker and friend of the ‘amateur’ SDA archaeologist, Ron Wyatt. I was interested in the timing of the SDA General Conference attack on him after he had simply asked for help in publicizing his discoveries, as he had every right and responsibility to do, as a church member.
(It happened just after the time of the transition from the Robert Pierson to the Neal Wilson GC administrations.)

At first Ron was greatly encouraged after a meeting with several GC leaders at GC headquarters in late 1978. They gave him a letter of recommendation with 6 signatures to present to the head of the archaeology department at Andrews and the next summer, in 1979, they both re-visited the site of Noah’s Ark in Turkey that the original SDA George Vandeman Expedition had given up on in the 1960s.

But then one day Ron showed up for work very, very discouraged. This is what his aging co-worker and close friend sent to me in a written account they had already prepared (You can find their email address at Kevin Fisher’s ‘Ark Discovery’ website, and contact them yourself.):

~ ". . . He (Ron) was happier than I had ever seen him.

"But a few weeks later, when he spoke about the subject, Ron looked miserable !
I had never seen him appear so dejected ! Ron had again spoken with “The Conference man.” Strangely, the man wanted to make an important deal with Ron. . .

"This is what Ron told me (word-for-word) that “The Conference man” said :
“It would be embarrassing to the church if it was found out that someone without archaeological degrees found all these things!”

“His offer to Ron (word-for-word) was :
“Let’s let it be known that the church’s archaeologist found these things, and Ron, we’ll give you a church to pastor”.

"That was quite a blow to Ron! He was shocked! He was terribly hurt. Ron had spent years and years dreaming and working and planning to be involved in these things, and now that his dreams were materializing, someone wanted to just take them away from him! As he was telling me about it, he repeatedly said, “They just want to take control!”; “They just want to take control!”

“Why would the presidency of God’s remnant church want to do that to Ron?. . . .” ~

Back to the reason I was interested in the timing of when the public attacks on Ron Wyatt began coming from the GC, using the Review as a bully pulpit to do so:

Just as the GC attack on Merikay Silver-McLeod was winding down, in late 1978, Ron Wyatt asked the GC for help. In early 1979, Ron and his sons began excavating where General Gordon had left off a century earlier, at ‘Gordon’s Golgotha’. In summer 1979 Ron made the trip to the Noah’s Ark site with the friendly version of the ‘official’ SDA archaeologist, after which he got the ‘phone call’, and began to be attacked by GC-compliant men in the Review, after he had refused to agree to the ‘conference man’s’ lie. (Also, Dr. Siegfried Horn retired in 1978 and the Andrews Seminary archaeology museum was named in his honor.)

This all happened around the same time that Desmond Ford was presenting his challenges to SDA doctrines involving the ‘cleansing of the sanctuary’ at the Association of Adventist Forums meeting, after which the retired president of Andrews University, Richard Hamill – then a GC vice-president – was appointed head of a committee to assist Desmond Ford in preparing his arguments at ‘Glacier View’. (All of this information is readily-available on the internet.)

Meanwhile, Ron and his sons were still clearing trash and rubble away, searching for the ‘Ark of the Covenant’ at Golgotha’s cliff-face, where General Gordon had also said the ‘Ark’ was hidden, about a century earlier, not long before ‘1888’. But instead they first found cross-holes and a large round stone that fit the entrance to the nearby ‘Garden Tomb’. In one cross-hole that was elevated on a natural stone platform closer to the quarry wall, they found a roman coin. The limestone at the edge of that hole was cracked and dried blood stained it. Later Ron found a cave containing pieces from the original ‘traveling kit’ ‘Tabernacle’ of God, located 20 feet below that cross hole with the same crack and blood at one end of its ceiling. Directly below that was the ‘At-one-ment’ cover of the Ark, also with blood on it. . . .

" As in the typical service the high priest laid aside his pontifical robes and officiated in the white linen dress of an ordinary priest; so Christ laid aside His royal robes and garbed Himself with humanity and offered sacrifice, Himself the priest, Himself the victim." ~ AA 33

You know, at first I wouldn’t bother to watch Ron Wyatt’s ‘Ark of the Covenant’ videos on the internet. But then, when I finally did one day out of boredom, I began to realize that the details of the complete Crucifixion scene that Ron found at Gordon’s Golgotha makes perfect Biblical sense according to the book of Hebrews. So, now I realize that that complete scene also describes the blood-and-water ‘cleansing’ of the ‘sanctuary’ of the ’Melchizedek’ priesthood entered into by Melchizedek’s ‘own blood’, and ‘without the gate’ of the Temple and of Jerusalem (NOT the Levitical one ‘within the gate’ that SDAs have been distracted with for 170 years !) perfectly.

So, until Ron discovered the complete ‘sanctuary’ scene that matched the Melchizedek priesthood described in Hebrews, perfectly, SDA ‘sanctuary’ scholars were focusing on the wrong, Levitical, sanctuary ‘holy’ that was never ‘set right’ by the ‘better blood’ of Christ, Himself. The Dead sea scrolls were not even discovered by an ‘amateur’ archaeologist – just a Bedouin shepherd – yet, ‘PhDs’ still study them. But SDA GC-compliant scholars are still too haughty to stoop to the ‘foot of the cross’ with the Ron Wyatt they chose to humiliate ? What’s terribly wrong with this picture ? Yet, that wrong picture perfectly mirrors the humiliation of the Christ by ‘His own’ people’, 2,000 years ago.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s – 40 years ago – Desmond Ford provided new questions, and the ‘amateur’ Ron Wyatt provided new answers to Ford’s questions. But the SDA General ‘Conference men’ chose to fire Ford, and publicly humiliate Ron Wyatt and his family and friends, instead of studying Ford’s challenge to the still incomplete SDA ‘sanctuary’ doctrines in the light of the complete details of the Golgotha ‘at-one-ment’ scene that were simultaneously being made available to them by an ‘amateur’ SDA church member whom they had refused to listen to.

Sadly, you can’t re-cycle what you’ve already trashed, without becoming visibly ‘filthy’. The haughty SDA GC does not stoop to ‘dumpster diving’, as us ‘little people’ often must. They must maintain the illusion of ‘control’ at any costs before those they claim to lead as their ‘head’.

“And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” ~ John 11:49-50


(Thomas J Zwemer) #20

The president should be able to give a cogent reply to policies he endorsed or initiated.