I applaud Kamal and his team. Diplomatic and cautious, while being gently bold. But the Titanic of Adventism keeps heading to its doom at least in certain parts of the world while nice words and hopeful attitudes are spoken to appease the beasts at the helm.
Adventism may have some aspects that appeal to a contemporary western educated thoughtful young adult of high values. Aspects such as health and wellbeing, valuing education, community and other quality ones. But unfortunately there is so much historical and even fast accruing contemporary baggage that are like barnacles multiplying on a ship that ultimately it is a losing battle to continue - and increasingly difficult to win quality people in these parts of the world.
There are so many ridiculous things that are part of the Adventist doctrinal package that are deterrents, even if they aren’t spelled out in the fundamentals. There is a way of being that treats Adventism as the truth then an expectation that we then find ways to back that up that is anathema to quality thinking. An attempt at GC level over the next five years to prescribe the one and only legitimate methodology to interpret the Bible. The ecclesiastical battles that range from big to small are ridiculous in the scheme of things - how to limit women yet claim to empower them, exact adherence to GC policy manuals, what one can and can’t do on Sabbath, music and worship wars and taboos, attacks on other faiths and philosophies, discussions about particular biblical proof texts that ultimately have little relevance to the wider world, prophetic dates, what is real Adventism, E G White and the Bible as rule books (which bits must be slavishly followed and which aren’t to be obeyed), Adventism’s mini hell where all the non saved are resurrected to be burned as punishment (the worst burning longer than the least of sinners), and so much more. There is baggage piled on baggage. Cultural, traditional, including that which is understandable and that which is nonsensical. A belief and attitude that we must be the same everywhere when our world has discovered the richness of diversity in nature, culture and ideas.
If I hadn’t been born and bred, educated and once employed in Adventism (in a family that has been this way for generations) I would never choose to have anything to do with Adventism. To try and tell any of my respected friends and colleagues of the manifestations of Adventism or get them to be a regular part of church is an embarrassment. Yes, to a particular quality event that is cultural or social but no way to anything designed to hook people in or talk about or constantly live among the crazy peculiarities of the folk religion known as Seventh-day Adventism.
I can hang around aspects of Adventism because I grew up in it and can shrug of the weird and crazy stuf that I had adapted to. But for those who haven’t been part of it why would they even want to squish themselves somehow into fitting into what they have no need or desire to?
While I am a supporter of women’s ordination, I don’t see that having full equality in Adventism in the western world will attract more to the church. It may repel people less. It may hold some adherents longer. But western Adventism is doomed. It’s now declining and aging except for some immigrant populations. It is a shrinking minority in global Adventism. Educated young people who think well, have a social and ecological care and justice set of values, and who don’t have a background in Christianity generally will find Adventism not something interesting or attractive to join. Perhaps a local group that has a strong sense of community and belonging with some healthy practices will engage them for a time - but will not have them signing up for life, nor wanting to be associated with an authoritarian policy-driven, global hierarchical organisation that expects and demands conformity, has many elements of poor quality thinking, is behaviourally constrictive and deals in guilt, shame and varying forms of passive aggressive if not aggressive punishment for nonconformity.
Farewell western Adventism. You will continue to decline no matter what happens with women’s ordination. But for ethics you must address it. And for every woman in the church who remains. This issue is far more than about ordination. It is about how women are viewed, treated and respected in all areas of life and church.
It is also about how all the varieties of people are viewed, treated, respected in all areas of life and church. The Adventist church has yet to discover healthy, life affirming ways to love, respect, include and treat with dignity transgender people, lesbians, gays, gender fluid and other non-dominant forms of gender identity and sexuality. As well as people of all ethnicities and cultures, especially indigenous people. As well as anyone who is from non-dominant groups and identities. Increasingly so, this list also includes well-educated people in a time where church members and administrators in certain places are showing anti-intellectual attitudes and actions.
There is life beyond Adventism. Abundant life. The abundant life Jesus promised and so much more than those in the Adventist cloister and even evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity realise. Come explore and adventure with me!