This is a timely essay from Nam that should lead us to reflect on how to determine whether or not we should support the work of others outside of the denomination on important social issues.
In an 1882 letter, Ellen White said, “Some will show marked disrespect to any reforms arising from any other people besides of their own faith; in this they err by being too exclusive” (Temperance, pp. 218-1219).
Certainly, one of the agencies White singled out for discretionary collaboration was the WCTU. “The light has been given me that we are not to stand aloof from them, but, while there is to be no sacrifice of principle on our part, as far as possible we are to unite with them in laboring for temperance reforms… In some matters, the workers of the WCTU are far in advance of our leaders. The Lord has in that organization precious souls, who can be a great help to us in our efforts to advance the temperance movement. And the education that our people have had in the Bible truth…will enable our sisters to impart to these noble temperance advocates that which will be for their spiritual welfare” (pp. 222-224).
In fact, White continues to indicate elsewhere that one of the reasons for collaborating was for the positive influence Adventists might have on the partner organization itself. “The Lord does not bid you to separate from the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. They need all the light you can give them. Flash all the light possible into their pathway” (p. 224).
As to the concern of doctrinal differences, White said, “Although its friends do not believe with us in many points of doctrine, yet we will unite with them when by so doing we can aid our fellow men. God would have us individually learn to work with tact and skill in the cause of temperance and other reforms, and employ our talents wisely in benefiting and elevating humanity.” (p. 221).
On the other hand, in 1884 she did have to warn against involvement in a certain “Red-Ribbon Club.” This temperance society, she said, did “not go to the bottom of true reform, and in a short time will show flagging interest, and a returning of many to their old wicked indulgences,because they merely picked off the leaves of the tree instead of laying the ax at its root. This matter of temperance must go to the root of the evil or it will be of but little avail.” (pp. 218).
This certainly does give us much to think about when evaluating the present situation at Andrews University. The fact that administrators were willing to partner with one organization but not another raises questions as to what concerns were at the heart of their decision. Certainly, Project Fierce’s fundraising practices, which have included drag contests and burlesque shows, would be of concern to a Christian university (other “perceived” differences notwithstanding). But did these differences need to come in the way of cooperating with Fierce for a worthy humanitarian cause? And did the Andrews miss out on an opportunity to “shine all the light possible into their pathway?” Or was this a time to say, as White did of the Red-Ribbon Society, that the organization “did not go to the heart of true reform” in this area? I think these are questions worth discussing more deeply, and certainly they were being discussed in a lively way in White’s day.