Truthfulness Abandoned?

On this website church historian George Knight published, some two weeks ago, an astonished and impassioned critique of a decision made by General Conference leadership. The decision establishes several new committees for policing lower-level policy-compliance and doctrinal orthodoxy, all with a view to maintaining the leadership’s ideal of Christian unity as uniformity. Knight’s critique was based on a report that was published here, unofficially, on August 23.

Now the General Conference has issued its own news release on these committees. That release, available here, neither mentions nor analyzes Knight’s criticisms. It is as though dissent from the tithe-paying Adventist public, even dissent from one of the church’s most respected historians, is not only resented but also studiously ignored. What is clear by now, unfortunately, is that all this exemplifies top leadership’s habitual response — or lack of response — to questions about its authoritarian manner of church administration.

One way to characterize all this is to note its palpable — its shameless — inattention to truth. All thoughtful Adventists have had access for two weeks to Knight’s most recent analysis. But numerous other analyses of dubious uses of power, over the entire period since the present administration came to office in 2010, have circulated widely, most often through the independent Adventist press. The church’s top leadership, though doubtless aware of these criticisms, has again and again failed to offer thoughtful, public responses. Little effort, perhaps none, has gone into defending the authoritarian leadership style through appeals to New Testament ecclesiology or the story of pioneer Adventism. This is so even though the critics have themselves appealed to these sources in setting forth their own views, and thus made available to all the arguments for a more flexible and less arrogant approach to leadership. An attempt to refute criticisms from below might well be in order; instead, they are ignored — treated, that is, with a kind of contempt.

“Fear not!” is a constant New Testament refrain. But I am put in mind of James Comey’s take on what he calls a “dangerous time” in America. It is a time, he says, when “fundamental truth is questioned” and “unethical behavior is ignored, excused, or rewarded.” Truly “ethical” leaders, he says, “welcome” questions. They build “workplaces where standards are high and fear is low.” He then adds: “Without a fundamental commitment to truth…we are lost.” When I take this in — in a full-blooded way — I just do feel a bit afraid. The General Conference leadership’s refusal to engage in conversation, let alone moderate its plunge into authoritarianism, augurs ill, at least in the short term, for our church’s future. What thoughtful — by which I mean biblically literate — Adventist can begin to be comfortable with what is now coming down from high places?

I grew up on Ellen White’s remark that we “have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.” From appearances, it seems that top leadership is ignoring much of our past history, including the part that renounces “kingly power.” Then there’s the direct insistence of Jesus himself, who, according to the Gospels, condemns those rulers who “lord it over others” and “flaunt their power over those under them.” Whoever wants to be great in the kingdom, he declares, must be a “servant,” not a lord. This cannot mean, of course, that administrators must cease to administrate; but it does count — decisively — against self-satisfied, distrustful, diversity-despising authoritarianism.

Leaders who do not give evidence of regard for these points, or even acknowledge fellow church members who beg them to pay attention, are leaders we may excusably think of as having abandoned truthfulness.

Charles Scriven is Board Chair of Adventist Forum, the organization that publishes Spectrum.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I hereby announce the the First David R. Larson General Conference Compliance Committee Wager.

On the one hand I will give $100.00 to the favorite charity of the first 10 persons who accept this wager if before July 31, 2020 at least one denominational worker anywhere in the world loses his or her job as a result of the General Conference Compliance Committee endeavors.

On the other hand, if before July 31, 2020 no denominational worker anywhere in the world loses his or her job as a result of General Conference Compliance Committee endeavors, each of the 10 persons who accepted this wager will give $100.00 to my favorite charity.

This offer is not available where it is illegal. I work for Loma Linda University; however, neither it nor anyone associated with it is involved in any way with this wager.


David, your charitable intent is laudable. :grinning:

However people’s destiny has already been skewed by this process.

In a system where nomination to office is influenced by a raised eyebrow or an undefended assertion, a simple association with liberalism, conservatism, Romanism, compliance or non-compliance is enough to direct the outcome, a simple association with a committee finding will do the trick.

The establishment of these committees is to intimidate toward compliance.

We’re I a betting man, both of us would lose more in legal costs than the value of the wager, since direct causality will be hard to prove.

The intent to name and shame has already been declared by one incarnation of the unity and oversight committee.

Worst still, hundreds of women in ministry suffer the glass ceiling and will lose opportunities that they may have excelled in.

I reckon you should cut your losses and donate a couple more bucks to Spectrum.


This situation is very similar to a board of directors who ignore the wishes of the shareholders. Nothing but divisiveness, endless disputes and lots of money diverted to the wrong things will come of their efforts. It is time for the shareholders to replace the board.


The problem is two fold. 1! The definition of Church/denomination, 2, The definition of church office/denominational leadership. It all began with some mistaken disfellowshipped young people who didn’t know Hebrew. Now being lead by one who only knows how to use the church manual and the power of office for personal bias.


If he were here, I believe that sociologist Robert Merton would say that the manifest purpose of the Compliance Committees is to intimidate the Adventist left. Their latent and this time more important purpose is to placate the Adventist right. The more the left is intimidated, the more the right is placated. So far, the plan is working very well.


Please cite a Scripture saying one must be churched to be saved. Certainly one should not foresake the gathering together. but the basis of the togetherness was an agreement that Christ is Lord, Savior, and coming King of Kings. My first name is Thomas but my middle name is John! I doubt the GC but I love my Lord.


I have realized over the years that conservative Adventistism can lead to justified maliscious behavior. People will defend traditions at all cost, feeling justified to zealously persecute. They amass teachers to themselves, having itching ears and are not open to open honest dialogue in scripture. It’s a “one way, my way” mentality.

Historical Adventism is progressive and focused on open honest dialogue regarding present truth. The moment we lock in and end the dialogue, we are falling into a papal mindset and may not even realize it.


Judging by the responses here, beginning with a histrionic comparison equating supporters of a non-discriminatory ordination policy to (implied derogatory context) masked antifa thugs, I fear for my church. Not only has leadership been infected by powerlust, the laity, it seems, willingly desire to relinquish their right and responsibility of moral agency and conscience (and reject the needful personal choice such requires) and instead permit another created being to have that power over them.

Stunning, the alacrity which the use of power in leadership so seduces.
Even more stunning that that there are many who welcome said use of power as “righteous”. We are upside down-truth has been strung on a scaffold as a lie, and a lie is on the throne.

Thank you Charles for your thoughts-like a surgeons blade, cutting straight to the bony issue. If we (even, especially corporately) cannot treat even esteemed and respected church brothers (and sisters) with sufficient dignity, respect, and love (befitting an answer, transparency, honesty) then I submit we cannot give grace to any sinner whatsoever.

We’re out of the boat, in a storm of our own devising, and instead of looking up to Jesus, we raise up our own committee-shielded “king/pope” to dictate to us, as we sink…

I’ll wager my tithe that God is wringing his hands in exasperation, trying to stay his course.
Will He have to wait much longer for evil to rise to sufficient level that he pierces the world with his sickle?


Victor. Good points. Thank you for making them. Yet the wager remains open.

Jesus said, "Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:11-12 NKJV. We can infer from His words that every inquisition will be a meaningful conversation about truth, that understanding truth is the great goal of the inquisitor and the persecuted. But in the words of Ira Gershwin, it ain’t necessarily so. Throughout history, the inquisitor’s sole objective has been compliance, a euphemism for obedience. To even participate in a conversation about truth is to acknowledge the possibility that the church or state decree may be wrong. The competent and faithful inquisitor will always subordinate truth, including the Word of God, to the church or state decree that he or she enforces.

Mark Finley was very open and candid in his remarks at the Fall Annual Council in 2017, spoken immediately after Jan Paulsen’s remarks, that personal conscience informed by the Word of God must be held subservient to the San Antonio vote on women’s ordination. He complained, (and I am paraphrasing), “How can I compel independent ministries to reject tithe donated to them if others are disobeying the San Antonio vote on women’s ordination?” For the inquisitor, which the transmogrified Finley has become, there is no satisfactory answer to this question. For the inquisitor, all church decrees must be obeyed without question. But for the Seventh-day Adventist Christian, informed by the Protestant Reformation, the answer is obvious. You may elicit obedience to church decrees only to the extent that you can show that they are in harmony with the Word of God.

At some point, Ted Wilson and Mark Finley are going to have to stop playing the role of inquisitor and face the reality that the San Antonio vote was undergirded by male headship theory, of which the principal component is the anti-Trinitarian heresy of Eternal Functional Subordinationism. At some point, they need to decide whether they will be biblical Trinitarians or Neo-Subordinationists. This issue is not going away. This issue cannot be camouflaged by growing a charming beard. Truth does not disappear despite all efforts to ignore it.


I wish that Comey quote had been omitted because it has triggered a diversion into the discussion of politics instead of a focus on essential questions that impact on our church and our relationships with God. How are how we should relate to errant church leaders who appear to be taking deliberate actions that appear contrary to the spiritual principle that God can use anyone to minister for Him regardless of their gender? How do we maintain our relationship with God in the midst of that controversy. Our willingness to debate politics instead of celebrating how God is working through us to bring people to salvation reveals both a feeling of impotence to persuade our church leaders to change their ways and our actual life priorities. This situation presents us with a challenge that we can allow to destroy our faith, or to let us be determined to obey God regardless of what errors church leaders make. My faith is in Jesus, not the leaders of the General Conference. I choose to trust that God will work to expose the error of their ways and overcome them while arousing a desire among believers to do the things God wants each of us doing to bring others to belief in God while He is doing the other.

In a prior thread, I pointed out that at least some individuals named on the committees were never asked to serve on them, and were completely unaware of the proposed committees and their activities–which seems patently unfair to them. I was hoping someone (editors?) could give an update on this. What is going on? Why would the GC publish such a controversial plan, including names of individuals appointed to serve as judge and juries, without any agreement from those individuals to serve on the inquisition committees? (Caveat: this is word-on-the-street from a reliable, well-placed source, and needs confirmation.)


I look forward to reading “an astonished and impassioned critique” and a report referred to as being published on August 23. I found “Truthfulness Abandoned” extremely interesting. My Church is squabbling and Satan is smiling. I am a recent Spectrum community member and find the many view points fascinating. Maybe confusing in many ways is also a valid point. I am catching up to many of the issues our Church seems to be having just as one can listen to the “NBC’s” and FOX to take the political temperature and views for one’s decision making. WWJD in its simplicity and non complicated choices is unable to be used anymore. Current culture in the Church seems to have gained ground on the world culture that we face each day. Where are the people that can come together with one another and make us whole? “If you are right and I am wrong I have lost nothing. If I am right and you are wrong you will have lost everything”.

I won’t accept your challenge, David, because I know for a fact that Ted Wilson himself has already begun calling conference presidents, etc. regarding church employees (specific individuals) who he does not feel are sufficiently compliant. The “witch hunt” has already begun!! (This is not hearsay, one conference president already told my supervisor about this.)


:cry: :cry: :cry:

This saddens me to read…so sad!


david, since you seem to be suggesting that the compliance review committees will result in job losses, shouldn’t you be setting up your wager so that you pay money if this doesn’t happen, and receive money if it does…

wagers are usually set up in order to win money when what you predict does happen, like when you win a win-3 at the race track, or when the numbers you pick give you a winning lottery ticket…usually you lose money when what you predict doesn’t happen…

(or is your wager, as written, intended to tie our minds into a knot…:wink: )

As always, @c_scriven, a lucid, sober, laser-like analysis.



George Knight and Charles Scriven are on the right path in pointing out the present dangers we face as a church. We need to provide more thorough care for hurting members and more consistent discipline for delinquent members.

The Adventist church needs to develop an ongoing leadership team that is reverent to God’s will and relevant to church needs, where the theological distinctives, the philosophy of ministry, and the vision of the future can be rooted more durably than in the paid “staff.” The church should not be dependent on a few paid staff as the guardians of the vision.


Changed one word…pardon the poetic license.
Indeed, when one factors in the power, pensions, perks, and pay issues,
“TRUTH” is riding shotgun and playing second fiddle-with back seat drivers license revoked…