Why We Should Reform Our Theology after Ted Wilson


It has been said that the Lord does not change (Malachi 3:6). Likely this was an overenthusiastic observation by a “spokesperson” untroubled by putting words in God’s mouth. A different writer credited the same God with pledging to “visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 20:5 KJV). But when the people rebelled against the perceived injustice of this edict, God “changed” his mind. Scripture has him renouncing the idea of generational/corporate sins and transferred accountability because a different time demanded change. And with gusto equal to his original pledge, this same God would embrace the merits of individual responsibility, evidently disavowing his previous stance. Ezekiel would ask on God’s behalf (18:2 NIV): “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb: ‘The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’”

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/views/2023/why-we-should-reform-our-theology-after-ted-wilson

The fundamentalist and narrow-minded perspectives of Ted Wilson are representative of Adventism that is unable to yield to the truths of the new covenant inaugurated by Christ (Heb 1:1-2). I applaud Matthew Quartey’s articles which contribute very good suggestions on how the Church can advance in its theology and mission. It’s an important essential topic of conversation for the hope of a more kingdom oriented and gospel centred adaptation for God’s people invested in Adventism. It is highly unlikely such change can truly flourish when a continuing core cannot see Adventism without EG White. That discussion continues and the argument is compelling that there can be no SDA Church if Ellen White is in any way relegated from her traditional and current status as the prophetess who defines Church doctrine and behaviour.


In the late 80’s, my daughter took gymnastics at a school run by an Iranian couple who had left their country not long after the Shah was deposed and before Ayatollah Khomeini established a purported theocracy.

In talking to the wife about what was happening after they left, and how she must have felt bad about what was going on with the people there, she was somewhat wistful but mostly dismissive of their plight, saying something to the effect that all of the intellectuals, dissenters and freedom seekers had left when she and her family had, so the people who remained agreed-either tacitly or vocally-that Iran should be a Muslim Country and were willing, even happy, to live with the consequences of that decision.

As I see it, this more or less describes my attitude toward Adventism and Adventists. The people I know who’ve left are happy about leaving, have absolutely no desire to return and have few, if any regrets about having done so.

So when I think about those who remain, knowing that foundations of the denomination rest on quicksand, that their core beliefs are untenable both logically and spirituality, that the center (EGW) cannot hold, i. e., a schism is unavoidable and may already have taken place, I don’t feel much, if any, empathy or compassion. Those who ignore all of the problems and stay on, whether out of loyalty, friendships, family tradition, inertia, habit, lack of imagination, an inability to think of a better place to go, or simply refusing to accept that which cannot be charged, have made their decision and will have to deal with the consequences until such time as they decide to leave or are carried out in a box.

Ultimately, and the way I see it, this also parallels the Adventist view of heaven, where the saints are given the opportunity to “check the tape”, see that god made the right call in every case and that those who “didn’t make the list”, as REM sang, really wouldn’t have been happy on the other side of St. Peter’s Gate. For me personally, being one who would rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, as Billy Joel put it, all I can say is “Oh how I long to be in that number.”!


My research indicates that nearly 90% of her writings were drawn from uncredited sources, with the excuse that God, after all, is the source of all truth! And prophet could copy freely from non-copyrighted works.


It always amazes me how those propagating and imposing their views upon the rest of the Adventist community accuse others of their offenses. The “reform” this author suggests is no mere reform; it is a complete abandonment of the SDA message entirely—an assimilation into Evangelical Christianity. I just don’t understand the issue of women’s ordination. The Church said NO. Three times, in fact. Now you’re suggesting we ought to abandon the literal 7-day creation account? These, coupled with his attempts to diminish Ellen White’s writings, make him sound more like an enemy of Adventism. Not someone interested in reforming our church but in dismantling it.
Well, there is a perfectly good solution to the “issues” he seems to have with the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s fundamental beliefs—kindly join the evangelical church of your choice and maybe add Sabbath-keeping (unless you’re against that too).


I think I’m finally coming around to your view. Although I left Adventism years ago I have harbored a hope that the church might modernize and reform at least some of its harmful and mistaken ideas. But I fear this has been a fool’s hope. When I look at the history of church “reforms,” I do not actually see reformations of existing church authorities. This is obvious upon consideration. Luther set out to reform Catholicism, but in fact he founded a new sect. One could say the same of just about every religious reformer, it seems to me. The history of Christianity is a history of schisms. In that tradition perhaps it’s past time for Adventists who see the church for what it truly is to hit the road and build something better–or even find the bravery to look outside the Christian paradigm for wisdom and meaning. :slight_smile:


Society is made up of all kinds of personalities, either from “nature or nurture”. Those who were born into the church, either rebelled against the insulation, or they welcomed it as security. Even those who chose the SDA church somewhere along the way, react to it in personal ways.

I chose to join as a teen, along with my mom. I found the security it offered comforting, and I accepted any teaching they wanted to throw at me, along with Ellen White - although I’ve had second thoughts about her from the get go). My personality drove me to dig deeper - not disprove anything, but to strengthen the beliefs (never understood the 2300 days… etc - and, even after a minor in religion at an SDA college.

Given all that, it was difficult shedding the Adventist cocoon/security blanket. It’s all about feelings. I liken it to a newborn baby, going from a warm secure environment, finding the freedom of the big world uncomfortable. So we secure her in a swaddling blanket to keep her from flailing uncontrollably. The freedom was a little scary, but exciting to realize there was more to learn and experience. “New birth” isn’t for everyone.

I don’t think people stay and circle the wagons because they’re convinced of the truths of Adventism compared to anything else; but emotionally they are attached to the security it offers.


And herein is the argument. To reform the Adventist Church - per Jay - means “a complete abandonment of the SDA message”. Thus Adventism is essentially inseparable from a “prophetess” who makes claims that God gave her the “answers” , that she was “shown that” these were or were not the “truth” (and so making God out to be ignorant and willing to be deceptive in order to manipulate his people) when the progress of time as well as EGW’s behaviour (eg scoffing oysters behind a tent, her plagiarism etc) prove she was not telling the truth. or at the very least had scant regard for it.
“The Church said NO. Three times,” When the TOSC reps from around the world studied the question of ordination and made recommendations to GC leadership, Ted and co obscured the findings and manipulated the motion to provide for a much simpler way to obtain the vote outcome they wanted. So to help the Church say NO to Biblical truth and principles is evidence that Adventism is bankrupt. Well Jay, I agree to your perfectly good solution and I have kindly joined an evangelical church of careful choice.
The reason I continue to stay in touch via Spectrum is for the sake of my many friends I baptised into the SDA Church and including those who continue to hope for a Church that can truly embrace “present truth” rather than hold to ancient obscure myths and falsehoods perpetrated by such a key founder as Ellen White.


Except this isn’t true. The church only declined to allow divisions to ordain women. Other than that, the status remained the same; unions are permitted to do so at their level, if they choose.

The wording from the GC bully pulpit has consistently made it sound like a no vote actually happened, and it’s amazing how successful this distortion has been.


It’s actually even more subtle than that:

The General Conference in session voted to not shift the authority to decide if women should be ordained from the Unions, where it resides today, to the Divisions (which are lap-dogs of the GC).

As a result of the no vote, nothing changed and so the authority to decide who gets ordained (gender being one criteria of many) remains with the Unions.

Basically Ted bungled his efforts to control Ordination policy, which he currently continues to have no authority over, by making the language of the proposal so obscure and convoluted that most everyone thought we has asking them to vote yes or no for WO, where what he was really asking them for was more power, since the Divisions were created as and still are administrative units of the GC.

If the vote had succeeded in changing policy, then Ted would have been able to direct the Ordination policy for the entire church through the Divisions. It did not and so he cannot.

Notably, the various Unions around the world have quite different criteria for Ordination. Some, for example, require an education. Some require that education be some sort of Divinity degree, like a Masters in Divinity. Others will basically ordain anyone with a heartbeat - though they may have no formal training at all.

Well, the issue is that more than 50% of the church is officially treated as second class members because they cannot become ordained pastors based on their genome. Even if they feel that God has called them to become a pastor. And a whole lot of people in the west don’t like that. And to some extent they are leaving the church as a result. Like my daughters. Is that hard to understand?

If by “The Church” you mean the General Conference in session, which it seems you do, then that is not correct. And, in any case, I’d hardly call the General Conference in session, “The Church”.

The idea that there must be only one policy regarding WO is suspect at best. The many church Unions have many different policies regarding who can be ordained, based on their various cultures and circumstances. For example, Unions in North America generally have a policy that Pastors should have a Masters in Divinity, probably from an SDA Seminary. But that might not make much sense in parts of the word that have no SDA Seminary, or where such formal education is different or nascent.

And these policies are evolving on a regular basis, with no need for Ted’s input. Or the GC. It used to be that in the Pacific Union pastors had to be married to be ordained. I don’t think that’s the case anymore. This is a good thing, because the younger generations are getting married later and later, if at all. If we waited to ordain a pastor until married, he (or she) might well be 35 years old before Ordination. Which makes little sense.


You’re right, and I’d edit it, but it would look weird after you quoted it. Thanks.

Or one of my friends who’s now an agnostic. She still comes to church sometimes, mostly for the community. But it’s a non-traditional SDA church, so I’m sure that’d be the next complaint.

I agree. Once upon a time I thought the SDA church was susceptible of reform . It is not. SDAs as a corporate body are not interested in truth. On every point where the question is between truth and identity, the SDAs choose identity. And the argument is always the same “if we embrace truths and abandon our historic errors, we won’t be unique anymore; we we’ll have lost our identity”. So they double down on silliness like EGW, “Sunday law”, biblical literalism and a 6000 year old creation.


A response to Matthew’s article on my FB page, with permission:

John Rosier
posted below about Matthew Quartey’s article on Spectrum today:

Remarkable and brave admission of some of the reforms that are required.

In fact there are at least 4 Fundamentals that need rewriting and modifying and one that needs removing altogether having nothing to do with any Biblical concern.

One that need rewriting is Creation, which needs to be more flexible as a general statement of belief. Another is the sanctuary teaching and judgement teachings which need to be completely rewritten in harmony with Hebrews and the Apostolic kerygma. It also needs to be in harmony with the Gospel and Jesus’ teaching on judgement, especially as found in John’s Gospel. The traditional position opposes John’s Gospel, Hebrews and Jesus and is anti-Gospel. It has to change. So IJ and 1844 has to go.

The Article relating to justification and sanctification is a pig’s ear of a mishmash and confusion. Justification and sanctification are not defined correctly. We are still in the case of the latter suffering from the error of John Wesley and his teaching of eschatological perfection, which being a Methodist Ellen White would have believed. She never really understood Justification, though in 1890 she did believe it was imputed righteousness, but still gave it a legalistic thrust, which is not what Paul taught. The 16th century Reformers knew better as do mainstream Biblical commentators like John Stott.

As for Sanctify or Sanctification it really means in both Hebrew and Greek to be ‘set apart for God’. All believers are called, so all believers are in Christ sanctified already, that is set apart inside Christ. The erroneous doctrine of progressive sanctification needs to be brought into harmony with the finished work of Christ and Paul’s point that we are already justified, sanctified, and glorified as one now in Christ. That would remove idea that we have to progress to a certain point in our sanctification before we can be saved. It’s not Biblical so it needs completely rewriting. It would also remove the Gospel of terror that our youth are raised on. No wonder they leave.

As for Article 18 that didn’t exist till 1980 and has to go because it has nothing to do with the NT faith or teachings of Jesus. It merely elevates Ellen White to near canonical status and as a final court of appeal trumping the final authority of scripture. So long as this article of faith exists the Adventist Church cannot claim to be a Sola Scriptura Protestant Communion. It makes a false cultic claim for Ellen White and bases the validity of the Communion in her rather than Scripture and Christ alone. In this sense it is heretical verging on blasphemy. For her writings cannot be regarded as the ‘Spirit of Prophecy’ as found in Revelation 19. We also have to admit that all the works she copied from and weaved into her writing without acknowledgement, as well as those written for her, but published under her name, are also examples of the ‘Spirit of Prophecy’.

This requires a complete re-think of the function of the Holy Spirit in relationship with all believers as members of the priesthood of Christ and their prophetic calling in Christ, by which the testify to Christ. All of this is seen as prophecy inaction. And Christ is the True centre of prophecy.

The Traditionalists in the Communion and the Leadership will fight over this because they have been mis-selling her writings and making millions from them for decades, while supporting the power of the White Estate. This has to change, and Ellen White has to be put where those in 1919 saw her as a founding figure of the Communion, but no more. That is, she is not an authority on history the Bible or health let alone anything else. And they personally knew her. Further that everything she wrote has to be judged by Scripture. The position taken in 1980 that she was as inspired as any of the Biblical prophets, placing her behind Scriptural judgement is not just risible it is a very dangerous teaching when it’s clear that not all she wrote can be harmonised with scripture. Such a position makes the Church a Cult and not a true part of the wider Christian Community.

We also need to do something which has never been achieved. That is to bring the entire Apostolic Faith together under one roof. If Adventism is to achieve anything it has to ask the question, ‘What was the Faith given to the Gentiles?’ It’s the Reformation question. By 1563 the entire Apostolic faith had been recovered, but it was scattered through the many groups in Reformation Christendom. We need to bring the Apostolic kerygma and the Gospel under one roof and that means dispensing with unbiblical claims and a view of prophecy, including Daniel and Revelation, that also requires serious revision in the light of what it really meant to those who first received it and the ever changing, developing and reoccuring prophetic issues that flow through history that the Ekklesia of Christ has to face.

To do all the above we require another 1919 type Bible Conference that is open, brave and above all honest, even if it splits the Communion, which it all but did in 1919 had they not decided to bury the minutes and airbrush it out of Adventist history for almost 5 decades.

And will again if what is proposed in the Spectrum Article is attempted. The Traditional forces supported by Ted Wilson are at the moment too strong to accept such a radical explosive Reform despite the need for serious reform of this ‘Rome type’ Communion and a reversal of the way it has been heading since Glacier View.

If Matthew Quartey is serious about doing what his article suggests then he has to be prepared for schism.

Do I believe that anything will change after Ted Wilson has gone, no I don’t. I think they will vote on someone of similar ilk unless there’s a real Divine intervention like a visionary appearance of Jesus at the next GC Session in 2025 to put everything straight.



Despite the opening prayers and perfunctory invitations to the Holy Spirit to attend and participate in church business meetings, it appears He has declined every single such invitation. I have concluded that the Holy Spirit and the rest of the godhead have no interest in the SDA denomination and its petty politics.


I always forget what kerygma means so I have to look it up, every time.

Here’s the first definition from a google search:

  1. The proclamation of religious truths, especially as taught in the Gospels.

But then, seeing that I’m reminded of why I have trouble remembering what the word means.

It’s because to me, the term “religious truth”, i.e., the truth one finds in any book, is inherently contradictory.

As I see it, the most essential fact about the Apostolic Kerygma, the canonical gospels and the Bible itself: there is no way to prove the truth of any of these.

For example, we cannot know that any of the apostles actually knew the person they called Christ or if they understood-in part, much less in full-his mission on earth.

We do not know the truth about who the gospels writers were, or if their work in anyway reflects whatever good news Jesus may have preached.

Most importantly, there is no tangible evidence for the existence of either the OT or NT versions of god. So while the credulous may assume that the words of the Bible are not only his, but are exactly as he would have them expressed simply because a fourth century conclave (convened for geo-political reasons) granted the book their imprimatur, this assertion has not been verified by observation and facts. Thus, until such time as this being manifests him-, her- or itself, provides irrefutable proof of his identity, and then submits to some basic questions*, the truth of this assertion will continually be considered suspect by reasonably skeptical persons.

IOW, it’s most reasonable to assume that all organized religions-and Christianity in particular-merely espouse a stylized kerygma, or their opinions about truth, and, for the past few millennia, have-for lack of a better term-been “blowing smoke”.

*For starters, how can anyone know that he knows everything?


Excellent article and fantastic response from John Rosier.
If the 4 Fundamental Statements were revised in line with Scripture then I see no reason why the SDA church should not unite with the Seventh-day Baptist church.
If the revision included the tenet about the Sabbath to bring it into line with Romans 14 then no distinctive tenets would remain and the unity with mainstream Protestantism would be possible. Paul’s broad open arms toward sabbatarians and non-sabbatarians should be noted. A SDA individual who gravitates to another faith should never be called “apostate.” They remain our brothers and sisters in Christ.


“The need for reforming our theological positions, as well as our governance system, predates the Wilsons. But Ted Wilson has used the current structure to essentially “bind” the church to his personal beliefs and in the process extend his stay in power. This has made the need for reform even more urgent. With an anticipated exit at the end of his current term as the church’s foremost administrator, Adventism has an opportunity to start imagining a better and more efficient organization.”

The likelihood of this happening is slim to none. From what I hear, the next GC president will probably be from the southern hemisphere and likely be at least, if not more conservative than Wilson.


The earth is 6,000 years old in pre-high school classrooms and church pulpits but billions of years old in high school and college. Because our higher education venues, together with many informed Adventists, sensibly ignore what FB #6 teaches, isn’t it time we took this albatross off our necks?

I just graduated from an Adventist college last year with a science degree, and I have to say I don’t agree that a billions of years old earth is generally taught in SDA higher education. Sure, there is an acknowledgement that secular science accepts this view as fact, and some basic evolutionary ideas are taught, but the idea that comes across is, “You need to know the standard view but obviously we don’t really believe this.”

The funny thing is (again this is my general sense from my own experience and completely subjective), it seems that SDA science professors are not 100% signed on to young-earth creationism. I get the sense that many may think there is a longer age of the earth, but they can’t actually say that because they’ll lose their jobs. There was also a hiring process for a new professor when I was there, and it seemed like they could personally believe differently, but had to be willing to put on the denominational mask in their teaching.

I think it’s incredibly sad that this is the case, because there’s going to come a point (it is probably already here in some places) when SDA universities will not be able to get good quality science professors because they won’t be willing to put up with this denial of science or cognitive dissonance.

I am really thankful for my professors, though. I feel I got a quality scientific education and that (most of them) were exceedingly competent in their fields.


While I don’t disagree that the theological reforms outlined here would be good, I am struggling to see any universe in which this would be an actual possibility. I think for more progressive Adventists this would not be too difficult, and you might even convince some “moderate” Adventists. But conservatives are never going to agree to these things.

As an example: I grew up and believed in a fairly conservative way most of my life, and I never heard that there was any doubt about the Investigative Judgment being in biblical until I started becoming more progressive. In conservative circles it is taught as a biblically sound doctrine, as true as the state of the dead and the Sabbath. Trying to convince the majority of the church (in the world-wide context, I think it is conservative by a landslide, but maybe I’m wrong) to drop the Investigative Judgment from our FBs would be like telling them we should stop keeping the Sabbath. In fact, the IJ is often cited as being one of the three doctrines that make Adventists who we are, along with the Sabbath and the state of the dead. Oh, and I guess belief in the Second Coming, so that makes 4 distinctive beliefs.

So I wonder (sincerely, please tell me of you have ideas), is there a legitimate path to get this kind of reform to happen? The only way I see would be the result of a split in the church.


Another issue…the Sabbath is required for Gentiles, New Covenant Christians. And that the Sabbath is the final test for mankind. Neither of those are supported by the New Testament.