Response from a Church Member: The Adventist Church in Crisis
By Aidis Tomsons, October 14, 2016: How does it happen so quickly that the Adventist Church turned from persecuted church to persecutors? How did we become the one who must teach a lesson to those who think another way? To make it sound better, there is a new word in use, it does not sound so hard – to discipline.
These are only my personal thoughts about latest events in my Church. The history of the Christian Church shows that religion becomes intolerant when it gets some authority or influence over others. It is so in mega churches and wide spread religions, and in small sects as well. Only the measure is different. If the religion is able to get a strong position in a state, as has happened with Christianity and Islam on many occasions, then it takes action against all inhabitants, using the structures of power. If the sect is very small, it tries to use power against its own followers.
Although, there are some religious movements in this world which are not persecuting others, I have thought about that and tried to find out where is a difference. If the religion is not used as an instrument for gaining influence and power, or to satisfy greed, then sooner or later it is pressing those who thinks differently; there is a sense of a monopoly on truth. It is not only about that what we believe. Each one of us lives in agreement with his own belief and understanding. No one thinks that others understand things better than himself. But, when the truth (correct understanding) and not love becomes the highest value, then oppressions of others ideas starts.
How quickly the Adventist Church has overgrown with volumes of lengthy documents, to interpret how to understand and act in a correct way. We arrogantly smile at rules set by Pharisees. We feel better than those who tithed their dill, mint and cumin, and were more than sure that to carry a bed on Sabbath is forbidden. But our Fundamental Beliefs have grown to a far bigger number than that of other denominations. According to the Adventist Review at this year’s annual meeting delegates will consider adding Fundamental Belief number 29. The Church Manual and working policies are reviewed in a very scrupulous way. These thick books are revised and updated regularly. And we want all 20 or 30 million believers to follow them very carefully, to think and to act according to these prescriptions. But it turns out that even in this movement there arises “unilateral minded people, who need to be disciplined.”
Will the leadership of the Adventist Church look to the current situation with the eyes of Christ?
Peculiarly, this crisis in the Adventist Church has happened not because of some fundamental theological question, but because of misunderstanding of the equality of men and woman. When we look on Christ, is he ready to “discipline” or exclude from the fellowship those who are ready to treat men and woman equally? Do they really know Christ who want to condemn those believers who are willing to let woman serve God the same way men are? Is this a reason to persecute fellow believers?
I have asked God about it in my prayers. And I have this knowledge that God willingly let this crisis happen in the Church. For Him, the crisis is a time of opportunity. From this crises we can grow. It has always been so. The question is will we use this opportunity to grow and to mature.
I am following with interest the official Adventist media for information about what is happening these days in the Church; is there any information about this crisis? The main media are silent. The Adventist Review, the ANN news agency and official web pages have published only sweetened information or kept silent on the issues. They only know of good things or nothing.
Censorship is another way the leadership of the Church tries to influence us to fit into the “truth.” They don’t understand that in 21st century this looks miserable and lamentable. The world has changed due to new technologies. But the Church wants to control everything and ban all other ideas or information like North Korea.
How good to know that there are some independent media in the Adventist faith. Some journals and web pages are communicating very actively about these latest events. There are some pastor’s blogs and some church web pages that provide information about these latest activities. How strange it is to have two different streams of information among Adventists.
It is happening in the Latvian Conference as well. Like elsewhere, here the Church wants to rule over all sources of information. Take a look at the official web page www.adventisti.lv. Do you see information about the latest discussions at the General Conference? No. The Church board has made an effort to control all media. Recently a radio studio was taken over, and the official statement about these changes very clearly states that the previous director did not want to submit to the controlling power. Previously in a very similar manner the journal Adventes Vēstis was taken over in order to censor it before publication. But the Church leadership does not understand that in the 21st century this kind of censorship looks bad.
There is a crisis in the Adventist Church. Not only has the Norwegian Union Conference stated this in an official statement, but there are pleas from many Adventist Universities to the General Conference. Independent media in the last few days have reported the emotional discussions in the General Conference annual meeting. But any of crises can turn into a blessing. God will always have a church. God’s love has won the world. The question I need to ask myself is has the love of God won over me?
Sometimes love asks us to keep silent, but sometimes it enables us to speak. Love cannot pretend that everything is fine. And I, who really loves my own congregation and my Church, believe that there are times when we need to speak and look for solutions together, to be able to walk away from crisis stronger and more loving than before.
Aidis Tomsons is a well-known broadcast journalist in Latvia and a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This is an English translation of an article he posted on his Adventist news blog and sent to Adventist Today for us to also publish.