Adventism: Recapturing the Vision
by Rich DuBose, November 3, 2016: The true essence of Adventism is not permission giving, but focuses on equipping and empowering.
Within the last few years, popular opinion has dramatically altered the way people think about politics, individual rights, religious liberty and family life. Hypercritical dialogue has replaced measured exchanges in the marketplace, over the airwaves, and at church. The world is on edge as there is less tolerance for ideological differences. Either you are a liberal or a conservative, a Republican or Democrat, a pacifist or a terrorist, a Christian or an evil person. There appears to be little middle ground–which is only reserved for the timid, docile, or lukewarm. In the political arena, a politician’s ability to compromise, once viewed as the gold standard for successful governance, is now damnable. Unfortunately, government shutdowns have become the norm!
We suddenly moved from a timeframe where the world was filled with an astounding array of ideas, textures and opinions, to a stark, bleak landscape that some insist must only be viewed in black and white. Contemporary thought has been so poisoned by ideological intolerance and fundamental rigidity that civil dialogue has become difficult and strained.
The Adventist Experience
In the formative days of the Adventist movement, the Evangelical world viewed early Advent believers as a band of discontented troublemakers. The traditional mainline churches expelled them (if they hadn’t already left) because they pushed beyond the boundaries of acceptable religious belief and embraced a more fluid understanding of theology that came to be known as “Present Truth.” Adventists believed that truth was progressive and that God would continue to reveal himself with the passage of time. The unique beliefs of Adventism were forged out of the conviction that God was active in the present and would continue to unfold his will to each succeeding generation.
As the Adventist community grew in number and new churches were organized, it became obvious that there needed to be a way to determine what Adventists actually believed–which caused some to question if the movement should establish a creed. A creed is defined as “an authoritative, formulated statement of the chief articles of Christian belief, as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, or the Athanasian Creed” (Dictionary.com).
So the question was, how definitive should Adventists be about their doctrinal beliefs? This question came up at an annual meeting of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association held in Battle Creek, Mich., on October 5, 1861. (Arthur White, Ellen White: Woman of Vision, p. 81)
“The first business presented was the organization of churches. Brother Loughborough said: ‘I consider it proper and necessary to consider here the organization of churches, as the subject has been agitated among us, especially for the last six months; and in order to bring the matter before the meeting, I move that we consider the proper manner of organizing churches.’ Seconded by Brother White. Carried. Brother White then presented the following resolution: “Resolved, That this conference recommend the following church covenant: We, the undersigned, hereby associate ourselves together as a church, taking the name Seventh-day Adventists, covenanting to keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus Christ. Seconded by Brother Hull. Adopted” (Ibid., October 8, 1861, cited in Ellen G. White: The Early Years: 1827-1862, p. 452).
The vote was not unanimous, which opened the way for further discussion. James White stated that he didn’t want to adopt such a resolution without further discussion. What they were discussing was whether or not Adventists should create a statement of beliefs. “Should we be identified as Christian believers who keep the commandments of God, and have the faith of Jesus?” Such a succinct statement provided plenty of room for personal growth and development, but it was not without controversy.
Someone wondered if this wouldn’t move Adventists closer to establishing a creed. James White responded by stating that he agreed that voting to establish even a loose definition of faith could provide the appearance that they were patterning themselves after the other churches of Christendom (which he referred to as Babylon).
- N. Loughborough stated that they had already begun to pattern themselves after the churches of Babylon by building meeting houses, or church buildings, and referred to an article he had written in the Review where he said, “The first step of apostasy is to get up a creed, telling us what we shall believe. The second is to make that creed a test of fellowship. The third is to try members by that creed. The fourth to denounce as heretics those who do not believe that creed. And fifth, to commence persecution against such” (Ibid., p. 453).
James White spoke next, and said, “On the subject of creeds, I agree with Brother Loughborough. I never weighed the points which he has presented, as I have since I began to examine the subject myself. In Ephesians 4:11-13, we read, ‘And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets,’ et cetera. Here we have the gifts of the church presented” (Ibid.). “Now I take the ground that creeds stand in a direct opposition to the gifts. Let us suppose a case: We get up a creed, stating just what we shall believe on this point and the other, and just what we shall do in reference to this thing and that, and say that we will believe the gifts, too” (Ibid., p. 454).
White continued, “But suppose the Lord, through the gifts, should give us some new light that did not harmonize with our creed; then, if we remain true to the gifts, it knocks our creed all over at once. Making a creed is setting the stakes, and barring up the way to all future advancement. God put the gifts into the church for a good and great object; but men who have got up their churches, have shut up the way or have marked out a course for the Almighty. They say virtually that the Lord must not do anything further than what has been marked out in the creed” (Ibid.).
“A creed and the gifts thus stand in direct opposition to each other,” White went on. “Now what is our position as a people? The Bible is our creed. We reject everything in the form of a human creed. We take the Bible and the gifts of the Spirit; embracing the faith that thus the Lord will teach us from time to time. And in this we take a position against the formation of a creed. We are not taking one step, in what we are doing, toward becoming Babylon” (Ibid.).
But their agreed-upon statement of beliefs was broad enough to allow room for personal conscience, and individual spiritual growth. “Before the meeting ended they adopted the covenant by which members would join the church: We, the undersigned, hereby associate ourselves together as a church, taking the name Seventh-day Adventists, covenanting to keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus Christ…. The question was called for, and unanimously carried” (Ibid., p. 454).
What they came up with was a simple statement of beliefs that deliberately avoided being too prescriptive or detailed. They understood that the more prescriptive a church is, the greater the danger that its members will not take responsibility for their own spiritual growth.
Today the Seventh-day Adventist church needs a statement of beliefs that defines who it is. At best, Adventism does not tell its adherents what they must believe, but provides them with the tools and skills needed to arrive at an understanding of truth for themselves.
Historically, our church has had a progressive, evolving understanding of truth, which has consistently provided us with new revelations from God regarding his character and the truths he wants us to know and share. What started out as two fundamental beliefs has now grown to twenty-eight, which some fear is too many. But it should be noted that our beliefs do not constitute a creed, although at times it may feel like it. In the spirit of our early founders we continue to resist the idea of spelling out in detail exactly what someone must believe to be an Adventist. Instead we look at our beliefs as overarching themes or truths that describe God’s character.
There are voices within the Adventist movement today who want to move us away from our historical “Present Truth” view of biblical knowledge to a safer, more orthodox, dogmatic view of Scripture that looks to the mother church to define and establish doctrine. This is undoubtedly driven by the fear that if the church doesn’t establish a de facto creed, that issues such as homosexuality, same-sex marriage, postmodernism, or some of the other complex questions of the day will taint and water down our beliefs. While there may be some merit to this, the other ditch (on the other side of the road) is just as dangerous. As Protestant Christians, we don’t want to give more authority to the institutional church than Scripture supports. After all, we believe in the priesthood of all believers.
The Radicalization of Adventism
Recently I’ve noticed some of the same hypercritical attitudes that have destroyed civility within our culture seeping into our churches, to the point that we now mirror much of what’s seen in society at large. Popular talk radio hosts and political pundits who promote a wide spectrum of corrosive ideological beliefs have spread their poison among many of our members. The long-held Adventist view regarding the separation of church and state is rapidly disappearing as more members embrace the Evangelical revisionist concept that the founding fathers of our country never intended for church and state to be separate.
Some members want the church to be more prescriptive with regards to our beliefs and doctrines. In their minds there should be little room for personal interpretation. How did we get to the place where we have replaced the “priesthood of all believers” concept of the early Adventists pioneers (1 Peter 2:5) with a belief that now suggests that true unity requires each one to acquiesce his or her personal convictions and adopt a communal interpretation of belief and ministry?
Over time I’ve developed a deep appreciation for Ellen White’s view of the role and function of the church. With regards to doctrine and personal beliefs, she was clear: “We cannot then take a position that the unity of the church consists in viewing every text of Scripture in the very same light. The church may pass resolution upon resolution to put down all disagreement of opinions, but we cannot force the mind and will, and thus root out disagreement. These resolutions may conceal the discord, but they cannot quench it and establish perfect agreement. Nothing can perfect unity in the church but the spirit of Christlike forbearance. Satan can sow discord; Christ alone can harmonize the disagreeing elements. Then let every soul sit down in Christ’s school and learn of Christ, who declares Himself to be meek and lowly of heart. Christ says that if we learn of Him, worries will cease and we shall find rest to our souls” (Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, Volume 11, p. 266).
“The unity of belief in the church is not forced by the church coming together and the majority defining the creed to be believed. The church cannot define doctrine, nor make laws for itself or anybody else. The church of Christ is made up of all who obey the Lord’s commands, not a body to issue commands. The Head directs, the body obeys. God speaks; each one must listen to His voice, for faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and no one can give faith to another. ‘It is the gift of God’” (PTUK [The Present Truth], July 29, 1897).
For the sake of expediency and unity, some are willing to sacrifice their ability to think and reason for themselves–something that God expects each one of us to do. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t strive for unity. After all, Jesus prayed: “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you” (John 17:21, NLT). But unity is not uniformity of thought, and Ellen White addressed this in her time.
She wrote, “The Bible is full of the idea of unity in the church of Christ, but we do not read so much about uniformity. This unity is to be the unity of life and growth, and not a mere outward connection. In Christ’s prayer to the Father, for His disciples, He said, ‘And the glory that Thou gavest Me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one.’ John 17:22, 23. Here we see that the glory of the Lord is to effect the union of believers, and the union is to be that of the Father and the Son” (Ibid.).
In other words the unity we should covet is not a uniformity that manifests itself through enforced policies or ecclesiastical pronouncements, but rather a unity of commitment to hear and follow God’s Word. Such a view takes the focus off of human leadership and puts it squarely on Jesus, the true Head of the Christian church.
The focus of every doctrine we teach, every worship service we conduct, and every dollar that we give and spend should be aimed at connecting men, women, youth and children with Jesus Christ. The institutional church is not an end, but only a means to an end. The end is Christ. So here’s the $64,000 question: How do we share Jesus with people living in the 21st Century in ways that they actually hear what we’re saying and want to know more? What can we do to tap into their spiritual hunger with an offer they cannot resist?
For one thing, we are a media-driven age. Even if we don’t watch television, most of us are using new media technologies on a regular basis. Let me illustrate the point with these words: Netflix, Roku, Amazon, DMV, medical records, cable, Internet, GoToMeeting, smartphones, tablets (I’m not talking about vitamins), online banking, social media, online shopping, and we could go on and on. Our world is connected and media driven like never before; which means there are many competing interests that clamor for people’s attention.
If we as a church have something to say, it had better be good, and we’d better say it well; otherwise it won’t be noticed! We cannot reach people today using yesterday’s means. If we’re serious about sharing the Good News of Jesus, we need to pray, think, and embrace change!
Steve Jobs once said, “I want to put a ding in the universe.” What he meant was he wanted to generate innovative, disruptive, business ideas. He wanted to find creative people he could team up with who were willing to think differently than the rest of the pack. He wanted Apple to “Think different.”
Today the Adventist Church needs pastors and leaders who are willing to think differently about ministry; people who are not afraid to think outside of the box or color outside of the lines–not just for the sake of being different, but for the sake of finding new ways to connect people with Jesus.
I grew up in the church. My dad was a pastor, and I was able to observe ministry from just about every angle. I knew about church board meetings, nominating committees and funerals long before most kids even knew they existed. I attended “Workers Meetings” and observed my dad and his colleagues talking about church policy, theology and evangelism strategies. I remember looking at them and thinking I could never be “one of those guys.”
I thought I could never be one of them because it didn’t seem like pastors were allowed to think for themselves or try new things. And I knew there were people in many churches who, if a pastor actually tried something new, would shoot it down and say, “We’ve never done it that way, and we aren’t going to change now.”
Several years ago I heard about a woman who was getting ready to attend a North American Division Ministries convention. Before she left home, one of the elders in her church pulled her aside and said, “Go ahead and take it all in, but don’t come back and expect us to change. We like things the way they are.”
Change is a scary and disrupting thing for many people. But sometimes disruption is a good thing! In the marketplace, disruptive innovation occurs when a company takes an existing product and makes it better–to the point that it disrupts the whole market.
Five or six years ago I bought an expensive, sleek external hard drive by Glyph Corporation. It was a “brick” that took up a fair amount of space on my desk. But it worked really well and had a whopping 20 gigs of storage. It cost me around $300. Now I have a thumb drive in my pocket that holds 64 gigs, and I paid $39.95 for it. That’s disruptive innovation. The church needs to be find better ways to fulfill its mission.
When God finally made it clear to me that he wanted me in ministry, he said, “I don’t want you to be one of those pastors. I want you to be you.” Being a right-brained, creative-type person, I wasn’t sure this would be allowed, but over time God has shown me that he wants each person to bring his or her unique qualities to the task. He doesn’t want us to emulate other people. He wants us to be who we are, in Christ!
Disrupting the Status Quo
If we want to be relevant as a church, we will inevitably need to disrupt the status quo and reframe our approach. I’m not talking about change for the sake of change! Some people think just changing something makes it better. But that’s not always true. We’ve all had software updates we wish could be rolled back because we liked the older versions better.
I’m talking about changes that make our efforts more relevant and effective. Ellen White understood the need for this: “Whatever may have been your former practice, it is not necessary to repeat it again and again in the same way. God would have new and untried methods followed. Break in upon the people – surprise them” (Manuscript 121, 1897; published in Evangelism, p. 125).
When I first read this I was surprised with Ellen White’s flexibility and openness to change, especially with regards to evangelism methods. Some people have a difficult time doing anything in ministry that might be perceived as risky. They are cautious to a fault. Yet in the business world, people take risks every day. “Men will invest in patent rights and meet with heavy losses, and it is taken as a matter of course. But in the work and cause of God, men are afraid to venture” (Evangelism, pp. 62-63).
This doesn’t mean we should throw caution and money to the wind and do foolish things. But neither should we be afraid to try new things, even if some of them fail.
When I first started pastoring, I viewed ministry as a static target. In other words, I believed there was a right way and a wrong way to do ministry, and my job as a pastor was to find the right methods that had been tested in other settings with previous generations, and make them work in my present church and community. Over the years it finally dawned on me that ministry is not an end in itself, but is a means to an end. There is no one right way to do ministry. What works in one location, or with one generation, may not work with the next. If we’re to be effective we need to be open to innovation.
I find it interesting that Jesus didn’t give us an encyclopedia of detailed ministry instructions. Instead he gave us a broad, over-arching mission to make disciples of all the nations, and to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He didn’t describe all the specific methods that would be needed to accomplish our mission. That’s what our brains are for.
Think of the many different language groups, ethnicities and cultures that are out there, and how each one has their own unique customs and beliefs. First and foremost, we need God’s wisdom and guidance. But in addition we need large amounts of creativity and patience to be effective. There is no formula to be followed. “Means will be devised to reach hearts. Some of the methods used in this work will be different from the methods used in the work in the past but let no one, because of this, block the way by criticism” (White, Review & Herald, September 30, 1902). As we engage in our work we’ll find some things that work, and others that don’t. But failure is actually a necessary part of success.
The Importance of Failure
According to Jeff Bezos, CEO for Amazon, true innovators make significant mistakes in their quest to pioneer new products or concepts. In fact, Bezos said, “If the people running Amazon.com don’t make significant mistakes, then we won’t be doing a good job for our shareholders.”
I’d like to suggest that Adventist churches should be making significant mistakes. Not intentionally, and not in areas of morality or theology, but specifically when it comes to ministry methods. We should be trying new approaches to evangelism all the time; new ways to present God’s Word; new preaching techniques, and new methods for community outreach.
I like Jeff Bezos’ philosophy about vision and details: “We really need to bet the whole company… We are planting more seeds right now, and it is too early to talk about them, but we are going to continue to plant seeds. And I can guarantee you that everything we do will not work. And, I am never concerned about that. … We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details. … We don’t give up on things easily” (www.kevenellif.com).
Wow! As a church we should be stubborn on mission and extremely flexible on details or methodologies. This is a biblical concept?
Tearing Off the Roof
Mark 2:1-5 illustrates the importance of being flexible, innovative and creative in our approach.
Verses 1 and 2 pull us into the story: “When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door.”
So, Jesus was in the house, and people from all over the region had come to see him, and there was a major traffic jam in Capernaum.
Four men heard the news that Jesus was nearby and decided this was their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring their paralyzed friend to him to be healed. This was pure evangelism.
As they neared the house they immediately realized they had a problem. Have you ever noticed that when you set out to do evangelism that problems have a way of showing up?
They were just a few feet from where Jesus was, but they couldn’t see him or do anything to connect their friend with him.
The traditional routes (doors and windows) that would have normally been used to get to Jesus were blocked by people. What could they do?
They were suddenly faced with several critical questions. Were they willing to run the risk of being criticized? Were they willing to have the homeowner possibly yell at them or sue them if they did something outlandish? How far should they go? What if they created a huge scene?
They used what is known as “convergent thinking” to solve their problem. The conventional approach wasn’t working, so they quickly considered their options and came up with a quirky plan to tear a hole in the roof. They literally tore part of the roof off to bring their friend to Jesus!
“While he [Jesus] was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus” (Mark 2:3-4, NLT).
This must have taken some time, and I can picture debris falling on the heads of the people below. Perhaps the homeowner tried to get them to stop. We don’t know.
But we know that Jesus was impressed, and when the man was lowered to where he was, Jesus said, “My child, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5, NLT).
Whatever It Takes
What this story tells me is that ministry is a means to an end and that we are to do whatever it takes (as long as it isn’t immoral or illegal) to connect people with Jesus. The four men in the story didn’t wait for others to solve their problem. Nor did they reason that the obstacles meant that God didn’t want it to happen. They started pulling off roof tiles.
Unless we approach ministry with this kind of passion we will never see the results we keep saying we want!
For some churches, tearing off the roof may mean starting new ministries that meet critical needs in their communities. For others it may mean changing various elements within their Sabbath morning services, or including more youth and young adults on their church boards, or opening up their facilities to community organizations who need a place to care for the sick or hungry (clinics, food banks, soup kitchens). For some parts of the world it may mean ordaining women to pastoral ministry.
“Tearing off the roof” requires that we spend less time thinking about ourselves and more time thinking about the end-goal, which is to connect others with Jesus.
That’s scary because life is safe and predictable when we’re just talking to ourselves. When we’re just focused on ourselves we can manage everything pretty well and keep things in order. But when we start dealing with people outside, things can get really messy–which shouldn’t surprise us because effective ministry is never simple or clean. True ministry is messy, dynamic and ever-changing. People are unpredictable, and their needs are sometimes annoying. But that’s OK because we serve a God whose power and love can handle it.
San Antonio Revisited
To say I was disappointed with the outcome of the Women’s Ordination vote in San Antonio would be an understatement. I was saddened, but perhaps what saddened me most is not what you might think.
What saddened me most was not the outcome of the vote as much as the way we got there, and many of the comments and attitudes that were exhibited along the way, from both sides. The drama attached to the vote and some of the rhetoric that appeared on Social Media, along with the booing and clapping in the hall, felt more like a competitive sporting event than a discussion about how we can best accomplish our mission. What prompts us to be so dogmatic as to cast disparaging epithets at those who don’t share our views? What does it say about us and our theology that makes us want to shut down those who disagree with us?
However we feel about Women’s Ordination, I believe we missed a golden opportunity to affirm and second what God is already doing in some parts of the world through women in ministry. But this is not particularly new because the church has often struggled with recognizing how the Spirit works.
According to Joel, in the end-time, the Lord will empower both men and women to share the story of Jesus and his love. We’re not talking about a politically correct scrubbed-down version of Adventism that is squeaky clean with proof texts and that projects an aura of institutional sterility. We’re talking about a rough-and-tumble, life-and-death version of Jesus-talk that skips the platitudes and goes straight to the heart of how to find hope in a hopeless age!
So what if we know all about the 2300 days, the state of the dead, or the Mark of the Beast! It matters not one whit if what we know doesn’t somehow make us into nicer people; people who actually embody the heart and soul of Jesus! Until God opens up a cistern within our hearts that becomes a fire hydrant-like stream gushing forth grace, forgiveness and mercy in a world that’s on fire with hatred, we have nothing to offer!
Without love we are but a clanging cymbal and a noisy gong (a bothersome noise). Are there times when we are more of a bothersome noise than the emissaries of sweet refreshment?
Of course, what we believe matters because it says a lot about our understanding of who God is and what he is like. But one thing we must never forget is that God’s thoughts and ways are immeasurably different from ours. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NLT).
I believe Peter was talking to both genders when he said, “You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. ‘Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy'” (1 Peter 2:9-10, NLT).
“For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28, NLT).
God is not asking our permission for what he’s doing. Nor is he putting his finger in the air to see which way the winds of popular opinion are blowing. This is not a time for hesitation on the part of the church, because God is doing amazing things through both men and women to further his purposes. People are dying in ignorance and the world is imploding upon itself. It’s an “all hands on deck” moment where God himself takes the wheel and says, “I’m steering us out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary. Fasten your seatbelt, because I’m doing things that have never been done before! Stand back and be amazed!”
“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it…?” (Isaiah 43:19, NLT)
When Jesus was baptized by John and declared himself to be the Messiah, the Church said, “We don’t think so.” Jesus didn’t fit their understanding of what the Messiah would be like, so they questioned the authenticity of his call. Jesus was “ordained” by God to bring healing and deliverance to Israel and the world. But the Church fathers said, “No, this can’t be. God doesn’t call homies from Nazareth to be the Messiah. Jesus, you haven’t even attended the rabbinical schools. The only thing you know about God is what your mother told you.”
The Church was blind-sighted by God’s initiative to further his cause and ended up killing the Messiah because of his claims. They were certain that Jesus had not been called or ordained by God, because such a move didn’t fit into their theological and cultural understanding of how the Messiah would work. They essentially said, “God cannot work this way.”
Today some are unwittingly telling God how he must work. But, if history tells us anything, it tells us that God cannot be put on a leash or confined. He is God, and he will do whatever he thinks is necessary to accomplish his work.
Shortly after the San Antonio vote, a physician who works at Loma Linda University shared a story with me that broke my heart. What it tells me is that if the church isn’t careful, it can actually work against its best interests and impede the fulfillment of its own mission.
“As an SDA physician I have always been enthusiastic about promoting whole person care to my patients. Our long heritage of health is something special. Today one of my patients asked me why Adventists allow women doctors but not pastors. (She had googled SDA and read about the ordination vote.) She was interested in “Blue zone” health and the Sabbath, and was even considering Bible studies from an SDA neighbor she liked, but said she could never join a church that discriminates against women. I cried when I left her room.” — Dr. Kathleen Clem, Chair/Chief Emergency Medicine, Loma Linda University
I love the Adventist Church and believe that God has powerfully worked through it at times to fulfill his purposes. But in my view, the recent vote that would have allowed Divisions to adjust their methodologies to meet the needs of their fields was a missed opportunity to celebrate and second what God is already doing. In some parts of the world the cultural ramifications of placing women in positions of leadership is unthinkable. And the Church would be wrong to impose such an action upon these cultures. But there are other places where it’s not only acceptable, but imperative.
The delegates were asked to vote their consciences. What happens if the church votes something that goes against one’s conscience? What happens when the Church makes a decision that impedes the fulfillment of its own mission?
I’ve been hesitant to share these thoughts, because, who am I? I wasn’t a delegate to the General Conference, and I certainly am not a theological scholar. I don’t believe I have more wisdom than the many members, pastors and leaders who have weighed in on these issues at length. But I do have an unshakable conviction that Adventism is at a crossroads. Are we going to continue on in the spirit of our early leaders who were not afraid to explore, innovate and view their efforts as a means to a greater end? Or, are we going to fortify, circle the wagons, moderate, and play it safe with regards to how we approach our mission?
I’m thinking about much more than Women’s Ordination, which is really just a side issue to the larger questions that are looming. The very soul of Adventism is being challenged by an ideology that seeks to reduce it to a rigid, orthodox formula.
The spirit of Adventism is embodied in the belief that God has led us in the past, and that he continues to do so in the present! Historic Adventism views biblical interpretation as dynamic and as a progressive expression of truth. It embraces the understanding that God can, and will, use whatever means he chooses to accomplish his will.
The true essence of Adventism is not permission giving, but focuses on equipping and empowering.
May Jesus be glorified in our lives, in the church, and throughout the earth!
Pastor Rich DuBose writes from Northern California.