It’s a familiar trope in action television and movie scripts. A group of intrepid survivors slogs through dark and threatening dangers. Suddenly one of them experiences a melt-down: “It’s no use,” they whine. “We’ll never survive!”
Then someone in the group yells, “Get a grip!” and slaps the cowardly team member. “We’re going to make it,” they shout. “We just have to work together.”
Those who have been following recent Adventist publications and pronouncements have doubtless heard some variation of the sentiment: “We’re not going to make it!” What follows is a catalogue of imagined threats to our survival as a movement: evolution, ecumenism, textual-historical criticism of the Bible, conversations about gender orientation, or the role of science in the life of faith. The implication is that our very existence is at risk.
Then is often quoted: “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget how the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history” (Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, p. 196), as if Adventism’s best days are somehow preserved in the past, like amber.
The church’s most influential voices seemed determined to preserve a deluded version of the past; incapable of understanding that time does not stand still. Past prophetic interpretations regarding the pre-advent judgment, the mark of the beast, the characteristics of the everlasting gospel are inadequate to fix or explain social issues as basic as the widespread lack of justice, equality, compassion, integrity, and forgiveness.
To be true to our prophetic calling, Adventists have to be forward-thinking and forward-moving. We have to imagine a movement in which all are gifted and valued. We have to reject the lie that not all Adventists are worthy to be considered orthodox. Our diversity of thought and expression is as important as our differences in gender, race, and nationality. Everyone deserves a place inside the tent that is the Adventist Church—whether young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight, male, female, or non-binary.
There’s no need to panic. We have to work together.
5 November 2023