by Ervin Taylor, August 12, 2015: Some may have thought that various institutional Adventist church establishment figures might wait a respectful period of time before they began a media campaign to try to shut down any dissenting voices following the disastrous vote on women’s ordination and the adoption of fundamentalist language in FB#6 at the St Antonio General Conference session.
We apparently need to wait no longer. Perhaps it has already begun as if on cue from the reelected General Conference(GC) president whose sermon is being highlighted in the same issue.
The editor of the Adventist Review (AR), Dr. Bill Knott, published an editorial entitled “A Time to Marginalize” online on August 10, 2015. His editorial and the above noted sermon of the GC President will appear in the upcoming AR print issue.
Dr. Knott begins by commenting on the “sad history” in United States history of the process of marginalizing “successive waves of those who didn’t fit the self-image of the dominant Anglo-European culture.” He then intones “Social marginalization is a real—and painful—issue that God’s remnant must consistently redress by illustrating that it is still the welcoming and inclusive community envisioned in the teachings of both Jesus and the apostle Paul.”
But are there exceptions? Dr. Knott says, well, of course, there are exceptions. The Adventist denomination must marginalize certain individuals and the ideas they proclaim. He says that “There is a kind of marginalization that is both healthy and necessary for the church to practice. Recent events have underscored why now may be the moment for God’s people to thoughtfully and systematically exclude those elements that have proved themselves hostile to our life together.” Readers of his editorial can’t complain that he is beating around the bush here. His message is clear. We must “systematically exclude” those that are “hostile to our life together.” The problem is that he never tells us exactly who these people “hostile to our life together” may be.
What might be the motivation of this plea to marginalize certain individuals and ideas? Perhaps it goes something like: “There are troublemakers in our ranks. Their ideas constitute a threat to Adventist orthodoxy and uniformity—oops, I mean unity—in belief and practice that we need to establish. We need to get rid of them. However, we can’t say it that way. That’s not nice. Let’s use another term. Ah, I have it. We need to ‘marginalize’ them. That sounds better. But it gets the job done.”
What exactly is the problem that Dr. Knott sees? He says: “In the cacophony of opinions swirling before the recent General Conference Session in San Antonio, we quickly learned that there were honest, constructive voices—even when they disagreed with each other—that deserved to be part of the necessary conversations in which the church was engaged. They spoke with civility, practiced humility, and left us all the better for the good thinking they caused us to do, even when we weren’t initially attracted to their ideas.”
So we learn that there are “honest, constructive voices . . . [who speak] with civility, [practice] humility, [and engage in] good thinking.” So civility, humility and good thinking are o.k. I think I understand civility and humility but what might be an example of “good thinking”? Dr. Knott might have expanded a little on that.
So we know that there are honest, constructive voices. But, Dr. Knott says there is “the other.” There is always “the other,” that individual or group that is not like those of us who know “The Truth.” He states: “But there were—and are—other voices who by their shrillness and their vitriol gave ample illustration that they don’t have the health of the body in mind, but instead, their own advantage.” Their own “advantage?” One might wonder what that means.
Dr. Knott continues: “They [the ones who are in it for their “own advantage”] make their living off our pain: they build their reputations even as they wound and rend the body of Christ. Unrighteous ad hominem attacks upon church leaders, respected theology teachers, and almost all who disagreed with them became their stock in trade. And sadly, the collective Adventist media rewarded them in just the way the national advertisers reward the angry pundits who slash and burn on Sunday morning television.”
So what should the good Adventist do? Here is Dr. Knott’s solution: “So here’s a call to shut our ears, protect our pulpits, change the channel, and withhold our dollars from those of whatever ideological camp who practice the uncivil and unrighteous behaviors we witnessed before San Antonio. Yes, move them to the margins; draw the boundaries of our community in such a way that only repentance and changed behavior will again allow them full inclusion. It falls to the body of Christ to defend itself when it is under attack from foes without—or within.”
It would be very helpful if Dr. Knott were to tell his readers exactly what organizations and individuals he has in mind that “practice the uncivil and unrighteous behaviors we witnessed before San Antonio.”
First of all, what is this “change the channel” and “withhold our dollars” statements all about? What Adventist TV ministry is “living off our pain”? He certainly can’t be referring to the “Amazing Facts” organization of Doug Batchelor, can he? Or Danny Shelton’s “3ABN” operation? Readers perhaps have suggestions as to which TV ministry or ministries Dr. Knott may have in mind.
And who might have made the “unrighteous ad hominem attacks upon church leaders [and], respected theology teachers?” Is the problem that the alleged ad hominem attacks were “unrighteous”? So would “righteous” ad hominem attacks be okay? Again, readers may wish to make nominations as to who Dr. Knott might have in mind as the source of the ad hominem attacks against church leaders.
One might wonder if this is just the opening salvo in a campaign that seeks to silence those opposed to the decisions rendered at the San Antonio GC session with respect to women’s ordination and FB#6. Or perhaps we are misunderstanding Dr. Knott’s targets. Perhaps his targets are on the right wing of the church that opposes women’s ordination and is working to foster fundamentalism in the Adventist Church.
Until Dr. Knott names who he has in mind, we are left to speculate. Speculations welcomed.