Reviewing the Adventist Review
by Andy Hanson
This article concerns the following issue:
September 20, 2012
Vol. 189, No.26
NOTE TO READERS:
WORLD NEWS AND PERSPECTIVES is an important section of each magazine. I don’t usually report on its contents because it is available at the online address I provide with every review.
This edition of the Review admits that a number of traditional Adventist doctrines and statements of policy are being questioned by members and leaders. The fact that these differences are not condemned out of hand must be seen as a positive step toward unity within a larger “doctrinal tent.” However, this issue also includes articles that make it seem that unity without conformity is an almost impossible dream.
GETTING NOWHERE FAST by Gerald Klingbeil specifically lists some of the major issues that divide members, but he goes on to suggest that these differences need not divide us or impede our efforts to work together.
My wife and I immediately thought about our church with its millions of members, thousands of churches, pastors, teachers, and administrators that face every day the pull of many directions. Think of some of the hot spots in contemporary Seventh-day Adventism. Some feel we should change our stance on creation and definitely tone down our position regarding the remnant; others feel strongly about the ordination of women and justice; there are some (though fewer) who are concerned about our position on homosexuality. What about those who fear that our current engagement with contemporary culture has transformed us into Babylon, or others who feel that we have come to de-emphasize sanctification over justification?
Klingbeil directs the reader to advice from Ellen White.
When self shall be hidden in Christ, it will not be brought to the surface so frequently. . . . It is only when we are careful to carry out the Master’s orders without leaving our stamp and identity upon the work that we work efficiently and harmoniously.
STANDING TOGETHER, by Lael Caesar, is another ray of hope for those of us that believe unity can be achieved without uniformity.
God’s people, engaged in God’s work, need a common, mutual, and respectful faith in who we are and what we all do. This approach doesn’t alter our fundamental commitments to Christ, nor does it disqualify us from what we’re doing. Standing together and working together in the Spirit with Ezra and Nehemiah, we may show how saints of radically different and contrasting mind-sets, temperaments, and methods can finish God’s assignment together and celebrate at last—together—on the walls of the New Jerusalem.
HOMOSEXUALITY, MARRIAGE, AND THE CHURCH, a book issued by the Andrews University Press, argues that homosexuals have been lured down a dangerous spiritual path by charming but false arguments from Scripture and political history. This is an example of why unity without conformity seems to be an unrealizable dream.
Ronald Knott, director of Andrews University Press, notes that along with the biblical and religious liberty issues, the book makes a passionate case for the highest level of pastoral love and support for those Christians who, he said, “may have been lured down a dangerous spiritual path by charming but false arguments from Scripture and political history, coming from outside and inside the church.”
THE FUNDAMENTALIST, Cliff Goldstein’s review of Alex Rosenbergs’s book, “The Atheist’s Guide to Reality,” is illuminating and thoughtful, and should be required reading for anyone who is an atheist or thinking about adopting that philosophical position.
HEALING OLD WOUNDS provides practical advice about successful human relationships. It also includes lists of supporting books and web sites.
Charlos Medley’s STARK REMINDER, argues that religious freedom is a fundamental Adventist tenant, and cites Todd McFarland, a GC attorney, as an admirable advocate for this position. In my view, McFarland is more hired gun than idealistic defender of religious freedom. Case in point:
MORE THAN A NAME by Benjamin D. Schoun, a General VP of the GC, rationalizes the persecution of the Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church because more than anything, when people hear the name Seventh-day Adventist we hope they think of good neighbors—kind, helpful, loving people who are an asset to their communities.
It is important to know something about the Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church before judging the validity of Schoun’s protection of copyright argument. First, note that the church title includes “Creation” and the unhyphenated “Day.” In addition, the CSDA church never advertised itself as an SDA church, and by all accounts it was a Christian influence in the small town of Guys, Tennessee, and in a village in Rwanda where it sponsored a school and medical clinic.
CSDA lost the legal case to keep their name by a two to one opinion in an appellate court, and the case would have been argued in the US Supreme Court if CSDA’s final appeal had been granted.
In an attempt to discover the cost of this copyright infringement case, I contacted Todd McFarland, the lead GC attorney in this litigation. I received the following email response:
It was good to talk to you earlier today. During our conversation you asked what the total expenditures in the Creation SDA trademark case. As I indicated on the phone, I did not have that number at my immediate disposal. Further I was not authorized to release it. After discussions with leadership that is not a figure we are ready to release publicly. While the church strives to be transparent in its dealings, there are some topics such as litigation that we do not discuss in detail. This request falls within that category.
During our call you intimated that if not given the cost figure you would have to estimate and that the estimate would be in the "millions of dollars." While you are free to use any estimate you would like.
The legal estimate I received from an attorney friend was $500,000 minimum.
I am far from convinced that whatever it cost for the GC to litigate this case, it was a waste of money and a refutation of the church’s position on religious freedom. Furthermore, it resulted in the imprisonment of Walter McGill and Lucan Chartier, peace-loving men of principle. The negative publicity generated was embarrassing enough to require Schoun’s defense in this issue of the Adventist Review.
For the record, here is an authorized brief history of the CSDA Church and the beliefs of its members.
The Creation Seventh Day Adventists broke away from the official Adventist Church in 1988, because of doctrinal disagreements; specifically, as a response to the acquisition and enforcing of a trademark regarding the name "Seventh-day Adventist" on other believers outside of the denominational umbrella. The United States congregation is pastored by Walter McGill, and located in Guys, Tennessee. In 2003, McGill opened a school on the Guys property.
The taking of that name “Creation Seventh Day Adventist” was based upon a divine revelation received by both Brother Danny Smith and Pastor Walter McGill. Then, in the Fall, at a meeting held in Plant City, Florida, the official Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church was organized as an association of like believers.
The group holds to certain mainstream beliefs, such as the observance of the seventh day Sabbath, avoiding unclean meats, the investigative judgment, and an imminent Second Coming of Christ.
However, The CSDA Church rejects the doctrine of the Trinity as an extra-Biblical error. They believe that the Father and Son are two distinct and separate beings which each may be referred to by the Hebrew term “El,” translated as “God” in the Old Testament, or collectively by the plural term “Elohim,” also translated as “God.” They reject the idea of the Holy Spirit as a person in the same sense as the Father and Son, believing it to be the shared essence, power, characteristics, presence, and life of those two.
The CSDA Church believes in a complete separation of Church and State (i.e., a rejection of the idea that governmental agencies possess the authority to intrude upon freedom of religion), and religious accountability for a church's actions.
The CSDA Church believes that the name Seventh-day Adventist was given by God to describe the faith of Seventh-day Adventism, and that as a result, those who accept the beliefs of Adventism must use the name in identifying themselves and their organizations. They consider this to be a matter of conscience equivalent to denying or affirming the name “Christian” based on several quotes from Ellen G. White regarding the adoption and use of the name being Divinely commissioned.
The CSDA Church holds strict views on church membership, claiming that once one has come into unity with Christ, unity with His Church (which they hold to be themselves) will be the natural result, with one not being valid while rejecting the other.
The CSDA church observes New Moons monthly during the conjunction phase of the lunar cycle. Also referred to in their writings as the “New Moon Festival of Humility,” it is the day on which they partake of the communion meal, foot washing, and a meal called the agape feast in which they eat fresh fruits and nuts in anticipation of the marriage supper of the lamb after the return of Christ. They observe New Moons in a similar fashion to weekly Sabbaths in that secular work and trade are prohibited.