Skip to content


  1. Debbonnaire Kovacs
    20 April 2012 @ 5:54 pm

    The sad thing is that this schism is becoming ever more true for Adventists, too. Historically, our denomination was one which was not so tied to top-down authority. We have always been a grass-roots movement, we encouraged individual thought and creative leadership, we chose not to have a "creed" but to make a list, subject to change as our understanding of God's Word grew, of those beliefs which we found to be biblical and Spirit-led, and so on. Yet, inevitably, as the organization grew, it calcified, and now spirituality and religion-as-tradtion-and-form are colliding for us as well.

  2. Kevin Riley
    21 April 2012 @ 2:14 am

    There is also the similarity that a world movement where the majority of the world is out of step with membership in the original base of the religion finds itself with the situation where moving in one direction will risk losing other parts of the world, while moving in the other direction risks losing the 'home' base.  What also is not mentioned is that the move away from authority structures is not represented equally everywhere.  There are parts of the world (eg Africa) and certain groups everywhere who do not want to see the authority of the church lessened, but would prefer to have it increase.

    • William Noel
      05 May 2012 @ 1:57 pm


      The problem with church authority is that scripture provides no basis for any claim supporting it.  Simply put, any claim about church authority is false and really a cover for increasing human authority, which inevitably leads to dissension and loss of focus on God.  Instead of talking about church authority we should be talking about the authority of God and encouraging people to live in His love.

  3. Ella M
    24 April 2012 @ 1:13 am

       Then we will lose NAD and Europe.  Is unity more important than the reason we became a denomination?   I am not against separate leadership if that is what it takes to teach the Gospel and obedience to that Gospel.  Otherwise we are simply shoring up an organization that has become more like a global business than one with a message of salvation.  It has become preservation of an institution.

  4. Anonymous
    24 April 2012 @ 6:50 pm

    Diana Butler Bass creates a false dichotomy between religion and spirituality in order to disparage religion. The problem is not religion; the problem is bigness. The larger the institution, be it government, business, or church, the more distance and layers there are between the decision makers and those impacted by top-down policies, and the greater the feeling of alienation on the part of the stakeholders. Religion is not by nature institutional. But all religious groups tend towards institutionalism as a survival mechanism. Religion is the container by which spiritual substance and Truth claims are spread and transmitted from one generation to the next.

    The USA Today columnist knows very well that humans will by nature attempt to institutionalize their truth claims. That doesn't really bother her. What bothers her is the authority and power wielded by institutions that reject her moral convictions about gender and sexual orientation. And so she uses spirituality to fight a proxy war against an institution that stands in the way of "promising patterns of the emerging era", smearing religion in general with the stench of the institution she disparages. She would not have written the article had the Anglican Church endorsed her view of "grassroots empowerment, diversity, and relational networks" by adopting the archbishop's Global Unity Plan. 

    Butler-Bass implicitly encourages the reader to see the Anglican Church's rejection of the archbishop's plan as a microcosm of the inherent pathology of religious institutions. She revealed her hand and lost me when she offered a false choice between "top-down control, uniformity, and bureaucracy" on the one hand, and "promising patterns of the emerging era – grassroots empowerment, diversity, and relational networks" on the other, as if it is somehow an either or equation, with religion and spirituality being on opposite sides of the divide.

    As Christians, we should fight to defend religion, but should maintain a healthy skepticism towards religious institutions – especially large institutions – which can be functionally quite useful, but have limited effectiveness when it comes to promoting and preserving the spiritual vitality which give religion its raison d'etre. We should also be highly suspicious of the hidden agendas of those who presume to diagnosis religion as pathological, and offer a chimerical, non-institutional spirituality as the cure.

  5. Elaine Nelson
    24 April 2012 @ 7:06 pm

    Spirituality is ALWAYS personal and cannot be corraled, managed, or discovered through an institution.  The innate human desire to associate with others with similar beliefs is the beginning of institutional religion, although not the initial intention.

    Such programs as "Courses on Prayer," Courses on Miracles" reinforce the idea that spiritual things can be taught just as classes in  school.  Millions have strong spiritual beliefs that are outside institutional religion and conflating spirituality with a learned process has no endorsement in scripture. 


    The Holy Spirit at Pentecost was not a respecter of persons.

    • Anonymous
      25 April 2012 @ 1:19 am

      "Millions have strong spiritual beliefs that are outside institutional religion." 

      Religion – especially instituional religion – is subsidiary to spirituality. But in its broadest sense, religion is nearly as powerful and universal a drive as spirituality. And in scripture, you will be hard pressed to find instances where God called people into covenant relationship (spirituality) without also putting them into communities of faith or building faith communities around them (religion). As religion gets institutionalized – again a natural human drive – it becomes more powerful and effective…to a point, but also increasingly oppressive and counterproductive. Had that been the take-home from the article, I would have had no problem. But in order to make her point, Butler-Bass conflated religion with religious institutions, and then posited it as an opposing force to spirituality. My argument, that she created a false dichotomy, does not support an insinuation that I am conflating religion and spirituality. 

  6. Elaine Nelson
    25 April 2012 @ 3:08 am

    How long was Abraham alone before in a community of faith?  We know very little about him and his descendants until the Exodus.  Nor do we know anything about their worship in a community.  They became Israelites and a recognized tribe at that time.

    • Kevin Riley
      25 April 2012 @ 12:15 pm

      He set out with his family, Lot and his family, and their assorted servants and slaves.  He was hardly alone.

  7. Elaine Nelson
    25 April 2012 @ 4:34 pm

    Kevin, that works for me:  the most and best spiritual encouragement is from my own family.  Families in Abraham's time, and continuing today in that part of the world, are much closer and protective of each other than in the nuclear families in the U.S.

    • Kevin Riley
      26 April 2012 @ 1:36 am

      Extended families tend to be, with very few exceptions, better places for humans than nuclear families.  That is obvious in the Bible, and a fact the pro-family lobbies should take note of.  The isolated nuclear family is an abberation of history, and unlikely to survive. 

  8. David Read
    29 April 2012 @ 10:23 pm

    The issue in the Anglican church is not some perceived conflict between religion vs. spirituality, or topdown vs. grassroots.  The issue is that people of radically different religious faiths ultimately do not want to stay together in the same organization and have their efforts be neutralized by their ideological opposites.

    That's something for you of the Spectrum and Atoday bent to think about as you try to hijack the organizational structure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  If you were successful, I wouldn't stay in the organizational structure, because I don't share your religion.

    • William Noel
      05 May 2012 @ 2:00 pm


      Scripture provides no basis for church authority, only the authority if God.  A common claim attempting to justify church authority is that believers will have no direction and will become divided without it.  The opposite is closer to reality because it is when we are supremely focused on God that we are drawn together and united in faith, but when we are looking to a lesser authority for guidance that division and dissension result.

      Why are we so doubtful of the power of God to unite, empower and guide us?  Because we do not know the power of the Holy Spirit.

    • Patti Grant
      13 May 2012 @ 3:06 am

      David, do you really believe that God needs you personally to bludgeon us–"of the Spectrum and Atoday bent"–singlehandedly into the kingdom?  You appear to be so hostile and condemnatory that you must be desperately unhappy.  It is as though the adrenaline rush of the fight is the only thing that makes you truly feel alive.  Did you never learn about the honey and the vinegar?  Step back and take a long look at how you present yourself to others and ask yourself if that is what Jesus did?  I pray that you will find joy and peace in your heart and that you can lay down this heavy unnecessary burden you carry.  Let it go.

  9. Elaine Nelson
    29 April 2012 @ 11:17 pm

    When  the church's structure is more important than personal belief, it is time to depart, or realize that "structure" as well as doctrines are always man made.

  10. Tapiwa Mushaninga
    11 May 2012 @ 8:18 am

    There is biblical evedence of a hierarchial structure. The headquarters of the new testament church was in Jerusalem. I think why most people Don't want the church structure is because they want to infuse adventism with their own false doctrines. The structure also helps such that we are not swayed by every wind of doctrine

  11. Kevin Riley
    12 May 2012 @ 12:01 am

    There seems to have been a big difference between the early church's organisation and ours.  They certainly didn't centralise authority in Jerusalem, nor did they have an organisation like ours.  After AD 70 there was no centre of authority for all Christians.

  12. Elaine Nelson
    12 May 2012 @ 1:22 am

    Almost from the beginning of the early church, there was a schism:  the Jerusalem church was comprised of former Jews and James was a recognized leader.  Paul became the leader of the Gentile Christians and early on the two branches adopted different requirement:  The Jewish Christians continued to practice circumcision and the dietary laws; the Gentile Christians were not required to practice circumcision or the dietary laws.  There is also no historical account of the Gentiles adopting the seventh day as holy.  The Jewish Christians fade from record after the destruction of the temple and it was the Gentile church that spread Christianity since then.