by Andre Reis  |  14 October 2018  |

This week, as the church leadership gathers in Battle Creek for the cosplay Annual Council 2018, the membership watches with bated breath. For months the church has been stirring as many institutions have expressed concern with the way the Wilson administration has been attempting to enforce “compliance” on the issue of equality in ministry.

It must have been quite a sight to hear the Sabbath morning sermon being recited by Wilson, dressed in full pioneer garb! As he often does, but this time bolstered by the authority of long beards, austere attire and holy dresses all around, Wilson robed obscurantism and the old Adventist landmarks in the cloak of holiness and legitimacy. His idea of “Making Adventist Great Again” is to turn back the church clock 100 years, said a conference president.

As the emcee of the Give Me That Old Time Religion Pageant and sporting an emblematic salt-and-pepper beard, Wilson thundered against what he perceives as sustained attacks on real, historic Adventism. The content was far from original, the delivery as mechanical as ever, but the tone was unnecessarily adversarial; he often appealed to the spirit of the “pioneers” as if their situation was identical to ours and implored for the preservation of the last remnants of fundamentalism in the church against Satanic forces at work in the church. His sermon was as anachronistic as the attire he wore.

Below I offer commentary on the most salient points.

Fellow church members, there may be some who introduce and flaunt worldliness in personal dress, lifestyle, and conduct in church life and activities. Brothers and sisters around the world, … stand firm for God’s simple truth and lifestyle! 

Is wearing monochromatic clothes and facial hair the new Adventist dress reform?

Maybe not, but it seems telling that in a meeting where sensitive decisions about the modern-day church and equality for our female pastors are being made, Wilson would choose to romanticize a bygone era where patriarchalism, machismo and gender inequality were the norm.

And, can we please move past the shallow attacks on “worldliness”? We’ve become “so heavenly minded, we’re no earthly good!” What we need is the ability to engage the world in a meaningful way, not emphasizing externalities but stressing how our inner core can make a difference in the world.

There may be those who overemphasize social issues while downplaying or neglecting biblical truth and its relevance for today’s society.  … Do not allow anything to overshadow God’s last-day message we have been commanded to proclaim…

Interesting, but we don’t hear any eschatological overtones in Jesus’s address of “social issues” in the sermon on the mount. Interjecting the Adventist “last-day message” into everything the church does to become relevant in today’s society will certainly come across as interesting and is bound to attract mostly people who already have an unbalanced eschatology.

Adventism needs to stop being a redoubt for doomsday loonies and start looking for ways to connect with the world without always trying to get something in return: new converts.

Or, some of you may encounter those who show contempt for anyone wanting to live a simple, healthy, plant-based lifestyle according to biblical and Spirit of Prophecy counsel…

The percentage of Bible passages dealing with a “plant-based lifestyle” is limited to the first two chapters and is therefore not a main concern of Scripture. Not even Jesus as a Jew was a strict vegetarian. Although Ellen White wrote extensively on diet, she did not make a “plant-based” lifestyle a test of faith.

Fellow brothers and sisters, some in your local church may manifest a strange independence of spirit leading to disunity… But there are many in God’s church around the world resisting these attempts and the Lord will prevail!

It is disturbing and shameful how Wilson groups those who manifest “strange independence” as being opposed to “the Lord.” In essence, those who recognize the ministry of women are on Satan’s side; those who oppose the controversial document being proposed now are equally children of Beelzebub.

As a headship theologian, Wilson also attempts to confer biblical authority to the flawed vote taken in 2015 and now to the infamous compliance document, despite the fact that TOSC, the committee on women’s ordination, did not see diversity on ordination practice as unbiblical or deleterious to the church.

There are influences outside and within the church attempting to change God’s institution of biblical marriage between one man and one woman. Brothers and sisters around the world…

It’s easy to see how “outside” influences may want to influence the church on LGBT issues, but the charge that this is currently occurring fiercely from “within” is an overreach. It is, however, noteworthy how he groups this issue right after “independence” on women’s ordination. Wilson clearly sees (incorrectly) the issue of women’s ordination as the first step towards legitimizing extreme feminism and the acceptance of alternative sexual orientations in the church. This “theology of suspicion” is misguided.

Friends, there may be those in your local church who show a lack of spiritual respect for church authority. My brothers and sisters around the world, be of good courage and stand firm for God’s truth! 

Many think that more “church authority,” more layers of hierarchy, more control to the administration, more administrative retaliation, more drain on financial resources and more oppression on ministers and workers do not lead to greater emphasis on mission but rather lead to centralization and a top-heavy organization out of touch with the needs of local congregations, very much the kind we see in this council’s proceedings.

You may meet some who share disparaging remarks and a disinterest in the Spirit of Prophecy. Friends, the Spirit of Prophecy is one of God’s greatest gifts to His last-day remnant church. Continue to stand firm for God’s Spirit of Prophecy truth!  

Wilson is sure that the Bible alone is simply not enough to provide direction, comfort in the last days. He rarely if ever uses Scripture alone but it is always flanked by its ubiquitous bodyguard, the writings of Ellen White.

But in an effort to respect Ellen White, he disparages the Bible. There should be no confusion in Adventists’ minds: the Bible is absolutely sufficient to impart salvation truth. Ellen White said it herself: “If you had made God’s word your study, with a desire to reach the Bible standard and attain to Christian perfection, you would not have needed the Testimonies.” (5T 664).

There may be those who promote unscriptural and unsound methods of church growth revealing a distrust for God’s Word and the inspired counsel…keep resisting these attempts…

I may be wrong, but this sounds like a swipe at the now defunct The One Project, a grassroots movement with the mission of exalting Christ alone. Wilson criticized the initiative with a papal bull-styled 7-point litmus test. Any new method of church growth must now align itself to that document.

Some in our church attempt to downplay, distort, or even destroy Christ’s provision of righteousness by faith by denying His justifying and sanctifying power.  …

Church family, there are those in our ranks who disparage our hopeful expectation to be the last generation before Christ’s soon coming. I ask, “Who would not want to be part of the last generation and see Jesus come in their lifetime?” What a privilege to realize that Christ wants to come back as soon as possible and we can be ready for His coming and share this hope through complete dependence on Christ…

It should be no secret by now that Wilson is squarely within the Last Generation Theology perfectionist camp. While he blasted The One Project, a positive, Christ-centered movement, he enthusiastically supports GYC, an independent ministry wooing a new generation of Adventists into perfectionism. The perfectionist’s call to arms is the passage which he quoted today: “When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own” (COL 69). Obviously he reads this as sinless perfection, not a character of love and service which the church desperately needs. The other Ellen White passage quoted today: “The first [justification] is our title to heaven, the second [sanctification] is our fitness for heaven” (RH 03/10/1903) must be largely nuanced lest we fall into the Roman Catholic notion that salvation must be worked “within” us.

Wilson always tries to walk a fine line in public remarks about righteousness by faith but his unabashed support of perfectionism and Last Generation Theology stands at the foundation of his views on salvation. Caveat emptor!

There may be others who de-emphasize the distinctive Christ-centered doctrines of the Bible, criticizing God’s prophetic timetable, including the pivotal ending of the 2300-day prophecy in 1844…

Scores of Adventist scholars no longer hold to 1844 as a prophetic datum due to the lack of biblical support for this view and the unproven assumptions that stand at its foundation. Renewed attempts to revive its viability from a systematic theology approach largely dismiss the biblical text in favor of superimposing superior Adventist presuppositions on the biblical canon in order to make it work.

It doesn’t.

There may be those in your local church or elsewhere who introduce worldly music and unbiblical worship styles into our churches or spiritual meetings…however, there are many in the church who are resisting these attempts as did our pioneers in times gone by…

No serious theologian, abreast of the history of Christian worship, sacred music and ecclesiology would make such a deeply flawed statement. It’s beyond belief that the leader of a worldwide church, which gathers weekly to worship in hundreds of countries, languages and cultural settings using ethnic music, would turn certain anglo traditions of worship into the standard by which to judge the spiritual practice of the entire world church.

With this statement Wilson demonizes vast swaths of the church and alienates a new generation of worshipers. I’m glad they and their dedicated spiritual leaders are probably not listening.

What should we do with this renewed attack on common sense clothed in passé ideals and disguised as pseudo-pietist lamentations?

Ellen White, who knew too well how to deal with the Battle Creek folk of her time, once said:

“The voice from Battle Creek, which has been regarded as authority in counseling how the work should be done, is no longer the voice of God; but it is the voice of—whom? From whence does it come, and where is its vital power? This state of things is maintained by men who should have been disconnected from the work long ago. These men do not scruple to quote the word of God as their authority, but the God who is leading them is a false god.” (MR 17, 185)

This may have never been more true than now.


André Reis, PhD., has degrees in Theology and Music and has recently finished his doctorate in New Testament at Avondale College. He writes from Orlando, FL where he lives with his wife and three daughters.

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