Video about What Might Have Happened: Accurate History or Imagination?
By AT News Team, March 23, 2015: A video produced for the General Conference (GC) of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination is designed to motivate prayer in advance of the GC Session next summer (which only convenes every five years), but its accuracy is now in question. It includes historical drama recreating events surrounding the 1901 GC Session when much of the current organizational structure of the denomination was first crafted. It conveys a traditional message among Adventists: the lack of faith among believers is delaying the return of Jesus.
Placing this notion more than a century in the past creates questions that the producers probably did not intend. “Did all the wars of 1900’s occur because of the lack of humility of the little Adventist band in the 1800s?” asked an editorial published by Spectrum, the journal of the Association of Adventist Forums, the largest organization of Adventist academics.
The moral weight of the idea that both World Wars, the Holocaust, the Soviet horrors, Cambodia and Rwanda is based on the quarrels of two or three dozen Adventist ministers in the 1890s is absurd in the view of some. On the other hand, the issue of the delay of the Second Advent and its meaning to a movement that believes that “Jesus is coming soon” is critical and central to Adventist faith.
Pastor Gerry Chudleigh, who has written previously on what happened at the 1901 GC Session and what it says about where authority is centered in the Adventist denomination today, has published a paper challenging the historical accuracy of the video. Click HERE to read the paper.
Dr. Gil Valentine, a historian on the faculty of La Sierra University, told Spectrum that the dream experienced by Ellen G. White which provides a key piece of the drama in the video is presented as having happened at the time of the 1901 GC Session but actually is documented in a letter written almost 20 months later after two major fires destroyed key Adventist institutions in Battle Creek, Michigan. These disasters led to moving the denomination’s main offices from Michigan to Washington DC, a few miles from where they remain today.
Most of the video is brief appeals from Pastor Ted Wilson, the denomination’s president; his wife, Nancy; and two of his vice presidents. The bottom line in these appeals is for Adventist believers to pray for the GC Session coming up in July this year. They express the hope that this could be a turning point for the movement and set the stage for the return of Christ.
One of the major decisions on the agenda for the July session is about the controversy in the denomination concerning the role of women and the meaning of clergy ordination. There is also a proposal on the agenda to modify the denomination’s doctrine on creation, introducing extra-biblical language. Both topics strain the unity of a movement with perhaps 30 million adherents around the world, including many highly-educated professionals and many more of the very poor and largely uneducated rural residents of developing nations in the southern hemisphere.
The implications of the upcoming session and its agenda are significant for Adventists and other Christians who care about the Adventist movement. “The appeal for prayer and heart-searching is very important even if the video’s history is not entirely accurate,” reflected one Adventist pastor who is a fourth generation church member.
NOTE: The video “What Might Have Been” can be viewed on the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference Vimeo channel HERE.