What Happened to The Record Keeper: More of the Story Surfaces
by Monte Sahlin
By Adventist Today News Team, April 28, 2014
The report listing theological concerns related to The Record Keeper evangelistic movie series, which Adventist Today obtained and published last week, was drafted by Dr. Clinton Wahlen, an associate director of the Biblical Research Institute (BRI), sources have disclosed. He was asked by Pastor Ted Wilson, president of the General Conference (GC) of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, to write a report that provided the basis for a decision to cancel the video production, Adventist Today has been told.
Wahlen earned a PhD in New Testament at Cambridge University in 2002 and served as a professor and chairman of the Biblical studies department at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS), the seminary operated by the GC in the Philippines, from 2003 until he was appointed to the BRI staff in 2008. He has published a number of articles in scholarly journals and books, including the InterVarsity Press Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels Second Edition. He is secretary of the Adventist Theological Society (ATS) and also a member of the Adventist Society of Religious Studies, as well as the Society of Biblical Literature and the America Academy of Religion, the two major scholarly organizations across all faiths.
Together with Dr. Edwin Reynolds, a Bible scholar on the faculty of Southern Adventist University, Wahlen presented a minority report to the governing body of the denomination's North American Division (NAD) last fall. The report disagreed with the majority of the NAD study committee on ordination which recommended that ordination be extended to women clergy. Whalen and Reynolds asserted that Scripture affirms "male headship," a new doctrine developed in the last couple of decades by Southern Baptists and other Calvinist evangelicals in the U.S.
As Adventist Today and other news media have reported, the scripts for The Record Keeper had earlier been reviewed and approved by the BRI and the Ellen White Estate, and Wilson had given his approval to the project. Based on script approval, the series of 11 movies was completed at a cost of about $800,000 before a last-minute change in direction by GC leaders resulted in its cancelation.
Neither the report on theological concerns nor any other source has suggested that significant changes were made in The Record Keeper on film as compared to the scripts. It remains unclear what actually motivated this costly decision which has disappointed so many Adventists. "I suppose one possible explanation," one media professional told Adventist Today, "is that the people vetting the scripts at the GC are so unaccustomed to the motion picture medium that they simply could not see a visual idea as they read the scripts. But, theological problems ought to be clear in the written form. It is puzzling why they would wait until the money given for the project was exhausted to decide to dump it all together."