This past week the future of these blogs became rather uncertain. After my last blog I received a number of very negative reactions—they arrived as comments through this site and via e-mail. They were from people who doubted my good intentions. The senders wondered whether I would not do better to simply leave the church. I could pretend that such messages do not bother me, but they do, even though I can almost predict from which people they will come.
However, I also receive other reaction. Someone wrote me in an e-mail: ‘I must confess that I was extremely happy with your last blog about whether or not to pray for the pope. I have struggled with the quarterly of the past quarter. I do not know what to do with it and decided to completely drop it. . . . We are miles behind and in this manner attracting new members is an utopia. . . . I want to congratulate you with this blog that truly encouraged me. Thank you so much!’
Reading such reactions (and I hear similar comments when I regularly visit local churches), I have the clear impression that there are far more people who appreciate my blogs than there are critics who are irritated by them.
Yet, there is another reason why I wondered whether it is really a good idea to continue this weekly ritual. I have been writing these blogs now for almost ten years. When I started I wrote mostly about things I experienced in my official role in the church, and then as a ‘fresh’ retiree. Although I still work full days, I have gradually moved further away from where it really happens in the church and also travel a lot less than I used to. Most of my activities are now limited to writing and translation projects (at home) and teaching some seminars or intensive courses from time to time in various places in Europe. This does not provide so many interesting topics for a weekly blog.
Over the past few years my blogs have become more analytical, and from time to time I wonder (as I did last week) how much sense it makes to continue. However, after giving it some thought, I decided to go on for a while, as long as there are hundreds of people who take a few minutes to read on a regular basis what I write.
There is not much news to report about the week that is now past. Of course, I was deeply moved (last Sunday) by the funeral service for Nelson Mandela, the role model of all role models. But I was also happy to finish a few major projects last week. Yesterday I pushed the ‘send’ button on my laptop to mail a book manuscript to the German Adventist publishing house. Such a moment is one of great relief and satisfaction. The book now goes to a translator and is scheduled to appear in May 2015. In 2014 I hope to contribute to a number of events in Germany. During the next few months I will be quite busy with preparations for a quarter of teaching (April, May, June) at Loma Linda University in California. In January I intend to give the finishing touch to a re-translation into Dutch of Ellen White’s book Christ’s Object Lessons.
Dutch Adventist church news during past week was quite positive. The efforts of the Dutch Adventist Church to communicate digitally with its constituency is gaining momentum. I must confess that initially I was rather skeptical about the plans to publish part of the general Dutch Church paper in digital format. I am sure it continues to be a major challenge (that must not be underestimated) to help the members (especially of my generation and those who are even older) to make the leap into the digital Adventist world. However, what I learned in the editorial meeting that I attended a few days ago has gone far to convince me that we are getting a good product. And by the way: the new approach to the news rubric on the website of the church (www.adventist.nl) also is a great step forward. It is now worthwhile to check the site on a daily basis!
The world church reported last week that, per September 30, the denominations has passed the 18 million member mark. Each day, on average, 3,000 persons are baptized as Seventh-day Adventists. Admittedly, this growth has been slower in the past few years than in the previous period. This was caused by major losses of people who left the church again and a cleaning of church records. In South-America over a million names of people, who no longer professed to be Adventists, were taken off the books. The growth rate varies greatly from country to country, but it certainly feels good to be part of a movement that is still growing.
A significant event was reported in the independent church media. Unfortunately, the officials church publications, such as the Adventist Review, concentrate to a large extent on hallelujah-stories. In the state Maryland a pastor named Brett Hadley—a teacher in Bible subjects and the chaplain of a secondary school—was forced to resign. He had played a role in the wedding of two women. One of these women was his stepdaughter. He participated in his civic capacity and not as a pastor. He did not conduct a religious service, with a blessing. The employing conference felt that Hadley could not remain a pastor. In a press statement it was emphasized that this disciplinary measure resulted, in particular, from the fact that pastor Hadley had been rather vague when the conference questioned him about his level of involvement.
This story has caused a lot of commotion. On the website of Spectrum, within days, some 1,000 reactions were received. Many noted that people with ‘greater sins’ had not been treated in such a rough manner. Some reacted very positively: At last the church has the guts to take a clear position. But (as may be expected on the Spectrum site) there were far more people who voiced there dismay over the lack of compassion in the way the church had handled this matter. We should not expect to read anything about this event in the official church press. This certainly does not increase its credibility. I assume this homo-issue will, for some time to come, cause considerable ripples in the Adventist pond.
I write this blog in Staphorst (of all places) – my habitual coffee stop whenever I drive North. I am on my way to Meppel for a meeting about an ecumenical project in which the Adventist Church is participating and for which I am writing a 100-page booklet.
At home the Christmas tree is shining in all its splendor. We hope to have a quiet, pleasant Christmas. Part of the time I hope to spend reading the highly praised book by Martin Bossenbroek about the Boer War. But, above all, for me Christmas remains a spiritual event that lets me experience in a special way how the Lord entered the world–and my world. That is, of course, more important than all good books and all blogs together.