For a number of years I had hardly watched 3ABN, an independent Adventist television channel. Before we moved to Zeewolde we had a satellite dish on our roof and were able to received both Hope Channel and 3ABN. One of the main reasons why, at the time, I bought a satellite system and made sure I could receive these programs, was my desire to stay abreast of what was being offered by these channels to the public–both in and outside the church. A considerable percentage of Dutch Adventists seemed to be regularly watching these programs. Whether they still do, I do not know.
At the time I was not very impressed with Hope Channel, the official television ministry of the Adventist Church. But through the years the quality of the programming has improved—as I have noticed when occasionally viewing the live stream via Internet. I have noticed that the German version is certainly a notch above the other editions. But I used to be very dissatisfied with 3ABN. Most of their programming seemed to be targeting their own back yard: the people who were financially supporting the ministry (mostly elderly, very conservative, church members).
Now that we are (for some time) in Loma Linda we can ‘enjoy’ the huge amount of television offerings that reach us via the cable. It takes a bit of getting used to: seeing so much tv advertising. And it takes a little effort to discover the channels that may be worth watching occasionally. Some channels, such as the horrible Fox news channel I prefer to avoid. If we watch any television at all, it tends to be a program of one of the public broadcasting channels.
To my amazement I have so far not been able to find Hope Channel between the multitude of channels. But 3ABN is prominently present, as is the channel of the Loma Linda University Church—LLBN (Loma Linda Broadcasting Network). In this latter channel I have, so far, been greatly disappointed. Besides the registration of the worship services I have not yet discovered anything that I would want to watch for any longer than five minutes at most. And 3ABN . . . ? Well, when compared with ten years ago, nothing has changed. One evangelistic sermon after the other, with plenty of attention for the beasts from the Revelation, presented in a way that makes you wonder whether you have returned to the 1930s. The talk shows and kitchen programs still feature the same uninspiring persons as a decade ago. Conclusion: this is not the way to communicate one’s faith in an attractive way to people who live in the twenty-first century.
To be honest: when watching all this I feel ashamed that my church communicates its message so poorly. Unfortunately, however, this past week I have another (more serious) reason to be unhappy with my church. The executive committee of the world church voted this week an important ‘guideline’. Admittedly, it is not a policy that must be applied everywhere, but ‘lower’ church organizations and local church boards are strongly recommended to follow it and are urged no longer to admit to membership (or continue the membership of) people who are gay or lesbian (not even when they live a a monogamous, enduring relationship).
It is remarkable (to say the least) to see this happen when the leaders who met in Capetown for their ‘summit’ on ‘alternative sexualities’ have hardly yet unpacked their suitcases. Was the exercise in Cape Town just an expensive but useless show? It remains to be seen what effect this new ‘guideline’ may have. The reason given for the creation of this new document is that the church cannot tolerate situations in which people disobey the biblical norms for relationships between the genders. But does this also mean that, for instance, all those who have been divorced and have remarried without adhering to the biblical rules, can henceforth no longer become members or retain their membership?
But, in spite of everything, I continue to love my church, because I continue to believe in its future. In the meantime I hope (and trust) that local church boards will simply ignore this misguided guideline and will demonstrate that Christian compassion has another face than what was shown this past week in Silver Spring.