If you are a regular reader of the Adventist Review on line, you will have noticed that lately the focus has been on Africa, and especially on Rwanda. A nationwide evangelization campaign in this Central-African country is currently being conducted, with a number of key Adventist leaders from the division and the General Conference as active participants. One week ago already almost 30.000 people were baptized. It is expected that on Saturday May 28 approximately 70.000 more men and women will also enter a baptismal font somewhere in the country. This means that as the result of this campaign the church in Rwanda will grow fifteen percent, from 700.000 to 800.000 members. Recently in Zimbabwe on one day 35.000 were added to the church. African leaders are confident that these results can be duplicated elsewhere in Eastern and Central-Africa.
[I will here not enter into any speculation whether all these new members are fully aware of all twenty-eight Fundamental Beliefs or whether this is only a requirement that is imposed by the church’s leadership on the Western world.]
The enormous growth of the church in Africa (and other areas in the world) is in sharp contrast with developments in most places in the western world. If there is any growth in that part of the world at all, it is mainly the result of migration from developing countries. At times I have the feeling that the Adventist church in Europe is no longer a factor that is aken seerious by he rest of he world. For the leaders of the General Conference, it would seem, the church in the often small and unruly Europe has little future. And we have to admit: the role of European Adventism is numerically becoming less and less important within the world church, when we consider that in one evangelistic campaign in Africa more members join the church than the number of the total membership in the entire Trans-European Division.
Whatever be the case, one can hardly avoid the impression that the worldwide church is gradually split in a fast growing church in the ‘South’ and a small, stagnating church in the ‘North’. These more and more seem to be two different Adventist worlds. However, lately I have become more than ever before aware of the fact that there is also a third Adventist world, besides the two I just mentioned: that of the people who find themselves ‘on the margins’ of the church. In recent months I have invested a lot of time and energy in writing of a book that targets those Adventists, who are drifting away from their church and who worry greatly about recent trends in the church and the way the church has been dealing with issues as women’s ordination and the Fundamental Beliefs. I have been in touch with lots of people about my current project. I have asked over twenty people to read the manuscript and to provide me with their input. Repeatedly I was told: ‘ In fact, I also am in the group of those “marginals” you are targeting!’
It becomes ever clearer to me (also after I devoted my blog a few weeks ago to this project) that this book is important and that the group of ‘people on the margins’ of the church is much bigger than I initially thought. I hope I will be able to encourage many of those who are ‘on the margins’. Maybe I can put into words what for many mostly remained a sense of unease that they were often not able to describe.
The English version of the book is in its final phase. As I write, the manuscript has been copy-edited and is with the firm that will take care of the page lay-out, before it can pass through the publisher to the printer and then to Amazon.com and other distribution channels. The aim is to have the book ready by August 1, as a paperback as well as in digital format. The Dutch version is scheduled to appear 2-3 months later. Work has started on a French and a Russian edition. Possibly other languages will follow.
It would, I think, be a disaster if the great success in the ‘South’ would result in less attention for the church in the ‘North’. And it would be tragic if this third Adventist world—of Adventists ‘on the margins’—would be gradually drifting further and further away from the rest of the church. More than ever before the church also needs people who dare to ask questions and are willing to admit that they do not know all the answers. I hope I will be given some more years in which I can put a lot of my energy in this ‘ministry’ for fellow-believers ‘on the margins’.