I am writing this blog in the express train that will take me in just over five hours from Stockholm to Kramfors, a provincial town further up North in Sweden. The next twelve days will be most dedicated to the next phase of the renovation project of my son’s house. And my two granddaughters, of course, will also get quite a lot of attention. Skype and the excellent internet connection in my son’s house will ensure, however, that I will stay in touch with the Dutch home front and can also follow what is happening in the higher echelons of the Adventist Church
The official church media hardly provide any information about the introductory meetings, that precede the so-called Annual Council. These premiminary meetings have been held during the last few days in Silver Spring (near Washington DC). Yes, two documents were made public. These were intended as the basis for the deliberations of the executive committee of the General Conference—consisting of 343 people from around the world—that is to meet in the coming days. But, apart from this, a deadly silence was maintained. Certainly, this way of communicating is no longer acceptable in 2016. But so far we must rely on the independent media, such as Spectrum and Adventist Today. We can hardly blame them if they do not get all details totally straight. They must gather their news without any official information. They do this in a admirable way. Chapeau!
The manner in which the denominational leadership has handled the controversy regarding the ordination of female pastors threatens to cause great damage to the church. It no longer concerns a biblical-theological principle, but has deteriorated into a blatant struggle for power. A warning had been given to ‘rebellious’ organizations that serious consequences would result if they would go against the church’s policies and ordain female pastors or in some other way ensure the full equality between male and female pastors in their territory. Now, it seems, the time has come to deal with these wayward organizational entities, for the authority of the leadership is at stake.
Whatever will happen in the coming days, one thing is sure: a denominational emphasis on power and force will only result in losers. Even if the leaders in Silver Spring will manage to persist in their disciplinary measures—now or in a year’s time—they will not be the winners of this controversy. Their prestige as pastoral leaders of the church and as servant leaders will have been damaged for good and they will appear ever more irrelevant to many people in the Western world and possibly also elsewhere.
I fervently hope it will not come to a split and that somehow this dark page can be torn from the annals of our history, before the entire world will be able to read it.
When recently I published my book FACING DOUBT: A Book for Adventist Believers ‘on the Margins’ I had no inkling that within a few months it would gain so much further in actuality. I wrote about, and for, fellow-believers who are struggling with doubts and are seriously concerned about current trends in their church. I pleaded with them to deal with their doubts and concerns in a constructive manner and not to leave the church. In the last weeks and days, I hear and read about many fellow-Adventists who are considering to do just that. When they hear about the discussions in Silver Spring they wonder even more than before: Is this a church I want to stay with? Personally I still answer this question in the affirmative. I continue to trust that in the end things will be all right—even though in the short term we may be in for some nasty developments. But eventually, I believe, we will be able to leave this crisis behind us.
In the meantime the train has arrived in the city of Gävle. Another three hours of this train ride remain. I can now concentrate on something else. I took along a thick biography about Catherina Halkes, for which I used a few of the book tokens I received for my birthday. Yes, the book has some relationship to the issue this blog is mostly about. Tine Halkes (1920-2011) was one of the most prominent feminist theologians in the Netherlands. She faced the life-long challenge to be taken seriously by her (RC) church . . .