I started my day in a perfect mood, but that was soon to change. One of the first things I usually do after I get up is to open up my laptop and read the headlines of the news and check whether there is any church news. The article by Bonnie Dwyer, the editor-in-chief of the Adventist independent journal Spectrum, was in this last category. In this article she reported the vote of the General Conference committee to establish—even before the deliberations in the forthcoming Autumn Council—an elaborate systems of committees that must oversee whether church administrative entities and institutions, and church leaders, are in compliance with church regulations.
It is important to recognize that the GC committee that took this decision is not the full GC Executive Committee, with representatives of divisions and unions, but consists of the group of leaders who are stationed in Silver Spring and are part of the apparatus at the church’s headquarters. This immediately raises the question why such an important decision was made at this point in time, just weeks before the committee with world-wide representation has had the opportunity to discuss the document that supposedly will form the basis for the control-task these five new committees are to perform.
The five new committees must ‘oversee’ whether the official beliefs, statements and decisions of the church are adhered to. This concerns the general doctrinal teachings of the church, but in particular the areas of creation vs. evolution, homosexuality and ordination of women. Apparently, these are the topics which the leadership of the church at Silver Spring considers as having the highest priority. It has already been observed—and rightly so—that there is no mention of the Fundamental Belief of the Trinity, which is more and more under attack, and of the heretical teaching of the Last Generation Theology.
There is much that could be said—and no doubt will be said in the coming weeks and months—about these new developments. I hope and pray that during the Autumn Council a majority of the Executive Committee will have the courage to disapprove of these developments. These new measures are as much top-down as one can possibly imagine and flaunt our democratic principles. Moreover, the members of these five committees will all be, without exception, part of the administrative machinery at the church’s headquarters. The Biblical Research Institute, which is manned (!) by conservative theologians, will have an important role in these committees.
When reading this article this morning, my first reaction was one of anger. Bus as I was writing this blog my anger gradually changed into a feeling of dismay. How could our church reach this deplorable situation? How is it possible that the leadership of a faith community tries to impose with force (and threats) in such a top-down manner its views and interpretation on the entire church?
Nonetheless, also today I will try to remain optimistic. My hope is that during the Autumn Council this plan will receive severe criticism, or will disappear altogether. And I believe that, if this does not happen, this control mechanism will prove to be a paper tiger. Such an administrative control mechanism will soon suffocate in the ecclesial bureaucracy. However, in the process some (and maybe many) people will decide to leave the church, since they feel they are no longer allowed to think for themselves and can no longer breath freely. For those who are not (or no longer) paid employees of the church all this is one more reason to continue protesting against this top-down coercion and to speak out for an Adventist church where unity may be experienced in diversity—in theology and church practice.