It is true for both Spectrum and Adventist Today that the website of these independent news and opinions journals are read by far more people than the print-editions they produce. It is also a fact that the articles on these website often result in dozens or even hundreds of reactions from readers. This was also the case with my latest article (about a week ago) on the website of Adventist Today, that was entitled: Our Turn to Fundamentalism & How it Led to the Current Crisis. I argued in this piece that our increasingly fundamentalist approach to the Bible and the fact that the administrators of the church are more and more intent on formulating “pure’ doctrine, with less and less input from professional theologians, are among the primary causes for the crisis in current Adventism.
One of the comments on this article came from my British friend Victor, who combines love for his church with a sharp analytical mind and the gift to phrase his standpoints in very clear language. He suggested that I should see things in their proper proportions. He agrees with me that Adventism is going through a rather tumultuous time. He argues, however, that I must qualify the term “crisis” somewhat further. For how serious is this “crisis” in our church in actual fact in comparison to the enormous crises that have a global impact and to some of the crises in the society in which we live? He poses the question how many of the circa twenty million Adventists worry about who is getting ordained as a pastor when they get up in the morning. He compares this with the hundreds of thousands or even millions of people who are caught in the path of destructive hurricanes. That, he says, is a real crisis. And he points to the millions of men, women and children who live in abject poverty, and the millians of Syrians who no longer have a home and have had to flee the regime that mercilessly kills its own citizens. Those, we read in his commentary, are real crises!
Of course, I enjoy reading reactions from readers who fully agree with me and who tell me my article was very good. At the same time I expect at least some reactions from people who have do not appreciate what I write. But there is little I can do with these kinds of comments. On the contrary, reactions such as the comment of the above-named Victor are valuable. I must admit that I am often so absorbed by my church-environment that I fail to see things that happen there in their proper perspective. Unfortunately we have, as a church community, elevated navel gazing to a sublime art and, as a result, often take too little notice of what occurs in the world around us. [Or many of us simply conclude that all the misery in the world is the work of the Evil One, and that the best way to do something about this is to proclaim the “three-angels’ messages” more vigorously, and thereby “hasten” the Second Coming.] As human beings—and more specifically as Seventh-day Adventist Christians—we have a responsibility in and for the world. This implies among other things that we should not invest all our energy in the (un?)spiritual internal ecclesial controversies.
Admittedly, a large majority of Adventists worldwide know very little (let alone: have a clear opinion) about the passionate discussions among leaders and theologians. And we may wel ask the question: “is this a real crisis”? We must be careful not to compare apples with pears. The crisis in the Adventist Church is not of the same order as the worldwide poverty crisis. But it is, I believe, a real crisis. For the future of our church is at stake. Is the church gradually being transformed from an organization in which the members decide on important matters (with these decisions being implemented by those who have been elected to leadership positions through a democratic process), to a system that begins to show more and more similarity with the system of governance in a church that we have always strongly criticized? Do we want to remain inactive when we see how large numbers of church members leave our ranks, because they no longer feel at home in their church, and do not feel seen and heard? Above everything else: we are dealing with issues of conscience. Is the term “crisis” too big a word when we take all of this into consideration?