[Thursday morning, 9 July] Our modern technology enables us to follow what happens in San Antonio, even if one is not physically present. Yesterday I spent a major part of the day watching the live stream of the debate about Women’s Ordination in the Adventist Church. At 11 pm local time (I am presently vacationing in Sweden) I went to bed. It was clear which way things would go. Although I knew we would probably not get a ‘yes’ vote, I had not lost hope that at last my church would be able to affirm full gender equality—also in the church. I continued to hope that my church would demonstrate in San Antonio that we do live in the twenty-first century and that it is in that context that we must give a concrete expression to our faith.
The speeches that impressed me most were those of Jeroen Tuinstra and Jan Paulsen. But in the end all pro-speeches were to no avail. When I got up this morning, I wanted, of course, to find out how the vote had gone. The sad news jumped at me from the various websites and the many Facebook postings.
No doubt, I am not the only Adventist who had to deal this morning with a serious spiritual hangover. What can we do when we see how our church is gradually gliding back into the nineteenth century (position of women) or even to the Middle Ages (article 6 of Fundamental Beliefs)? Ted Wilson and other leaders may tell us in a myriad different ways that we should now unite and leave all controversial issues behind us, so that we can focus on our real task, but this, I believe, is an utterly naïve point of view. The gospel (also in its Adventist version) will only convince twenty-first century people if it is communicated by men and women who are recognized as contemporary people who speak and act in the context of this time.
When I looked this morning out of the window I saw a dark-grey sky. In this part of the world the sun rose this morning already around 2.30 am, but so far it has remained totally invisible. It tends to make me rather depressed. And that is how I feel this morning about my church.
No, I will not easily decide to leave my church. I hope I will have a good number of years left to function in my church and be a blessing to many people. But, please, do not expect me to go against my conscience and to simply accept the dictates of about 60 percent of our world membership—most of whom have no idea what it means to be a christian in Europe and other parts of the western world, and what challenges christians face when they want to tell their de-christianized friends that being a follower of Jesus Christ is still a realistic option.
Some weeks or months from now I will probably see the broader picture somewhat more clearly . What happens in Adventism is not unique. The christian church is moving from North to South. In particular, in worldwide christian movements the non-western segments more and more call the tune. Against this background a church in the West must, on the one hand, continue to show its loyalty to the world-wide organization, but, on the other hand, find its own way and seek the boundaries of how to remain true to itself and to follow its own conscience, without—if at all possible—severing the ties with brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world.
But this morning everything is so fresh that I find it difficult to relativize things. I am ashamed for my church. And that is a depressing feeling.
Don’t give up.
Thanks much for your comments, Reinder… I just now learned that you also have your own blog. I’ll be visiting it often in the future.
As for the vote in San Antonio…. as ATT put it… don’t give up. It is meaningless really… nothing has changed…. other than a visibly greater number of members… and leaders, in fact… who are devoted to the principles taught in both scripture and Ellen White’s writings rather than using them to support their own private opinions.
Our women will be ordained… our scientists will be allowed to show the evidence from the earth itself as to the time God has taken to form it. And increasingly we will have open dialogue on both these as well as other topics that are at issue in parts of the church.
And most importantly, increasing numbers of us will come to realize that God alone is the head of every person… every church… and those who have felt constrained by God Himself to play “follow the leader … right or wrong”… will know the freedom that comes with pleasing Him by using our individual talents and intellectual abilities to make our own decisions.
No problem but I don’t have my own blog yet.
My apologies… I intended to respond to Reinder… but started my “reply” under your comment instead. If you will look back a ways, you’ll find where Reinder gave his blog url. It’s well worth spending some time investigating and reading.
I too am disappointed, but not surprised. People are afraid of change and the status quo is very comfortable. As I said to the president of the South Pacific Division recently there would be ramifications with both positions, but other denominations have survived. He agreed that the issue would remain unresolved and continue. The issue will not go away. Incidentally, I was introduced to your blog by my good friend Rudy van Moere whom I believe you know. Many thanks for your many insightful discussions regarding the church which I have been a member of since 1972.
It is incredibly frustrating. Like you, I don’t intend to leave the church over it. There is too much I love about this church. However, I am incredibly disappointed and discouraged. I don’t think the church will split over this and I think within the next decade this will likely come to a vote again and pass. However, even if this passes someday how the Western part of our church interacts with the non-Western part of our church will continue to be a struggle. Most of our membership and now most of our church’s money is located in the non-Western part of our church. But I don’t think the Western part of our church can be asked to actively discriminate and take so many steps backward so as not to offend our non-Western brothers and sisters. There is so much we agree on as a church, but the issues we seem to disagree on leave me wondering why they are issues at all. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts about this going forward. It’s a lot to process right now.
Thank you very much for your comments, Reinder. Let us be of courage in this difficult time. My wife and I have three granddaughters in the Adventist ministry and so you can understand our interests and concerns. We are told to forget these side issues and move forward with the mission of the church. In many parts of the world the mission of the church is for both men and women to spread the good news of Christ.
Do you remember having a meal in our home in Claremont, Cape Town, a good number of years ago?
Eric, I certainly remember the meal with you and your wife in Cape Town, and the good discussion! Just inspire ‘the brethren’ to invite me for some speaking appointments, and I shall happily come for another meal with you! Blessings!