Is this still my church?

Together with thousands of other Adventists around the world I followed with keen interest the proceedings during the meeting of the Annual Council on Monday October 9.  The executive committee of the Adventist world church discussed the now (in?)-famous 14-page document about the punitive measures to be meted out to leaders of ‘non-compliant’ unions. I did not just follow it with keen interest, but also with growing disgust.  It made me wonder more acutely than ever before: Can this be my church?

I am not going to analyze the document. Many others have done so already and have pointed to the manipulative way in which the document made its way to the AC floor and to the bias of the chairman of the meeting.

But I praise God for those who were willing to oppose the proposal: the 184 persons who decided that the document should be sent back to the committee that drafted it. I praise God for people like Jan Paulsen, Dan Jackson, Brad Kemp, Thomas Mueller, and others. I praise God for the courage of the GC treasurer, who made it clear that he does not agree with the anti women’s-ordination stance of President Wilson. I praise God for a man like Thomas Lemon, a vice-president of the world church, who did not mince words in his description of the authoritarian tendencies in the Adventist Church. Were it not for people like them I might perhaps be getting ever closer to the exit of the church.

But, it is not only because of such people as I just mentioned that I remain committed to my church.  Last Sabbath I had the privilege to preach during the annual rally of Dutch senior (55-plus) Adventists. The topic that I had been asked to preach about was: Believing: does it make sense? When in mid-August I started working on this sermon (at the kitchen table in my son’s house in Sweden), I wondered what to do with this theme. But I gradually warmed to it, as the sermon was taking shape. And it seems that the sermon was meaningful to many of my listeners. At least that is what I concluded from the many positive comments. But the extraordinary fellowship during this day and the spiritual and warm atmosphere–it all reminded me of something I sometimes almost forget in the midst of all the political woes in the higher echelons of the church:  The church is not to be equated with the organization that has its headquarters in Silver Spring.  The church is first of all the people at the grassroots who, in all their diversity, live their faith in the context of their local or regional faith communities. It is that conception of the church I remain committed to.  Of course, I realize we need umbrella organizations, and we must exert any influence we may have to ensure that these organizations serve the world church rather than rule over it. But in the end: the New Testament concept of the church is that of a community of the sinners/saints in a particular geographical area. That is where the real action is. And I am glad to say: that is where there is still a lot of very positive action.  Or, in other words: there is for me reason enough to stay wih my church!