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December 25, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 36
This issue is definitely Christmassy. Roy Adams has been awarded a Bouquet for his editorial, "Tidbits From the Christmas Story." Megan Brauner’s interview of Mark Finley is disturbing. It’s as if Finley is still beating that old Revelation Seminar drum. For that, Mark has earned coal in his stocking.
I was fascinated by Hugo Simberg’s painting, Wounded Angel. It was the illustration that accompanied Elfrieda Volk’s essay of the same name. Its impact on me was visceral and immediate, and led me reassess my assumptions about religious symbols and the human condition.
In “Year of Evangelism” to Span 18 Months, Mark Finley makes the following announcement: “It is true, evangelism is always the focus of the world church, but there are times when we give it special emphasis. We see this being unique in a number of ways. We will give it adequate promotion and emphasis, but also we're preparing materials for it. There'll be sermons prepared, called Revelation of Hope, and materials on the book of Daniel.” (Sounds like the same old stuff is being repackaged one more time!)
Congolese rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda, contrary to media reports, is not an Adventist minister and ”not regarded as an active member [of the Seventh-day Adventist Church]”
In Kids View, Rilla Taylor should be standing under a real puhutakawa tree. That plastic palm doesn’t do Rilla’s New Zealand postcard justice.
Andy Hanson is a professor emeritus of education at California State University, Chico. He blogs at Adventist Perspective.
December 18, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 35
This is a “safe” issue in that it is primarily devotional and provides the reader with no original insights into the way we Adventists lead our lives. The cover article by Larry R. Evans, "Two New Questions the Church Must Ask," was a disappointment. “Where are you in your relationship with God?” and “Where are you in your relationship with your brother?” summarize age-old questions, not new ones.
Two news articles deserve inspirational Bouquets.
Adventists’ Aid Welcomed by Mozambique’s President chronicles Adventist work in Mozambique. Literacy and fighting malaria are among the goals set for the 500,000 Mozambiquan SDA’s. “Maranatha is currently building 1,001 community centers throughout Mozambique. While Adventist congregations will use the buildings for worship on Saturdays, they will function as literacy centers, schools, and medical clinics throughout the week.” Church members “have joined other religious, government, and nongovernment groups in a coalition coordinated by ADRA” to improve health and human services.
Fear-Free Education: Adventists Aid in Human Rights Struggle, is an account of the amazing work of the Kajiado Adventist Rehabilitation and Education Center in Nairobi, Kenya. “Rajmund Dabrowski, director of communication for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, visited Kajiado and talked with the center’s director, Jacinta Loki. The interview. . .connects the center’s mission to provide fear-free Christian education with the acute need to repair basic human rights. These rights are often overshadowed by traditional Masai beliefs and practices that leave scores of Masai girls without education and force them into early marriages.”
While this issue is primarily devotional, some quotes deserve attention.
Mark A. Kellner reports that Students in Adventist schools in North America are doing above average work, but the claim that these schools “produce students who. . .[score] above their potential” seems a bit unrealistic.
Larry R. Evans provides an amazing quote by Ellen White in his cover article. “Any man, be he minister or layman, who seeks to compel or control the reason of any other man, becomes an agent of Satan, to do his work, and in the sight of the heavenly universe he bears the mark of Cain” (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1087).
Bread for Bread tells the story of Peter and Suzie Ventner’s South African evangelistic campaigns in the 1930’s. This picture is worth at least 1000 words.
Andy Hanson is a professor emeritus of education at California State University, Chico. He blogs at Adventist Perspective.
In this six minute video, Fr. Jim Martin, associate editor of America magazine and author of My Life with the Saints (2006), introduces the form of prayer known as lectio divina. I've used this method privately as well as in groups. Of course, some Adventists would reject this outright just because of the Jesuit connection. On the other hand, I used to study the Bible with some young conservative Adventists who used essentially this same highly subjective method, just without the Latin name.
Have you ever used lectio divina? What method of Bible Study do you practice these days?
Last week I posted a new study on sexuality and seminaries. It garnered some interesting conversation.
But, I think that the nadir for me was when one commentator crowed about not being refuted yet here. . .as if this site contains the evidence of the world. If one is right on this site, does that mean anything?
Is our job as human conversation partners to merely throw out opinions and facts and wait for someone to try to change our mind? In some ways this treats the Spectrum community as their own personal research assistants - a human wikipedia for the man too lazy to search.
I've always admired the persons who take their opinions out into the world of contrary evidence, even Google-ing against their own idea, source, or stat rather than asking everyone else to check it for them. One of the indicators of a poor blog is when truth becomes bounded by what an opponent fails to bring to the table. That's discussing deadening solipsism. I really appreciate that most of our community members look outward; we all improve as a result.
Speaking of outward focus (and knowledge-based insight into religion), Martin Marty also commented on last week's sexuality study.
Did you know that there is a Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing? Last Thursday, January 8, the Institute, together with Union Theological Seminary in New York, issued a fifty-two page report, which is a call for North American Theological Seminaries to offer more courses and programs to help prepare ministers, rabbis, priests, and other religious professionals to address issues of sexuality better than they now do.
Through the years I have met with leaders and constituents of the Association of Theological Schools; I have some awareness of how many pressures are on them to add teaching personnel, field-work opportunities, and courses to deal with every kind of ethical and cultural issue of the day: pop culture, science-and-theology, war and peace, dealing with technology, and many more. All this at a time when the schools are under serious budgetary constraints. Seasoned leaders are cautioned against curricular faddism and are conscientious about sustaining integrity in biblical, theological, historical, and practical basics. So they tend to wince or groan when asked to do more and offer more for and with future ministers
But the Institute people do make a good case to be taken seriously in this report. Their two-year study finds that more than ninety percent of the thirty-six leading seminaries surveyed do not require full-semester, sexuality-based courses for graduation, and two-thirds do not offer a course in sexuality issues for religious professionals. A generational issue is involved. Mention, for example, the churches' controversy over same-sex marriage, and in most denominations seniors will observe that it's not much of an issue for the younger generations. They've generally approved it and want to move on to issues they consider more urgent. But for the next thirty years ministers will be dealing with church and synagogue issues where it is still the hottest-button kind of issue, and they need to understand the pros and cons.
As I picture it, the Institute's concern that more seminaries deal with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies in a major way will not get a hearing in denominations where there are strictures against positive dealings with church and synagogue members in LGBT camps. Yet it is hard to get around the observation that, overall, sexual issues -- be they biological, theological, or moral - are the most controversial subjects in religion today. For a discussion group on the Trinity or Pelagianism (if you could get one together), you would rent a classroom. For sex and gender debates, you would crowd the field house, because everyone knows that the subject will quicken passions, lead to walk-outs, and give the press much to disseminate.
In this half-century, like it or not, understandings of human sexuality combined with issues of authority - who decides about practices? - concern every body from Mennonites to Greek Orthodox. Clerical abuse scandals have undercut trust relations in parishes and denominations. The press, understandably, "eats this up," knowing how little anyone knows about how to handle sexual themes and incidents and how hungry elements in the public are for stories about ethical lapses in matters sexual. The Institute's report may not please everyone, but it is an important wake-up call.
As we start out a new year of conversations, I think that Martin Marty provides an inspiring model for approaching contemporary issues, and not just on this site.
I think time is ripe for Adventists to start law schools, and I think La Sierra is probably the best place for it. I’ve heard through the grapevine that La Sierra has been interested in it, but I don’t know for sure if they are. My perception is that La Sierra’s location, strong business school, dynamic emphasis on social justice issues, and institutional strength make it an ideal candidate among Adventist colleges and universities to start a law school.
But one might ask - why?
I say, Adventists need to have a law school - a good one - because of our sanctuary message and religious liberty convictions. Just as the message of health and wholeness has led the church to establish medical schools - first in Battle Creek/Chicago, and now in Loma Linda and Montemorelos, Mexico - the sanctuary message and its pregnant meaning for us today ought to awaken Adventists to the possibilities that law schools have for advancing the historic Adventist commitment to the sanctuary and religious liberty.
At the heart of the sanctuary message, we find the ideals of peace, justice, reconciliation, dispute resolution, and search for the truth. Investigative judgment is about acquitting and restoring the innocent. I think Adventists, if we’re truly serious about the sanctuary message, ought to operate law schools, legal aid centers, dispute resolution programs, and peace societies as much as we do in the health arena.
At the heart of our religious liberty teaching lies the cherished values of freedom, respect and upholding of minority rights. Adventists ought to cultivate that by instilling these values through legal training and advocacy programs that champion the right to worship freely and express one’s convictions without hindrance.
Some may argue that the fields of law, government, and public policy is so tainted and worldly that Adventists should not be so directly engage in them. And these concerns are legitimate. But I think the same concerns exist in many other areas, especially in healthcare. In fact, law and medicine, especially in the U.S., are very similar in that both "industries" are mired in great systemic problems, yet both are so needed and both, through deeply flawed means, still accomplish restoration to a great measure.
There is really no reason for Adventists to shy away from law, public policy and social advocacy. In fact, as I’ve said above, our fundamental theological concerns compel us to be engaged leaders in these fields. Toward that end, a law school is necessary. Perhaps at La Sierra, perhaps not. Wherever it may be, I hope it happens soon - as a powerful testimony to and of Christ the Advocate and Intercessor.
After all, isn’t the remnant a group of "commandment"-keeping, "testimony"-bearing messengers to the world who proclaim that the hour of God’s "judgment" has come?
Originally posted on Progressive Adventism.
Steffens Family singing "Jesus Is Coming Again" on 3ABN June 2008.
A conversation between Janet D. Stemwedel, Ph. D. and Dr. Peter Lipson M. D. about the power relationships of health care providers and patients.
What are the contemporary issues in the ethics and economics of medicine? For example, should a provider refrain from providing care if she/he finds your behavior/lifestyle immortal? Why do these objections disproportionately come up on issues of women's health?
Dicussed (click the time to go directly to that topic):