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Since my first blog on HuffPost, "I'm a Seventh-Gay Adventist," my email has continually been flooded with people wanting to have a dialogue with me. People of all different backgrounds, religions and beliefs on sexuality have sent emails wanting to have constructive conversations on human sexuality and religion. Above all the other questions I receive in those emails the one that always gets asked is "Why are you still Seventh-day Adventist?"
First, let me give you a little bit of history: Seventh-day Adventism grew out of Methodism and the Millerite movement, dating back to the 1800s. In addition to anticipating the second advent of Jesus Christ, a distinguishing belief for Adventists is keeping "Sabbath" on Saturday. Adventists keep Sabbath more like Jews than like other Christians, and community around Sabbath is a core component of this faith. There are also quite a few cultural traditions—like (mostly) being vegetarian, abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, dancing, sometimes even caffeine and movies. It is a worldwide denomination, and according to USA Today, Adventism is the fastest growing denomination in the United States.
I have attended Adventist educational institutions my entire life, from pre-school to the university level. I was involved in Pathfinders, a spiritually based group similar to Boy and Girl Scouts with a spiritual emphasis on mission work. Music ministry is my passion: singing in the pews since I was three-years-old, playing the flute in orchestras and singing in choirs. I have been connected to this religion my entire life. It is more than a community of believers; it is my family. Yet, for the majority, my sexuality has severed my relationship with many of them both spiritually and literally disowning me.
Earlier this week my friend messaged me on Facebook:
I say this all objectively because I don't even consider myself an Adventist [anymore]. But I have a hard time understanding why LGBT folk would want to be part of a denomination that condemns them ... What's the problem with starting something new?
I've asked myself the same question for years. When I first came out to myself at an early age, I was riddled with disgust and hate for myself—a mindset that was formed from a narrative given to me by my spiritual leaders. Pastors continually condemned "homosexuals" and their "lifestyle" using phrases like "love the sinner, hate the sin" with an emphasis on hating the sin and very little loving the sinner. Teachers in grade school told me to act less girly to escape being bullied. A pastor at a local grocery store looked at my hand and walked away as I greeted him, shortly after my sexuality was common knowledge. I have many stories of constant marginalization by Adventist pastors and teachers. Recently, relationships have been severed due to my lifestyle and my advocacy for LGBT Adventists. Yet just as I identify with being bisexual, I identify with Adventism theologically and culturally.
I believe in the Seventh-day Sabbath as the day of worship. I believe in the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ and the great controversy between Christ and Satan. I believe in the gift of prophecy, and above all I believe in God's gift of salvation, mercy and infinite love. I know what I believe; I cannot simply choose a different faith any more than I can choose my sexuality.
Although it's true that I've been condemned, ex-communicated (although we Seventh-day Adventists don't officially practice it) and hurt by Seventh-day Adventist people, I understand that they are human. Truly people of any faith or religion will be given many reasons to leave at the hands of others. But shouldn't leaving and staying should be based on belief in one's heart and not solely on the words or actions of other people?
These past two years I've dealt with political walls in my mission to make Adventist universities safe for LGBT students. Many Adventists have used an interpretation of scripture to allow dehumanization and inequality of LGBT students. My entire life has been a fight for my right to fellowship with my church family despite my sexual orientation. Through it all I hold to this promise:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Although many hurtful things have happened to me, I've also had great experiences. The Adventist educational system has taught me to think spiritually and academically about my beliefs. It's because of Adventist education that I'm still Adventist. Some of my most respected mentors are in the church. My freshmen year at Andrews University, my spiritual life was revitalized by a vespers named "Fusion" that placed its emphasis on bringing all of the diverse nationalities and backgrounds on campus to one common ground to worship. It is the Seventh-day Adventist church that taught me about God's love and it is God who shows me love every time I'm hurt by other Christians.
Daneen Akers, a friend and also director of "Seventh-Gay Adventists: A Film About Faith on the Margins," was recently quoted by Believe Out Loud, an online network that empowers Christians to work for LGBT equality, elevating the people and places where Christianity and LGBT justice intersect.
Why should someone have to change their religion if that's the language and view of God that brings them clarity and peace.
Jesus said, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13: 35). I had a chance to leave the church a long time ago. Even now, as my blog posts create waves in the Adventist church and I'm faced with losing relationships, my personal life completely torn apart by the general public, and even legal threats, I still remain Adventist. We may disagree on what the Bible says about human sexuality, but I still love them. When I was little, my mom would not allow us to go to bed angry at each other. Even through teenage years we would stop whatever argument we were having long enough to let each other know we love each other before going to sleep. The Adventist church is my family. So no matter how much people try to "other" me and tell me I'm an abomination—I will still stay. I don't care the consequence, I will not abandon my family.
—A student at Andrews University, Eliel Cruz is President of the Intercollegiate Adventist Gay-Straight Alliance Coalition. This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, an Argentinian Jesuit, has been chosen as the new leader of the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. For Adventists, this has been a time of renewed interest in the Papacy and its place in traditional Adventist prophetic interpretation.
Although slightly less prominent North America and Europe, the interpretation of Revelation 13 that pits Catholicism against Adventism in the end times is still a sine qua non of subequatorial Adventism. Recently, the leading televangelist for the South American Division stated that although the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI was not a prophetic fulfillment per se, it does show the continued importance of the Vatican in eschatology. It is unclear, however, exactly how this particular event would even fit the traditional Adventist interpretation of the "importance of the Vatican"! Even George Knight, an outspoken critic of many of Adventism's "secret handshakes" also suggested that by jettisoning the traditional interpretation of Revelation 13, Adventism could end up neutering itself. 
But that was before the election of Francis I. Since then, the Adventist blogosphere has been ablaze with Adventist versions of Jesuit conspiracy theories. Finally, they aver, Ellen White's veiled hint (GC 215-216) that the Jesuits' may have a role in the new eschatological horizon , may become a reality.
But is the Papacy really the undeniable fulfillment of Revelation 13? Or could Francis I be the "eighth king" of Revelation 17?
As many have attempted to demonstrate, there are several problems with the traditional historicist approach to these chapters. First, projecting the importance of the message of Revelation millennia in the future all but annuls its relevance to its target audience, i.e., the seven, literal churches of Asia. This is just too expensive an exegetical move.
Revelation Applied Locally
Revelation is introduced as a revelatory work (apokalypsis means "unveiling") that needed to be read, understood and applied to the daily life of its original readers (Rev 1:3). It is at once book, prophecy and personal letter (1:4; 22:16). The church of Ephesus ran the risk of losing its status as a Christian body (2:5), the number of the beast could be figured out by engaged readers (13:6), whoever tampered with the contents of the letter would incur in severe temporal and eternal punishment (22:18-19).
Scholars have long emphasized the need to take an ever closer look at the book's Sitz im Leben, its original milieu in first century Asia. This important tenet of hermeneutics may indicate that the most sensible approach to Revelation is to read it primarily with an eye to its immediate social, religious and political background (most likely pre-70 A.D. Jewish Christianity). And if we put the labels aside (e.g., preterism, futurism etc.), we may gain a new perspective on some features of Revelation. If this is correct, other entities may emerge as stronger candidates for the beasts of Rev 13 than a religious movement thousands of years removed from the churches of Anatolia.
For example, an intriguing interpretation posits that the beast from the sea (13:1-10) symbolized the Roman emperor vying for veneration as Dominus et Deus (possibly referring to Nero) and the beast from the earth (13:11-18) symbolized the local arm of the Roman government which enforced such adoration by building images and temples dedicated to the Emperor. Surprisingly, according to Suetonius, Nero's name was veiled in at least one contemporary riddle which went like this:
Count the numerical values of the letters of Nero's name,
And in "murdered his own mother", You will find their sum is the same.
Both values add up to 1,005 in Greek gematria. This is indeed a striking parallel with the riddle of 666 as "number of the beast" (Rev 13:6). This important evidence may be one more nail in the coffin of the false Vicarius Filii Dei interpretation which lingers stubbornly in the global Adventist South. But this is just one possibility. The fact is that the definitive culprit, guilty of such bestial actions and disguised in a sea of symbolism, remains at large.
And what about the seven kings of Revelation 17? Could any one Pope be one of them?
Scholars have pointed out the parallel of the harlot in Revelation 17 with coins minted during the reign of Vespasian (c. 70 A.D) which depict the Roman empire as Dea Roma, "goddess Roma", seated on the seven hills of Rome. This would be hard to miss for the original readers. Several lists of possible candidates for these seven mountains which represents seven kings, five of which had already fallen by John's time, have been proposed by all schools of interpretation. But an emphasis on this misses the point of the chapter, which is meant to culminate with the fall of Babylon in Rev 18. The message is clear: worldly powers antagonistic to God will ultimately be destroyed, or, as one Adventist pastor put it, "Revelation has one clear message: God wins!"
Yet another problem for approaching Revelation as "history written in advance" is the undeniable imminence of the parousia to Jesus himself, Peter, Paul and the apostle John (cf. Mat 24:56; Mar 13:31; 1 Cor 1:17, 8; 4:5; Phil, 3:20; 1 Tess 4:13-18; 5:1-10, 23; 2 Pet 3:3-4; 1 John 2:18). To John the Revelator, all things would "soon take place" because the end was "near" (1:1, 3). How do we reconcile this fact with the view that probationary time would extend to very distantly preordained time markers (e.g., 538, 1798, 1844, 1929, 2013 etc.)?
Needless to say, a neatly organized chronology is simply not self-evident in Revelation. And the many and sundry diverging historicist interpretations in our midst bordering on wild conspiracy theories indicate that this model simply does not work.
But perhaps that is precisely the point of the symbols: the blessing reserved for students of the book does not lie in deciphering every symbol, but is rather in the continuous search to understand the deep things of God. All the symbolism militates against zeroing in on a single interpretation.
Revelation and Isaiah Seminar?
Adventists have long held that by placing Revelation as a transparency over the book of Daniel, a clear and unequivocal eschatological picture will emerge. But is Revelation solely dependent on Daniel? In fact, in order of sheer number of allusions, Revelation alludes to the book Isaiah more than it does Daniel, followed by Ezekiel. And although alluded to less than Daniel, Ezekiel exerts more influence on Revelation. Obviously, this does not remove the importance of Daniel as a warehouse for some of the most important imagery in the book, it simply expands the interpretative horizon by adding those other apocalypses of the OT. And if Isaiah and Ezekiel do not seem to contain timetables for the end times, how does this impact the interpretation of Revelation, which draws heavily on them as well for its eschatological visions? In other words, the historicist interpretation of Daniel may not provide the key for the interpretation Revelation after all.
Another metaphor may help. What if Revelation is a first century version of an autostereogram, you know, those "abstract" paintings that require you to relax your eyes, focus on the whole, and be patient? When done right, all of a sudden, voilà!, a 3D-picture pops up out of nowhere. The same with Revelation, all those intriguing, sometimes confusing and terrifying images are meant to show one thing: the reign of Christ, the Pantokrator.
Sadly, however, whenever new attempts are made to grapple with the biblical text and what it has meant to Christians from all ages (and not only to self-proclaimed end-time Laodicea), the outcry is loud and clear. "We should not move away from the landmarks!" Most of this rejection clearly stems from the pages of The Great Controversy, where Ellen White, the infallible interpreter of Scripture to large swaths of Adventism, has laid a clear and scathing condemnation of all that Catholicism stands for.
But Ellen White was far from the rigid interpreter of Scripture some have made her out to be. She insisted she was not infallible, that we should lay her writings to one side and never quote her again unless we prioritize the Bible, that her writings were not as inspired as the Ten Commandments, that we should continue studying Scriptures to see "if these things are so" and accept every ray of new light, even if it contradicts what we have held in the past. She acknowledges that her interpretations of prophecy were largely dependent on Adventist theologians of her time (such as John Andrews and Uriah Smith) and cautioned her readers to avoid demonizing the Catholic church.
I find strength in the fact that Adventism emerged because a group of students of Scriptures took the promise of the Second Advent seriously. I'm glad this gene has been passed on to future generations of Adventists. Nevertheless, our, at times, overzealous stance on prophetic interpretation stretched historicism to its very limits, something Ellen White was apparently reluctant to revise. And while I agree with Knight that apocalypticism has often been a successful way of stating a movement's raison d'être (and often tragically so, remember Jonestown and Waco?), Adventists need to take a closer look at our motives when approaching these ancient sacred writings.
The characteristic sectarian overtones we often hear in our midst, similar to that of other apocalyptic movements of the past (e.g., c. 100 B.C. Qumran) may well be the product of a psycho-social phenomenon rather interpretative prowess. And when we put these theories to a strict exegetical method (even by the grammatical-historical standards) there is simply not an unequivocal scriptural thread running from the pages of Daniel and Revelation to buttress our sense of prophetic security, let alone the most extreme Adventist doomsday tracts and TV campaigns.
By attempting to pinpoint the correspondence of Revelation's symbols to historical figures, in part, in order to meet our need of corporate reassurance rather than unveiling Christ, we end up weakening its raw eschatological relevance. And no doubt having the Pope as a collective target to shoot at has strengthened our sense of "community".
But despite being the advocate of questionable doctrines and having a shady political past in Argentina, I wonder what role Pope Francis will play in the spiritual lives of our fellow Catholic Christians all over the world. One thing we can be certain about: if he fulfills the promise of modeling the altruistic example of St. Francis of Assisi, his impact could be quite profound on the whole of modern Christianity.
—André Reis has degrees in theology and music and is currently finishing a Ph.D. in New Testament at Avondale College. He contributed two chapters to En Espíritu y en Verdad, a book on music and worship recently published by Pacific Press.
Vaughn Nelson, M.Div., is the Pastor for Discipleship and Nurture at the La Sierra University Church.
As a college student studying in Spain, Sabbath lunch favorites like haystacks and Fri-Chik were nowhere in sight. I didn’t miss them. My peers and I were too busy circling around the potluck perimeter like hungry tiburones (sharks), waiting for the chance to politely, but quickly, strike. Potluck and the community it created was the same, despite a different menu.
But even better than church potlucks was an invitation to a Spanish family’s house. If, until 3 p.m., one could overcome hunger with patience (the Spanish enjoy a leisurely, late lunch), a feast appeared on the table, dish by fragrant dish. Conversation centered first on the food, to a student chorus of muy, muy bueno, then drifted into international waters.
In broken Spanish that grew better as the year progressed, we discussed languages, beliefs, shared experiences and new perspectives—even politics, after clearing the table of breakable glassware. Sabbath lunches lingered into dinners; they were well worth the wait. And as a vegan in a country where I was once asked, "If you don't eat meat, what do you eat?" Sabbath lunch was a chance to feast with abandon, no questions asked about ingredients.
"Food is our common ground, our universal experience," James Beard said. The renowned American chef and writer understood that meals shared with others are one way to begin a conversation. Initiate discussion on the merits of a casserole or taco, and dialogue continues beyond the first course. We share experiences, discuss beliefs, build community. By the time that coffee (decaf or regular) is served, so is our human need for friendship--just as much as our need for nourishment.
Sabbath lunches are part of this celebration of rest. They offer one of few meals not hurried by work the next day, or other weekly concerns. Instead, we linger, dribble the last drops of mushroom gravy over Special K loaf, or, as Adventist cooking absorbs international flavors, discretely scrape the bottom of a bowl of fragrant curry. Then we head for the hills on a hike, or sink into the couch for a Sabbath siesta—traditionally.
In this and following columns, we look forward to setting a feast for you. You’ll read more about the people that make Sabbath meals memorable—a food blogger and her relationship with her online community; a college church host who experienced a modern version of the feeding of the 5,000; and why one Spanish doctor was horrified by the first (uneventful) dinner seminar he attended in the U.S. We’ll share thoughtful perspectives on Sabbath lunches, then and now—and what makes the tradition worth keeping, whether in a restaurant or at home.
As a takeaway, we’ll also include a tested-and-true recipe for your own Sabbath table.
We’d also love to hear stories of your memorable meals. What was an unforgettable Sabbath lunch? What dish will you feature on your Sabbath table? Let us know in the comments below. And as the Sabbath hours draw near here on the West Coast, buen provecho (enjoy your meal)—and thank you for sharing lunch with Spectrum.
Rice and Lentil Salad with Papaya Mango Dressing (pictured)
This week’s recipe is for Wild Rice and Lentil Salad with Papaya Mango Dressing, from Kathleen Burnham in California. In addition to seeing family members after a year in Spain, this dish was one of things I appreciated about home. A main dish with fresh flavors that appeals to vegans and just about everyone else, it can come together in 15 minutes with pre-cooked ingredients. Prepare it the night before—or combine in a large bowl while hungry lunch guests pace outside the kitchen.
For those who live near Trader Joe’s, all items can be purchased at this store, and most grocery stores. Disclaimer: Kathleen Burnham is my mother.
Serves: 8 (approximately)
Prep: 15 min.
2 cups cooked wild or brown rice (can buy frozen, then reheat, for convenience)
2 cups cooked lentils
½ - ¾ cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
1 cup orange-flavored or plain dried cranberries
½ cup (approximately) fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
1 ½ cups papaya-mango salsa, or similar
¼ cup (or to taste) extra-virgin olive oil
1. Mix salad ingredients together in a large bowl, with proportions to taste.
2. Prepare the dressing by thinning the salsa with extra-virgin olive oil. Pour the dressing over the salad, and mix thoroughly to combine. If making ahead, pause here and refrigerate.
3. To serve, place the chopped lettuce on a large platter. Pile the salad on top, and garnish with cilantro.
Can make one day in advance (add more cilantro before serving for fresher color). Freezes well.
In his March 14 editorial, "Reclaiming the Library," Adventist Review editor Bill Knott writes:
...tiny minority of Adventists is now wielding unwarranted influence on the church’s educational, pastoral, and publishing ministries by stoutly insisting that no reputable thought leader should read, own, or cite from a book by a non-Adventist author. They have invaded pastors’ offices, disrupted worship services, and left a trail of litter across a smattering of Web sites.
Their position is clearly wrong, for by their test none of the church’s founders, including Ellen White herself, should have any credibility. The libraries of Ellen and James White, Uriah Smith, J. N. Andrews, John Loughborough, and every major Adventist officer or thought leader since the mid-nineteenth century have been filled with volumes by non-Adventist authors, well read and frequently dusted off. It is precisely Adventism’s engagement with the ideas, opinions, beliefs, and philosophies of the age that make this movement’s faith statements so compelling and ultimately victorious. We are winning the contest of ideas—which, of course, requires that we know what others are thinking. Weary of the soulless ideologies and isms of the contemporary world, millions of men and women around the globe are turning to the clearly biblical and rational ideas on which our faith rests.
Now is no time to allow the well-intentioned but misguided fringes of this movement to distract us from the mission given us by Jesus, even when their anti-intellectualism is cloaked in memorized and repeated pieties.
Dr. Arthur Patrick “lived in constant fear of eulogy” but family and friends ignored this during a celebration of the life of the Avondale alumnus.
Arthur had fought a successful battle against cancer for 12 years, only to be diagnosed just weeks ago with an aggressive abdominal malignancy. He died in Sydney Adventist Hospital on March 8. “He had sat at too many such bedsides not to know what lay ahead,” said Dr. Lynden Rogers in his reading of the life sketch at Avondale Memorial Seventh-day Adventist Church on March 12. “Yet his calm acceptance, his Christian faith and his courage inspired us all.”
Arthur’s contribution over more than 17 years at Avondale included serving as the first then curator of the Ellen G White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre, as lecturer in what is now the School of Ministry and Theology, as registrar, as the first president of the Avondale Alumni Association and, in retirement, as an honorary senior research fellow. His “keen insight” into the academic issues facing the Seventh-day Adventist Church included developing an understanding of the ministry of Ellen White, contextualising the theological positions of the church’s past and exploring the interface between Christianity and science. “Arthur was unafraid of evidence,” said Lynden, a senior lecturer in physics. “His was the ability to calmly and perceptively analyse the data and to masterfully synthesise a response.”
Lynden also spoke of Arthur’s “legendary” word craft, of his ability to “illuminate precisely the topic at hand” or to “skillfully [hide] behind his utterance.” Of the latter, Lynden noted how former president Dr. Geoff Madigan once observed “that some of Arthur’s letters of censure to recalcitrant students might almost be mistaken for those of commendation.” Arthur illustrated the former in his 100th and last post on his adventiststudies blog. “From the end of January I was aware of a new enemy within, . . . peritoneal carcinoma of vigorous type, untreatable.” Daughter Zanita, on her father learning of the diagnosis: “He simply looked at his watch, noted that it was 7.08 PM on February 22, and calmly announced that he was now palliative.”
Arthur valued connectedness, even while in bed 638—his family ensured Arthur had a scribe for replying to email from 6.00 AM each day. “I look forward to that time that he repeatedly referred to as he dictated,” said Zanita. “‘See you in The Morning.’”
Daughter Adrielle spoke of Arthur’s connection to Henry Lawson’s poetry and short stories—the service featured an excerpt from Lawson’s “Saint Peter,” read by Arthur himself. A common theme: a desire for a fair go for all, “particularly those who find themselves on the wrong side of so-called respectable society.”
Pastor Adrian Flemming recalled Pam Ludowici’s description of Arthur as “Saint Patrick,” “as he is near a saint as I have ever known.” The three served in cancer support and in chaplaincy at the hospital. “Indeed, God’s pastor, Arthur was,” said Adrian, “not just to our church but to all humanity.”
Avondale president Ray Roennfeldt followed Adrian in the professional tribute section of the service. “There’s actually no competition,” he said, “Arthur was an Avondale person.” Ray described Arthur’s scholarly pursuits as bringing “increasing distinction to Avondale. While some people thought that he pushed boundaries that were taboo, Arthur had a strong conviction that truth was worth pursuing.” Arthur’s pastoral skills helped when interacting with those who saw him as their theological enemy—“always genuinely gracious, always reaching out hoping for a meeting of Adventist minds,” said Ray. “As the Avondale community, we grieve [with the family], but we grieve for our loss as well.”
The Charles E. Weniger Society also recognised Arthur’s scholarship, posthumously presenting to him its award for excellence. The society seeks to recognise Seventh-day Adventists who have portrayed character and commitment in their personal lives and professions, traits exemplified by Charles, a former dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. Dr. D. Graham Stacey from Loma Linda University represented Weniger Executive Committee chair Dr. Lawrence Geraty. “Thank you, Arthur, for all that you did, and more importantly, thank you, Arthur, for who you were.”
South Pacific Division President Dr. Barry Oliver spoke of the impact his “friend and colleague” had made on the church in the South Pacific. “Arthur wasn’t always easily accepted by his church, because sometimes he was well ahead of the rest of us in his thinking, in his love for his church and in his ability to clearly articulate with integrity those things that we needed to know about who we are and where we are going. . . . We will be better . . . for the legacy that he has left.” Addressing the family, he added: “Thank you for lending Arthur to us.”
Leighton Heise closed the service by reading a reflection piece written by his father, Dr Lyell Heise, whose sickness prevented him from attending. Lyell and Arthur were, among others, trustees of Women in Ministry, an independent association of church members providing support for women in ministry. “A giant has fallen,” wrote Lyell, perhaps referring to Arthur’s time as a timber cutter with brother Joe. “There is a gap in the family home on Martinsville Road, there is a gap against the sky even up there in the Pappinbarra, Arthur’s forest home. We look into the gap and remember the statesman scholar, the philosopher, the friend of the hurting and bruised. We see the unselfish husband and father, the champion of equal opportunity, the man who by his love, his life and his example created for his family a culture of freedom to soar in the canopy. These are the qualities and attitudes you see in the bright, dazzling sky through the hole in the canopy.”
Arthur is survived by wife Joan, children Zanita, Adrielle and Leighton, and brother John.
—Brenton Stacey is the Public Relations officer of Avondale College in Australia.