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1. The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Czech Republic will receive US$1.5 million annually for the next 30 years as redress for property damage committed by the Communist regime.
2. In Poland, launch of Adventist television cements growing media ministry.
3. The Northeastern Conference Administration will be holding an open Town Hall Meeting at the Faith Adventist Church in Hartford, Connecticut on Sabbath, March 9, 2013, at 5:00 p.m.
At the end of February, the North Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee postponed action on their previous decision to call a special constituency session to discuss women’s ordination. The session will take place potentially in two years, after the General Conference theology of ordination study committee completes its work with a report to the October 2014 Annual Council. Final action on the report would not occur until the 2015 General Conference Session.
Less than a month before the NPUC Executive Committee’s February meeting, the NPUC Supporting Pastors, a group that opposes women’s ordination, sent a Jan. 30 letter to NPUC president Max Torkelsen III, requesting that the NPUC Executive Committee “rescind its action to hold a special constituency meeting.” They suggested that the NPUC wait for the response of the 2015 General Conference, before giving the conference’s “full support” to the world church’s decision.
Steve Vistaunet, NPUC communication director, says, “The November 2012 executive committee decision stated an intention to call a constituency session, but never set a specific date for that to happen.” He adds,
“Independent of any concerns expressed by the pastors group, NPUC administrators had been considering how to positively relate to the world church process already underway. The February 20 executive committee action therefore confirmed an intention to encourage the General Conference to resolve this important issue in a timely manner. If there is no clear resolution or directive from the world church by the 2014 Autumn Council as it sets its final agenda for the 2015 General Conference session, the NPUC will likely then set a specific date for its own special constituency session.”
According to Andre Wang, a member of the NPUC's executive committee and its ad hoc committee on ordination, “The efforts of the NPUC pastors opposing ordination equality (the folks behind www.ordinationtruth.com) were never mentioned at the meeting.”
The official statement from the NPUC notes, “The members of the NPUC executive committee have a consensual conviction that choosing candidates for leadership roles and the way those leaders are affirmed should both be conducted without reference to gender.”
On March 5, Andrews University announced that Jiří Moskala, Ph.D., will be the new dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. This annoucement follows several years of fundamentalist attacks on the seminary for its spiritual formation classes and for a symposium that featured a non-Adventist ecumenical leader.
According to the press release, "Jiri Moskala, who has served at the Seminary since 1996, accepted the position most recently held by Denis Fortin. Moskala’s appointment is effective July 1, 2013. In October of 2012, Fortin announced his desire to step away from administration in order to return to full-time teaching in the Department of Theology & Christian Philosophy at the Seminary beginning fall 2013.
'We narrowed it down to five candidates. When the final candidate review was done, it felt like the Lord was leading because there was a definite consensus that emerged on one candidate: Jiri Moskala,' says Ben Schoun, chair of the Andrews University Board of Trustees and a general vice president for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. 'Dr. Moskala is a fine academic scholar and very loyal to the church. I don’t know anyone who can question his commitment to the mission and values that we stand for.'”
Jiří Moskala is a former president of the Adventist Theological Society, the conservative alternative to the Adventist Society for Religious Studies. ATS requires that members formally pledge belief in the investigative judgment, the day-year prophecy interpretation principle and to use the so-called historical-grammatical hermeneutic while avoiding critical methodologies. In addition to publishing his dissertations in Czech and English, Dr. Moskala's book publications include, The Cosmic Battle for Planet Earth: Essays in Honor of Norman R. Gulley and Creation, and Life and Hope: Essays in Honor of Jacques B. Doukhan.
Here is a sermon by Jiří Moskala, Ph.D., from 2009.
In Part I of this three-part series, I mentioned my intent to apply Bonhoeffer’s ethics to the question of gun ownership. I am still planning on doing this. But before I do, I want to discuss the relationship between Bonhoeffer’s pacifism, outlined in Discipleship, and his work in Ethics. I have decided to discuss this because, while I did not address it in Part II, it is helpful for understanding Bonhoeffer’s ethics as a whole.
In his book Discipleship, written a few years before Ethics, Bonhoeffer clearly advocates Christian pacifism. Christians are “not only to have peace but to make peace… they renounce violence and strife. Those things never help the cause of Christ.”[i] In this passage, commenting on Christ’s statement “blessed are the peacemakers,”[ii] Bonhoeffer holds that Christians should “renounce self-assertion and [be] silent in the face of hatred and injustice.”[iii]
This ethics seems a far cry from Bonhoeffer’s later ethics of “free responsible action,”[iv] which allowed him to participate in a plot to kill Hitler. However, the core of Bonhoeffer’s ethics remains the same—it is, in the words of Clifford Green, an ethics that “never rested on principles.” [v] According to Green, Bonhoeffer acknowledges that “participation in a conspiracy to kill a tyrant involves guilt; it is contrary to the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount.”[vi] Bonhoeffer acknowledges that plotting a murder is wrong, and yet his ethics allow him to act with free responsibility. “Those who in acting responsibly take on guilt…place this guilt on themselves, not someone else; they stand up for it and take responsibility for it,” wrote Bonhoeffer. “Before God they hope only for grace.”[vii] While acknowledging the weight of the words of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, Bonhoeffer allowed himself to participate in the plot to kill Hitler, hoping to bring peace to war-torn Germany.[viii] Green sums up Bonhoeffer’s position: “understanding Bonhoeffer requires moving from disembodied principles to the concrete situation: confronting the life-destroying warmonger [i.e., Hitler].”[ix]
Bonhoeffer’s difficult situation is precisely the reason that I have chosen to employ Bonhoeffer’s ethics for this series. Bonhoeffer’s situation is the historical moment of decision—he cannot sit back and consider, he must act. In his own words, “The question about the good always finds us already in an irreversible situation: we are living. This means…that we can no longer ask and respond to the question about the good as if we first had to create life new and good.”[x] Bonhoeffer’s situation is similar to our own. We can talk all we like, but the reality remains that if we want to live ethical lives, we must confront the problem of gun ownership as it is in the real world, as it is today.
With Bonhoeffer’s ethics hopefully clarified, I want to apply this ethics to the question of gun ownership.
Applying Bonhoeffer’s Ethics to Gun Ownership
When I speak of the question of gun ownership, what do I mean? I will here define a gun as any firearm engineered for the sole purpose of killing other human beings, such as an AR-15. This definition excludes hunting rifles and shotguns, along with firearms used for sport shooting. While recreational weapons may also be questionable, I want to focus on outlining an ethics for owning guns designed to kill—such as handguns, personal defense weapons (PDWs) and assault weapons. Contrary to some popular ideas, these weapons are not engineered to do anything other than kill. A shovel is made to dig a hole and a car is made to drive, but an assault weapon is to kill as many people as quickly and efficiently as possible.
This is the situation we find ourselves in as Christians: we are called by Christ to “love our enemies” and to “overcome evil with good.” Ideally, this would mean that we live the kingdom of heaven, along the eschatological lines written by Isaiah: “they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks (or their firearms into, say, tractors).” But we don’t live in an ideal world.
We (at least, we American Christians) live in a country where firearms are readily available. Many Americans take pride in their right to own personal killing-machines. Firearm ownership accompanies American identity, which takes pride in its various ways of expressing power: its unnecessarily large trucks, its unnecessarily offensive flags, and not least, its unnecessarily powerful firearms. Many Americans are thus eager for an ethics which promotes firearm ownership carte blanche.
We also live in a world where people kill each other, sometimes with firearms. Thus, a popular argument goes, it is more ethical to own weapons and protect oneself than it is to refuse to own weapons and leave oneself unprotected. This consequentialist ethics is often invoked. Those who see ethics in terms of duty (normative ethics) reject consequentialist ethics, but their duty just might be to own a firearm and protect the family. It is their duty, after all. The availability of firearms coupled with such ethical arguments as the two outlined above leave many Christians thinking that they can and indeed should own firearms. However, other Christians, on the basis of an ethic similar to the Divine command ethics outlined in Part II, unilaterally reject firearm ownership.
Bonhoeffer’s ethics of responsibility can consider the question of firearm ownership not in terms of culture, consequences, duty, or Divine command, but in terms of the historical situation. And in the specific situation of twenty-first century America, firearm ownership does not seem to be necessary or helpful to living the ethical life. In a country in which many are murdered and few are saved by firearms, Christians should abstain from owning them and actively work to take these killing machines out of the hands of others, especially their Christian fellows. There is no dire need, only pride in owning firearms or fear of what may befall without them. In this case, Christians should act by the grace of God.
[i]Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship: Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 4, (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001), 108.
[iv]See Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics: Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Works, vol. 6, (Fortress Press, 2005), 11-12.
[viii]See Ibid, 16.
—Daniel Peverini, from Loma Linda, California, is currently studying theology at Walla Walla University.
The following is from the General Conference Archives Facebook page:
"On March 4 in 1895: the 31st GC Session ends, in Battle Creek. It re-elected all three officers but this session was historic, for it approved a new form of Adventist organisation: the Union Conference, pioneered by A. G. Daniells in Australia in 1894 (photo shows Daniells during his time as Australian Union Conference President).
The then GC president, Ole Olsen, had reservations about the Union model, but with Ellen White's support (sent by letter from Australia) the Session gave its blessing. Over the next 6 years the benefits offered by devolving some authority down from the GC were obvious and at the 1901 GC Session, Unions was adopted around the world."
Dr. Ben Carson, the Seventh-day Adventist neurosurgeon who made headlines with his critique of President Obama during the National Prayer Breakfast continued his recent blitz of media appearances with a visit to Glenn Beck's internet show. He discusses gun rights and responsibilities, the shortage of doctors, access to experimental drugs, extreme wealth inequality, and his openness to God leading him into a political career.