In the aftermath of San Antonio’s Women’s Ordination (WO) “No vote” there has been, unsurprisingly, considerable reaction. Emotion, speculation, criticism, defense—words have spilled out in prodigious quantity. Almost everything I have read concentrates on specific context, that is: women, ordination and church governance. Some attempts have been made to propose underlying rationale—mostly relating to cultural effects on the delegates’ mindset.
I’ve been reading Spectrum magazine for decades, and participating in it in as an online forum since—well, since it became an online forum. Spectrum has thought itself a loyal critic of the church, a place where dissenting points of view can be voiced, or underreported church news given an airing. At its best, it functions creatively and constructively.
I have heard from a number of people, including pastors, that they feel General Conference is a waste of resources. "It's thousands of dollars spent on OURSELVES. Couldn't that money have been better spent doing REAL ministry instead of being internally focused?" To me, these complaints sound familiar. In John 12, Judas complained of the wastefulness of resources devoted to anointing Christ's feet. He couldn't see the value (or so he said). Obviously I'm not saying that those who criticize the use of funds for GC are modern day Judases.
As we approach the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference session, I have been thinking about the many issues we face as a church. I have written in other places about the way we in the church relate to each other. Now my thoughts have turned to how we relate to those who wish to become a part of us. Any church worth its salt has to be bringing people in. The whole point of the Christian movement is to make disciples (Matt 28: 19, 20).
If you’d asked me a few years ago to make an off-the-cuff analysis of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I’d have said something like this: “We exist on a polarity of moderately progressive to nearly-cultic conservative, with most of us bell-curved somewhere in the evangelical-fundamentalist middle.” All our disagreements seem to stretch to either side of that line: women’s ordination, homosexuality, food and drink, Ellen White, Biblical interpretation, eschatology, the gospel.
Being vegetarian is one distinctive characteristic of Adventism, even though the way of interpreting it may deeply vary – from a country like Norway to a country like Argentina. This diversity ranges from ascetic forms of veganism, realistic strategies of occasional meat-eating to various idealistic and romantic modalities of circumstantial or regional vegetarianism. But, compared to this worldwide Adventist individual diversity, institutional Adventism appears instead as homogeneously and massively vegetarian. Except for Czech Adventism.
While I was in Waco, TX I had the opportunity to regularly preach at my local church. The church we attended is very small and part of a district, meaning that our pastor had other churches and was not in attendance every week. I would give the sermon on the weeks he was away. Although I did not come to that church in 2010 with any thought of being involved in church life in that way, I admit now that it was of benefit to me personally (and hopefully to them) to formulate my thoughts and share and defend them within a church community.