With the idiosyncratic and classical protestant European theme of “Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda”, the 2015 ETTC (European Theology Teachers Convention) took place March 25-29 at Newbold College, England. What does the word “reform” mean today? This is easier to proclaim than to understand and implement, which is often the reason self-proclaimed “reforming” movements have paradoxically behaved as reactionary and nostalgic. European Adventism should remember and learn this from its own past history.
Whenever there is discussion about ending racially segregated conferences, there will inevitably be individuals wondering if that will mean having state conferences absorb the regional conferences. During one such conversation someone stated that, in his recent sermon on the topic, Dwight Nelson should have suggested state conferences being absorbed by regional conferences as a possible solution instead. I noted that there were already many prominent black ministers who have proposed that course before.
I’ll admit it – church attendance is hard for me sometimes. Even on Sabbaths when I have not had a tiring week, or haven’t stayed up late the night before, or have prepared properly, I still wake up and feel the desire to not attend church. Sometimes I just can’t make myself go. In those moments when I feel that way I always end up asking the same question – why do we go to church anyway?
Every discourse on Origins is necessarily indirect and a posteriori. And in order to appear believable it paradoxically needs to be both partial and inclusive. Consequently we need to integrate the various existing perspectives on Origins if we want to have a meaningful reflection on this topic. Creation has both a Biblical and scientific-naturalistic approach. But these are only two expressions of a more universal quest.
•A young academic moves to another city for a position in a major state university. “Do you attend a church there?” I ask. “There’s a church not far from me, but it reminded me too much of the small depressing churches I've previously survived,” he replies. “I’ve never gone back.”
•A retired pastor and wife live in Loma Linda, where there are dozens of congregations. “We go to church twice every Sabbath,” they tell me. “We watch two church services on TV, and we don’t even have to get dressed.”
Suffering is the subjective experience of evil. Not merely a threatening external presence in nature, it is a disturbing challenge that touches us in our primordial foundations and certainties. It cruelly becomes an eroding event from within. Its universality doesn't respect age, gender, religion or ethnicity. This compels us to try to understand and make some sense of it, knowing in advance that whatever the resulting interpretation, it will always remain a precarious, fragmented and insufficient belief in the unexpected and weary path of life.
A Devastated Dream
On March 6, 1857, Dred Scott held on to a dream. Together with his wife Harriett, he stood before the highest court in the land awaiting a verdict that could change his life. Having been compelled to accompany his enslaver, John Emerson, to the so-called “free” states of Illinois and Wisconsin (then a district), he thought he would have an opportunity to taste that freedom for himself when Emerson died.
In 1905 the Spanish philosopher George Santayana published Reason in Common Sense, in which he penned the often quoted (and misquoted) phrase, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It seems we have the same problem in the Adventist Church. One of the great travesties of Adventism is that the church in America is still structurally segregated. While anyone can attend any church they want, regional conferences were specifically created for Black Adventists, and it remains so to this day.
Life is complicated and we cannot handle too much – especially complexity that is not essential in our day-to-day activities. Thus we quickly and often subconsciously search for the minimum complexity necessary to navigate daily life so we are not paralyzed in decision making. In so doing, we remember and catalogue past evaluations so we don’t have to repeat the laborious process each time we encounter sufficiently similar situations.