Years ago, at North Dakota camp meeting near the village of Harvey, a visiting speaker invited himself to my grandparents’ cabin. My grandmother received this as a tremendous compliment: pastors were always held in high esteem in my family, and this was one of her favorite speakers. As I remember the story, after Grandma served him homemade date bars, he offered to be the broker to sell them a building lot in an isolated housing development somewhere in the mountains of the American southeast.
European Adventism with all its diversity and irreducible heterogeneity represents today a particular and unique kind of Adventism in the world church. According to some this is an atypical and weak type of Adventism, numerically and theologically. Numerically because, compared with non-western or even with other western SDA Divisions, European Adventist membership appears as a small and negligible reality that keeps decreasing.
The first two clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This seems like a simple statement and when read in its historical context the original intent seems quite clear. The European conquerors that were establishing their new outposts on the soil of the Apache and Navaho all came from “Christian” countries where certain brands of Christianity were fused with state identity.
Recently, in response to a statement about the commonality of the gospel amongst different denominations or groups of Christians someone said to me – “To be honest with you I could not disagree more. It is the Gospel that separates us (SDA) from other denomination's "gospel." Our (SDA) doctrines define the Gospel for us, they cannot be separated from the Gospel. Any deviation from sound doctrine is not the Gospel at all it's a false gospel.”
This happened about 25 years ago, when I was still a young pastor. We’d just placed a new member, a Certified Public Accountant, on the congregation’s finance committee. One of the items on the agenda was how we could build up the lagging local church budget. I remember the new committee member said, after his first quick glance at the financial statement, “I don’t know what the problem is. This shows we received a lot of tithe.” The rest of us quickly explained his misunderstanding. “Wait a minute,” he said.
When she spoke, silence overpowered the atmosphere. When she spoke, her spellbound audiences voluntarily surrendered to her hypnotically cadenced and carefully crafted words. When she spoke, sympathizers and critics alike could not help but marvel at her ability to be heard. When she spoke, her probing and penetrating prose proposed powerful potions for improving pressing problems. When she spoke, her unique experience shaped her calm and collected countenance that had countered countless calamities. But she had not always spoken so effectively.
Sticks and Stones
“I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves…. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load….For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh.” Gal 5:12; 6:4, 5, 13
I didn’t choose to be heterosexual. I was born this way. From the time I was old enough to notice (and taking into account that at the time I was far more interested in Lego blocks and model cars) I remember thinking little girls were incredibly charming creatures. My first real exposure to homosexuality came in college, when I had friends who I learned (probably as they were learning it themselves) had attachments to people of their own gender. This was a time when homosexuality was at last being spoken of aloud among ordinary people. It even got a friendlier, non-clinical name: gay.
With this column I conclude a threefold reflection on the SDA Church Cape Town summit on alternatives sexualities. The first presentation (Sexuality and Human Developmental Identity - Cape Town 1) approached the topic from an anthropological perspective, affirming that sexuality is a positive human problem for everybody, not just homosexuals.