Years ago I worked for a denominational leader who was so bad (there is no need to qualify that word—name a quality of leadership and he didn’t have it) that he nearly drove me and a number of my friends from ministry. Within a few weeks after I was ordained we were driving down the road to a call in another conference.
I recently recalled my painful experience of watching Hotel Rwanda. Nominated for three Academy Awards® and two Golden Globes®, Hotel Rwanda tells the true story of Paul Rusesabagina, a Hutu hotel manager who helped to save the life of over 1,200 Tutsi fugitives during the 1994 Rwandan conflict. As the nations of the world turned their heads, the Hutu military–assisted by gangs of radical extremists and the French army–conducted the most atrocious act of genocide in recent history as they slaughtered almost one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
I have always known that there are different kinds of Seventh-day Adventists, but nothing has brought that home like the discussions on this forum. Given all that we have in common with one another (more commonalities than differences, I’m quite sure) why do we so quickly fall into conflict?
Is it just about how we interpret the Bible? Mere intellectual differences would seem fairly easy to deal with, not unlike scientists discussing the meaning of a difficult gene sequence. Even if we couldn’t agree, it shouldn’t have to lead to angry, emotional accusations.
The Wisdom tradition flourished in Israel among the courtesans and the scribes who worked for the king. As such, those who sought after wisdom were people with social and economic advantages, agents of the king in diplomatic missions and members of the bureaucracy that keeps close to the centers of political power. What in the East was called wisdom came to be known as philosophy in Greece. In its origins wisdom had to do with the behavior to be adopted by those who live the way life should be lived.
As I write this column, all eyes are focused on Ham’s progeny as multitudes in the north of the African continent rise up against repressive systems of government. Changes have already been initiated in Algeria and Jordan (yes, Jordan is located in Hamitic territory), and pundits and politicians in the West are predicting and prodding regime change in the world’s oldest civilization. While the decades old regimes do have a faithful cadre of supporters, it is those who have been denied a voice that have dared to overpower the powerful with their demands for democracy.
No matter what biblical topic is being discussed be it homosexuality, ordination of women or the age of the earth; no matter what is being debated in the realm of Christian ethics, morality or behavior; no matter what is being argued in the area of theology be it the nature of Christ or the perfection of the saints; the bottom line always comes back to the Nature of Inspiration - how one is to view and interpret the Scriptures. This is, in my mind, the most critical issue facing the church today.
For the past 12 years I’ve been pastor of a vibrant church in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. During my time there we doubled our attendance, spawned a new 200-soul congregation, built a new church and school, and doubled our tithe and offerings .
Recently I shifted into a job with the conference office, and like others there I began preaching each weekend in churches around the conference. Here in Ohio about 85% of our churches are below 100 in attendance on an average Sabbath, and half of those 30 or below.
The Mohaven Conference
The list of conference attendees reads like a veritable who’s who in 1970’s Adventism. They were no light weights! Represented were women such as Leona Running, Miriam Wood, Kit Watts, LaVonne Neff and Josephine Benton along with men such as Gerhard Hasel, Raoul Dederen, Frank Holbrook, Charles Scriven and James Spangenberg. The quality and depth of research presented by scholars such as Betty Sterling and Madelynn Halderman was impressive. (1)
The GOP has good reason to celebrate this week. Thanks to the enthusiasm of those who imbibed the spiked punch at the Tea Party, Rush Limbaugh’s generalship has been grandly endorsed and the President of the United States has quietly conceded failure, as he assumed responsibility for the Democrats’ deafening defeats.