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From Our Desk: On Hiatus for a Spiritual Pilgrimage


From Carmen Lau, board chair:

In June, some friends of Spectrum will hike 100 kilometers on St. Cuthbert’s Way. St. Cuthbert was a seventh-century Christian leader. Removed from the 21st-century zeitgeist that features emotional contagion, we will walk in a liminal space, literally in the Borderlands, between Scotland and England. This is an opportunity to recalibrate and untangle some things.

I just finished Beth Moore’s memoir, All My Knotted-Up Life. The title implies a need for reset and refocus, and probably everyone, at some point, has related to the feeling of having a knotted-up life. Near the beginning, Moore sets a mood for the complexity of feelings in a family:

Family is a heck of a thing, fierce and frightful. There we are, all zipped up inside the unknown together and not always voluntarily. It can be dark in there trying to get through the night. We can feel utterly alone, singular and isolated, while crushed and crowded and so close in body that our sweat mingles and we inhale what they exhale, unfiltered. We want to touch, to hold hands, on our own terms, which is our right and ought to be our right, but most times we don’t. We go from knowing each other better than we know ourselves, to barely sure if we know each other at all, to precisely sure that we don’t. And truth be told, we don’t know one another in the same way outsiders might. We know too much to know each other. (13)

Moore’s fierce description of family can be applied to how one can feel within any group. Who doesn’t feel frayed from the tangles of family, church, work, life? On a pilgrimage, one can move to the genuine; one can reset. Daily goals will simply be to exist and to travel small distances using bodies God gave, surrounded by the world he made, supported by people right beside us.

I plan to remove veneers of technology that could shroud what is timeless. Also, I will focus on Philippians and memorize Psalm 100. For all of us, the walk will be a time to notice a different way of life, when we meander over stone walls and through sheep pens in a land where individual property rights don’t crowd out the common good. Some of the time will be spent in reflection of what this space meant long ago and imagine how it was viewed by Celtic missionaries seeking to spread the Gospel—from Iona, on the west, to Lindisfarne, on the east. We will consider the cultural tensions, discussions, and accommodations that must have been in play as Celtic Christianity met Roman Christianity that had come ashore from further south in England.

We will be a small band of pilgrims, working together, yet autonomous, as we journey to Holy Island, the end of the pilgrimage. On the final day of the journey, we cross a two-mile causeway with a few towers with platforms that provide a measure of safety if there were to be an unexpected tide surge. We will consult charts and weather as we schedule and plan the last push to our destination: Holy Island.  

Yes, a pilgrimage is a metaphor for Christian life.

The Batchelor-Wilsonian Shift

From Alexander Carpenter, executive editor:

Carmen and I will be taking a break from these weekly updates. As you gathered, we’re turning our focus to this Spectrum spiritual pilgrimage soon. When we return, it might be time to focus on orienting you to a few new growth aspects to this organization. Stay tuned.

I appreciate the border metaphor in Carmen’s reflection. The values that inspire the tens of thousands who visit Spectrum every month place us between places of ease—out in the open—beyond the comfort of the village.

In preparing for a podcast interview (coming soon), I read legendary religion journalist Bob Smietana’s 2022 book, Reorganized Religion: The Reshaping of the American Church and Why It Matters. In a moment of topic serendipity, Smietana uses Beth Moore’s story to express the problems facing denominational Christianity. Her values—serious about scripture, against sexual assault—caused many in her denomination to trump her over the last few years. Now she’s more on the margins of her faith, like many Spectrum friends.

Last month, Ted Wilson spent the weekend at televangelist Doug Batchelor’s Northern California church for an Amazing Facts summit called “Holding the Line: Standing for Truth in a Culture of Compromise.” These two prominent opponents of women’s ordination railed against all the creeping dangers. They consider themselves the center; we’re not. What obviates this narrative is that both manipulate denominational order to benefit their own agenda. It is an open secret that Batchelor holds ministerial credentials from the extremely fundamentalist Michigan Conference. His church is 22 minutes from the denominational academy that it doesn’t support. Over the last few years, Wilson, who clearly prefers self-supporting ministries over most denominational work, has added the presidents of Weimar and Hartland to the General Conference Executive Committee.

This shift is important because it shows the creeping danger of the Batchelor-Wilsonian brand of Adventism. They are continually moving the goalposts. They are reshaping Adventism outside of the institutions that have brought the denomination so much success over the last century. The Batchelor-Wilson self-supporting project attacks science-based health care and an educational system that helped generations navigate faithfulness and fact. They are self-supporters at heart. If it feels like the center has moved, it’s because the top leaders want to trump institutional Adventism.

Smietana’s book shows that this is a larger sociological phenomenon in America. The emerging story of the Southern Baptists, not-so-United Methodists, and the constant rise of the “nones” shows that those of us who try to stay the course are really on the margins, caught between borders more political than inspiring. While Batchelor and Wilson tell their audiences that they are the remnant, in fact, they are mimicking a retreat from education and social engagement that mimics the fundamentalist mistake a century ago.

I haven’t decided what will run through my head as I walk for 100 kilometers between the historical land of the Anglicans and the Presbyterians. I might reflect on the danger of leaders who turn faith into factions. Whatever happens, I will stay on the path, cross the waters, and arrive on another holy island.


Title image: screenshot from Amazing Facts livestream. 

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