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From Our Desk: Recordings and Books


From Alexander Carpenter, executive director:

Last week, I drove through snow in Southern California to the Tierrasanta Seventh-day Adventist Church. It has been the home of the San Diego Adventist Forum chapter since 1996. I was there to pick up the master recordings of the SDAF meetings, which date back to the late-1970s when it was led by Walt Fahlsing. Jim and Averille Kaatz parented the SDAF for 27 years and turned the forum presentations into an incredibly successful international recording ministry. I randomly pulled out a few of the cassette tapes to read the names of the presenters:

– Desmond Ford, “Perils of a Christian Bureaucracy,  1981.

– Tom Mostert, “Clergy versus Laity,” 1984.

– Madelynn Haldeman, “A Biblical Perspective on Jewelry,” 1988.

– Raymond Cottrell, “North American Division: Myth, Milestone, or Mirage,” 1989.

– Frank Knittell, “The Agony and Ecstasy of Loma Linda Accreditation,” 1989.

– Dale Ratzlaff, “Reasons Why I No Longer Observe the Sabbath,” 1996.

– Larry Geraty, Ron Graybill, Fritz Guy: The Story Behind the 27 Fundamental Beliefs, 2000.

– David Neff on “A Better World: How compassion and justice can flourish alongside eschatology, 2-18-2012.

What a historical treasure. A few months ago, the SDAF board voted to dissolve and share their rich history widely again through new technology. Thanks to the work by Gordon Rick and Rich Hannon, these tapes have already been digitized and will be freely available on Spectrum’s new website this year. Four former presidents of the SDAF and I shared lunch on that rainy Thursday in San Diego. Les Palinka, Gordon Rick, Steven Hadley, and Richard Voth shared stories and talked about current Adventist issues. It felt like a good old mini-forum meeting among friends.

As I work to expand Spectrum this year, I am inspired by their leadership and generosity. In a 2010 newsletter I found in one of the boxes, Rick describes those who listen to the recordings as “forum-type persons seeking answers to often difficult questions about their church and related topics.” Someone made a comment about passing the torch. I thanked them for keeping the flame alive. As long as there are questions, this little light will shine.

From Carmen Lau, board chair:

We Read the Banned Books

What do they think of us? I’ve received several emails that share data on a lack of positive perception about our denomination in the United States.

One can process this with many lenses, but one underlying reason is straightforward. The official church leadership has been hesitant to look honestly at the social impact of Seventh-day Adventism. Thus, folks in the pew are not receiving information from the pulpit or official sources that own, and account for, ways the church has missed the mark.  Most people, encouraged to depend on official Adventist sources, interact with the larger culture in a way not congruent with reality. So, we face a negative perception of Seventh-day Adventists.

Kathryn Schulz’s Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error (2010) features an entire chapter about how Adventists adjusted the narrative when Jesus did not come in 1844.  This is exhibited as one sociological example of how groups who have been overtly wrong misshape the story of what happened. Schulz’s book was the freshman book of the year required for incoming freshmen at Harvard. Not a peep from the official denomination.

Carl Weinberg’s Red Dynamite: Creationism, Cultural Wars, and Anti-Communism in America (2021) returns several times to an extensive narrative of George McCready Price and the formation of a foundational scapegoating story that links communism and evolution as enemies of social order and all morality. Price coined the phrase "Red Dynamite," the title of the book. This narrative was used by various nefarious social efforts in the 20th century, including white supremacy and antisemitism. Not a lot of courage from official denominational sources to connect the dots for how this denomination supported people and ideas that have led to unintended consequences. Honest reckoning with missteps would help the denomination be a source of Shalom instead of a group stuck in self-certitude.

Howard Markel’s The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek (2017) shows less than flattering touchpoints between the famous Kelloggs and their parent denomination. Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet (2014) discusses honest context of the Adventist founding mother’s life and impact. I could say so much more but will stop with these examples.

Yet Amazing Facts ignores certain facts, and the official denominational outreach to lay people does not include comprehensive ways that would assist people to communicate or be reliable witnesses in an interconnected world, where anyone can rapidly find out quite a bit about Seventh-day Adventists.

Spectrum has discussed Ron Numbers’s research, reported the discovery of the 1919 Bible Conference, and attempted to grapple with the reality of the broader culture in which Adventism seeks to minister. We read the “banned books” and discuss issues on the edges of Adventist dogma, because we care.

The Mission of Adventist Forum:

Adventist Forum’s purpose is conversation toward Seventh-day Adventist renewal. Adventist Forum affirms both our Movement’s calling and its (imperfect) humanity. True renewal, we believe, involves both honest self-correction and fresh imagination. In this light, Adventist Forum, uses a variety of media—Spectrum journal, Spectrum website, podcasts, events—to highlight three kinds of content: reporting and analysis, opinion and research, artistic expression such as poetry, stories, and visual art. The resulting conversation may be unsettling [challenging?] as well as inspiring; but it will, we believe, facilitate the renewal for which all church members hope and pray.

Adventist Forum is a fully independent advocate of Seventh-day Adventist renewal that is beholden to readers but not to any official administrative structure. The point is to challenge apathy and to advance Adventist faithfulness and mission. The work of Adventist Forum is fluid, reminding people to attend to that which is timely—rumbles, fractures, trends, creations, powers, alliances, losses—as well as that which is transcendent and timeless. 


Title photo: Alexander Carpenter and San Diego Adventist Forum leaders. 

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