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Record of New Pioneer Memorial Church Pastor Raises Campus Compatibility Questions


On March 22, 2023, Shane Anderson was confirmed as the next senior pastor of Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of Andrews University. He will replace Dwight Nelson, who is retiring this May after serving in that role since 1983. For the last 19 years, Anderson has served as the senior pastor of the New Market Seventh-day Adventist Church in rural Virginia, which serves Shenandoah Valley Academy and an elementary school.

The official press release announcing Anderson’s appointment states that “during the lockdowns, if you Googled the phrase ‘Adventist Zoom,’ it would consistently bring up the New Market Church’s media ministry as either the #1 hit or within the top five in the nation.” The announcement quotes Anderson as stating, “A robust, prevailing media presence is absolutely essential for the success of the Seventh-day Adventist movement. I look forward to continuing the Gospel ministry of Pioneer Media.” It continues by noting the New Market Church’s YouTube channel as “a place for thousands to access worship and Sabbath School programs, particularly for children.” While there are a few videos with counts in the low thousands, most sermons on the channel show between 100–200 views. A significant number of homilies preached by Anderson during the height of the lockdown in 2020 have a few dozen views at most. A sermon series he preached on July 4 and July 11 of that year show 35 views and 11 views, respectively. 

Beyond the medium, the PMC announcement states that Anderson’s message is “revival and reformation in the Adventist Church.” He calls it his passion. The New Market YouTube page includes a five-part sermon series titled “Revival and Reformation.” In the press release, Anderson mentions his craving to preach the “prophetic message and its unique mission of preparing the world for Christ’s return.” On his personal website, Remnant Resources, Anderson dismisses those who question the effectiveness of Daniel and Revelation seminar-style public evangelism. He describes his methodology as “Old School and Effective.” His 21-part “Understanding Bible Prophecy” series features sermons running from about 50 minutes to 94 minutes long. Chimerical images and amalgamated beasts are sprinkled between paragraphs of biblical and Ellen White quotes on the screen. He spends several hours identifying the Roman Catholic Church with Satan. 

In his sermon “Identifying the Antichrist, part 2,” Anderson spends time focusing on the pagan origins of Christmas and Easter. He employs the discredited method of using the Latin alphabet, the number 666, and the papal tiara to finger the pope as the antichrist. In 1948, Le Roy Froom, editor of Ministry magazine, debunked this approach, as have many scholars and denominational leaders. “Each pope, like any other sovereign, has his own tiara, which is the papal crown,” he writes. “There is, therefore, no one tiara that is worn by the full succession of papal pontiffs. Moreover, personal examination of these various tiaras, by different men back through the years, and a scrutiny of the pictures of many more, have failed to disclose one engraved with the inscription Vicarius Filii Dei.” Froom adds: “Regrettably, some of our evangelists who do not have all the facts, and to whom the appeal of the moment has sometimes outweighed the ethics of the case, and who perhaps have not thought through the fraudulent character of such plausible but specious evidence, have occasionally continued to use this or a similar fabrication.”

Anderson asserts. His questions are often rhetorical. Can Christians play professional sports? Except for a deus ex machina moment, he gives three reasons why not. Who should you vote for in the next election? Based on Rev. 13, Anderson states that the issue of religious liberty trumps all. He preaches with a stool. During his sermons, he alternates between resting his Bible or himself on it. A pastor in his current Potomac Conference reports that it’s widely known that Anderson’s trademark stool accompanies him on guest speaking opportunities. In addition to his church’s YouTube channel, Anderson has a personal YouTube channel called “Pastor Shane Explains.” In a video titled “What Should I Do If I'm Gay?,” he asks another question. “Can I Become Hetereosexual?” He answers, “maybe.” He then cites unnamed “research” and says, “Here’s what we know.” From there, he suggests change can come through “an intense experience with a Christian counselor” or “a supportive group of likeminded people.” He adds, “Here’s what we’re discovering, almost all of the participants . . . have a substantial decrease in same-sex attraction.” Again, Anderson cites no sources. The vast majority of research does not support what he states. (For instance, see this survey of 47 peer-reviewed studies on the topic by Cornel University.) While acknowledging that some will never change, he adds that he has personally heard about dozens of “homosexuals” who are openly and happily married to opposite-sex partners. "It’s unfortunate that students and staff at AU will have a pastor who feels the need to publicly demean LGBTQ people and their relationships," states Andrews University alum Juan Perla. Now a lawyer in New York City who has filed a brief with the Supreme Court on these issues, he adds: 

There is something cruel about telling LGBTQ youth that there is nothing wrong with them for “being gay” but still they must refrain from loving and seeking to form a committed romantic relationship with someone of the same sex. That would never be said about straight people because it makes no sense to differentiate between “being straight” and loving someone of the opposite sex. Whoever hired him in this moment is clearly sending a message that self-affirming LGBTQ students and staff are not welcomed at AU.

Anderson's “sources say” style combines with a dismissal of “sound science or medical practice” in a sermon delivered titled “Religious Liberty On Trial—A Vaccine Against Freedom.” In point four of his message, he states that masks are a tool of Satan to keep Christians from sharing the gospel. Toward the end of his sermon, Anderson uses air quotes when referring to the so-called “sound science or medical practice” involved in public health restrictions. He concludes the sermon by warning that medically justified precautions can be tools of Satan to slowly “vaccinate society” against religious freedom. 

Anderson opposes women’s ordination to pastoral ministry. Video of his efforts leading a small faction of pastors with this purpose can be seen during the 2021 Potomac Conference constituency session. According to a Potomac Conference source, he was once unsuccessfully nominated to be conference president by a member of his church. The person announced that it was in order “to stop women’s ordination.” In his “Pastor Shane Explains” video on wives submitting to their husbands, he addresses husbandly duties while directly advocating for one-way gender submission. In a 51-minute sermon on adornment, he states that “we ask those who lead out in any way on the church platform to not wear jewelry.” A sermon on modesty employs the metaphor of the Jewish tabernacle to describe the body of a woman, including talking about the husband being the high priest entering into the Most Holy Place. (The fact this only happened once a year in the biblical account was not exegeted by Anderson.) In that sermon, Anderson employs other graphic metaphors to describe the inappropriate ways that women dress. In discussing lust, Anderson addresses men and women, but what women wear gets more of his time and rhetorical focus. After making  a point about sexual sin and male responsibility, he instructs:

“Ladies, if you are knowingly dressed in, or are knowingly behaving in an inappropriate, immodest manner, and a man thinks evil in his mind, his sin is that he chose to give in to lust. Your sin is that you invited him to do so.” 

Gordon Bietz, former president of Southern Adventist University, confirms that Anderson was unsuccessfully considered many years ago for a position at its Collegedale Church. The Pioneer Memorial Church search committee included three administrators from the Michigan Conference and the ministerial director of the General Conference, as well as the president of the union and the retiring president of the university. Two elders from the church rounded out the interview and decision-making body. No Andrews University faculty or student members of the church were included on the search committee. 

Alexander Carpenter is executive editor of Spectrum. 

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