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Except as we shall forget

It’s time to crowdsource. In light of the current legal and ethical analysis of recent church actions, I have been thinking about my commitment to church community. Officially this idea of shared commitment is often called stewardship. And while it is not as hot as creation right now, it is a major doctrine in Adventism—our 21st Fundamental Belief.

During my July 4th weekend snowboarding in Mammoth, California, I noticed a poster in the high sierra town that advertised a community “Summer of Stewardship.” (“Local recreation user groups and businesses” come together to take care of the area trails.) It caught my eye and lingered in my mind, I guess, in part because it seemed odd to see a term I associated with inbred doctrine in a town built on outdoor fun. Of course various Adventists, including on this blog, have worked to expand our idea of stewardship from merely returning tithe and offerings to include stewardship over our environmental resources. But can we expand our understanding even more?

Does church stewardship include our memories?

A reader of Spectrum anonymously submitted an idea which reminded me of the multiple meanings of stewardship. Not only do we have a responsibility to give back to God and care for our church community, but part of stewardship involves remembering the past. Before anyone deletes their Spectrum bookmark, don’t worry, I haven’t gone conservative. Rather, conserving and publicly sharing the collective memories of a community’s past is essential to a better future.

The reader wrote:

Would love to see an article on history of church financial mismanagement in summary form. Miller’s timber mills, Folkenberg, Davenport to the present crises in Texas. Any others which readers may know about and can be substantiated. If no one is interested in doing that just start an open article where readers can submit their suggestions as to which should not be forgotten.  As a member of the church I would like to see our past failings remembered to help us remain vigilant now and help maintain credibility. Could include areas where the church could save money eg airfares for unending meetings which could be conducted by video link, budgets for administration, legal bills etc. Why does the church maintain massive savings when it preaches the soon coming?

What I particularly liked about this idea was that the writer suggested it as a “member of the church.” There is too little of this balance of loyalty with honesty about who we are. Of course crowdsourcing like this leaves the discussion open to include some bitter rants and then those who seek any way to discredit Spectrum will predictably make some sweeping generalization about the negativity of the community. But neither extreme gets at how most of us don’t love everything but care too much to leave. Like any good history, it is essential to remember the good and the bad. And as Truth and Reconciliation Commissions have shown us: to have atonement we must tell the truth. Thus, what do you remember? In the comments below, share your memories of mismanagement from your local church or institution up to the international level.

After all, we have nothing to fear for the future except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us—and how we have misled ourselves—in the past.

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