By Alexander Carpenter
I am heartened.
I just read the following from General Conference president Jan Paulsen’s Sabbath sermon for the Annual Council meetings. (Thanks Adventist News Network for the great article.)
Paulsen said that at the top of the concerns of this rising
generation, one centers on the vision the church has for the world
“Does leadership nurture a church which is so focused on
spirituality and eternity that they have no feelings in their hearts
for what is happening to society today, except to condemn decaying
morality,” he said. “Do they think about the environment; do they care
about HIV [and] AIDS; and what about poverty? Do they understand what
poverty really is?”
He said particular emphasis is placed on issues of poverty and how the church addresses these.
“They asked me in Africa a few weeks ago: ‘Have you ever been to
the home of a really poor family?’ And they follow it up with a ‘Why
not,'” he said. “And they ask me: ‘Does the message of Matthew 25 about
Christ’s presence in the poor, making the point that what you do to one
of these you do to me, does it say anything to us as a church?'”
These members are also asking the church to recognize and celebrate cultural differences, the world church president reported.
“‘Diversity’ is a word we often use; it covers many things, and it
is more than racial,” he said. “The Seventh-day Adventist Church must
not only tolerate differences – and what they are talking about are
differences which are not hostile to historic Adventism and historic
Adventist values – we must also exercise discipline to accommodate
them. The church must be good at affirming many kinds of differences.”
Paulsen said one duty of Adventists is not to make others into
“cultural replicas” of themselves, but to “receive people you meet with
He added, “It is a fact that while we, as a global and
multi-cultural Seventh-day Adventist family, have the same spiritual
DNA, we do not have to have the same ‘fingerprints.'”
Of course it will take awhile for this to seep down through our “Peter principled” church bureaucracy – but, by faith, it will!
Perhaps we are reaching a tipping point where visionary Adventists
realize that salvation is more than mental assent – that faith works,
but it never just works for me.
The prophetic vision of a
religiously-informed private and
public goodness was the motivating
spirit of the early Adventist ethos. A prophetic Christianity speaks to
the times, reinterpreting and recreating an always, already present
Now it’s time for our leaders to put their money where the rest of the
world’s mouths are. It’s time to shift policy and money away from mass
evangelism, wasteful, dated literature scattering and improve our health, media,
and educational systems in the developing world. It’s time to stop
growth for growth’s sake (isn’t that cancer?) and start building a
community that works for the common good. Hearing Paulsen preach it!
makes me hope: integrity and poverty, ecology and health care – now
there’s the desire of ages and a faith for today.
What is that faith?
The most powerful idea in earth’s history – that Jesus Christ saves the world.
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