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Reviewing the Review: Crises Edition

October 14, 2010 – Vol. 187, No. 33

This issue has earned an above average rating. There are four mildly critical letters to the editors, Roy Adams says goodbye, and Loren Seibold and Fredrick A. Russell have contributed MUST READ editorials. The Norma Nashed story is also a MUST READ.

The cover feature, “Grace, Free Will, and Judgment” by Whidden was a disappointment as was “How to Read Stories, Rituals, Laws, and Poems in the Pentateuch” by Klingbeil. More about that later.


Adventists supplied the Chilean Miners with mini-Bibles and Adventist pastor Parra Diaz became the de facto chaplain at the rescue sight.

Christchurch, New Zealand Adventists escaped serious injury in a 7.1 earthquake. Sanitarium Health Food headquarters and factory, churches, and school escaped significant structural damage.

Mount Ellis Academy in Bozeman, Montana, stands to gain $500,000 to make needed repairs to a decades-old pluming system. The school finished tenth in an online voting contest sponsored by Kohl’s department store.

The radio station of Southwestern Adventist University is back on the air less than a year after a disastrous lightning strike.


OUR BIGGEST NAD CRISIS ISN’T THEOLOGICAL—IT’S RELATIONAL by Loren Seibold is first up because of its importance. It was difficult not to quote more extensively, but I hope the following selections will paint the picture.

I hear stories. . .of churches that have lost all their young people, of pastors seeking calls to escape unending criticism, of soul-numbing conflicts about worship styles and theology.

Small churches, it seems to me, are especially in trouble. The majority of North American Division (NAD) churches—actually, nearly two thirds of them—have fewer than 100 members. There are fewer people to soften the impact of even the smallest crisis.

I like to visit churches when I travel. Being a lifelong Adventist, I don’t let unfriendliness, or embarrassing things said by a preacher or Sabbath school teacher, or the shabbiness of the building, or the absence of anyone between the ages of 12 and 35, push me away. Still, I can’t help asking myself: ‘If I were a stranger with no background in our faith who’d come here today, would I join this congregation?’

I don’t know exactly why we’re in this situation. Perhaps it’s because we’ve attended more to beliefs than relationships, have more concern for dogma than people. Perhaps we’re self-focused, more concerned with our own orthodoxy than we are about serving others. Maybe we’ve grown organizationally old and therefore not as flexible to adjust to changing times.

Many church leaders live among large, well-resourced congregations and may not be aware of the crisis further afield. . . . The Adventist presence is static or declining in many towns and cities, and even in some major metropolitan areas. Too many of our young adults aren’t staying: the average age of church members in all but a few areas of Adventist concentration is about 50.2.

I wonder what kind of church we’ll be when only a handful of larger congregations in North America can keep the loyalty of thoughtful young Seventh-day Adventists?

Roy Adams reflects on the past twenty-two years in his final editorial, OUR TIME TOGETHER.

I’ve often thought that God made me an editor to keep me from exploding. My mind, you see, is constantly probing, reflecting, dreaming. And it would be difficult to imagine all these thoughts, dreams, and reflections piling up in the system with no outlet. My work at the Review provided an outlet, a vent, a medium to share. . . . My prayer then was for wisdom—’To know when to speak and when not to. What to say and what not to. How to say it and how not to. Which issues to cover and which to leave alone.’ And I prayed for ‘courage to say it. With dignity and courtesy and tact.’ Did I succeed? The Lord alone will judge that. But I’ve enjoyed our time together.

THIS FORGOTTEN DAY IS ONE TO REMEMBER according to Mark Kellner. “October 14–the cover date of this Adventist Review–didn’t exist some 418 years ago in several notable places: the nations of Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. That’s because 1582 saw much of the world shift from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, and several days just dropped off that year. One of these was October 14, 1582. Reading about that reminded me of another ‘missing’ day for many around the globe: the Bible Sabbath day.”

Fredrick A. Russell argues in THE SHERROD AFFAIR that what happened to Shirley Sherod, the USDA employee who was forced out of her job a couple of months ago after she was falsely accused of racism, is the tip of a racist iceberg.

The racially tinged conversations emanating from some radio talk show hosts, coupled with the nightly cable television talkfest [reveals] a ‘neo-populism’ emerging that says it’s OK to subtly project racist views: just don’t call me out on it. Pointing out the racism evokes an explosion of vitriol.

Given the intense political environment in which we live in America, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to call out wrong because of the swift retribution and obfuscation that often follow. Notwithstanding the risk, the church must have a strong, moral voice in responding to any kind of wrong, refusing to be co-opted by a culture that insists on silence.

GRACE, FREE WILL, AND JUDGMENT by Woodrow W. Widden II was a disappointment. The article might have been fascinating, but the narrative and message were obscured by trivial details and bureaucratic language. Nonetheless, the following quote almost saved the day.

Arminius offered “some sage counsel about the seemingly endless disputes over the perfection issue that should positively resonate with Seventh-day Adventist Arminians of ‘the heart’: ‘I think the time may be far more happily and usefully employed in prayers to obtain what is lacking in each of us, and in serious admonitions that every one endeavor to proceed and press forward towards the mark of perfection, than when spent in such disputations.’”

ONE WOMAN’S MISSION reported by Dittu Abraham is the story of Norma Nashed and her quest to look after children in troubled places around the world. “The story of Reaching Hearts for Kids (RHK), a Maryland-based nonprofit organization, is the story of how one woman lives her dream of selfless service to orphans in thirteen countries.”

In I CALL HIM MY GOD, Elena Olson King talks about discovering a God who is all hers. “The word “my” clarifies, intensifies, and determines. I call Him my God. Of course, He is the God, but He created me. He answers my cries. He protects me. He heals my hurts. He forgives me.

HOW TO READ STORIES, RITUALS, LAWS, AND POEMS IN THE PENTATEUCH by Gerald A. Klingbeil was another disappointment. Exciting questions and controversies died under the weight of advice about “how to read effectively”. Poetry was not mentioned.

As we linger longer with unfamiliar text types and spend time with God’s Word, something will happen. Pieces will fall into place. When we know what to look for and how to read effectively, God’s Spirit will be able to talk to our hearts and minds. Suddenly, what used to be boring and dry becomes engaging and challenging and we read not only with understanding but with enthusiasm.

Andy Nash offers an important insight into the meaning of John 21 and the mind of an insecure disciple in THE THINGS OF PETER. “The driving issue in Peter’s life wasn’t how he stacked up against the other disciples. The issue was how his plans stacked up against Jesus’ plans.”

Monte Sahlin is an invaluable resource when it comes to recommending TOOLS OF THE TRADE. In this issue he recommends The Radical Teachings of Jesus by Derek Morris to prep for those moments when someone asks you what you believe; Loving Them Back, Leading Them Home by Barry Gane; No More Excuses: Domestic Violence by Mable Dunbar; and the Andrews Study Bible.

According to Sahlin, if you “are you looking for a way to stay in touch with the names you collected? Hamblin’s Outreach Publishing Enterprises (an ASI organization) provides an excellent, four-page, full-color mailer that can be sent regularly to these contacts. The back panel can be imprinted with announcements of your local activities.”

HAPPINESS BOOKS LONGEST-RUNNING ASI PROJECT is a report by Harold Lance that “Pacific Press Publishing Association recently reprinted a 100,000-copy run of Ellen White’s book Prophets and Kings from the ASI Happiness Book series. Prophets and Kings is the eighth and final volume of the series.

Wayne Hamra learned some LESSONS FROM BAMBOO on the campus of Chiang Mai Adventist Academy in northern Thailand. It turns out that removing the stumps of trees is easier than cutting “through what were the massive root clumps found where bamboo thickets had once thrived.”

As we dug and chopped I began to wonder if bamboo clumps may illustrate God’s purpose for His church. As individuals we often more closely resemble frail bamboo canes than sturdy hardwoods. Yet when linked together to pool and share our resources with those in need, a collection of weak individuals may become formidable, indeed, almost indestructible. In the words of Aesop, the Greek slave and fable author (620–560 B.C.): ‘United we stand, divided we fall.

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