Suzanne Ocsai spent about a year researching and writing a book on the first ten years of GYC, the youth-led Adventist movement and yearly conference, generally seen as particularly conservative. When she finished the manuscript in 2011, she felt frustrated and angry over everything she had learned about the behind-the-scenes-workings of GYC, various youth departments at each level of the church structure, and the church as a whole. She wrote about her feelings, and published them on her blog just a few weeks ago. Here are some excerpts from the longer article:
Our Church is dying. No, it’s not just dying . . . it’s killing itself.
. . .
We are divided over many things. But it all comes down to this . . . it’s not what we view as the correct form of worship that divides. It’s not our varying views of theology that divides us. It’s not dress reform that divides us. It isn’t any of that . . . while the fact that we vary on all of those points probably doesn’t help . . . that ISN’T what divides us. What divides our Church is our pride. It is our pride in each one of those areas. We say, “I’m better than you because I only sing out of the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.” We say, “I’m better than you because I wear dresses . . . I’m not causing my brother to stumble.” We say, “I’m better than you because I don’t exclude people who live alternative lifestyles.” We say, “I’m better than you because I don’t condemn people for praising God with drums and contemporary Christian music.” We say a lot of stuff that doesn’t mean anything!
But what we don’t say a lot of is this, “I love you even though I don’t agree. I love you even though I think you are wrong. I love you and I know that I don’t have everything completely correct either, but you know what, I am, and I believe you are too, still searching for how God would have us be. How can we work TOGETHER to find HIS ideal?
While writing this book I saw how the two sides (GYC verses the Church Youth Department) couldn’t get along–leadership on one side seemed overly condemning while leadership on the other side wasn’t willing to confront the condemnation head on, and so the young people were caught in the middle to clean up the political mess.
When I saw this happening to my generation, I cried. I was so angry and hurt. Why haven’t we grown past this? Why aren’t the youth the most important segment of our Church? Why are our Church leaders on both sides making us choose between the left and the right?
I love my Church. But as I’ve grown up in it I’ve come to see that this judging back and forth is not just something solely between GYC and the Youth Department but something that spans the entire spectrum of Adventism. From GYC to JCI, from the chaplains offices to the youth ministries office, from Women’s Ministries to Pastoral Ministries, from the General Conference to the North American Division and all the other Divisions, from the Michigan Conference to Southeastern California Conference. We are divided. We are separate. We love to point fingers and call each other out. I know . . . I’ve done it. I’ve been overwhelmed with anger and hatred for the side I thought was against me.
But what made me cry that day in my room was obviously not the good I saw on any of the sides. It was the fact that because of pride and personal differences, the good of both sides was not able to be measured together. I believe God ordained people on both sides for a special work. But I don’t believe He ordained one side above another. When I came to the end of the book, what I discovered made me angry because I felt like I had to choose one side over the other.
WE’RE ONE BODY, I wanted to shout . . . Please, get your act together or you won’t have young people to pass your offices to. And I’m talking to the left and the right! This IS NOT one sided. It takes two to tango, whether you dance or not.
Since writing this piece in 2011, Ocsai has tried to not just look at what others are doing, but take responsibility herself. She has become heavily involved in her church, worked for the North American Division, and in other church positions. She closed her recent blog post with these words:
I am my church and I am human and I am failing. I am killing it. And I am ready to now take responsibility for that. By God’s grace and mercy, His forgiveness and direction . . . through putting down my man-made idols and walls built from bitterness and pride, hopefully I can become a healer and not a killer. Someone who binds up wounds instead of constantly pouring salt into them. Someone who is a unifier and not a divider. Someone who lets others grow at their own pace just as I want others to allow me to grow at my own pace. Someone who loves and doesn’t hate the people who also look into their mirrors and also call themselves the church. Someone who is like Jesus to the world. This is my prayer. This is my wish. This is my continuing story.
Read the full post on Suzanne Ocsai’s blog [un]Divided.
Suzanne Ocsai is a senior art major and journalism minor at Southern Adventist University. In her free time she enjoys hanging out with friends, reading, photography, and soccer.