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Top Ten Adventist Stories of the Decade: a North American perspective

With thanks to Twitter and Facebook friends for suggestions, here is a list of significant Adventist stories of the decade. “Can something that didn’t happen be part of the list?” asked one friend when she suggested women’s ordination. Since this is a list of stories, rather than events, yes. A list of events could be very different. However, we start with an event, and order our list of stories from bottom to top.

10. Renewal of Scholarly Interest in Ellen White. The October 2009 summit on Ellen White held in Maine marked a new day in Ellen White studies, outside as well as inside the church. The significance of this story will carry well into the coming decade.

9. Youth Movement. The mobilization of young people in the General Youth Conference née Generation of Youth for Christ and GodEncounters organizations gave para-denominational names and forms to the Missionary Volunteers of long ago.

8. Rise and Fall of Satellite Evangelism. “The whole satellite craze within Adventism was the epitome of a faulty premise: ‘If you stream it they will come.’ So Programming became paramount to Discipleship,” suggested Angelo Grasso. “In my opinion this all comes down to a basic understanding of Matt. 28:18-20. I truly believe we’ve built an entire paradigm on an incomplete interpretation of that one text. Dallas Willard’s “The Great Omission” was a real game changer in my thinking and approach to (swallow hard) “soul winning”.

Point well made, Grasso, but the changes in technology within the past decade also played a role in both the rise and fall. Now we are seeing the rise of internet evangelism. It, too, will have its pluses and minuses.

7. International Faith Science Conferences. Three years of meetings around the world brought together scientists and theologians to talk about origins, and the conversation continues.

6. Higher Education. The decade opened with the controversial creation of the International Board for Ministerial and Theological Education. It ends with calls for curriculum creation on creation given the heated discussions about evolution and biology. The decade has also seen the growth of higher education around the world, while some of the institutions in North America and Europe have struggled to maintain enrollment.

5. Money. While money has always played a significant role in the church, the patterns of giving have been shifting in the past decade. The decline in mission offerings created concern at the General Conference. The balance of giving between the United States and the rest of the world was significantly impacted by the downturn of the economy in 2008. And then there was the gift of an extraordinary tithe during the decade, which has been tracked and documented separately from the regular church budget in an admirably transparent fashion.

4. The Women of Adventism. Locally, Adventist women have not let the non-event of ordination slow them down. Women’s ministries have flourished. And some churches, conferences, and divisions have seen to it that women were used in pastoral ministry and recognized for their work with ordination or a credential equal to ordination. As someone said at a commissioning service, “God doesn’t care whether the word begins with a c or an o.”

3. China. After years of being forced underground by communist rule, religion is again part of Chinese life. House churches and congregations began to blossom, and women have proved to be very effective pastors and church planters.

2. Resignation of Robert Folkenberg, and the election of Jan Paulsen. The decade began with the resignation of Robert Folkenberg on March 1, 1999. Never before in the church’s history had it coped with a General Conference president’s resignation at midterm under pressure.

And the number one story in Adventism:

1. Membership Growth – for six of the past ten years, the church has added a million members per year. As a result, the size of the church is now 16 million members, with the greatest growth in the Southern Hemisphere. Africa and South America now have the largest Adventist populations.

What will this mean for the next decade?

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