Am I the only one kind of unfazed by the pronouncements and decisions made at Annual Council last week? Or maybe I'm just jaded? I don't know.
We have a church that is, in my opinion, almost too organized and very hierarchical, with a bunch of old White men in leadership positions and not enough representation of POC (people of color) and women making decisions that will affect the 20 million Seventh-day Adventists worldwide. I know that there were ethnic delegates. I know that the resistance against women’s ordination comes mostly from our Latin and African brethren. However, the senior administration of the church is very homogeneous, at least in terms of age and gender and thinking. And I do not have stats, but I'm sure that if we are talking about voting members and delegates, it's not representative of at least the gender diversity in our church.
I love my brothers and sisters in Christ — regardless of gender, race, nationality, or differences in opinion. But representation matters, and when it comes to GC leadership and conference leadership and division leadership and union leadership, the representation is not there. Leadership — I'm not talking delegates, but there are problems there, too — is not reflective of our diversity. And it's a shame because we are one of the most diverse denominations in the world.
Our church is steeped in patriarchy and colonialism; for example, the idea that quiet, less exuberant forms of worship is the only right way to worship, and the tacit discrimination against female clergy members that ensures that administrative and senior leadership positions remain inaccessible to them.
And then there's the doublespeak and doublethink — we can have ordained female elders but not ordained female pastors. We'll have commissioned female pastors but not ordained female pastors — even though the work is the same. We'll look down on people who go shopping or go to the amusement park after church on Sabbath, but we'll schedule alllllll of our many committee meetings during Sabbath hours. We'll smile at you during the welcome song but we'll excoriate you during nominating committee meetings. We preach self-crucifixion ("die daily to the flesh") and yet so many people (read: pastors) hold onto their egos for dear life, to the detriment of the people they are called to serve. We're so good about not eating pork, but when it comes to things that matter — like taking a stand on moral and social issues and doing advocacy, making sure our churches are safe spaces for children and people of all walks of life — we are suddenly silent. We are impotent.
What I see is a church that insists on doing things a certain way because that's how it's always been done (cue 1888 theme). I feel like half of the things we do as a church don't even make sense.
As a young woman, as a Millennial, as a POC, as somebody who (at least I'd like to think) has some progressive, albeit provocative beliefs, I've been feeling like an internally displaced Adventist for quite some time now. I'm not even surprised by any of the decisions made. It's business as usual as far as I'm concerned.
What was said at Annual Council last week does not change how I worship, or the plans that God has for my life or any calling that He has bestowed or plans to bestow. It doesn't change or challenge my relationship with Christ. And, last I checked, it's allegiance to Christ and not membership in a church that is the prerequisite for heaven.
The Church can say whatever it wants to say. My allegiance is to Christ. And while one would hope that the church would reflect Christ, well… the church is not Christ.
Simone Samuels B.A., LL.B., B.C.L, is an ordained elder, a writer, a speaker, a YouTuber, a former public servant, a group fitness instructor and most importantly a child of God. She’s single (hey!). In her spare time, she likes to read, write, cook, and pontificate.
Image: Executive Committee Members gathered at the Battle Creek Tabernacle for worship on Sabbath, October 13, 2018, during Annual Council 2018. Photo credit: Flickr.com / Brent Hardinge / Adventist News Network
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