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A Challenge to Fellow Millennials: Be the Change You Wish to See


In the wake of the women’s ordination vote on Wednesday, July 8, during General Conference Session 2015, many Millennials have expressed pain and frustration over the outcome. Some have even questioned whether there is a place for them within the Seventh-day Adventist church.

Below, young adults share their call to fellow Adventist Millennials:

Taylor Pittenger, age 20, Religion major at Pacific Union College
I often wonder what Paul would say if he were alive in our world today. What letter would he write to Adventists? I’m sure he would praise us on the fine work we do with our outreach and the institutions we’ve created. Perhaps he would bring up a few critiques on how we can do better in our local churches. What would he say about our General Conference Session and women’s ordination? I don’t want to put words into Paul’s mouth about his stance because quite frankly I don’t know what he would have said. One thing I do know is that Paul would urge us to put our focus back on Christ.

I was disappointed and saddened by the vote. I was also astonished and hopeful when I logged onto social media to see that many youth have a passionate disdain for the results. As a young adult, I’ve taken time to establish and maintain my roots in Adventism. When I look beyond my Adventist schooling, I see no youth in our church. Facebook post after Facebook post, I saw people say things like “this is why there are no youth in the church” or “now young people have to look toward the world for acceptance.”  Fellow millennials and Adventists: this does not have to be true.

Leaving or disowning our church because of these results is the worst thing to do at this time. In fact, now more than ever, our church needs young people. Our church needs millennials.  So often we are taught to throw away something when it is broken. If we break a phone, we replace it. If we have a relationship that is suffering, we end it. If we don’t enjoy what we are majoring in, we change it. Now if we look around and see pieces of our church we dislike or disagree with, what should we do? The easy thing would be to find another denomination or maybe give up on religion all together. If something is broken in our church, do not throw it away. Help fix it.

How? Remember our gospel. Remember our mission. Remember our God. Bring the focus back to Him. The anger and disgust is just a distraction to the bigger mission we were made to do. Now is the time to change our anger into passion and turn our disgust into drive. Through this we can continue to change our church and the world around us.

The secular world still views Adventism as a cult that preaches about the end of the world. This does not have to be who we are or all we are.  While we bicker amongst each other, the world keeps turning. God does not call us to be perfect, but calls us for such a time as this. So often we care about issues in our church. What kind of music should we or shouldn’t we play? Are we dressed appropriately? Should we ordain women? While these topics are important to discuss and understand, these cannot be our focus. I must remind everyone, myself included, that in the long run these things do not matter.  What matters is our relationship with God, and helping others’ relationships with God.

There are people inside and outside our church who are suffering. Regardless whether or not women can be ordained, this remains true: our work is not done. Women can, and will, always be able to do God’s work through ministry. A man-made title—or lack thereof—will never change that. For this reason, we cannot give up on our church.

If I’ve learned anything through reading scripture and coming closer to God, it’s that no single person is worthy. However, God calls all. We are all called to be Christ-like and to show others who Christ is. Ordination is something that man invented. A call from God is purely divine, and no one can take that away from us.

Finally, I look back to Paul. Paul never wrote to Adventists, but he does say this to the Romans in Romans 8:31, What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”God has our backs. millennials and Adventists: my challenge for you is to remain faithful to God, because he will remain faithful to you. We are all called, so let’s go.

Karl Wallenkampf, age 22, Humanities (English concentration) and Biology major at Walla Walla University
I hoped for a “Yes” vote. To me, “Yes” seemed to give the greatest breadth for God’s will to be established wherever He deems appropriate. If prayerful, Bible-based believers in one division recognize that God is leading them to begin ordaining women, or if fundamentally similar believers in another division find God is leading them to keep women from being ordained, so be it. As the vote turned out, it seems that God’s intentions may have been impeded in some areas of the world. Certainly, God’s intentions will eventually be established, but it seems that on this side of Heaven, greater breadth must be allowed for the Spirit’s movement.

I prayed for God’s will to be done at the GC Session on all topics (i.e., Presidency, Fundamental Beliefs, Women’s Ordination), but I cannot and will not say whether it was or wasn’t. I believe the fourth commandment implores us to never use God’s name as a byline for our activities with arguable Biblical basis. Indeed, arguing has occurred. I’m left reeling from the dissonance of many intelligent spiritual voices saying surprisingly contrary things and using the same books, verses, articles, and people as evidence. I cannot understand thinking that fails to grasp the significance of having a woman as our fundamental pioneer and who is the voice for a central tenet of our religion (i.e., the Great Controversy) and who reaffirmed our other tenets (i.e., The Desire of Ages).

The margin of the vote keeps me hopeful, as well as the trend of more and more votes being cast in favor as the years march on. I’m sure that by 2020 or 2025, with the number of millennial delegates increasing from the paltry 6% in 2015, the results will differ substantially. I don’t speak for every millennial. I know a number of people support my position and I know others do not. Whatever the inclinations of those who approach this issue or read this post, I am one who will stay in the Adventist church as long as I can prayerfully discern that I should. I do not foresee that I will leave. There is a tragic and understandable outflow of young, thoughtful, compassionate Adventist blood. I’d rather be a platelet. We have an opportunity to work together prayerfully for solutions.  Being a member of a community of believers that centers itself on Christ is one of the greatest blessings in my life. It provides opportunities for growth, nurturing care, leadership, and humility (I can “humble [myself] before the Lord” nowhere as easily as in a religious denomination). With the current vote at the GC Session and the climate in Adventism today, my wish is to continue to find a way to bridge gaps, whether in gender, generation, or interpretations of Genesis. God’s will be done, and I pray I’m in line with it.

Garrison Heyes, Seminary student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…”

I’ve spent the last few days reflecting on these words from Charles Dickens’ most celebrated novel, “A Tale of Two Cities.” They come to me after a nearly two-week long series of high-speed Adventist-social-media explosions. The intersection of Adventism, millennialism, and social media was a busy one. I loved every second of it.

As a Seventh-day Adventist, a millennial, and a minister-in-training I, along with many others who share similar descriptions as me, was glued to the live-stream of General Conference Session 2015, the business meeting where Adventist delegates discussed, and ultimately voted against, allowing divisions to determine the appropriateness and necessity of ordaining women in their various parts of the world. My head accurately predicted the outcome. It was evident, however, from its brokenness, that my heart wanted different results.

I spent quite a bit of time thinking about how my fellow millennials may respond to a “No” vote. I feared that disappointment, pessimism, and discouragement would result in an overwhelmingly negative response from my peers. I feared that some Adventist millennials would feel further-marginalized, voiceless, and ultimately resolve that there was no place for them in this church.

For a few moments after the official results were announced, I perceived that my fears were becoming reality. The social-media-wide grunt of disappointment was nearly audible.

But then something crazy happened.

I witnessed some Adventist millennials go from absolutely disgusted to absolutely resolute. They clinched their fists, gritted their teeth, and declared that, “THIS IS MY CHURCH. I WILL NOT LEAVE HER. I WILL RIGHT THIS WRONG.”

The very thing that I feared would serve as an alienator became a unifier. What Satan intended to use for destruction, God used for reconstruction. Do not misunderstand me: the decision hurt. Badly. I saw, however, the imaginary wheels turning in the collective hearts and minds of my peers. There was a conglomerate moment of reasoning, processing, and counting the cost. I observed my fellow young adults realizing that choosing to be apathetic or simply leaving the church would remedy nothing. There was no fulfillment in disconnecting. I witnessed the “aha!” moment of realization — “we MUST lead.”

The truth is, our world church is not ready for this monumental change right now. The truth is, there are parts of the world where to recognize that God’s calling is not gender-limited, would be so hard to digest that some would leave the church. They would abandon this truth — it could be faith-breaking. Culture, traditions, and societal norms do not always allow for that understanding to come easily.

I believe that the same Jesus who told His disciples to, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations,” in the New Testament is the same Jesus with the same message today. He is urging us to unselfishly model, teach, and preach, the ever-relevant gospel to our world.

I believe in a Jesus who promised to never place more on us than we could bear, and that same Jesus knew the outcome of the vote well before any of the delegates placed their pieces of paper into plastic bins Wednesday evening. Perhaps Jesus understood that the faith of those represented by the “Yes” voters could bear the weight of an unfavorable outcome that those represented by the “No” voters could not.

Today, He calls us to trust Him. To trust His process. He calls us to teach. He calls us to lead. While, yes, we are cast down, we are not destroyed.

The excitement, the fervor, the resolve that I have seen in you, my fellow Adventist millennials, is being attacked by the enemy of souls at every moment! The enemy understands your importance in this church. He understands that the fastest way to end this church is to steal your passion, to kill your mission, and to destroy your hope. He lives for your apathy. I urge you, however, to stay the course. Stay engaged.

Satan would have you believe the lie that position and leadership are synonyms. Remember, however, that while you may never hold a position, you are always a leader.

So lead. Lead in your local church, lead in your academic environment, lead in the workplace, lead in your relationships.

I urge you, my non-millennial elders, to mentor us. Teach us. Trust us. Empower us. What good is an experience if it is not shared to help those following you? Young people are told that they are the future of the church, and they are. This notion, however, tends to ascribe less importance to those who are paving the way. The truth is, the pioneers of our faith are just as relevant today as they have ever been. Their faith, their experience, their bravery, their mentorship, and their guidance all add to who we are today. So I beg you to pour into us. Please.

It has been the best of times, it has been the worst of times. Even still, I encourage you to press on.

Jonathan Doram, age 21, Music Education major at Andrews University
I am struggling. Struggling to find my place in a church that has hurt and bruised so many. Struggling to keep my voice and sanity amidst the turmoil and divisiveness we all are acutely feeling. I am struggling with whether or not the church that has been such an integral part of my identity for the past 21 years will continue to be in the future. These struggles are ones that I’m sure many of us are feeling as this 2015 GC Session comes to a close. The coming of the Sabbath, however, reminded me of a reassuring realization: the church is not about the GC. The church (as described in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 and John 10:14-16) is not even about the SDA denomination.

The church is, has been, and will always be, about people. Jesus did not come to save a certain denomination, institution, or committee. He came to save people. Therefore, it is people who deserve our investment. 1,381 and 977 are simply numbers. Let us not forget the very real and complex human names, faces, and lives that make up those numbers. Ultimately, the future of the church will not be decided by what happens in a two-week session every five years. It will be decided by the hundreds of weeks that happen in between these sessions in which we interact with, influence, and talk to people. So I am choosing to start with my personal pleas to the following people:

To those on both sides of the women’s ordination debate: we must remember those to whom Wednesday’s discussion actually affected the most: our young daughters and sisters who are growing up watching a church being torn asunder over them. We cannot let our heated disagreements ever cause them to feel doubt over God’s desire and ability to use them in whatever way He deems best. We need to step out of the way and humbly realize that God’s plan and mission is so much bigger and inclusive than any one of us could ever hope to imagine.  

To the women in ministry: Thank you. Please do not give up or lose courage. Share your stories. Share how God has called you and how He has worked wonders in your life. Be the face, mouth, ears, hands, feet, and love of God to a world that desperately needs it. By nature of you simply being, you are a testament to the awesome power of God and the radical commitment of Jesus to use whomever is willing to spread the gospel. 

To those who decided to leave the SDA church after Wednesday’s decision, are struggling with that very question, or just feel confused: I have no wise words or statements that would adequately express the pain I feel with you. All I can promise is to search with you as you try to find a place to call home. I promise to stand beside you and listen to your stories. Above all, I promise to walk with you on your journey, wherever that may take you.

To the millennials: This GC Session affirmed that we no longer have the luxury of being considered “the future of the church.” We must grab this church by the throat and refuse to let go until that phrase has been rendered obsolete because we are the church NOW. We can no longer wait for other peoples’ permission before we start speaking up and leading out. We need to continue to raise our voices, get intimately involved in leadership, and actively steer the course of our collective future.

To those who are part of the SDA church: We come from different cultures, have different beliefs, and at times see different pictures of God. In this uncertain time of apparent incongruity, let us at least be united in our love for God and be known by our love for people.

So…what now? The answer is the same as it has always been and will always be: live to love.


Alisa Williams is Spirituality Editor for, a member of the General Conference reporting team in San Antonio, Texas, and a Millennial.


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