From Alexander Carpenter, executive editor
Volume 51, issue 1, of the Spectrum journal is arriving in mailboxes this week. I’m my editorial for the journal, I write:
Almost half a century ago, Thomas L. Dybdahl pioneered serious reporting in this journal and in Adventism. The autumn 1975 issue of Spectrum featured his article, “Merikay and the Pacific Press: Money, Courts, and Church Authority,” which documented the story of the pathbreaking Adventist women—Merikay McLeod Silver and Lorna Tobler—who tried to work within the Adventist administrative system until their pleas for equality went unheeded over and over.
They had to go outside Adventism to the U.S. justice system, which finally provided an avenue for some equality and restitution. Toward the end of his article, Dybdahl writes, “[The church’s religious liberty defense in court] put the church into the position of making an argument that could easily be understood as the church’s insisting that its constitutional privileges gave it the right to discriminate against women.
While the names of the men making that argument have changed, the defining desire to discriminate continues in the Adventist story. As someone who cares about Adventist Christianity, it pains me to see these facts unincorporated into the body of Christ five General Conference presidents later.
One of the most oft-quoted Ellen White statements begins, “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.” The more I know about Adventism, the more I realize that the past, our history, provides less of a straightforward path and more of a perplexing guide—a lesson of what to do and what to avoid in order to forge a better future.
As we hold on to hope for this future, this spring issue of Spectrum provides plenty of thought-provoking ideas, including profound philosophical reflections on being a created being by Abi Doukhan, as well as David Thiele’s question on the ability of Adventists to hold various views on origins. Recognizing the facts of the past, Ronald Lawson investigates the Adventist history of polygamy and shows the nondiscriminatory value of historical awareness. Poets Joe Grieg and Makayla Mattocks provide searing looks into the human spiritual and social condition.
Death is the ultimate conservator of the past. And yet, Christian hope springs eternal. In “The Past,” Ralph Waldo Emerson writes,
The debt is paid,
The verdict said,
The Furies laid,
The plague is stayed,
All fortunes made;
. . .
All is now secure and fast;
Not the gods can shake the Past;
. . .
No thief so politic,
No Satan with a royal trick
Steal in by window, chink, or hole,
To bind or unbind, add what lacked,
Insert a leaf, or forge a name,
New-face or finish what is packed,
Alter or mend eternal Fact.
The past truly is our best guide. The principles that guided those on the right side of the equity debates in the past help us see eternal facts today.
From Carmen Lau, board chair:
Simply Good News
Women received the joyous news of the resurrection first and then had the honor to go broadcast it to men who had followed Jesus. Though startling for them, Jesus’s victory gives a steady story for us now, one to which we can cling when the heaviness of life gives heartache and hopelessness. When he rose from a dark grave, Jesus subverted the evil of this world. In Alabama, waving leaves bring beauty after a season of many gray days. Something inexplainable and imperceptive happens when countless buds on trees sprout in small spurts then with wild abandon. Surrounded by images of epic damage from a tornadic weather event, and outsized destructive impact up the road in Nashville caused by one person’s evil plan, I trust God.
He has been in the belly of the whale, immersed in darkness. He knows our pain, and His Spirit will walk with us in the ugly pulsations of life. I see God’s face in the people who attend, steadily and kindly, to the needs of others who have been pushed to the brink of despair. Folks with little resources respond with astounding generosity. This is a beautiful thing. God’s grace gives hope and strength. This is simply good news.
Subscribe here to enjoy the Spectrum journal in its 51st year.