Dear SDA Member, Colleague, and Whomever,
These are my initial responses to the discussion concerning SDA Annual Council in Battle Creek Michigan business and reactions of delegates, pastors, SDA members and whomever that has expressed knowledge of or interest in the same. Adventist News Network reported on the “Unity” document (“Regard for and Practice of General Conference Session and General Conference Executive Committee Actions”) that developed from the Unity Oversight Committee charged with its development as assignment at the 2018 Annual Council meeting (185 for to 124 against). The voted document outlines a process of warning, reprimand, removal for cause and appeal when SDA entities anywhere are reported to be out of compliance with SDA GC policy.
My sources have been Facebook, Spectrum Magazine, Adventist News Network, North American Division statements (Ministerial Association), personal and Allegheny East Conference email traffic.
One passionate post was by an SDA pastor who called for Regional Conference leadership to respond to GC President Wilson’s sermon remarks he interpreted were against social justice participation and “unbiblical” worship styles; he interpreted such remarks as code language or pejorative references to Black ministry interests and expressions. An email, by another SDA pastor, supported these interpretations of Wilson’s sermon remarks.
The Compliance document seems to be rooted in our church leadership’s chronic diatribe around women’s ordination and the “non-compliance” of certain SDA entities (i.e. Columbia Union, Southern California Union, and NAD) that have ordained females to pastoral ministry in their fields. The last GC Session in San Antonio Texas voted that SDA entities could not act independent of GC “global” policy on this issue and thus, the follow up discussions, primarily by President Wilson, have been around “unity” of organization policy and its global application.
My Conclusions and Recommendations
If it looks like a duck, walk like a duck, act like a duck; it most likely is a duck. The Bible says, “By their fruit, you will know them” (Matthew 7:15-20). The pictures I saw of President Wilson with a beard and wearing 19th century SDA/social attire indicates New England and predominately Caucasian clothing styles that signal a mindset of “making the SDA Church what he and his supporters think it was.” Thus, the Unity document has been generated by a psychology that seeks to maintain or revive White patriarchy in 19th century post-Advent Awakening, eschatological, and revivalist values. This despite its organizational evolution to a diverse demographic and the work of the Spirt through its female segment who prove that God still has 7000 that we know not of and that ministry is by Divine call and not by organizational ordination approval (Gal 3:28; Rom. 16).
After reading the salient excerpts of the document, I believe it engenders disunity more than unity as organizational brothers become accusatory more than atoning because of policy non-compliance. This raises issues around sola scriptura and non-biblical factors for voting down women’s ordination since several prior SDA GC sessions and committees. Sir Richard Atten Bourgh’s Gandhi has a scene wherein Academy Award winner, Ben Kingsley, as the main character in his pre-India, non-violence, social justice days, as a lawyer in Apartheid South Africa fighting against “Passes” for indigenous and non-White persons says, “There are just laws and there are unjust laws.” Mandates of “those who don’t comply must suffer the consequences” rises out of coerced conformity and not compassionate companionship.
Former Oakwood University President and Vice President of the General Conference, Dr. Calvin Rock wrote, “Protest and Progress: Black SDA Leadership and the Push for Parity.” It concerns the sojourn of Black SDA membership and its challenge with full inclusion, as well as its integrationists or self-determinationists approaches toward organizational unity. From the first Black ordained pastor, McKinney, to our pluralist membership, inclusivity has been a matter of protest and progress. Our AME, AME Zion and CME religious cousin’s organizational struggles are evidence of W. E. B. Dubious’ statement, “The problem in America is the color line.” President Wilson’s sermonic remarks concerning social participation and worship expression come from a myopic sense of SDA pioneer life style. Thus, the problems in the SDA church remain the color and gender lines.
This action by the Annual Council rises out of a cultural milieu that has chosen organizational maintenance and control over social sensitivity, best practices inclusion, sound biblical hermeneutics, and common sense. When President Obama was first elected, the then NAD President responded to a morning worship attendee, “You pray for him” rather than add him to the prayer request list. A call for “Question of Privilege” was denied in Priest and Levite-back-to-Jericho-like fashion when a GC Session delegate asked for silent prayer for the Emmanuel AME Nine victims and their families the day after the South Carolina female Governor, Haley, had stated, “This flag [Confederate], while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state.” The SDA Church’s leadership seems more interested in ‘making the SDA Church great again’ than giving all its constituents what God has given them, a chance to use their gifts with disinterested benevolence for whomsoever.
While SDA Annual Council leaders’ parade in moribund attire, major contributing segments of this church are being set up for censor. It seems President Wilson and unbiblically grounded pundits can speak with impunity and those who speak inclusion and empowerment of all segments of our fellowship will be punished for advocating mission, ministry and methods that unify and promote this gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people (without gender or racial bias).
The late Evangelist and University Professor, Earl E. Cleveland once challenged a pre-PELC Evangelism Council gathering discussing social problems with “In the meantime, I’m going to pitch a tent in Memphis and preach the everlasting gospel.” While these things are occurring, I and every blood-bought disciple of Christ is going to grow in grace and share his or her faith with family and friends until Jesus returns. Maranatha and koinonia.
Adventist News Network
General Conference of SDA website
McCleary, Mark, “After the Alamo and back Again” (firstname.lastname@example.org)
North American Division of SDA website
Rock, Calvin “Protest and Progress”