On July 6 the Fundamental Beliefs (FB) Committee of the General Conference, led by Artur Stele and Angel Rodriguez, moved to revise Adventist fundamental beliefs 6 and 8 on creation and the great controversy. The proposed amendment was intended to more clearly communicate the Adventist understanding of creation, not to change it.
There were several significant changes in the revised version of FB 6, which also related to FB 8 in its wording about the biblical flood.
The original wording for FB 6 read:
"God is Creator of all things, and has revealed in Scripture the authentic account of His creative activity. In six days the Lord made 'the heaven and the earth' and all living things upon the earth, and rested on the seventh day of that first week. Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of His completed creative work. The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was 'very good,' declaring the glory of God. (Gen. 1; 2; Ex. 20:8-11; Ps. 19:1-6; 33:6, 9; 104; Heb. 11:3.)"
The newly proposed wording for FB 6 read:
"God is the Creator of all things. He has revealed in Scripture the authentic and historical account of His creative activity. In a recent six-day creation the Lord made “the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” and rested on the seventh day. Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of His creative work, performed and completed during six literal days that together with the Sabbath constituted the same unit of time that we call a week today. The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was “very good,” declaring the glory of God. (Gen. 1-2; 5; 11; Ex. 20:1 8-11; Ps. 19:1-6; 33:6, 9; 104; 2 Isa. 45:12; Acts 17:24; Col. 1:16; Heb. 11:3; Rev. 10:6; 14:7.)"
The original wording of the related part of FB 8 read:
“This human sin resulted in the distortion of the image of God in humanity, the disordering of the created world, and its eventual devastation at the time of the worldwide flood.”
The newly proposed wording for FB 8 read:
"He introduced the spirit of rebellion into this world when he led Adam and Eve into sin. This human sin resulted in the distortion of the image of God in humanity, the disordering of the created world, and its eventual devastation at the time of the worldwide flood, as presented in the historical account of Genesis 1-11."
Stele said the new statement now quoted the fourth commandment.
“[This] is important for theological considerations of chapter 1 in Genesis,” Stele said, “because it allows two different interpretations of understanding of Genesis 1:1.”
Stele then said he would like to move these fundamental beliefs and open them for discussion.
North American Division (NAD) representative Lawrence Geraty was waiting at the microphone to speak. Geraty said he had been a delegate at the Dallas General Conference (GC) session in 1980 when the fundamental beliefs were first adopted.
“The editors have been especially successful in employing gender-neutral language,” Geraty said, “so all Adventist believers feel included . . . A few changes, however, appear to be designed to exclude, and some of these are found in number 6, on creation, at the bottom of page 54. Certainly all the delegates hold the Bible to be our authority.”
Referencing FB 1, which says the Bible is our creed, Geraty said the proposed wording for the creation statement was non-biblical.
“There are interpretations that have been inserted,” Geraty said, “interpretations that are possible, and may even be right, because they come from the writings of Ellen White, but they are not from the Bible.”
Geraty expressed concern these changes open us challenge and charge by critics, that we base our beliefs on Ellen White, and not on the Bible.
Geraty used his time up and was asked by the chair to conclude.
NAD representative Ray Hartwell spoke next and referred the statement back to the committee to include the following change.
“[After] ‘He has revealed in Scripture the authentic and historical account of His creative activity,’” Hartwell suggested the statement include, “‘God created the universe including the angels and unfallen worlds. Later in a recent six day creation, the Lord made this world’s dominions . . .’”
“In article eight on line 28,” Hartwell said, “when it speaks of the world-wide flood as presented in the historical account of Genesis 1-11, I would like to recommend to the committee if this is referred back, to use the word global either in conjunction with world wide, or in place of world wide.”
“There are certain Bible scholars that identify worldwide as being only the world the Bible writer knew of in their own personal experience, but not a global flood,” Hartwell said.
Stele requested that instead of using parliamentary rules, that the delegates comments be heard, and then by common consent, the motion be brought back after the committee had worked on it.
Trans-European Division (TED) representative Megan Mole shared some grammatical concerns.
“In line number 40 we have the phrase ‘the same unit of time that we call a week today.’ And I find that language grammatically and for the purposes of clarity problematic,” she said. “For example in Japan in 2011 with the massive earthquake, we found that scientifically, a day was actually shortened by 3 seconds as a result of that earthquake, so I mean, comparatively for such a small event if we could imagine a global, a worldwide flood, how much more impact could that have on the length day or the length of hours or that sort of thing.”
Soon afterward, GC representative Jiri Moscala spoke.
“I am convinced that our theology and our church stands or falls on the creation doctrine,” Moscala said.
He made three suggestions to the motion.
“First, the first three sentences, in this fundamental belief give the impression that God is the Creator of all things at once,” Moscala said. “Namely that He created the entire universe together with life on earth. However, we as Seventh-day Adventists strongly believe that the Great Controversy originated before the Creation week of Genesis 1 . . . Second, it would be helpful to clarify more what does it mean that God created all things . . . Three, it would be very useful to explain that the phrase, the heavens and the earth, and the sea, refer to this world’s three domains, and that this text is not speaking about the whole universe.”
Next, TED representative Willem Altink expressed opposition to the creation statements. He claimed there was danger in accepting anything but the Bible as our creed, that from the point of mission, we might make it too strict for people to come to Christ.
“Give room for the believers’ growth, and give room for the Spirit,” Altink said.
Altink cautioned that accepting the changes would exclude members who are very loyal to the church, although they agree with the present wording.
GC representative Richard Davidson followed and spoke in favor of the motion.
“Brother Chair, I would simply like to support the three suggestions made by my colleague Dr. Moskala,” Davidson said. “I believe that the quotation of the fourth commandment without any further explanation could be understood by any outside the church, as referring to the creation of the whole universe in six literal days. And this would leave no room for the great controversy occurring before creation week as is clear in many other biblical passages. Thank you.”
NAD representative Jerilyn Burtch followed, opposing the motion to revise the beliefs.
“Ellen White says, ‘The Bible is given for practical purposes,’” Burtch said. “Knowing the questions that we’d be facing today, God let Scripture go to press without a clear statement that the creation week was the same unit of time that we call a week today. There is no ‘thus saith the Lord’ on this point . . .”
GC representative John Bradshaw stood next on the microphone.
“It clearly outlines what we believe as a church . . . I look at the Fundamental Belief number six and I say, we believe that,” said Bradshaw. “I read it again and I say, this is what my church teaches.”
GC representative Lloyd Gibson spoke next in support of replacing the word “global” with the word “worldwide” in FB 8.
“I believe that if we are to give the message of creation with a loud voice,” Gibson said, “as Revelation 14 says, our witness must be clear, without ambiguity.”
Inter-European Division (IED) representative Jeroen Tuinstra’s question was next.
“What do we mean with the word ‘recent,’” Tuinstra said. “Is this six thousand, fifty thousand, or one billion, or what do we mean with the word ‘recent’?”
He then implied that many Adventist scientists and educators would be excluded by taking this action with the beliefs about creation.
“Are we saying that the whole cosmos was created in six days?” Tuinstra said.
Stele replied to Tuinstra’s point.
“In order not to say that the whole cosmos was created in the six days,” Stele said, “we have changed the quotation from Genesis 1:1 to the quotation from the fourth commandment.”
Discussion was then closed for the lunch break.
In the afternoon there were several more objections to the specifications proposed to the fundamental beliefs. Trans-Europe Division representative Stefan Sigg said he did not believe the beliefs should be a measurement or a tool to persecute or to evaluate others and cited J. N. Loughborough in 1861, speaking against creeds as support.
Eventually, after a few more comments from the delegates, Leroy Chacon moved to close debate. It was seconded and passed.
The responses of the assembly to the motion of the committee were heard and the committee received the item back to deliberate.
Tuesday morning the committee came back with the revised wording for FB 6. Ella Simmons was serving as chair to the assembly and Bill Knott presented the proposed revision of the amendment to the delegation. The amendment read:
“God has revealed in Scripture the authentic and historical account of his creative activity. He created the universe and in a recent six-day creation, the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the Seventh day. Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of the work he performed and completed during six literal days that together with the Sabbath constituted the same unit of time that we call a week today. The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was “very good,” declaring the glory of God. (Gen. 1-2; 5; 11; Ex. 20:1 8-11; Ps. 19:1-6; 33:6, 9; 104; 2 Isa. 45:12; Acts 17:24; Col. 1:16; Heb. 11:3; Rev. 10:6; 14:7.)”
Bill Knott recapped the changes that had been made, and then Artur Stele moved to accept the revised amendment to FB 6. His motion was seconded.
President Ted Wilson then spoke in favor of the amendment.
“This particular version that has now come to you is one that I personally very much endorse,” Wilson said, “and I hope that we will vote this wording . . . I would very much support number six as it has been presented, but that is up to you . . .”
South Pacific Division representative James Standish spoke in support of the revised amendment, saying it is indefensible for Seventh-day Adventists to observe a literal seventh day.
"If the first six days weren’t literal days, why on earth do we rest on a literal seventh day?” Standish said.
NAD representative Marvin Brae joked that he was hesitant to appear to disagree with the motion because his conference president was sitting nearby.
“[I’m] troubled by the inclusion of the word ‘recent’ in there,” said Brae, “The bottom line . . . is that we can word these any way we want to, but when we go home we’re all going to interpret it and teach it, according to our interpretations.”
General Conference representative Kathryn Proffitt rose in support and shared a personal testimony.
“My child, my son,” Proffitt said, “attended a Seventh-day Adventist university as a biology major. He left as an atheist because of confusion over this issue. There was confusion with respect to science versus what the Bible says, and I praise God that He does not have to operate in terms of how empirical science humanly defines creation. It really is important when we talk about words like ‘recent,’ or ‘literal days.’ To me it’s clear that, [although] I don’t know about the seconds, or the exact hours . . . ‘even to even’ means sunset to sunset. I also believe that it is important to so many of our other fundamental beliefs. If God could not speak our life into existence, how can he recreate us instantly? So I think it is so important that we as a church clarify for not only the world, but also for our teachers and professors so they know clearly where we stand. I’ve never seen greater integrity among some of the professors. This is really a point I think of confusion as to what our church teaches and this motion clarifies it according to the Bible principles.”
Afterwards, GC representative Clifford Goldstein spoke in support of the motion.
“Yeah, there have been some comments regarding why we need to be so specific with the language,” Goldstein said, “And yet, it’s very important I think most of us realize that this issue didn’t arise in a vacuum. For decades now, there has been an attempt, one way or another, to try to bring into our church an ideology that is completely, totally, foreign, and alien to everything biblical, every biblical principle! And that’s why Dr. Rodriguez was very clear what we were dealing here. We are purposely doing this to exclude evolution. I mean, we take the name Seventh-day Adventist! Is it too much to ask people who take the name Seventh-day Adventist to actually believe the name that you take for yourself? I mean is that a little too hard?”
East-Central Africa Division representative Israel Coffiero favored the motion.
“My children are going to be safe, because evolution has been taking a big toll on our schools,” Coffiero said, “The word ‘recent’ is necessary, and for that reason.”
He called question on the motion to end debate and vote to accept the changes.
The motion to end debate was seconded, voted, and carried. Then a vote was taken on the main motion to amend FB 6 with the proposed wording and it was overwhelmingly carried.