Adventist young adults are calling for greater church unity during this time. As our world hurls even faster toward the finish line, more and more distractions are thrown our way. Young people are recognizing the importance of unity. In truth, they merely want to reemphasize the counsel of inspiration:Read More
The World Church Affirmation Sabbath Committee is now holding their Third Quarter session to discuss issues affecting church unity in light of ongoing controversial issues. The session will be livestreamed, and links will be provided below.Read More
On August 4, 2017, AToday published a review of the Scripture, Church Structure and the Path to Unity symposium. Hosted by the supporting ministry Secrets Unsealed, the symposium dealt with the issue of Church unity in the face of the ongoing crisis regarding Women's Ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.Read More
Secrets Unsealed's August symposium, Scripture, Church Structure, and the Path to Unity, will take place from Tuesday, August 1, to Thursday, August 3. Go to http://www.secretsunsealed.org/ or to youtube.com/secretsunsealed to watch the presentations.Read More
World Church Affirmation Sabbath held its first gathering on May 20, 2017.The gathering was held simultaneously at Chewelah and Stateline churches for the northern and southern parts of the Upper Columbia Conference respectively. Those present were united in support of the Seventh-day Adventist world church, its message, and its leadership.Read More
The year was 73 B.C. Rome was stirred with the news of a vast gladiator army running free through the Italian countryside. For centuries the Romans had held gladiator competitions, pitting men against animals as well as other men. Gladiators were usually drawn from slaves, people whom the Romans captured in their various conquests. Today one of the most iconic and recognizable monuments of Rome are the remains of the Roman Colosseum, where perhaps thousands perished in the name of blood sport.Read More
Jay Gallimore, president of the Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, wrote this editorial on the recent decision of the Annual Council. Many have construed the events at Annual Council as a further attack by conservatives on women's ordination. In this editorial, however, Pastor Gallimore shows what the real issue is, and why it is so important for the church to deal with it.Read More
My husband quickly learned that curling is a gentleman’s game and that all team members must submit to the skip’s directions for rock placement and for sweeping to curl the rock.Read More
Today I make an appeal to leaders and laymen at every level of the church to begin an ongoing, unceasing dialogue on how to finish the work of God according to His plans. We know that our track record regarding that message is not good and what the outcome is if that message goes unheeded: we will be spewed out. Friends, it is time to unitedly study Revelation 3:14-22 on our knees with fasting and prayer. It's time to humble our pride, put aside our prejudices, meet, pray and plan together and practice the “unity in diversity” that the Lord prayed for as He went to the cross for us.Read More
Today, the subject of Christian unity is exceedingly popular. The ecumenical movement has never been stronger. And rather than taking the approach so many ecumenists took in the old days, which involved the crafting of delicate compromises in areas of doctrine and lifestyle expectation, the contemporary ecumenical spirit seeks togetherness not by attempting to resolve differences, but by simply ignoring them.Read More
The term unity flies around liberally these days. Another widely referenced term is equality. These terms are linked together on a regular basis intimating they are similar. In fact, they are not evenly matched, as there are many distinctions between these two words, one of which is the focus. Equality means just that – equal. If I have equal pieces of pie I have at least two pieces of pie with the same weight, size, ratio of crust to filling, dollop of whip cream, etc. The focus is on the items being compared. People often associate equality with an ideal situation; this is not always true. Parts of a healthy body are not equal, but rather thrive in a perfectly balanced, unified environment. This balance provides harmony of movement and direction and outlines the summative foundation for health, which is to focus on the whole, not on individual organs or functions. If the heart – as important as it is – demanded the same treatment as the brain the result would be fatal for the entire body. Another evident difference between the two words is that equality compares internally and unity looks outward. Equality by its very nature requires internal comparison. Comparison seeks to attach measurements and values. This naturally leads to identifying levels of values, which lends to labeling one thing more desirable and another less desirable. Paul understood the folly of internal comparison when he wrote, “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12). Matthew Henry’s (2002) commentary on this verse identifies the reality supported by scholarly studies (Dovidio & Fiske, 2012; Silvia, 2012) that biases play a key role in observations and as a result our judgments are shaped by the labels of the world around us rather than truth alone. This is fodder for error and cannot be the mode of operation of a Godly individual or organization.
However, for those who are quick to throw equality out with the bath water it must play a vital role in Christianity:
The secret of unity is found in the equality of believers in Christ. The reason all division, discord, and difference is found in separation from Christ. Christ is the center to which all should be attracted; for the nearer we approach the center, the closer we shall come together in feeling, in sympathy, in love, growing into the character and image of Jesus. RH December 22, 1891
Equality is measured through the eyes of our Leader, not in comparison to each other. We do not need to compare internally – as that is God’s job alone – but rather focus on Christ and we will fulfill the plan and purpose God intends for His church.
An interesting phenomenon I have observed finds many people have no issue pointing to a group and identifying it as disjointed or unequal. Few become uncomfortable in pointing out which subsections in the group are causing inequality. Some even consistently point out individuals as disruptive. Interestingly enough, the disrupters are always outside of those who point the fingers. The fact is you and I make up “us” – you and I cause disunity. I choose to not seek Christ as the center of my life or come together with fellow believers in the image of Jesus. I choose to disrupt the body of Christ and disruption is the antithesis of unity.
The fourteenth fundamental belief of the Seventh-day Adventist church references the body of Christ and the many members that must work in unity to “serve and be served without partiality or reservation” (“Fundamental Beliefs,” 2012). Service without reservation rarely equals equality, which raises a difficult point for what place equality has in the Seventh-day Adventist church. A search for the term “equality” in multiple Bible versions (ESV, ASV, and KJV) finds one verse that holds a word that is consistently translated as equality: 2 Corinthians 8:14. Paul uses the word equality to ensure that Christians did not feel they must aim for the top to be considered valuable, but rather should seek to serve those around them to ensure the burden is equally distributed to fulfill the true purpose of Christianity.
This concept proves hard for individuals. I admit this causes my eyebrows to raise a few notches, as I am not particularly interested in putting in a lot of work without providing apparent meaning to the whole. Recently I heard a statement that caught my attention: a group cannot be corporately what it is not individually. In essence, the sum cannot make up for what is lacking in the parts. A quick deduction identifies individual effort and interest as key to the group’s success. This is where I take heart. The bottom line is that each individual must take responsibility for his or her own participation and integrity and God adds the meaning. Ellen White agrees with this assertion and provides a natural progression and fail safe when facing disunity:
Here is the only safeguard for individual integrity, for the purity of the home, the well-being of society, or the stability of the nation. Amidst all life’s perplexities and dangers and conflicting claims the one safe and sure rule is to do what God says. Education, p. 225
In applying the basic statement of individual responsibility to this quote it can be remodeled to state the following: the bottom line for the individual Christian is to only seek and do what God says and the rest will fall into place.
I am going to be transparent and share my personal experience on this topic: I do not spend sufficient time understanding what God says. I can regurgitate verses – precious few – and point to overarching promises in His word, but I do not make time to unearth the depth of knowledge or understanding of God’s word. I imagine those around me who profess Christianity understand this reality in our fast-paced world. It is very easy to broadly brush across beliefs and trending topics, but taking the time to dig and become familiar with why I believe what I believe and establish a relationship with Christ on which eternity can be built proves to be more difficult.
The truth in God’s word has been likened to buried treasure that must be unearthed (Matthew 13:44). Working in my grandparent’s garden as a child I learned how to dig up the earth, to loosen it with the rototiller, shape it into rows, and dig holes in which to place either the seed or the young plant. This process made it very clear to me that my nails were going to be dirty at the end of the day. Not just a bit of dirt, but the imbedded kind of black dirt that takes some work to clean out with various tools. Interestingly enough, my nails were not just dirty that day. Daily watering, weeding, trimming, and general care produced dirty fingernails for a prolonged period of time from spring to early fall. At times I wondered if the dirt would ever be loosened. As much as I admittedly disliked gardening as a child, this intimate knowledge with the garden allowed me to navigate the bushy plants and many trees with ease and bring my visiting friends to their favorite food without delay. The caked dirt provided evidence of my activity – the more active the labor the more ingrained the dirt. Today I look at my proverbial Christian nails and I see very little dirt.
Let’s bring this home. A hot topic in the Seventh-day Adventist church is equality and unity. Applying the thought process delineated so far in this article it can be said each individual in the church must continually dig for what God says, continually get dirt under the nails. If I see few – if any – dirty fingernails at the end of my hands this means I am causing disunity in my church because I am not pulling my weight as a member of the body of Christ. Dirty fingernails means turning to God’s word and applying it in conversation, action, and in all perplexing topics rather than pure emotion, individual opinion, and popular streams of thought. This does not give us permission to go around inspecting everyone’s digits, but rather this means we need to make sure our nails hold as much dirt as possible. This is our only responsibility. If each of us looks to our own nails we will soon recognize that our little patch of unearthed treasures will grow and will meet up with others who are digging around us and before we know it the church will be unified in purpose and understanding and the conversation of equality will fade away.
A simple progression becomes clear by following the breadcrumbs as identified in the previous quote from the book Education: individuals do not seek God through His word and understand who He is, therefore the family does not join together as a unit to seek His will, which results in society consisting of nominal and face-value Christians, leaving our nation and ultimately our world filled with selfish, egocentric individuals. It always comes back to the individual. The disunity in our homes, society, nation, and yes, our denomination, comes back to me. The reason we are not unified and feel the need to exact equality is due to our individual lethargy and desire to do everything else but dig deep in the living Word for truth.
The good news is that I am an individual. I can change my understanding, my family, my society, my nation, my world, and my denomination through the grace of Christ. I plan to get dirt under my nails continually to learn about that grace, draw near to Christ, and be a Christian. I invite you to join me in this quest for unity.
Dovidio, J. F. & Fiske, S. T. (2012). Under the radar: How unexamined biases in decision-making processes in clinical interactions can contribute to health care disparities. American Journal of Public Health, 102(5), 945-952. Fundamental beliefs. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/fundamental/index.html
Henry, M. (2002). Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.
Silvia, J. E. (2012). The biases that limit our thinking about the economic outlook and policy. Business Economics 47(4), 297-301.
Let’s begin with two basic affirmations: First, as committed Christians we take seriously our Savior’s prayer for unity among His followers: “that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:22). Second, we have personally chosen to be members of this divinely-directed movement—the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Since these facts are true, then why do we encounter evermore dissonance and disparity of both belief and practice among us? Allow me to illustrate, from recent personal experience. In the fall of 2009, while attending a communication workshop in another state, I decided to visit a local “emerging” church which had been positively promoted as a model of “how to do church.” Up on the platform was a contemporary band of about ten performers—and they were just that! Besides the sensually overpowering cacophony (notice, I did not call it “music”), these individuals looked as though they’d been brought in from a rock concert—some men even had caps pulled low down over their eyes, while the woman lead singer had a golf ball-size pendant in front of a low-cut revealing dress. “An Adventist church?” you wonder. Yes, at least that’s what they claim, even though their Sabbath “worship” time was a blatant betrayal of a biblically-based, Christ-centered, sacred service. Seeking to be “relevant,” they’re morphing into becoming just like the world.
Contrast that experience with one I had just a few months earlier, in the same state, where I spent a long weekend at an Adventist feast-keeping “camp meeting,” in order to attempt to understand why some are insisting on observing festivals that have already met their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. They held a so-called Passover seder, complete with ancient Jewish traditions and rituals, with a growing focus on referring to God as “Yahweh,” and Jesus as “Yahshua.” Many of the men sported long, full beards; and a couple of them even wore tassels. Interestingly, while they publicly professed allegiance to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, they also underhandedly undermined this Remnant Church and its leaders. Wanting to be more “biblical,” are they retrogressing into becoming Judaizers, as described in Galatians?
I share these experiences merely to illustrate that, as one looks around, it becomes obvious that there are some individuals who, while claiming to be genuine Seventh-day Adventists, are practicing and promoting views and values that are not only “outside the mainstream,” but clearly contrary to the fundamentals of our faith.
After that sermon by Elder Ted Wilson on July 3 at the 59th General Conference Session, in which he made a prophetic call for “revival and reformation” among us so as to share the good news of the imminent return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I paused to ponder on the challenge the church is confronting from within. Quickly I jotted down more than a dozen different “discussions” that are distracting us from our mission. For example, some impose the historical-critical method upon Scripture, thereby denying its divine inspiration and neutralizing its spiritually-transformative impact. Others engage in highly imaginative allegorizations and subjective symbolic suppositions, thereby distorting and destroying any definitive and defensible biblical basis for our basic beliefs. Some lean toward pushing the apocalyptic prophecies into the past, while others find futuristic fulfillments for that which has already happened in history.
Incidentally, regarding both the above issues, most laity and leadership are well aware that the Seventh-day Adventist Church promotes and practices a careful searching of Scripture, in which the inspired Word of God is its own interpreter (i.e., the historical-grammatical method); also, we believe in the appropriate manner of interpreting apocalyptic prophecies—the method used by Jesus Himself (i.e., the historicist approach, in which the prophecies of the pivotal books of Daniel and the Revelation cover the span of history, culminating in the second advent of Jesus Christ). Sadly, this fragmentation of foundational aspects of our faith has begun to affect not just some of our core beliefs, but it is also starting to impact our interaction with the world around us. This erosion has become increasingly evident in the variety of aberrant lifestyle choices, whether it be in private or in public, in dress or in demeanor, at work or at worship.
Some of those causing fragmentation want the church to become a “larger tent” so as to include “tolerance” of secularism within the family of God, mistakenly thinking that accommodating worldliness will cause church growth. Others reason that we must return to a rigid ritualism, to find and follow “new light” from the Scriptures, so as to bring about the latter rain.
Ellen White, who warns of the “ice of indifference” and the “fire of fanaticism,” gives some timely counsel on this matter: “God is leading a people out from the world upon the exalted platform of eternal truth, the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus…. They will not be at variance, one believing one thing, and another having faith and views entirely opposite, each moving independently of the body. Through the diversity of the gifts and governments that He has placed in the church, they will all come to the unity of the faith. If one man takes his views of Bible truth without regard to the opinions of his brethren, and justifies his course, alleging that he has a right to his own peculiar views, and then presses them upon others, how can he be fulfilling the prayer of Christ? And if another and still another arises, each asserting his right to believe and talk what he pleases without reference to the faith of the body, where will be that harmony which existed between Christ and His Father, and which Christ prayed might exist among His brethren?” (Testimonies, 3:446). True, the preamble to our “Fundamental Beliefs” rightly maintains that “Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed.” The preamble also continues to state that we as a church “hold certain fundamental beliefs to be the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. These beliefs, as set forth here, constitute the church’s understanding and expression of the teaching of Scripture.” In brief, those 28 fundamental beliefs are the warp and woof of who we are—they indicate our interpretation of key theological concepts; they identify how to lovingly live for our Lord; and they inspire us to the undertaking of our worldwide work.
So, in view of the danger of either minimizing so-called “inconvenient” truths that our church stands for, or of adding to our denominational doctrines, each one of us needs to ask ourselves: “Am I an Adventist or a Fragmentist?” Isn’t it time to participate in practicing that prayer of Jesus: “that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21)? I concur with a friend of mine, when he recently wrote: “For Seventh-day Adventists, our facts and our faith are found in the Bible. I invite all in our church family to embrace and support its teachings.” (Adventist Review, 5/27/10, p. 7).
Recognizing our constant need of spiritual revival and reformation, let’s live as Bible-based, Christ-centered, kingdom-directed, lovingly-loyal and active members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, raised up by God “for such a time as this.” Be, an Adventist!
Originally published in the Michigan Memo September 2010.
The following video is of Elder Ted Wilson on Sunday, July 29th, at the Columbia Union Conference's 2012 Special Constituency Meeting. The special meeting was called in regards to the motion of authorizing ordinations without regard to gender. Elder Wilson addressed the meeting before the vote. He appealed for unity and encouraged the delegates to wait for the new church study on this issue, which is scheduled to be completed in 2014. Using secret ballots, delegates passed the motion with 209 in favor, 51 opposed, and 9 abstentions.
For the Columbia Union's statements, video recording of the full session, and more, visit the official 2012 Special Constituency Meeting page.