I headed to Battle Creek on Thursday of last week, tasked with reporting on the 2018 Annual Council for our great readers at Fulcrum7. Armed with fresh underwear and a brand new beard, I was practically assured of success.
The mood in Battle Creek was reflective, from the Great Meeting Tent pitched in the parking lot of Historic Adventist Village, to the 19th century clothing worn by many of the attendees. As Grandpa said “It’s hard to know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.” He was right.
By Sunday morning, the Adventist atmosphere had shifted from an easy-going reflection on our heritage to an apprehensive west wind of expectation. It was the day to discuss the Compliance Document.
I found my place at the press box inside the Kellogg Arena, and set up shop, namely plugging in my computer and draping my coat over the chair back. All set.
The morning presentations were a benign lot, up until it was announced that the afternoon meeting would begin at 2PM sharp, and only voting members and press were allowed to be on the floor. This sounded like the big one. It was.
At 2PM, the Compliance Document was read. Elder Wilson announced that an unethical leaker in the GC had made things very difficult for the Unity in Mission Committee. On two occasions, he (or she) had leaked sensitive information. In one instance, this individual had taken private documents pertaining to the Compliance process and leaked them to a progressive website. On another occasion, the deliberations of a private meeting had been leaked to this same venue before the meeting was even over. Such unscrupulous action is a reminder of the contrast between righteousness that leaves the results up to God, and the shameless aspirations of political agenda. Evidently, there is more than one swamp in Washington. Whoever this capricious person is, they should be identified and fired immediately.
Mike Ryan, G.T. Ng and Hensley Moorooven explained why the Compliance measure was needed, and the discussion opened. A swarm of liberals blitzed the microphone, (like last year) and gave their best arguments why discipline was a bad thing, and any self-respecting, veggie-link eating, potluck-participating Adventist should vote AGAINST this document. Some of those arguments were“This document will fracture the Church, it’s terrible, it’s too soon, it’s terrible, this document is about discipline (well. . . yes), and “It’s terrible.” It sounded a lot like this:
After about two hours of this overly pessimistic feedback, the tide began to shift. Brethren from Africa and other parts of the world stepped up to the microphone and gave their support for the Document. It sounded something like this:
The discussion came to a close with this final statement from Mario Ceballos - “The greatest test of faith is when you don’t get what you want and you still say ‘Thank you Lord.”’ SUCCINCT !! Then they voted.
185 — In favor of compliance
124 — Against compliance
Some thought it was a big win for conservatives. Actually, it was a big win for common sense. What we Seventh-day Adventists request of the rebels—who are losing the sense of mission that was entrusted us—is to respect what was voted in GC Session, or resign from their administrative leadership. It’s unsustainable for a segment of an organization to defy decisions of the group and still remain part of the organization. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a right to expect its adherents, who choose of their own free will to be members, to comply with the teachings and policies of the church family. People who can’t do that are free to start a new organization somewhere else that implements their beliefs.
A Missed Opportunity
Within 24-hours, the current ringleader of theological defiance in the Church (the North American Division) issued a statement on the outcome of the Compliance Vote. It was a huge missed opportunity. The statement could (and SHOULD) have went something like this:
“We realize that over the last ten years, we have caused a lot of pain to millions of Seventh-day Adventists around the world. We have caused many of you to question your identity in this Church; we have contended for your loyalty in a manner reminiscent of the parents of a failing marriage trying to turn their children against the other spouse. We were wrong. Would you choose to forgive us?”
Such a statement would cause a wave of healing, forgiveness and freedom to go around the world. Tears would be shed, pride would be repented of, people would be forgiven, and the Three Angels’ Messages would shine with a brilliance not seen for a hundred years. And it ought to happen! But it didn’t.
You’re Being Political
In the charged atmosphere that rebellion has introduced into the church, people who stand up for the World Church or compliance are sometimes accused of “Being political.” Not hardly.
Was Elijah being political when he said “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21. No.
Was John the Baptist being political when he said to Herod Antipas “It is not lawful for you to have taken your brother’s wife!” Of course not. That’s being biblical, not political.
After Ted Wilson’s excellent Sabbath sermon, there was a backlash from various social justice warriors who felt that Ted was being too hard on social justice. Here’s Ted Wilson’s brief warning regarding social justice.
From this simple (and accurate) statement came a social media firestorm unleashed by disgruntled members against Elder Wilson. He was called a “White Supremacist”, a purveyor of “evil rhetoric”, “delusional”, “weak and cowardly”, “racist”, microaggressive, and a “dictator.” One regional pastor from Ohio released an emotive selfie-video on October 14 decrying Ted Wilson in particular and the Battle Creek Meeting in General. Among his grievances were:
Elder Wilson’s affirmation for hymns and appropriate songs to encourage our spiritual lives. This was taken as some sort of ethnic slur by this brother in the video.
According to the video, the Sabbath sermon in Battle Creek was evidence of “white privilege and white supremacy.” Friends, I was there. I have no idea where this astonishing accusation came from. You would have to be looking for ways to be offended (as I suspect this individual was) to get that out of Ted Wilson’s uplifting message.
Ted Wilson’s reminder to not allow social issues to overwhelm our commitment to biblical truth is a timely reminder of heaven’s priorities, but it was eagerly seized upon as a political dog whistle by some in our church (including apparently the individual in this video).
This left-leaning activism is a real problem for people tasked with bearing the Three Angels’ Message to a dying world. Leftist Christianity and Black liberation Theology has largely embraced the Social Justice agenda as its central message. But the Bible doesn't say that it is our duty to fix every problem out there.
In fact, some problems that we/I experience are consequences–tied to choices we have made. God allows these consequences and gives us the Gospel that we might experience freedom from sin, and rest in the hope of His promise to “make all things new” on That Day (Rev. 21:5).
And that brings us to the fact that the Bible is absolutely clear that injustice will not exist forever. A perfect social order is coming, but it is not of this world. The Second Coming of Jesus Christ in its fullness spells the end of injustice, and every cause and consequence of human sin. We have work to do in this world, but true justice will be achieved only by the consummation of God’s purposes and the perfection of God’s own judgment on That Day.
The video faults the GC for not being angry enough at President Trump. What a waste of time for a Christian that is. Equally wrong would be individuals that see our current U.S. President as some sort of savior. We already have a Savior—the real one.
Mr. Edmonds calls for blacks to rise up against the GC, and for regional Conference leaders to “take action.” This carefully choreographed meltdown over a legitimate concern about replacing the Gospel with social justice is better suited for black liberation theology than it is for church discussion. He (Edmonds) offers a veiled threat to withhold tithe, if his grievances are not rectified, and closes with the words “God bless you” to his listeners.” Such sentiments—like the ones expressed in this video—are symptomatic of a sociopolitical faux gospel that has taken the place of the Everlasting Gospel. Elder Wilson’s gentle warning speaks precisely to this cultural despoiling of the Everlasting Gospel.
Ted Wilson (due to complaints from regional conferences who said his warning was insensitive and defamatory) clarified his Sabbath statement regarding social justice—on Tuesday afternoon at Annual Council. He said (and I wish he wouldn’t have let them pressure him) that Social Justice can be a needful thing, but it must be done in context of the gospel. I can agree with that. As of yesterday, Black Conference leaders declared on their website that this clarification was a win and a full-scale endorsement of social justice. It wasn’t. They are also requesting a meeting between him and nine Regional Conference presidents to “further dialogue” on this issue. Instead, they should just drop the SJW activism and pick up the Great Controversy.
Not to be outdone, Dan Jackson weighed in on social justice too.
No. If it were, the Disciples would not have made that timeless statement "It is not right that we would forsake the preaching of the gospel to wait on tables" (Acts 6:2).
There is very little authentic outrage in our culture today. However, there is a plethora of auto-developed outrage, as this video evinces. I communed with several black brethren there in Battle Creek last weekend, and they are aware of the stakes in this church struggle, and stand peacefully with Elder Wilson and the GC as a result. Through them, I was inspired and humbled. "God has made of one blood all nations of men."
The time in Battle Creek was very enjoyable! The pioneer theme was really cool. I met many old friends and made some new ones. G.T. Ng still has his sense of humor. And I still have my beard. For now.
Honor God and serve your fellow man!