Called To Courage

It no doubt started with the best of intentions—a young man caring deeply about his church, concerned with the inaction of leaders to do something, and to take a stand rather than being more concerned about being re-elected to their positions of power within the church structure.

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The young man took his concerns to print, and then to the well-respected platform of ASI (Adventist-Laymen’s Services & Industries) bringing his message to this church-supporting organization’s international convention during their Friday evening live-streamed program.

Presenting almost word-for-word what he published in the church’s oldest journal, the youthful leader informs his audience that as a leader, his duty is to “define reality,” and points out “a few examples from the recent Global Church Member Survey by the General Conference,” including:

  • “The growing disparity between numbers of members on the books and those who attend services each week

  • “Numbers of Adventists dissatisfied with the state of their local church

  • “Number of people joining and leaving, or worse, joining and staying, who don’t even understand our message

  • “Growing doubt among Adventists about a literal Creation week, a heavenly judgment, and the state of the dead

  • “Recent data on Adventists’ perspective on the Second Coming as decades in the future

  • “Diminishing numbers of Adventists engaged in intentional witness and faith sharing

  • “Orientation of focus—less on distinctives, more on what we have in common.”[1]

“Amen!” answer many concerned, Bible-believing, church-supporting Seventh-day Adventists. Many are concerned about these issues . . . and more.

Defining reality further, the speaker/writer boldly declares:

“Friends—my church family—we have a problem. We have a crisis of leadership. The crisis is not who is in leadership—it’s the lack of courage in leadership. We have a crisis of courage. Where are the men and women willing to stand for the truth though the heavens fall? Where are those who are as true to duty as the needle is to the pole? Those unafraid to call sin by its right name, unafraid to lay their careers on the line to do what’s right?”[2]

Yes! At last, someone brave enough to state publicly what many have been whispering for years. Hallelujah!

Drawing upon the well-known and beloved story of David and Goliath, the presenter points out, with back-up from an Ellen White quote, that “Insincere and timid leadership was a curse to ancient Israel. Insincere and timid leadership is a curse to God’s people today, on every level, and ultimately to the world.”[3]

Yes, yes, yes! We all agree.

In further lessons drawn from this epic story, we are assured, “Insincere and timid leadership was a curse to ancient Israel. Insincere and timid leadership is a curse to God’s people today, on every level, and ultimately to the world.”[4]

Bringing it home, the speaker/writer utilizes another inspired quote:

“The message to the Laodiceans is applicable to Seventh-day Adventists who have had great light and have not walked in the light. It is those who have made great profession, but have not kept in step with their Leader, that will be spewed out of His mouth unless they repent.”[5]

So far, so good. In fact, there is much to agree with in this pointed presentation, such as: “I proudly call myself a Seventh-day Adventist, not because of what is, but because of what we can be. . . . Look at God’s goodness, and the blessings He still grants us in mercy. We sit on a gold mine of truth, a treasure trove of answers about how to live with abundance and thrive to the fullest. We’re called and equipped to share that experience with everyone we know.”[6]

But then, almost imperceptibly, something isn’t quite right. Kind of like a 35mm camera (remember those?) when the lens isn’t quite focused.

Take, for example, the author’s vision of “what can be” where he offers solutions to the challenges he listed.

“If what we have been told is true, one day we will recognize how God qualifies men and women by His Spirit, not just by our votes. One day we will see a mighty movement such as we haven’t yet witnessed”[7] (emphasis supplied).

Hmmm. Let’s look at this statement a little closer.

What is it that we have been told is true? That “God qualifies men and women by His Spirit?” Yes . . . but qualifies them for what? For total member involvement? Absolutely. For ordained gospel ministry? Not so sure.

The next part of the author’s assertion makes it crystal clear what he is talking about: “not just by our votes.”

Votes? Votes like the one at the 1990 General Conference Session where the world church voted directly 1,173 to 377 not to ordain women to the gospel ministry?[8]

Or perhaps he’s referring to the 1995 GC Session vote not to allow a “variance” for the North American Division to decide whether or not to ordain women to the gospel ministry within their territory?[9]

Maybe he’s referring to the 2015 GC Session vote that was similar to the 1995 session vote, except instead of NAD requesting a variance for its territory, this time, the question was, “After your prayerful study on ordination from the Bible, the writings of Ellen G. White, and the reports of the study commissions, and after your careful consideration of what is best for the church and the fulfillment of its mission, is it acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry? Yes or No?.” And again, the world church answered—“No.”[10]

Other than these three GC Session votes, it’s not clear what other “votes” the young presenter could be referring to in the context of God qualifying “men and women by His Spirit,” as he doesn’t actually specify what “votes” he’s talking about.

Statements in the article/presentation such as, “’This is the way we’ve always done it,’ won’t work any longer. ‘This is what it says in the policy book, section 12, paragraph 3’ won’t lead anyone into battle”[11] also causes one to wonder which policy he may be referring to? Could it be the one(s) that correspond to the GC Session votes? We don’t know. He doesn’t specify. Perhaps the author would be willing to make it clear!

So much of this article/presentation sounds right. How I long for a church where we love one another, where our God-given message is given without shame or embarrassment, where our young people see a church that practices what it preaches, giving a clear identity of who we are. So much of it makes me long for leaders, leaders such as those in local conferences, unions, and yes, certain divisions, to stand up and do the right thing—such as supporting and implementing the votes that the world church has made in General Conference Sessions, returning us to a solidly Biblical position—in our practice as well as our faith. After all, ideally our policies as a church are determined from the commands and principles found in Scripture.

Yes, how true it is that now, more than ever,

“The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.”[12]

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[1] Jared Thurmon, “The Church I want to Belong to is . . . Terrible!” Aug. 5, 2019, www.adventistreview.org/1908-18

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 2, p. 66, quoted by Thurmon.

[6] Thurmon, “The Church I want to Belong to is . . . Terrible!” Aug. 5, 2019.

[7] Ibid.

[8] See 1990 General Conference Bulletin, no. 7, “Session actions. Fifty-fifth General Conference session, July 11, 1990, 9:15 a.m.,” Adventist Review, July 13, 1990, p. 15 (http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Periodicals/RH/RH19900713-V167-33.pdf).

[9] See 1995 General Conference Bulletin, no. 8, “Session Actions. Fifty-sixth General Conference session, July 5, 1995, 2:00 p.m.,” Adventist Review, July 11, 1995, p. 30 (http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Periodicals/RH/RH19950711-V172-33.pdf).

[10] See 2015 General Conference Bulletin, “Twelfth Business Meeting. Sixtieth General Conference session, July 8, 2015, 1:59 p.m.,” p. 68 (http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCSM/2015/GCST20150708PM.pdf).

[11] Thurmon, “The Church I want to Belong to is . . . Terrible!” Aug. 5, 2019.

[12] Ellen G. White, Education, p. 57.