On May 12th, Walla Walla University hosted the third installment of “Is this thing on?" an NAD promotional campaign.
During the 120-minute Facebook Live “Is This Thing On?” (ITTO) event, Dan Jackson, NAD president; Alex Bryant, NAD executive secretary; and Tom Evans, NAD treasurer, answered questions from a live (student) audience and from social media. Julio Muñoz, associate director of the NAD Office of Communication, MC’d the event.
After the jazz band, the first question was whether or not the NAD had a strategy in place to help millennials transition into positions of leadership in the NAD. Bryant replied that they had various partnerships and internships set up to help millennials assume more leadership in the church. He said that over the next several years there would be many positions opening up throughout the NAD. He didn’t say whether this was due to retirement or to the creation of new positions.
Purpose in Life
To the somewhat nebulous question of "How do you find purpose in life?", Dan Jackson said "You need a relationship with God, and everyone is a minister upon accepting God." To this I agree, although Jackson did not qualify different kinds of relationship with God. For instance:
Both the Jewish leaders who mocked our Savior on the cross, and the centurion who smote his breast with the words “Truly this was the Son of God” had a relationship with God (Matthew 27:39-44,54). They were vastly different relationships, but relationships nonetheless.
Dan went on to describe Adventist clergical distinctions as “phony baloney” and said
“There is no definition of clergy in the Bible.” In every faith construct, God is there.. Have a relationship with God, whoever you perceive him to be, and then be open to following him wherever he leads. Once you sense that leading, go for it. Don’t question it. When you know in your mind this is where I think God wants me, don’t let anybody turn you around.”
Painfully missing from this answer, is any exhortation to weigh our thoughts against the perfect Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). The one true God is not defined by our perceptions, deceived as they often are by our feelings, but by the inerrant Word of God.
To a question about possible safe sex classes in school, Dan Jackson took a swing at it and said “My hope is that sex education that is scientifically-based and responsible would be a part of every part of our educational system.”
Big miss, to not say “Biblically-based sex education!” C'mon, that's a no-brainer! He was nonetheless applauded by the students for his answer. Sex outside of marriage is hugely expensive, our first practical question to young people should be "Can you afford it?" They can't.
A psychology major (female) asked "How are we going to get more women leaders in the church and how are you going to prepare them for potentially a vitriolic response when they attempt to lead in the church?”
Bryant said that the NAD was very interested in getting more females involved in leadership in the church, and the NAD has a Women in Pastoral Ministry Initiative (WIPMI?).
They tell churches that if they will hire female pastors they will help fund their salary for three years (actually this financially benefits the local Conferences more than the local church). He said "Leading is one of the things that God has called these women to do." Great, show me in the Bible where God authorizes women to be shepherds of the flock.
Jackson said he has a dream that one day the NAD will be supporting 1,000 women in pastoral ministry (the current number is 160). The NAD is adding 8.6 female pastors per year and they lament that it isn’t enough.
Dan Jackson said he was going to "lay all his cards on the table" in his next statement
“The failure of my church to acknowledge fully the talents and the skills of Godly women IS a FAILURE. We have in the NAD one female Conference President. There is no evidence for any of us to assume that capable godly women cannot lead at ANY level of Church organization.”
With all due respect, it might have been better to lay the Good Book on the table, instead of his (progressive) cards.
Social Justice on Steroids
The next question was from a female PUC student.
“What are we (NAD) doing to be an example to the rest of the church on the concepts of LGBTQ+, women’s equality, immigrants who have been underrepresented for so long? What are we doing to set the example not only for the NAD, but for the GC. We are progressive, all of us in this room, and I feel like there is a higher standard that we could be meeting [to set an example in progressive action].”
Dan Jackson said they released a book to address people with “varying categories” (choosing that description over LGBTQ+). He said the handbook was developed after inviting a non-Adventist to speak about LGBTQ+ at a two-day conference, hosted by the NAD. They are sending this booklet to every pastor (NAD presumably). “There is whole education process that needs to be undertaken in the church. The church has a lot of growing to do in this area, in terms of how we appreciate, respect and treat people.”
Bryant said we have not treated people correctly. "We have fallen prey to categorizing people by gender, nationality etc. We have to accept that every person on the face of the earth is a child of God. When we see the child of God in every person, then it is easier to take down some of the walls we have created."
This is not quite true, according to the Bible, Alex.
Identifying everyone as “children of God” fails to make an important distinction that affects our destiny. We should have compassion for every human, respecting the image of God stamped upon their existence. In the process, we must also acknowledge that adoption into the family of God is from wrath to grace (Ephesians 2:3), and from unrighteousness to righteousness (1 John 3:7-10). We are not to condemn people to hell, and we are not to eulogize them into heaven either. The Word identifies only those who individually choose to be governed by God as the “Children of God” and further describes them as “doing righteousness” (Romans 9:8; 1 John 3:10). All people are candidates for the kingdom, but all are not automatically the “children of God", a term reserved for the converted.
"But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12). To the sexually immoral, we have something wonderful to offer them, eternal life through repentance. Let's not undercut that bright emancipation by confusing destiny with origin.
Dan Jackson then pours gas on the social justice bonfire by saying that one of the biggest problems in the NAD is racism against black people. He said he can’t defend the Church against its unwillingness to hire a woman pastor; he can’t defend people who are hostile against the One Project. He commends Andrews and Walla Walla for taking steps to assuage black grievances.
Then there is another question from social media (Twitter) about how are we addressing black grievances. Jackson praises regional conferences for becoming more and more multicultural.
He blames the SDA church for creating those regional conferences, citing the Lucy Byard story again (which has become—along with a few other grievance narratives—the SDA McGuffin for black reparations).
Then he does a bad thing, in my opinion. He blames the General Conference for authorizing regional conferences (this was a grievous insinuation, made in a room where he knew it would be misconstrued as “It’s the GC’s fault", to a crowd already conditioned in the Progressive Adventist Reeducation Camp to blame the GC for everything from not allowing women to be ordained, to mashed turnips in the cafeteria). Seldom—if ever—in this progressive Adventist narrative do we hear the healing call of “forgive to be forgiven” that we find in Matthew 6:14. Having seen the amazing liberating power of forgiveness in my own life and the lives of a hundred others, this is deeply troubling. To ignore the salvational healing concept in forgiveness is to give your consent to generational bitterness.
We waste no time defending the sin of excluding treatment for a person because of ethnicity, and we have no sympathy for the sin of generational bitterness. Both will have their moment(s) in hell. Praise God, he has destined us for freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:1), and freedom in Him is freedom from unrighteousness of every kind--including bitterness and bigotry.
A student from Ohio asks if there is a future for Seventh-day Adventist boarding academies anymore. It's a valid question. He references Mount Vernon Academy, which was closed (and sold) in 2014-2016. I was part the Ohio committee faced with the unpleasant task of “stopping the bleeding” and eventually selling the property. Some factors leading to closing of the school were declining interest in boarding academies, more parents sending their kids to day schools, and Ohio’s thirteen-year wilderness of theological experimentation (during the previous administration). Dan Jackson and Tom Evans admitted that there is a declining interest in boarding academies. Then Dan Jackson tries his hand at singing the chorus from Big Yellow Taxi (a Joni Mitchell song). Maybe he wasn’t warmed up enough…
A girl asks “Why are there no term limits for General Conference presidents, and will there be one established in the future” (a clear dig at Elder Wilson). Many of the students whoop and applaud at this question. Bryant said he doesn’t see it happening in the near future. Jackson predictably says he thinks “Ten years is long enough” exporting his dissatisfaction with conservative leaders to a young and restless crowd.
John McVay is interviewed and there is a short round of summary glad-handing. Dan Jackson says something that I agree with. “Pray for each other, including those with whom you disagree.” I like that sort of thing.
Jackson closes by saying that the NAD is holding “Diversity Summits” and they would like to have students integrated into these summits. By the way, a Diversity Summit (in our current post-Christian America) is code for a large grab-bag of leftist ideologies— some recent ones in America include:
- White Fragility (2017)
- Inclusion Initiatives (2016)
- Safe Spaces (2018 GWU Diversity Summit)
- The Role of Gender Bias (2017)
- Intersectionality (look for an article on this from our furry friend in South England)
- Disability Justice (2015, 2018)
- Check your Bias at the Door (2017, 2018)
- Gender Identity and Expression (Saint Louis University, 2017).
Dan Jackson closes by plugging NAD NewsPoints, an online news publication which has taken on a concentrated flavor of social justice in the last seven months.
There are two powerful forces driving spirituality in our culture today, interfaith mystical experience and social justice ideology. These two forces are slowly replacing the Everlasting Gospel in the liberal quarters of our church today. Don't take my word for it though--watch for it.
What can we do? Keep one hand on the great promise of justification by faith, and the other hand on our biblical Adventist identity--expressed in a pure heart calling the Remnant out of Babylon.