A well-known American socio-political phenomenon is that when a Republican president is in office, many of his Leftist critics, in their partisan attacks, tend to lose all sense of proportion, moderation, restraint and finally even sanity. This phenomenon was given the name “Bush Derangement Syndrome” (BDS) during the administration of the younger President Bush.
Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) is BDS turned up to 11, then doubled, and then multiplied by a factor of ten. It ought to be possible—indeed, it really should be customary—to discuss public policy differences in a calm, rational manner, but President Trump’s critics scream that he is a racist, call him a new Hitler, and accuse him of treason. Entire cable “news” networks are devoted to a constant stream of this type of invective. In short, President Trump’s critics have become deranged.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has produced a similar derangement syndrome in the reaction of our liberals to the presidency of Elder Ted Wilson. This illness emanates from two chief loci, the journals “Spectrum” and “AToday.” Writers for those blogs can scarcely mention the world church, the General Conference, or Elder Wilson without making comparisons to the papacy or to the Nazis, or both.
One of the victims of Wilson Derangement Syndrome (WDS)—who likes to compare Elder Wilson both to Hitler and to the pope—is George R. Knight, the failed Adventist pastor who reinvented himself as a scholar of Adventist history, and eventually as a pundit of all things Adventist.
In a recent column at Spectrum entitled “Adventism’s Shocking Fulfillment of Prophecy”, Knight asserts that the Beast John describes in Revelation 13 finds its fulfillment not in the papacy, but rather in the General Conference under the administration of Ted Wilson:
"For over 150 years the Seventh-day Adventist Church has faithfully preached the message of Revelation 13 that near the end of time ‘all the world marveled and followed the beast,’ who had recovered from the deadly wound (13:3, NKJV). And at the heart of the Adventist concern was verse 7’s prophecy that the beast would ‘make war with the saints’ and ‘overcome them.’"
“What was not predicted by the Adventist evangelists was that the General Conference leadership would be joining the beast in its eschatological crusade, with the denomination’s president leading the charge."
So according to George Knight, Elder Wilson is the beast of Revelation 13 who makes war on the saints and overcomes them. Is that deranged enough for you?
Why has Knight worked himself up into an apocalyptic lather? Well, it turns out that the General Conference Administrative Committee (ADCOM) recently voted to create five committees tasked with making recommendations regarding compliance with church policies and doctrines. Oh, the humanity! The horror! Pope Wilson II has revived the inquisition:
". . . I decided to look up the Catholic Dictionary’s definition of “inquisition.” I discovered that it was ‘the special court or tribunal appointed by the Catholic Church to discover and suppress heresy and to punish heretics.’ Once again, the current leader of Adventism [Elder Wilson] is right on track. But, I must say, it is a wonder to me that a person who loves The Great Controversy so much could take the path he is creating."
So Elder Wilson has reinstated the inquisition, presumably to be staffed by some new Torquemada to oversee the torture. Is that deranged enough for you?
Knight writes that last year he was “falsely accused of calling the General Conference President Hitler, which resulted in the Michigan Conference president banning my books from the Adventist Book Centers under his control.” In fact, ChurchMouse correctly accused Knight of comparing the GC president to the Nazis, and by extension to Hitler. ChurchMouse accurately reported that Knight had written:
"The so-called nonconforming unions must stand together, come into line with General Conference demands, or go down one by one. Martin Niemöller, a leading German Protestant pastor during World War II, has written a thoughtful piece: ‘First they [the Nazis] came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I didn’t speak out–because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out–because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak out.’"
In case you slept through the history of the 20th Century, the ”they” in Niemöller’s famous quote are the Nazis. Knight could easily have made the same point using Franklin’s line: “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” But then he would merely have been comparing Elder Wilson to the 18th Century British, who weren’t nearly evil enough for that comparison.
Comparing Elder Wilson to Nazis or to Hitler seems to be an uncontrollable compulsion among those suffering from Wilson Derangement Syndrome. As if to cement that point, Knight does it again in his current article:
"When challenged in public on that point, the president [Ted Wilson] replied before a televised audience that ‘that is how democracy works.’ If all of the tactics used by the GC president to obtain [the failed vote on discipline at last year’s Annual Council] were put on the table, the statement would have to be revised to read ‘that is how democracy worked in Germany in the 1930s.’"
. . . during the Nazi era. Hitler, again. Apparently, comparing Wilson to Hitler is just part of the disease process those suffering from WDS are powerless to resist.
Let’s leave the asylum and return to the land of the sane. Three years ago, the General Conference in world session voted for the third time not to ordain women. In the intervening three years, several unions have defied that vote and continue to ordain women and place women in leadership positions such as the office of conference president. They’ve raised the middle finger to the world church and nullified its vote. If the General Conference does not enforce the San Antonio vote, the mechanism of world church governance is mortally wounded. The viability of the SDA Church as a global organization governed by a worldwide constituency depends upon enforcing the San Antonio vote. It is as simple and as crucial as that.
But all attempts to enforce the world church's decision have been met with utterly unhinged hysteria from the Adventist Left. The George Knights of the church have shouted down all of Elder Wilson’s attempts at discipline, calling any such attempt Nazism and a new inquisition. By taking this tack, the Adventist Left are effectively arguing that GC session votes should be a nullity, and hence arguing for the end of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a cohesive global organization. But folks like George Knight are so invested in the agenda of female headship that they cannot understand or appreciate what they’re doing.
Knight represents the overwhelming majority of developed-world SDA Church leadership. Dan Jackson and his merry band of union presidents are blowing up the machinery of world church government in the hope that, after they’ve prevailed on female ordination and feminized the Adventist pastorate, they’ll somehow be able to re-assemble the scattered fragments and once again have a cohesive world church.
In my opinion, George Knight, in his derangement, is totally misreading what Elder Wilson is doing. By forming these five committees, Wilson is surrendering. He realizes that he has lost the battle on discipline and is looking for a way to retreat without appearing to have given up altogether. The time-honored procedure to make something go away is to refer it to a committee. Let’s be clear: no effective discipline of anyone about anything will ever emerge from any of those committees. They’ve been designed and populated with the goal of burying the possibility of meaningful discipline.
For example, the committee on ordination compliance includes Janet Page, Jerry Page, Michael Ryan, Galina Stele, and lawyer Karnik Doukmetzian, all of whom favor female ordination. How is that committee supposed to reach a consensus about disciplining unions that ordain women? Answer: it’s not supposed to, and it won’t.
If poor George Knight could awaken from his fever-dream of goose-stepping Nazis and fish-head mitred popes, he might cotton to what is really happening. What Knight and the Adventist Left do not understand is that by hysterically caterwauling at any and every move that bears even the theoretical possibility of a reproof of those defying the San Antonio vote, they are preventing Elder Wilson from accomplishing a face-saving retreat, a peace with honor.
Elder Wilson will not be able to stop the behavior of the unions defying the San Antonio vote, but he must achieve some official disapproval of it in order to claim that the SDA church is still a worldwide organization governed by GC Session votes. The Adventist Left should be helping him push through some face-saving token discipline. Instead, they’ve adopted a take-no-prisoners approach that ensures that this controversy cannot go away, but must remain front-and-center in the church for the foreseeable future. This is a tactical mistake on their part.
I hope it comes back to bite them.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Mark Finley supported women's ordination. This was based in part upon his having caucused, at the final Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) meeting in 2014, with the "Third Way" group, which favored a local option on WO (which is all the pro-WO faction have ever asked for). While there are conflicting reports, the most recent and, we believe, the most reliable information is that Elder Finley has since changed his mind and now very strongly opposes WO solely on biblical grounds. We apologize for the mistake.