Episode 274 – Unity through Division

We’re joined by Erin Riley and talk about the Adventist Church vs itself, evangelicals vs Civil Rights Act, US Attorney vs Catholic Church, Oklahoma vs abortion, pharmacist vs miscarriage drugs, exorcist vs witches.

Dustin’ off the Degree – Who holds the power in the Adventist Church?

The Seventh-day Adventist Church employees representative democracy as it’s form of governance. In local congregations send delegates to the conference held for their state or region, that conference sends delegates to a union conference covering a collection of states or countries, and they send delegates to the General Conference. At each level they elect leaders, usually pastors, to run the church at their level. Interestingly, the official organization has the same name as the meeting, whether it’s the Idaho Conference or the General Conference. Doctrine is also decided by majority vote at a general conference. This differs from say the Mormon church, where the global organization is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and their big meeting is the General Conference. Mormon doctrine is also decided by the prophet and the highest leaders.

The actual Adventist leadership operates much more in a top down manner where the leaders at each level report to their superiors at the next higher level. Each local conference is also a corporation that owns all of the property. So while the members of Adventist churches from across Southern Idaho and Eastern Oregon elect the Idaho Conference leadership, it’s the Idaho Conference that owns each congregations church building and all of the primary and secondary schools. The North Pacific Union Conference owns Walla Walla University where all of the teachers are trained, and the General Conference owns Andrews University which houses the seminary where all of the pastors get their Masters of Divinity degrees.

This is a system that was developed reluctantly because Adventists tend to be a paranoid bunch. Prior to the formal incorporation of the church in 1863 one member in each congregation held the deed for the church building they met in. This was because the members didn’t trust religious organizations. After enough elders left the movement and took the buildings with them, they finally decided it would be better to have a corporation that could hold the title deeds. That distrust hasn’t gone away and the higher up the chain a leader or organization is, the less the members tend to trust them interestingly, this also applies to what level in the church education institutions are attached to.

There’s also the issue of the mission field. At this point less than 1 million of the 21 million members of the Adventist church are in the United States, yet the Americans hold almost all of the power. For example, with only two exceptions every General Conference President has been an American, all have been white, and at least for the last 100 years they have all served as pastors and administrators in the mission field, which tends to be far more conservative than the church in the US.

There was a notable push in the 1980s to make the church as a whole more conservative under the leadership of Neal C Wilson, and now there is a similar push to drive out the heresies of evolution and the ordination of women under the leadership of Ted N C Wilson.

So, who hold the power? We will see the the current controversy plays out.


Unity through Division

In addition to this, Let’s talk more about the the ongoing controversy in the Seventh-day Adventist church over attempts by the General Conference Executive Committee to bring the Union Conferences that are ordaining women into compliance with the policy that says that only men can be ordained.

The North German and South German Union Conferences issued a joint statement expressing their concerns with these actions. Leaders of the Adventist publisher in Germany and at least one German conference president and the AdventNetwork of Southern Africa have also condemned the establishment of Compliance Committees. Their concerns are that this means that diversity of thought and freedom of conscience are no longer welcome in the church and that baseless accusations will be brought before these committees to sack various leaders.

None of this is new, it’s just bigger this time and it threatens to break up the church. We’ve talked on the show a few years ago about the firings of several tenured professors at La Sierra University over their acceptance and teaching of evolution. Shortly before I started at Walla Walla there had been an inquiry into the School of Theology that lead to the firing of several professors and sacking of the dean. Before that it was Desmond Ford who was a professor at Pacific Union College for questioning the Sanctuary Doctrine.

Texas evangelical groups are suing for the right to discriminate against LGBTQ workers

Two evangelical groups in Texas, The US Pastors Council and Texas Values have filed lawsuits in state and federal courts challenging the US Civil Rights Act and an Austin city anti-discrimination ordinance. They are arguing that these prohibitions on discrimination violates their religious freedom by prohibiting them from discriminating against quote “practicing homosexuals or transgendered people.” Please note that any who says “transgendered” is rather than “transgender” is showing their bigotry without saying anything more.

They are specifically requesting the courts to exempt religious organizations and Christian owned businesses from anti-discrimination laws.

U.S. Justice Dept launches probe into Catholic Church’s child sex abuse scandal

US Attorney William McSwain of Philadelphia has opened an investigation into the Catholic church in Pennsylvania to see if they’ve broken any federal laws. He’s already subpoenaed at least seven of the eight dioceses in the state and asking for any and all records of children being taken across state lines, sexual images or messages sent by phone or computer, instructions to anyone to not talk to the police, reassignment of suspected predatory priests, and any use of money as part of the ongoing scandal.

Oklahoma Republicans pass bill requiring state officials to call abortion ‘murder’

Meijer pharmacist Richard Kalkman refuses to give miscarriage drug to customer Rachel Peterson

Ex-Chinese internment camp detainee denied US visa despite Congress invitation

Exorcist to hold mass for Kavanaugh to counteract witches ‘hexing’ him

I pulled a 1,500-year-old sword out of a lake


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