Post removed while I reflect upon the situation.
Archive for the ‘Adventist’ Category
Following the AAR Meetings in Chicago I flew to Toronto & then traveled to Oshawa to present a paper at a symposium organized by Barry Bussey called Should I Fight? Conscientious Objection and the SDA Church.
I am very grateful for the financial assistance from both Helderberg College and the Canadian Union Conference that enabled me to attend the symposium. The Symposium was held at Kingsway College who were very gracious hosts providing us with good food & the use of their chapel.
While the number of attendees was somewhat disappointing–very few local SDA pastors even took advantage of the Symposium–the Symposium was videoed and a DVD is to be produced. I hope that this will enable this symposium–on this very important topic–to have a greater impact than just that weekend.
The Symposium began on Thursday evening with presentations from Barry Bussey and Lincoln Steed (Editor – Liberty Magazine). On Friday, presenters included Ronald Lawson (Queens College – The City University of New York) who reviewed the history of Adventism and Military Service from both a sociological & historical perspective. Ron utilized Church/Sect theory to explain the reasons behind the changing of SDA attitudes toward military service, noting that we began as a sect–in high tension with society–but have moved towards a denomination & as such have sought to minimize tensions with society. Thus the SDA Church’s changing attitudes toward military service are essentially one result arising from this desire for acceptance & “mainstreamization”. Ron pointed out that current estimates of soldiers with a SDA background who serve in the US armed forces (as combatants carrying arms) are around 15,000–a far cry from our pacifist stance during the American Civil war! It was great to finally meet Ron, a fellow Australian, Queenslander, & alumnus of the University of Queensland; I have read his articles and utilized them in my research & teaching.
Ron’s presentation was followed by that of Doug Morgan (Columbia Union College) a historian & founder of the Adventist Peace Fellowship. Doug focused on the early history of the SDA Church, pointing out that contrary to what has been believed in the past, SDAs initially took a pacifist position rather than one of conscientious objection. This is particularly evident during the American Civil War. His evidence included the following quotes: the third GC Session in 1865 stated that the SDA Church would “decline all participation in acts of war and bloodshed”; the fifth GC Session in 1867 similarly stated that “the bearing of arms, or engaging in war is a direct violation of the teachings of our savior”; while in 1868 the church noted “that war was never justifiable except under the immediate direction of God”. As Doug pointed out, “Historical accounts since World War II, misconstruing the early Adventist debates over how and when to express their commitment to the government, have tended to obscure the fact that the Seventh-day Adventist Church began as a peace church. Thus, a distorted understanding of the past has contributed to the relatively easy acceptance of voluntary enlistment for armed military service that has become apparent in American Adventism during the past two decades.”
Doug was followed by Jose Mclaughlin a chaplain for Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries. Jose was a bit like Daniel in the Lion’s Den in that environment and it was great that he attended and presented. It was important that the SDA Church’s position on military chaplaincy be heard, despite the very real objections and questions that many Symposium presenters had regarding the theology and ethics of military chaplaincy. Importantly Jose pointed out that the SDA Church regards military service as an issue of individual conscience & not as a test of fellowship. I do feel however that the church needs to take a very close look at military chaplaincy and ask whether our prophetic voice as Christians is in fact silenced or distorted by our participation in the military. As I pointed out in my own presentation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa pointed out that: “The military chaplaincy gave moral legitimacy to a culture characterised by the perpetration of gross human rights abuses. It served to filter out dissenting voices, to strengthen the resolve to kill and to reassure the doubting soldier that he or she was serving the purposes of God. In spite of professions of a loyalty higher than that of the state, chaplains found themselves lending succour to persons trying to kill ‘enemy’ soldiers who were sometimes members of their own denomination.” One has to ask if–in any context–a Christian should be “strengthen[ing] the resolve to kill” of anyone ever.
Jose McLaughlin, Ron Lawson, & Doug Morgan during question time.
After Lunch Alison Bryan, a graduate student at Memorial University in Newfoundland, spoke on Just War theory. Alison’s best moment came when she pointed out that “Christ said ‘Go make disciples’ not ‘go wage war in my name’”. She was followed by Ronald Osborn’s presentation on “The Christ of the Fifth way: Recovering the Politics of Jesus”. Ron is a graduate student at the University of Southern California and gave an excellent presentation influenced by the thought of John Howard Yoder. Ron pointed out that Jesus’ Palestine was a place of “the rich few and the poor many”, and noting that Christians are called to incarnate the Kingdom of God in all areas–including that of economic justice and peace.
Friday evening’s presentation was taken by Olaf Clausen, pastor of the Lethbridge SDA Church in Canada, who served in the Canadian Navy for 12 years–including time spent as a military recruiter. Olaf’s intensely personal & passionate presentation pointed out the various costs associated with joining the military.
Saturday’s presentations began with Karen R. Scott, who asked the question “Where is Your Citizenship?”, pointing out that Jesus simply said to pray for our enemies, and that this wasn’t metaphorical nor a text to be be ignored or explained away. She also noted, referring to the SDA Church, that “Because we are the remnant, we think that God thinks just like we do.” We joined with the College Park SDA Church for the Divine Service, taken by Barry Bussey who shared his grandfather’s experience in WWII in a sermon titled “The War to End All Wars”. You can download the sermon in .mp3 format here. That the Symposium took took place over this weekend was particularly appropriate as November 11 is Remembrance Day in Canada (and other Commonwealth nations). Saturday’s program continued after lunch with presentations by Ginger Hanks Harwood (La Sierra University) whose presentation “Did Christ Give You Permission to Beat Your Ploughshares Into Swords?” definitely had the best title; but was also an excellent survey of changing SDA attitudes toward military service, rich in historical detail.
Ginger Hanks Harwood
The afternoon & evening sessions were taken by Barry Bussey who focussed on the experiences of SDA conscientious objectors in Canada. Barry also introduced us to clips of his not-quite finished documentary called “For Conscience Sake”. Barry & producer Douglas Bruce travelled extensively throughout Canada & the US interviewing Canadian SDA Conscientious Objectors from WWII. Watching these interviews was fascinating & I hope that the documentary challenges SDAs all over the world to consider their position on military service. A very short trailer is viewable here. “This is a trailer of the documentary “For Conscience Sake” currently under production. It tells the story of Canadian Adventist conscientious objectors in WWII who refused to take the rifle when conscripted. They worked in the “Alternative Service Camps” throughout Canada and some eventually joined the Canadian military as Medics. This is a story about conviction of religious conscience during a time of national crisis. Expected release is March 2009. Copies of the 60min final production can be preordered by contacting Tina Keys – cost is $25.00 including taxes and shipping.”
Joel Willet is a graduate student at the University of Kentucky and served as a military police officer for nearly four years. His presentation was very personal and as a student of Diplomacy & National Security he raised a number of interesting points concerning the use of force. Joel took a very realist position and asked important questions that must be answered by modern pacifists.
My own presentation titled, “The Spirit of War is the Spirit of Satan” followed Joel’s. “Military conscription in apartheid South Africa was an issue that dominated the lives of generations of white South African young men—including Seventh-day Adventists. From 1952 a system of compulsory military service existed in South Africa, first through a selective service system where men were chosen by ballot, and then from 1967 onwards all medically fit white males were legally required to perform military service for the state upon leaving school. This remained the reality until the last intake for compulsory military service in South Africa took place in July 1992. As early as 1924, Seventh-day Adventists could be exempted from peace-time service in the South African Defence Rifle Association, and in wartime would be exempted from service in a combat capacity. This exemption was reiterated in 1979, when Seventh-day Adventist conscripts were granted particular privileges including being excused from handling a weapon, and were where possible, excused from Sabbath duty. The issue of Seventh-day Adventists and military service in South Africa becomes more complex—as does the issue of military service generally in South Africa—during the 1980s when the South African Defence Force (SADF) was deployed in cross-border conflicts in Angola and South-west Africa (now Namibia); and in the Black township areas to quell Black anti-Apartheid resistance. My paper examined the South African Seventh-day Adventist Church’s attitude towards military service within the context of Apartheid; and will discussed the ethical implications of the Church’s stance of non-combatancy within such a political context.” My paper is available in .pdf format here. Comments are welcome. The paper is a work in progress and a number of significant issues must still be dealt with. I would also like to one day conduct interviews with South African SDAs who were impacted by compulsory military service under the Apartheid Government.
The final presentations were taken by Keith Phillips and Karl Tsatalbasidis, co-authors of a new book I Pledge Allegiance: The Role of Seventh-day Adventists in the Military.
The book is available from a number of sites including here, here, and here. The book is well-written and accessible. Their presentation dealt with a number of important issues including popular misconceptions about the correct translation of the 6th commandment. Karl noted that: Regarding the 6th Commandment. The Hebrew word rasah is the word that is found in the 10 Commandments yet the decalogue does not provide the context to suggest if the word should be translates as murder or kill. This means that the best way to find out the meaning of the word is to investigate its usage in the Bible. It’s mentioned 47 times in the OT. This verb rāsah is used a total of 11 times to identify definitively the intentional slaying of another human being, i.e., “murder,” in the following passages: Numbers 35:16 [2 times], 17 [2 times], 18 [2 times], 19, 21 [2 times], 30, and 31.In contradistinction to the above, rāsah is used 19 times in these “city-of-refuge” passages to indicate the accidental taking of human life, i.e., “manslaughter,” or “killing,” in the following texts: Numbers 35:6, 11, 25, 26, 27, 28; Deuteronomy 4:42 [2 times]; 19:3, 4, 6; Joshua 20:3, 5, 6; 21:13, 21, 27, 32, and 38. In three additional passages (Numbers 35:12, 27, and 30 ), the context indicates that the broader term “kill” would be more appropriate, since rāsah here cannot be limited to “murder.” Thus, in 22 of its 33 appearances in the “city-of-refuge” passages, rāsah needs to be translated as “kill” rather than as “murder.”
The Symposium was a wonderful experience and as the book & DVDs are released I hope that it has an impact on the world-wide SDA Church. As a final observation, it was interesting to me to note that the topic of military service was one that drew SDAs from all spectrums together–”conservatives” & “liberals” both.
As a pacifist, one of course must wrestle with the question of our response to evil–popularized in the question: What about Hitler? I would like to take a moment to draw your attention to an excellent book by Robert W. Brimlow on this question, titled appropriately enough, What About Hitler? Wrestling With Jesus’s Call to Nonviolence in an Evil World (Brazos Press, 2006).
Brimlow comes to the following conclusion which I find both personally challenging and completely christological:
“We must live faithfully; we must be humble in our faith and truthful in what we say and do; we must repay evil with good; and we must be peacemakers. This may mean as a result that the evildoers will kill us. Then, we shall also die. That’s it. There is nothing else–or rather, anything else is only a footnote to this. We are called to live the kingdom as he proclaimed it and be his disciples, come what may. We are, in his words, flowers flourishing and growing wild today, and tomorrow destined for the furnace. We are God’s people, living by faith.” (p151.)
Finally I would like to note how great it was to dialogue and discuss with others these critical issues. I was blessed in doing so.
The presenters. Absent are Jose McLaughlin & Lincoln Steed.
I was fortunate to attend the meetings of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) – held this year in Chicago. I have attended the meetings once before – in Toronto in 2002 when they were combined with the Society of Biblical Literature.
One of the first sessions I attended was a Wildcard session on Apocalypticism – The End Is Not What It Used to Be: The Taming of the Apocalyptic Movements in American Religions, chaired by a friend of mine, Julius Nam of Loma Linda University. Ginger Hanks Harwood of La Sierra University was one of the presenters.
From L to R: Kenneth G. C. Newport (Liverpool Hope University), Ginger Hanks Harwood (La Sierra University), Grant Underwood (Brigham Young University), Richard Landes (Boston University), and Julius Nam (Loma Linda University).
The second session I attended with a SDA connection was a session sponsored by the Psychology, Culture and Religion group which focussed on a play called “Red Books” written & directed by Mei Ann Teo, artist in residence at Pacific Union College. The session was presented by A. Gregory Schneider (Pacific Union College), and Mei Ann Teo, and was titled, “Knowing through Becoming- Exercises in Documentary Theater: Reflections on Red Books: Our Search for Ellen White”.
The title refers to the books of Ellen G. White which were (and still are) published as red-bound hardcover books:
The session was interactive & very interesting. You can purchase the DVD of the play here. There were many. many other sessions on everything from Street Side Memorials, to the Reformation, to Black Gospel Music. It was good to meet others interested in the study of religion. The publishers were there in force also & while I did try to restrain myself, I came home with the following pile, a rather eclectic mix:
From Eerdmans I picked up the new edition of Prophetess of Health by Ronald Numbers as well as the new biography of William Miller: God’s Strange Work by David L. Rowe. I have started reading the latter & will post a review in due time.
On Sunday evening I attended the Adventist Graduate Student Reception. It was great to meet new people including Trisha Famisaran and Ron Pickell of the Adventist Christian Fellowship of the North American Division. After the meal some of us walked to Millennium park. Here’s the group in front of this cool stainless steel bubble sculpture:
Read II Corinthians 5:18-20.
I want to talk with you this morning about this most radical passage in the Bible. I realize that such a statement is a bold claim & there may be those here this morning who would suggest other Biblical texts as the rightful recipients of this title. I do not apologize however, and as we explore the passage that we have heard twice already this morning – II Corinthians 5:18-20—it is my payer that each person here this morning will come to grasp both the radical nature of the message found in these verses and the challenge that they present to each of us as Christians—members of the body of Christ.
James Denney, a little known Scottish pastor and theologian, spoke of the doctrine of reconciliation as “the inspiration and focus of all” doctrines of the Christian faith.
Similarly Karl Barth, a much more widely known Swiss pastor and theologian stated that with the doctrine of reconciliation “we enter that sphere of Christian knowledge in which we have to do with the heart of the message received by and laid upon the Christian community.”
Likewise Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and theologian pointed out that the central message of the New Testament was that “God loved the world and reconciled it with himself in Christ.”
The doctrine of reconciliation, I would suggest then—as the heart of the Christian message—as the heart of the gospel—is worth taking seriously.
Our passage of scripture this morning, II Corinthians 5:18-20 begins in the middle of the story—Paul makes an assumption in this passage that I want us to consider for a moment.
If we are all reconciled to God through Jesus Christ; if we have all been given the ministry of reconciliation as II Corinthians undoubtedly states, then Paul’s assumption is clearly, that for all of us, there is a need to be reconciled with God.
Reconciliation is necessary for all because the whole of humanity is sentenced to death as sinners, as enemies of God.
As we read in Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Likewise three chapters later in Romans 6:23 we read “For the wages of sin is death.”
Humanity is caught in a sinful situation from which it cannot escape.
Not only are each of us as sinners under a death sentence, but our sinfulness has alienated us from God. “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour.” Colossians 1:21
Reconciliation involves a change in the relationship of people who were previously enemies. People who have been reconciled with each other “exchange” a relationship of separation and hostility for one of friendship and peace.
The word reconciliation carries the idea of an exchange, not an exchange of gifts or other physical objects, but an exchange of state or status. The Greek word that we translate as reconciliation is typically used outside of the NT in reference to enemies who exchange their state of separation, hate, anger, and war for a state of unity, friendship, peace, and love.
In the Good News translation, II Corinthians 5:18 reads:
“All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also.”
This translation captures the meaning of reconciliation very nicely—we are changed from God’s enemies into God’s friends.
Reconciliation is actually not a very common NT word, occurring with its’ derivatives: reconcile, reconciled, reconciling, only 15 times. 12 of these times occur in the Pauline writings: in Romans, I & II Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, and Colossians. Importantly, in each of these statements God is clearly shown to be the sole author of reconciliation—that is, it is God who begins the process of reconciliation; it is God who initiates.
¨ All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ (II Corinthians 5:18)
¨ in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself (II Corinthians 5:19 )
There is no mention in any of the verses where this term is found, of God needing to be reconciled; or that God is the recipient or beneficiary of a reconciling act.
God initiates reconciliation when we were still enemies—God loved us first.
Our reconciliation with God can be described as a one-sided offer of peace where there was conflict. Our reconciliation with God does not take place on equal terms. As sinners we have nothing to offer; the reconciliation of sinful humanity with God is achieved only through Jesus Christ.
The reconciliation of humanity with God is achieved only through Jesus Christ.
¨ The sinless Christ is identified with human sinfulness
¨ As a result, sinful humans may be identified with God’s righteousness (II Cor. 5:21)
See also Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”
Romans 5:8 “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”
Don’t miss the immensity of that statement—Christ died for us while we were sinners.
Col. 1:22: “By Christ’s death in his physical body, God has reconciled you to himself.”
Col. 1:19-20a: “For in him God in all his fullness chose to dwell and through him to reconcile all things to himself.”
According to II Corinthians 5:19, reconciliation is the fundamental purpose of the Christ-event. We cannot speak about reconciliation without speaking of the cross—because without the cross there can be no reconciliation.
Miroslav Volf in his book Exclusion and Embrace puts it this way:
“The cross is the giving up of God’s self in order not to give up on humanity; it is the consequence of God’s desire to break the power of human enmity without violence and receive human beings into divine communion….The arms of the crucified are open—a sign of a space in God’s self and an invitation for the enemy to come in.”
This momentous event—this breaking in of God into the human sphere is not something to be glossed over or taken lightly:
As Volf puts it:
“Whoever thinks the cross is not an offense has never followed the Crucified to Gethsemane let alone to Golgotha….If the fate of the Crucified and his demand to walk in his footsteps disturb us, then we will also be disturbed by the God of the Crucified. For the very nature of the triune God is reflected on the cross of Christ….At the core of Christian faith lies the claim that God entered history and died on the cross in the person of Jesus Christ for an unjust and deceitful world.”
The nature of God—as mediator, reconciler—is indeed reflected on the cross of Christ.
Jurgen Moltmann in his book The Crucified God puts it as follows:
“In Jesus, God does not die a natural death, but rather the violent death of a condemned person on the cross. At Golgotha he dies the death of complete God-abandonedness. The suffering in the suffering of Jesus is the abandonment, and indeed condemnation, by the God whom he called Father….The God-abandoned Son of God takes the eternal death of the abandoned and the damned upon himself in order to become God of the abandoned and brother of the damned. Every person damned and abandoned by God can, in the crucified one, experience community with God. The incarnate God is present and accessible to the humanity of every [person].”
Through his death on the cross, Jesus Christ has reconciled the world—all humanity—with God.
Bono of the group U2 gets it exactly right when he sings, “But I’ve seen love conquer the great divide.”
God’s love expressed through Jesus Christ has indeed conquered the great divide of sin that so irreversibly separated us from God.
The message of reconciliation that we are exploring today is a message of universal application—we are all sinners in a state of separation and alienation from God.
But the good news, the wonderful, magnificent, life-changing, reality-shattering news is that just as sin is a universal human reality—so is God’s act of reconciliation.
II Cor. 5:19. The implication here is that Christ acts and accomplishes reconciliation on behalf of the world as a whole. He acts representatively—on behalf of the world—so that the particular achievement of one becomes effective for all.
Jürgen Moltmann gives us this powerful image:
“Here [under the cross], rather, is where the godless are justified, enemies are reconciled, prisoners are set free, the poor are enriched, and the sad are filled with hope.”
Reconciliation with God is not just a possibility that is open to individuals who respond to Jesus Christ in faith, but rather in terms of an already accomplished alteration to human reality—God has broken into our human reality in the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
Understand this: The world as a whole has been reconciled to God in Christ—this reconciliation has been accomplished already.
II Corinthians 5:19 points out that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their sins against them.” It is the world’s sins that are not counted—not merely those of the converted.
Paul points out in Romans 10:13 that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”
Murray Rae puts it this way:
“Here is the glory of the gospel. Neither race, nor religious purity, nor cultural pedigree, nor great learning, nor moral perfection, is the criterion upon which salvation is attained.”
In this respect, God has dealt with humanity collectively—as a group—for God loves and has redeemed all that God has made.
The entire world is included in God’s mission to make all things new, not just some section of humanity. This means that if we rejoice that God came to rescue “me,” we must also rejoice that God came to rescue our enemies, those we don’t like, or with whom we disagree, or even those who have wronged us in serious ways. God did not act just for some. God has reconciled the whole world to himself.
The relationship of reconciliation with God is one in which nothing can separate believers from the love of God in Christ.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Once we were enemies of God. Once we were so separated from God by our sin that there was nothing we could do that would bridge the gap.
Now, having been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ—there is nothing at all in the entire universe—not death, not demons, not distance, not darkness—there is nothing that can separate us from God.
Such an incredible gift.
God acts toward the world in a way which calls forth individual faith and repentance and obedience.
The South African theologian John de Gruchy makes the challenging observation that:
“The fundamental difference between the church and the world is that the former recognises, acknowledges, confesses and seeks to express God’s reconciliation in Jesus Christ in its life, whereas the world fails to recognize and acknowledge what God has in fact done….The church is thus a sign of the new humanity that God is creating in Christ, having broken down the walls that divide the human race into warring factions.”
Faith is not a condition of reconciliation; but rather the objective reality of reconciliation invites our response of faith, repentance, and obedience.
These three human reactions—worked within us by the Holy Spirit—are the glad response to what Christ has accomplished for us; but are not conditions to be met before Christ’s act of reconciliation applies to us.
“The finality of this accomplishment notwithstanding, however, it is also the case that the reconciliation of the world in Christ involves—through a continuing event of divine grace—the Spirit-inspired but nonetheless human event of response and a new life.”
The human response to God’s grace is a response of thanksgiving and praise. It is a response of gratitude and joy for that which has been accomplished in Christ.
Whoever responds in faith to the person and work of Christ does not aid Christ in his priesthood. The reconciling act is exclusively the work of God in Christ, directed to the world.
We cannot imagine as Karl Barth contends in his argument with Emile Brunner, that we are able to swim a few strokes on our own.
Our response then, is to be conceived fundamentally as an act of praise. It is in this act of praise and thanksgiving—or perhaps more properly, these acts—this life—of praise and thanksgiving, that we as the church become witnesses to the reconciliation of the world to God through Jesus Christ.
Reconciliation implies a new form of existence, a new way of living, as Murray Rae puts it:
“the reconciliation of the world in Christ calls people forth to live according to the new reality that has, once and for all, been accomplished. The fact that the world has been reconciled to God in Christ becomes apparent…in a community of men and women who actually do live, albeit in a not-yet perfected form, in reconciled relationship with God and with one another.”
We may then regard the life of Christian discipleship—living as the Church, the body of Christ in this world—“as a participation in and witness to the reconciliation of the world with God.”
The reconciliation of the world to God through Jesus Christ becomes apparent through the existence of the church—the body of Christ called into existence as a sign that God HAS reconciled the world to himself.
A final implication of this message of reconciliation is that because of the reality that we are all sinners, yet all now reconciled with God through Jesus Christ; the distinctions of class, nation, race, or gender lose their significance—our identity is defined only as sinners reconciled to God. This is the only label, classification, or categorization that matters—I am—and You are—sinners reconciled to god through Jesus Christ.
This is what Paul is talking about in Galatians 5:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
We are all one in Christ Jesus—we have all been reconciled to God—and that is all that matters.
Remember Jesus’ prayer as recorded in John 17? Towards the end of the prayer in verses 20 to 23, Jesus prays:
“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
The Nobel prize-winning English poet T. S. Eliot ends his poem “Little Gidding,” with the following words:
“And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.”
And the fire and the rose are one. And all manner of creatures are one. And all manner of Christians are one. And all manner, yes, even of Seventh-day Adventists, are one. And this broken and fearful world and its creator are one. And this broken battered church and its Lord are one. Thank God that we are each and every one reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.
HYMN: Amazing Grace
May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace as you celebrate the good news of your reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ.
Jeff Crocombe – Helderberg College Church – August 16, 2008.
 Quoted in John de Gruchy, Reconciliation: Restoring Justice (Augsburg Fortress Press, 2002), 44.
 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV:1 The Doctrine of Reconciliation (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2004), 3.
 Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), 126.
 Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), 127.
 Jürgen Moltmann, “The Ecumenical Church under the Cross”, in Theology Digest 24:4 (1971), 382.
 Murray Rae “A Remnant People: The Ecclasia as a Sign of Reconciliation” in Colin E Gunton (Ed.) The Theology of Reconciliation (Edinburgh: T & T Clarke, 2003), 97-98.
 John de Gruchy, “Racism, Reconciliation, and Resistance” in On Reading Karl Barth in South Africa (Charles Villa-Vicencio (Ed.) (Grand Rapids: William B. Eeerdmans, 1988), 147.
 Murray Rae “A Remnant People: The Ecclasia as a Sign of Reconciliation” in Colin E Gunton (Ed.) The Theology of Reconciliation (Edinburgh: T & T Clarke, 2003), 94.
 Murray Rae “A Remnant People: The Ecclasia as a Sign of Reconciliation” in Colin E Gunton (Ed.) The Theology of Reconciliation (Edinburgh: T & T Clarke, 2003), 94.
 Murray Rae “A Remnant People: The Ecclasia as a Sign of Reconciliation” in Colin E Gunton (Ed.) The Theology of Reconciliation (Edinburgh: T & T Clarke, 2003), 94.
 This ending is modified from a sermon by John Wilkinson: http://www.covenantnetwork.org/sermon&papers/wilkinson3.html
Human sexuality was a popular topic amongst American “Health reformers” in the 19th century. One of the first publications on the subject was Sylvester Graham’s Lecture to Young Men on Chastity published in 1834. Most other popular health reformers: Alcott, Coles, Trall, Jackson etc also wrote on this subject. The focus for most of these reformers was the danger of “excessive” or abnormal sexual activity—with a particular emphasis on the evils associated with masturbation.
In order to understand 19th century views of sexuality, we need to understand the concept of “vital force”. Seventh-day Adventist leader John Loughborough wrote in 1868 that vital force was, “that power placed in the human body, at its birth, which will enable the body, under favorable circumstances, to live to certain age.” (Handbook of Health, 1868, 14-15).
As the amount of “vital force” each person possessed was limited—and since each sexual activity used up an irreplaceable amount—every individual should keep their sexual activity to a minimum so that they would not die prematurely. To illustrate this concept, many nineteenth century authors compared it to money in a bank account gradually depleted by repeated withdrawals over the years until none remained.
Ellen White is no exception—the phrase “vital force” occurs quite frequently in her writings:
“Those who acquire and indulge the unnatural appetite for tobacco, do this at the expense of health. They are destroying nervous energy, lessening vital force and sacrificing mental strength.” (Signs of the Times, January 6, 1876.)
“Those who make great exertions to accomplish just so much work in a given time, and continue to labor when their judgment tells them they should rest, are never gainers. They are living on borrowed capital. They are expending the vital force which they will need at a future time. And when the energy they have so recklessly used is demanded, they fail for want of it.” (Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 1890, 64.)
Ellen White—like many of her contemporaries—does use the phrase in relation to human sexuality. In regard to what she terms “self abuse” (masturbation—we’ll come back to this topic later), Ellen White states:
“They sacrifice physical strength and reason upon the altar of lust, and can they think that God will accept their distracted, imbecile service, while they continue their wrong course? Such are just as surely self-murderers as though they pointed a pistol to their own breast, and destroyed their life instantly. In the first case they linger longer, are more debilitated, and destroy gradually the vital force of their constitution, and the mental faculties; yet the work of decay is sure.” (An Appeal to Mothers, 1864, 24.)
“Females possess less vital force than the other sex, and are deprived very much of the bracing, invigorating air, by their in-doors life.” (An Appeal to Mothers 1864, 24.)
Health reformers in the 1800s considered sex to be very draining upon the vital energies. Well-known Seventh-day Adventist physician John Harvey Kellogg wrote in 1877: “The reproductive act is the most exhaustive of all vital acts.” (Plain Facts for Old and Young, 119.)
Ellen White believed the same:
“They do not see that God requires them to control their married lives from any excesses. But very few feel it to be a religious duty to govern their passions. They have united themselves in marriage to the object of their choice, and therefore reason that marriage sanctifies the indulgence of the baser passions. Even men and women professing godliness give loose rein to their lustful passions, and have no thought that God holds them accountable for the expenditure of vital energy, which weakens their hold on life and enervates the entire system.” (Testimonies, Vol. 4, 472.)
During the 1800s it was believed that the ideal spiritual woman manifested little interest in sexuality. Writing in 1871, German neurologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing pronounced, “Woman, …if physically and mentally normal, and properly educated, has but little sensual desire.”
John Harvey Kellogg has a similar quote in his 1877 book: “I should say that the majority of women, happily for them, are not very much troubled with sexual feeling of any kind….The best mothers, wives, and managers of households know little or nothing of sexual indulgences. Love of home, of children, of domestic duties, are the only passions they feel. As a general rule, a modest woman seldom desires any sexual gratification for herself.” (Plain Facts for Old and Young, 473.)
Ellen White writes that it is the duty of the ideal wife to restrain the desires of her husband:
“It is not pure, holy love which leads the wife to gratify the animal propensities of her husband at the expense of health and life. If she possesses true love and wisdom, she will seek to divert his mind from the gratification of lustful passions to high and spiritual themes by dwelling upon interesting spiritual subjects. It may be necessary to humbly and affectionately urge, even at the risk of his displeasure, that she cannot debase her body by yielding to sexual excess. She should, in a tender, kind manner, remind him that God has the first and highest claim upon her entire being, and that she cannot disregard this claim, for she will be held accountable in the great day of God.” (A Solemn Appeal, 1870, 175.)
“Sexual excess will effectually destroy a love for devotional exercises, will take from the brain the substance needed to nourish the system, and will most effectively exhaust the vitality. No woman should aid her husband in this work of self-destruction. She will not do it if she is enlightened and has true love for him. The more the animal passions are indulged, the stronger do they become, and the more violent will be their clamors for indulgence. Let God-fearing men and women awake to their duty. Many professed Christians are suffering with paralysis of nerve and brain because of their intemperance in this direction.” (A Solemn Appeal, 1870, 175.)
We should note that Ellen White never defined exactly what excessive meant. The term marital excess was however used by the other health reformers of her day. In 1834, Sylvester Graham favoured a maximum of once a month. (Lecture to Young Men, on Chastity, 144-148.) Orson Squire Fowler stated, “to indulge, even in wedlock, as often as the moon quarters, is gradual but effectual destruction of both soul and body. (Hereditary Descent, 1843, 206.) [Since the moon quarters every seven-and-a-half days, Fowler was saying that engaging in sex at a frequency of once a week was too frequent!] Adventist physician John Harvey Kellogg seemed to agree with Graham by suggesting marriage partners “limit indulgence to the number of months in the year.” Kellogg considered daily sex to be dangerous for both partners: “Another case came under our observation in which the patient, a man, confessed to having indulged every night for twenty years. We did not wonder that at forty he was a complete physical wreck.” (Plain Facts for Old and Young, 487, 468.)
Ellen White did not employ the word “masturbation” in her writings—instead she used euphemisms such as “solitary vice”, “secret vice”, and “self-abuse.” Her first reference to this subject appeared in a 64-page pamphlet, An Appeal to Mothers, (quoted above) that was published in April 1864. Primarily devoted to masturbation, pages 5 to 34 were from her own pen; the remainder consisted of quotations from medical authorities. An Appeal to Mothers was reprinted in 1870 as part of a larger work, A Solemn Appeal Relative to Solitary Vice and Abuses and Excesses of the Marriage Relation.
In the 18th century the concept of harm to the body brought on by masturbation came to the fore in the United States. A European physician, Dr. S. Tissot took up the cause and brought to America his theories, which included not only the harmfulness of masturbation, but of some sexual conduct between husbands and wives as well. The list of disorders following such sexual behaviours were said to cause problems all the way from “acne to suicide.” Parents were alerted to this proclaimed evil to every body system. Much energy, time and money were spent on “cures” to put an end to this activity. These consisted of preventive measures which included mechanical devices and surgical procedures, many of which would now be considered abusive.
Above are examples of Anti-masturbation devices for men.
In her booklet, An Appeal to Mothers, Ellen White writes:
“I feel alarmed for those children and you who by solitary vice are ruining themselves…you listen to numerous complaints of headache, catarrh, dizziness, nervousness, pain in the shoulders and side, loss of appetite, pain in the back and limbs…and have you not noticed that there was a deficiency in the mental health of your children?” (p11)
“Secret indulgence is, in many cases, the only real cause of the numerous complaints of the young.” (p13)
“The state of the world is alarming. Everywhere we look we see imbecility, dwarfed forms, crippled limbs, misshapen heads and deformity of every description… Corrupt habits are wasting their energy, and bringing upon them loathsome and complicated diseases… Children who practice self-indulgence…must pay the penalty.” (p. 14)
“The results of self-abuse in them [females] is seen in various diseases, such as catarrh, dropsy, headache, loss of memory and sight, great weakness in the back and loins, affections of the spine, the head often decays inwardly. Cancerous humor, which would lay dormant in the system their life-time, is inflamed, and commences its eating, destructive work. The mind is often utterly ruined, and insanity takes place.” (p24)
“I have been shown that children who practice self-indulgence previous to puberty, or the period of merging into manhood and womanhood, must pay the penalty of nature’s violated laws at that critical period. Many sink into an early grave, while others have sufficient force of constitution to pass this ordeal. If the practice is continued from the ages of fifteen and upward, nature will protest against the abuse she has suffered, and continues to suffer, and will make them pay the penalty for the transgression of her laws, especially from the ages of thirty to forty-five, by numerous pains in the system, and various diseases, such as affection of the liver and lungs, neuralgia, rheumatism, affection of the spine, diseased kidneys, and cancerous humors. Some of nature’s fine machinery gives way…there is often a sudden breaking down of the constitution, and death is the result.” (p18)
“Moral pollution has done more than every other evil to cause the race to degenerate. It is practiced to an alarming extent and brings on disease of almost every description. Even very small children, infants, being born with natural irritability of the sexual organs, find momentary relief in handling them, which only increases the irritation, and leads to a repetition of the act, until a habit is established which increases with their growth. These children, generally puny and dwarfed, are prescribed for by physicians and drugged; but the evil is not removed. The cause still exists.”
“Parents do not generally suspect that their children understand anything about this vice. In very many cases the parents are the real sinners. They have abused their marriage privileges, and by indulgence have strengthened their animal passions. And as these have strengthened, the moral and intellectual faculties have become weak. The spiritual has been overborne by the brutish. Children are born with the animal propensities largely developed, the parents’ own stamp of character having been given to them. The unnatural action of the sensitive organs produces irritation. They are easily excited, and momentary relief is experienced in exercising them. But the evil constantly increases. The drain upon the system is sensibly felt. The brain force is weakened, and memory becomes deficient.” (Testimonies Vol. 2, 390.)
It was common for health reformers of the time to see a link between diet and sexuality.
John Harvey Kellogg wrote in 1886, “flesh, condiments, eggs, tea, coffee, chocolate, and all stimulants have a powerful influence directly on the reproductive organs. They increase the local supply of blood; and through nervous sympathy with the brain, the passions are aroused.” (Plain Facts for Old and Young, 178.)
For Kellogg, the solution was simple: “Nothing tends so powerfully to keep the passions in abeyance as a simple diet, free from condiments, especially when coupled with a generous amount of exercise.” (Plain Facts for Old and Young, 179.)
Ellen White took a similar stance to Kellogg:
“Our food should be prepared free from spices. Mince pies, cakes, preserves, and highly-seasoned meats, with gravies, create a feverish condition in the system, and inflame the animal passions. (An Appeal to Mothers 1864, 19-20.)
“Children who eat improperly are often feeble, pale, and dwarfed and are nervous, excitable, and irritable. Everything noble is sacrificed to the appetite, and the animal passions predominate. The lives of many children from five to ten and fifteen years of age seem marked with depravity. They possess knowledge of almost every vice. The parents are, in a great degree, at fault in this matter….They tempt their children to indulge their appetite by placing upon their tables flesh meats and other food prepared with spices, which have a tendency to excite the animal passions.” (Spiritual Gifts Vol. 4, 132-133.)
Ellen White did not say that all of the serious consequences she associated with masturbation would be visited upon any one given individual; nor did she indicate that the worst possible degree of any of these consequences would be experienced by any particular person. However, no link has been found between masturbation and any of the conditions Ellen White discusses. In fact modern medical advice is generally that masturbation in both males and females is a normal part of human behaviour without adverse (and possibly even beneficial) consequences.
Studies show that over 90% of adult males masturbate and around 65% of females. Possible beneficial consequences include:
It has been suggested that there is a possible link between masturbation and physical illness:
“The amount of zinc in semen is such that one ejaculation may get rid of all the zinc that can be absorbed from the intestines in one day. This has a number of consequences. Unless the amount lost is replaced by an increased dietary intake, repeated ejaculation may lead to a real zinc deficiency with various problems developing, including impotence….It is even possible, given the importance of zinc for the brain, that 19th century moralists were correct when they said that repeated masturbation could make one mad!” (David F. Horrobin, Zinc, 8.)
It should be pointed out that if this were correct, the same problem would theoretically arise in consensual sex between a married couple. Would this also mean that masturbation was OK provided one took zinc supplements? And what about women who masturbate and do not lose zinc via semen?
“I believe that God’s ideal for sexual expression is an act to be consummated between a loving wife and husband in a committed, exclusive, and till-death-do-us-part relationship. Anything else in the way of sexual behaviour falls short of that ideal. But I also believe that by using scare tactics to prevent masturbation as almost the unpardonable sin, we have turned off many young people and have actually turned some away. I would rather see a balanced look at this issue.” (Alberta Mazat, Questions You Have Asked About Sexuality, 1991, 24.)
It is quite clear that early Seventh-day Adventist views on human sexuality were shaped primarily by Ellen White and John Harvey Kellogg—noting that Kellogg in particular had a very negative view of sex—even with marriage, seeing it as a destructive activity intended solely for reproductive purposes. Gradually however, change in attitudes have however occurred within the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
- In 1931, the 2nd edition of The Home Physician and Guide to Health was published—still advocating sexual restraint within marriage. However, for the first time in Seventh-day Adventist history, the idea was expressed that sex was a divine gift, and that viewing it as solely for reproductive purposes was untenable.
- In 1949, Harold Shryock published Happiness for Husbands and Wives, stating, “Sexual expression represents the culmination of all the desirable features of the family situation—the ultimate in marital happiness.”
- In 1974 Charles Wittschiebe published God Invented Sex which was concerned with sexual pleasure within marriage.
- Similar books were published in 1979 by Nancy Van Pelt: The Complete Marriage, and Alberta Mazat, That Friday in Eden. Van Pelt’s statement that, “Husbands and Wives should aim to be imaginative, creative, and willing lovers. God designed that sex…be exciting, enjoyable, and fulfilling” clearly indicates that some major shifts had taken place in Seventh-day Adventist views of human sexuality
Seventh-day Adventists still strongly discourage both pre- and extra-, marital sex:
HOWEVER, actual practices are somewhat different:
Malcolm Bull and Keith Lockhart, Seeking a Sanctuary 2nd edition. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007).
Alberta Mazat, Questions You Have Asked About Sexuality (Boise: Pacific Press, 1991).
Ronald Numbers, Prophetess of Health (New York: Harper & Row, 1976).
For the first time I have included a lecture on SDA attitudes towards war in my History of the SDA Church class. I have always wanted to, but time constraints mean that there’s always something that I have to grudgingly leave out. This year I made it a priority.
Julius Nam has a paper titled “Pacifists or Legalists? Korean Adventism and Conscientious Objection/Cooperation (1950-1970)” on his blog. Check it out here.
I’d also like to draw your attention to an upcoming conference: The Public Affairs & Religious Liberty (PARL) Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada is sponsoring a Symposium on Conscientious Objection in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Symposium is planned for November 6-9, 2008, Oshawa, Ontario; and anyone interested in submitting or presenting a paper may contact Tina Keys in the PARL Dept. at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada; by email with their proposal for a paper.
I am hoping to attend and present a paper on the history of conscientious objection in the SDA Church in South Africa.
Most Millerite preachers who were ordained ministers, received ordination from their own denominations. Typical of this is James White who was ordained in 1843:
“In a few days I returned to Palmyra, where I received ordination to the work of the ministry from the hands of ministers of the Christian denomination, of which I was a member.” (Life Incidents, 1868, 104.)
Sabbatarian Adventists, having clearly separated from their parent groups, began to ordain ministers in 1853. The first appears to have been Washington Morse:
“In the winter of 1852, I received a prophetic chart from Eld. White, accompanied with the advice that I engage in public labors in spreading the message. I soon started out, my first effort being at East Randolph, Vt. Here I met Almond Arnold and family, with whom we had been acquainted in the first message, and who had been active in it. This family soon embraced the Sabbath truth. There was also quite a company at East Bethel who took their stand on the Sabbath, and regular Sabbath meetings were soon established at the latter place. The following summer, I was duly ordained to the ministry, and received the most unmistakable evidences of the approbation of God.” (Washington Morse, “Items of Advent Experience During the Past Fifty Years—No. 4”, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, October 16, 1888, 643.)
Ordinations to the gospel ministry continued:
“We then had a meeting of two hours, in which time the wants of the cause were considered. And it was decided that there were those present that should be ordained to the work of the Gospel ministry, and that there were those (not present) who profess to teach the present truth who were not worthy of the confidence of the church, as teachers. At 1 o’clock at night we adjourned to 8 o’clock in the morning, when the subject of ordination was again taken up. And it was the unanimous expression of all present that our dear Bro. J. N. Andrews, A. S. Hutchins and C. W. Sperry should be set apart to the work of the ministry (that they might feel free to administer the ordinances of the church of God) by prayer and the laying on of hands. And as Bro. Joseph Baker and the writer performed the solemn duty, the Holy Ghost came down upon us. There, bowed before God, we wept together, also rejoice.”
It was then decided that the cause in Vermont required that other brethren in different parts of the State, who labor more or less publicly, should also be set apart by the laying on off hands, that they might administer the ordinances of the gospel. It was the unanimous expression of all present, that Br. B. P. Butler of Waterbury, Elon Everts of New Haven, and Josiah Hart of Northfield, should thus be set apart. And while engaged in this most solemn duty, the presence of the Lord was indeed manifested. We never witnessed a more melting, precious season,— The very atmosphere around us seemed sweet as heaven. How cheering to the Christian to know that his honest endeavors to do his duty are owned and blest of Heaven!
(“The Eastern Tour”, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, November 15, 1853, 148.)
The Sabbatarian Adventists made some attempts at a theology of ordination to ministry:
“From this [I Timothy 4:11-16] we learn that the order of the gospel is that men who are called of God to teach and baptize, should be ordained, or set apart to the work of the ministry by the laying on of hands. Not that the church has power to call men into the ministry, or that ordination makes them ministers of Jesus Christ; but it is the order of the gospel that those who are called to the ministry should be ordained, for important objects.”
One of those objects was order and unity:
“To produce and secure union in the church. The laying on of hands should be done, we think in behalf of the church. A united expression of the church in this thing would certainly have a tendency to unite the people of God. Some have taken it upon themselves to baptize who profess no calling to teach. Others have gone out to teach the word whose lives were not correct at home. Both have injured the cause. We will not stop to dwell upon painful particulars. To save the flock from imposition of this kind, the gospel plan is sufficient. Let those who are called of God to teach and baptize, be ordained according to the Word, and known abroad as those in whom the body have confidence. By this course the greatest cause of evils that has existed among us as a people, will be removed.” (James White, “Gospel Order”, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, December 20, 1853, 189.)
The newly formed Seventh-day Adventist Church ordained its first minister in 1861. In a letter dated June 11, A. S. Hutchins recorded:
“At a business meeting on First-day morning, it was the unanimous voice of the church that Bro. D. T. Bourdeau, should be set apart to the work of the gospel ministry, by ordination…. At the close of this meeting, Bro. D. T. Bourdeau was ordained by prayer and the laying on of the hands of preaching brethren present. The Holy Spirit fell sweetly and powerfully upon us, manifestly approving of the solemn and important step. After a discourse in the forenoon…we repaired to the water side, where in accordance with the example of the Son of God, ten were by Bro. D. T. Bourdeau, buried in baptism.” (The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, June 25, 1861, 189.)
The Michigan Conference in the session of Oct. 6, 1861, decided that its ministers should carry papers of recognition, consisting of a certificate of ordination, and credentials signed by the chairman and secretary of the conference, which credentials should be renewed annually.” (J. N. Loughborough, The Church its Organization, Order and Discipline, 1907, 100.)
It was at this session too, that ministers were for the first time, paid a wage:
“Let every preacher have a certain sum per week for his labor, and be required to report to the Conference each week’s labor during the year, and present his account of all he has received during the year, and if his receipts fall short of the sum necessary to his support, let the amount be made up from the State treasury. ‘The laborer is worthy of his hire.’ If this good rule be suffered to work both ways, then the hire is worthy of its labor. And, further, let all our preachers by mutual consent, and the counsel of the brotherhood, find their fields of labor for the Conference year as far as possible.” (The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, September 30, 1862, 140.)
Such an understanding was not however universal:
“Brn. Sanborn and Snook then gave a report of their labors, receipts and expenditures in connection with their mission to Minn. Reports accepted. By the advice of Brn. Sanborn and Snook it was decided that those who have been laboring in Minn., as preachers should, for the present, support themselves by laboring with their hands. Adjourned till evening.” (“Doings of the Minnesota State Conference, July 19th, 1863.” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, August 4, 1863, 75.)
By 1862, ordination in aprevious denomination was no longer sufficient. In answering the following question: “Shall preachers from other denominations embracing the message, preach and baptize among us, on the strength of their former ordination and standing as ministers?”, The Michigan Conference session passed the following resolution: “Resolved, That ministers of other denominations, embracing present truth, should give proof of being called to preach the message, and be ordained among us, before administering the ordinances.” (The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, October 14, 1862, 157.)
By 1872, the GC had decided that a post-secondary school to train ministers was needed. At the 1873 GC Session, an action was taken to found such a school and the GC Committee raised funds, purchased land, and erected buildings. On January 3, 1875, Battle Creek College opened (though classes had started in 1874).
By the mid 1890s, the system of credentials had become quite structured:
“D. W. Reavis: I have wanted to know for some time what is the difference between ministerial credentials and ministerial license. The Chair: Ministerial credentials are granted to ordained ministers in good standing, and engaged in active labor. Ministerial licenses are granted to licentiates, – those who are engaged in preaching, but who have not yet been ordained to the gospel ministry. Missionary credentials are granted to persons engaged in active missionary work, including our Bible workers, house-to-house missionaries, etc.” (GC Daily Bulletin, March 1895, 147.)
According to John W. Fowler, SDAs have “tended to cast all pastoral leadership in the mold of Paul, who was an itinerant evangelist.” (Adventist Pastoral Ministry, 1990, 10-11.)
This view is typified by the words of A. G. Daniells—GC President—who wrote in 1912:
“We have not settled our ministers over churches as pastors to any large extent. In some of the very large churches we have elected pastors but as a rule we have held ourselves ready for field service, evangelical work, and our brethren and sisters have held themselves ready to maintain their church services and carry forward their church work without settled pastors. And I hope this will never cease to be the order of affairs in this denomination, for when we cease our forward movement work and begin to settle over our churches…then our churches will begin to weaken and to lose their life and spirit and be paralysed and fossilised and our work will be on the retreat.”
“There is pastoral work to be done and our plan is this; instead of electing our pastors over the churches individually and having a man devote the greater part of his time to the church, we have him devote the larger part of his time to evangelical work and then visit the churches now and then.” (The Church and Ministry, 1912.)
It was not until the 1950s & 1960s, that the current model of pastoral ministry became dominant.
As early as 1892 GC President O. A. Olsen was disturbed over the poor quality of the ministry—he believed that some senior ministers were so defective it was unsafe to send younger ministers to work with them!
A decade later, A. G. Daniells felt the same way—“I do not know of anything that is demanded more urgently today in our denomination than the improvement of our ministry.” He characterized the young ministers as a “third rate lot.”
Colleges had been established to train workers—including ministers, however the reality was most were called into ministry prior to graduation and did not finish the course. Olsen tried to make up for the lack of training with “short courses.” There were debates over how much training ministers needed.
Australia developed a ministerial association in 1920 headed by A. W. Anderson a “veteran educator and minister”—that offered professional reading courses and a small paper The Evangelist to share study and experience. This development was enthusiastically received and adopted by the GC for the global church. It was headed by a new field secretary—A. G. Daniells.
Daniells wanted a magazine for the clergy but received no support for the idea—it would be too expensive, so he had to resort to mimeographed sheets and articles. These were hard to distribute and there were the specialist demands of evangelists and Bible teachers. Those who had opposed a separate magazine for ministers caved in and the first edition of The Ministry was published in January 1928 with Leroy Froom as the editor.
Daniells wrote in the first issue of Ministry that a pastor’s efficiency was generally judged by:
“Success in winning people to Christ and His Church.
Establishing these converts in the doctrines of the Church.
The ability to get church members actively involved with their time and money in the mission of the Church.”
Daniells believed formal education in all those areas would be “most helpful.”
At the 1919 Bible Conference Daniells shared his vision of what pastors and Bible teachers should be taught—taking for granted a thorough training in basic doctrines and stressing instead the development of character and personality and constant study as a daily regimen along with good personal grooming and decorum in all that they did.
A theological seminary was opened in 1937 in Takoma Park, Maryland—in the old Review and Herald cafeteria. It operated from this location until permanent buildings were established four years later. It had an international student body. During 1950’s one year of seminary training was required as part of the internship program—to the dismay of many conference presidents. With mandatory seminary attendance enrolment doubled. It increased further when extension schools were held in other divisions. These extension schools became an accepted part of the seminary’s effort to serve the world church.
The relationship between pastoral ministry and formal studies has sometimes been difficult. In The Ministry of April 1944, LeRoy E. Froom (Head of the Ministerial Association) wrote:
“How dare a man contemplate, or have the temerity to present, the degree of doctor of divinity, gained in the universities of Babylon, as a credential for teaching or preaching this threefold message, the second stipulation of which is, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen… Come out of her, My people.’ How dare we accept such a Babylonian credential, in lieu of mastery of the truth?….Someone needs to sound an alarm. We need to grip ourselves and halt a growing trend that, if it becomes entrenched, will bring disaster through neutralizing our message.”
The SDA Seminary at Andrews University established two doctoral programs in the 1970’s—a D.Min and a ThD. All seminary degrees were now accredited. This was possible because of the increased recognition of the work of the Seminary faculty in non-Adventist academic circles.
I have previously blogged on Race and Seventh-day Adventism in South Africa: here, here, here and here.I want to briefly recap the situation focussing on Helderberg College (extracted from my ASDAH presentation here):
While at least one Black student and several Coloured students were admitted to Claremont Union College–the forerunner of Helderberg College, established in 1893–early in its history; the school’s constituency remained almost entirely White until 1974 when having been relocated and renamed Helderberg College Coloured fourth-year Theology students were officially admitted.
- Coloured students attended Good Hope College established in 1930 which when compared with Claremont/Helderberg College, was grossly under-resourced, understaffed, and underfunded.
- From 1909, the Seventh-day Adventist church also operated a separate school for Black students. The institution operated under various names and in various locations most recently as Bethel College. It was also grossly under-resourced, understaffed, and underfunded.
In 1968 Alwyn du Preez became the first non-white to graduate from Helderberg College, completing the third and fourth years of the theology course there after graduating from the two year Good Hope course in 1957. His presence was a special concession by the college; du Preez was required to live off-campus and was barred from using an college facilities other than the classrooms and library. He was not permitted to attend the Helderberg College graduation ceremony in 1968.
In 1971, Robert Hall a black student from Zimbabwe who had completed three years of the Theology course at Good Hope College was grudgingly permitted to enrol at Helderberg College.
Similar restrictions to those placed on du Preez were placed upon Hall. He was not permitted to board in the dormitory, nor to eat in the cafeteria; nor was he allowed to graduate with his class in 1971. That same year, the administration of Helderberg College asked the South African Government to rule on the acceptance of a foreign non-white at an all-white South African educational institution. They were told that it was not, and never had been, government policy to interfere in the training of ministers by any denomination. As has been pointed out, this meant that Adventists of colour had been barred from Helderberg College all these years because of naked racist attitudes, not by government laws!
 I. F. du Preez and Roy H. du Pre, A Century of Good Hope: A History of the Good Hope Conference, its Educational Institutions and Early Workers, 1893-1993. (East London: Western Research Group/Southern History Association, 1994), 181-182. Antonio Pantalone points out that even if some non-White students were enrolled, the college’s graduation records show that during its 25 year existence, not a single non-white student ever graduated at [Claremont] Union College. “A Missiological Evaluation of the Afrikaanse Konferensie (1968-1974) and its significance for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South Africa” (Dth, University ofDurban-Westville, 1998), 177.
 du Preez and du Pre, A Century of Good Hope, 104-105.
 du Preez and du Pre, A Century of Good Hope, 109-113.
Well why bring up this shameful history once more? Well on November 25, 2007 at a Graduation Ceremony at Helderberg College, small steps were taken towards righting these past injustices. At this ceremony–to a standing ovation–both Alwyn du Preez and Robert Hall were graduated (Post Facto); 39 years and 36 years late respectively.
Alwyn du Preez (Left) and Robert Hall (Right)
Thanks to Claudelle for the photos.
Here is an update on the situation in Kenya. Unfortunately, the email I received did not list an author.
Forasmuch as the media has undertaken to update the world of what is happening in Kenya, in regard to the ethnic clashes that has terrified the country, it seems good to me being at the center of the clashes also to update you at AIIAS on the latest situation at Baraton, so that you may know and have perfect understanding of how good God is to us. He has not answered all our questions but He has kept all His promises.
The group that was holed up at Kapsabet Police station has now been evacuated to their ethnic homes. The first group of about 140 people composed of Kikuyus, Kamba, Meru and Kisii were evacuated by Kenya Military at about 4 a.m. They took about 3 hours to reach the nearest city, Eldoret about 65 km away. The military had to cut the big logs of trees that had been felled across the road, remove stones, metal spikes spread about half a kilometer. Sometimes the military had to construct road deviations at places where the bridges had been broken by the militia. The Baraton group travelled fear-frozen in their buses under military escort. Some recalled how they could see the solders cock guns any time they saw movement in the bush. One of the lecturers with children send a text message at about 4 am to me, ?Please, pastor, Pray as you have never done before?
The group arrived in Nairobi about 500 km away. I could feel the sigh of relief as they telephoned back from the East African Union head office in Nairobi where the Vice Chancellor of Baraton was awaiting to receive them. One of the lecturer?s daughter, aged 14 years txt me that she was going to write a long article once schools open on the experience they went through. Another group of about 150 people from Kisii ethnic group was evacuated yesterday to Kisii on trucks under police escort. For now the situation is calm and road blocks are being removed from roads. We hope to be able to travel freely as before. The university has postponed opening date until further notice. Other details can only be issued officially by university spokesman.
The University church meets daily at 6 pm to pray in groups for political situation in the country. We are seeing evidence of God?s leading and decrease of threatening crowds on road outside the campus. Apart from sporadic incidents of thuggery around, we are safe and we believe the university will open soon. The community is amazingly speaking friendly of the university. What God has done in this one week, cannot be fully quantified in such short email but it has left each one of us with a testimony to tell. Thanks for your prayers and concern.
I post below an email message from Caesar Wamalika of the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton – a Seventh-day Adventist university in Kenya.
“Subject: Report from CAESAR WAMALIKA at our SDA BARATON University, Eldoret, KENYA To: talkback-forum@ yahoogroups. com From: wamalika@yahoo. com Date: Thu, 3 Jan 2008 01:16:32 -0800 Subject: [talkback-forum] Going Through Nightmare of Ethnic War – Baraton, Kenya Dear Talkback Forum, I wish to share with you the terror and nightmare we are going through of Ethnic War. I am emailing from Baraton and the situation is bad! It all began soon after lection results were announced! Then several groups of community around broke into war songs. They broke into the shopping center next to the university and looted all the shops that belong to Kikuyus and Kisiis. Then they broke into rented off campus houses of students. A crowd of about 1,000 people surged to the university gate and wanted to storm the university. They demanded that all Kikuyus, Kambas, Meru, and Kisii people leave the university within two hours. That was the only way to save the university from being stormed. They remained at the gate until it would be seen done. About three armed policemen arrived and spent time negotiating with the crowd. Finally the police advised us to evacuate the named ethnic groups. We put the faculty and students numbering about 250 into three university vehicles and were taken to Kapsabet Police station under police escort. They are still there as at now. A few of us are on campus! The Division tried to evacuate those from Kapsabet Police Station to Eldoret international Airport but the next road block was a no-go-zone. In spite of the police escort, the university buses had to return to Kapsabet. The is no way anyone can get out. One baraton group is holed up at Kapsabet police station while faculty members from Luo and Luhyia community, international workers and students are holed up within the campus. Those at Kapsabet have no food or water. The worst fear is not so much of food but possibility of police station being stormed. The police are few and overstretched. We have been having threats a almost daily at campus. On one occasion, we had to give out a bull for them to slaughter and guarantee us peace. Then they came and demanded milk which we also gave. Then we succeed in pleading with the militia to allow us transport food to those at police station. They allowed us first day and we transported it on varsity tractor. It took three hours to go through road blocks to reach Kapsabet which is only 15 kilometers away. I attended a meeting yesterday with commanders and militia leaders who came to meet university administration. We confirmed that Militia had had their own meeting and resolved that on humanitarian ground, faculty with kids and pregnant mothers be allowed to return to campus. They also told us students of other communities should come back. It sounded good news. We shock hands. We asked them to transport food to Kapsabet. They agreed and used their own vehicles. But the food never arrived. The militia who were escorting the food we beaten and vehicles destroyed. The fact that you negotiate with one militia group, remember the next and several others groups have their own policy. It is like you need visa to cross several of them. We have about 130 Kisii students and workers stranded at police station but cant leave for home. I know of Mr Obuchi whose wife is pregnant! I know of Pr Elijah Njagi and wife, Nyarangi and wife, etcThey are sleeping in the grass and some in university bus parked at the police station. There is no food and I have never witnessed this. As I write this email, have just been informed that a crowd came to university gate 15 min ago and demanded that we go out and join them in mass demonstration in the street. That means we shall be put on front line to meet the armed police. University PRO has negotiated with them and the crowd has now chained the university main gate, locked it and gone with the key. No vehicle an come in or go out. We pray that they don’t come to force us out. It is a nightmare to meet them. All of them are armed with machetes, rungus, arrows and bows. Some are drunk and others baying for blood. I have never seen this! We are fear frozen and prayer takes a new meaning! My home is 100 km from here but how do you pass those road blocks? We have Luo workers who want to get out but we hear the Kisii are grouping to fight Luos on Kisii/Luo border. We are boxed in. The road blocks are manned by not less than 500 people. The road block at Cheptrit has a thousand youth manning it. Police told us that Mosoriot has ten thousand worriers camping there. It is a no-go-zone. We have no where to buy food, no calling cards available, no fuel! But we are finding a new meaning in prayer. I hope I can keep updating you of what is happening at Baraton. You can get from internet what could be happening in other parts like Eldoret, Kakamega and Kisumu. I have to leave for a crisis meeting to try and avert any attack on the campus. I hope internet access will remain open so that I can keep updating you. I can see helicopter flying over us but seems to be passing again! American Embassy called yesterday for the sake of their citizens. This is a no-go-zone! We need to be evacuated from here! Promises of safety from some militia groups cannot be trusted. You need to be here to feel it. Whatever the political argument, it is a nightmare! The ground issue is not how you voted but ethnic affiliation. Some are using it to settle personal scores! There were some leaflets from one group saying that all non-Nandis get ready to leave. Other Militia groups say no. But God still keeps us safe! From: Caesar Wamalika University of Eastern Africa, Baraton 14 Mwalimu Drive P.O. Box 2500, ELDORET 30100, KENYA, EAST AFRICA. Tel.: 254-734-429- 326 (Mobile)”
We hoped for peace but no good has come, for a time of healing but there was only terror. (Jeremiah 8:15)
Dona nobis pacem.
The most up to date statement on divorce and remarriage for SDA Church members was was voted at the 57th Session of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, August, 2000 as a revision of chapter 15 of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 1995 edition. A full copy of the statement may be found here. For the moment I’d draw your attention to the following statement–particularly the section in bold:
It is recognized that sometimes marriage relations deteriorate to the point where it is better for a husband and wife to separate. “To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband)—and that the husband should not divorce his wife” (1 Cor. 7:10, 11, RSV). In many such cases the custody of the children, the adjustment of property rights, or even personal protection may make necessary a change in marital status. In such cases it may be permissible to secure what is known in some countries as a legal separation. However, in some civil jurisdictions such a separation can be secured only by divorce.
A separation or divorce which results from factors such as physical violence or in which “unfaithfulness to the marriage vow” (see sections 1. and 2. above) is not involved, does not give either one the scriptural right to remarry, unless in the meantime the other party has remarried; committed adultery or fornication; or died. Should a member who has been thus divorced remarry without these biblical grounds, he/she shall be removed from church membership; and the one whom he/she marries, if a member, shall also be removed from church membership.
So let us summarize the SDA Church’s current position
- If your spouse commits adultery you may divorce & remarry without church sanction.
- If your spouse physically abuses you, you may divorce but must spend the rest of your life celibate and alone unless they enter into a sexual relationship first.
- If you are “abandoned by an unbelieving spouse” (whatever that may mean) you may also divorce and remarry without sanction.
Does anyone else see how sad and perverse such a position is?
I’d also like to draw your attention to a paper by Australian SDA Phil Ward on divorce. As part of his paper, Ward undertakes a very interesting examination of the position of Ellen G. White on this issue.
I’d like to draw your attention to the following paper by Gerald Winslow, posted on the General Conference Family Ministries website. The paper was prepared for a symposium at the World Minister’s Council in Toronto.
SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST POLICY ON DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE:
A BRIEF OUTLINE OF HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENTS
by Gerald Winslow
When the General Conference Session in Toronto considers proposed changes in our Church Manual’s statements on divorce and remarriage, the delegates will be continuing a process that began many decades ago. From the middle of the 19th century until the present, Seventh-day Adventists have sought to apply the principles of Scripture to heart-rending problems encountered when marriages fail. Gradually, we have enunciated and revised policies with the goal of being true to the Gospel and guided by God’s Spirit. Pastors seeking to minister to divorced persons in the church may benefit from a brief sketch of the major steps that have led our church to its current policy.
From the earliest beginnings of our organized work, Seventh-day Adventists have found it necessary to consider our response to divorce and remarriage. For example, one of the first questions raised at the 1862 Michigan State Conference was this: “How shall we treat divorced marriages?”(1) The questioner was a Brother Sanborn who needed an answer to a practical question. Should we accept into fellowship individuals who had become divorced without “biblical justification” and were later remarried? The difficult query was referred to the Conference committee for further consideration. There exists, however, no record of any subsequent action. So we cannot be certain what answer Brother Sanborn received during these early years.
Eventually, however, the church’s response to marital status of new believers did become settled. In 1887, for example, Uriah Smith, referring to remarried people who desired church membership, wrote: “Take them as they are found, leaving these things that cannot be undone to the past. . . .”(2) Smith noted that such couples have long-standing relationships that include children. The best they could hope to do, upon finding the truth of the Gospel, would be to live faithful lives in the future. This approach to new believers, though seldom mentioned in official policies of the church, has continued to hold sway. For example, the 1976 Autumn Council action on divorce and church membership says: “When a new believer is to be admitted to membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, he stands, in relation to the church as a ‘new creature,’ (2 Cor. 5:17) not subject to church discipline for his past conduct. He shall be eligible for church membership if his current marriage is legally certificated.”(3)
Thus, from early years onward, new members have generally been welcomed without blame for past marital difficulties. However, discipline for those who are already church members when their marriages falter has been the occasion for far more difficulty. The concern of the church has been to maintain the highest possible standards of marital permanence and fidelity for its members, while also acting with grace and forgiveness toward those who stumble. What, then, should be the church’s response to members whose marriages end in divorce? Should they be permitted to continue church membership even if the reasons for the divorce are not considered to be biblical? If such individuals marry again, should they be removed from membership? And, if so, may they ever be readmitted to membership while the second marriage continues? Official answers to such questions have emerged gradually.
One early attempt to generate an official policy arrived at the General Conference Session of 1879.(4) A committee had been asked to address the “subject of unhappy marriages.” In its report, the committee noted that there was an “alarming tendency” in the general public toward lax views of marriage; legal divorces were being granted by courts for flimsy reasons; and the church had the responsibility to “stay the tide of corruption” that was sweeping the country. The committee proposed three resolutions to accomplish its goals. The first stated that the only biblical cause for divorce is the commission of adultery “by one or the other of the parties to the marriage contract.” The second proposed a rule that would forbid churches from accepting into membership anyone who had been divorced for reasons other than adultery and subsequently remarried. This refusal of membership was to remain “during the lifetime of the person from whom such individual was improperly divorced.” (It is noteworthy that this second resolution would have had the effect of nullifying the already established practice of allowing such new members into the church.) The third resolution proposed that the cases of all current members, living in questionable second marriages, be “dealt with” only after the local church sought advice from the General Conference Committee or at least the local conference committee.
The first of these resolutions passed unanimously. But the second and third resolutions created dissent, and the leaders withheld a decision “till after the most mature deliberation.” The record indicates that both James and Ellen White participated in the discussions. And on the third day, all three resolutions, including the first one that had already passed, were tabled permanently. Although we have no record of what the various participants said, it is clear that our leaders did not come to agreement on the proposed resolutions.
There is only one other record of official action on divorce and remarriage during the 19th century. At the General Conference Session in 1887, the following resolution was passed:
WHEREAS, Our Saviour has laid down the one sole ground on which parties once married can be divorced; and,
WHEREAS, the practices of society have become most deplorable in this respect, as seen in the prevalence of unscriptural divorces; therefore,
RESOLVED, That we express our deprecation of this great evil, and instruct our ministers not to unite in marriage any parties so divorced.
This resolution made official what was surely the consensus of Adventists at the time: only adultery was “grounds” for divorce and remarriage. To this was added one of the first official rules regarding second marriages, namely, that Seventh-day Adventist ministers should not perform weddings for people entering second marriages without biblical justification.
During her lifetime, Ellen White offered counsel to people with troubled marriages. Occasionally, she also participated in discussions of church policy. But she resisted serving as the authority to resolve cases for which she had no specific light. At one point she said, “I do not think it is my work to deal with any such things unless the case has been plainly opened before me. . . . I cannot take responsibility in such matters. Let those appointed of God to bear the responsibility deal with it in accordance with Christian principles.”(5) Later, reflecting on his mother’s work, W.C. White wrote: “It was Sister White’s intention that there should not go forth from her pen anything that could be used as a law or a rule in dealing with these questions of marriage, divorce, remarriage, and adultery.”(6)
Still, through her books, articles, and letters to individuals, Ellen White did influence the general direction of the church’s practices regarding divorce and remarriage.(7) While consistently calling for high moral standards in marriage, and while condemning the sin of adultery, Ellen White often worked to rehabilitate those who had erred.(8) She saw no light in breaking up a second marriage, even though the circumstances that led to the marriage were not exemplary.(9) She expressed grace and compassion for those injured by divorce.
Solidifying Official Policy
A decade after Ellen White’s death, Seventh-day Adventists still had very little in the way of official policy on divorce and remarriage. As the church grew both in size and complexity of organization, there was greater need felt for such policy.
In 1925, the church adopted a brief statement of general policy on divorce. The Autumn Council that year approved of a statement that deplored divorce and placed “emphatic disapproval upon any legal action for the separation of those once married, on any ground other than that given in Matthew 5:32.”(10) The church had not yet developed a church manual, so such resolutions like this were considered advisory.(11)
In 1932, the church developed the first Church Manual. Among its provisions was a section on divorce.(12) It repeated the action of the 1925 Autumn Council, and added a number of other elements, most of which have continued in subsequent statements of policy. The 1932 statement called for efforts to effect reconciliation when marriages were under threat. But sin must not be glossed over, and the “church must administer discipline in the maintenance of a high standard of moral purity and integrity.” Adventist ministers were forbidden to perform marriage ceremonies for persons who had been divorced without “Scriptural grounds.” Following Ellen White’s comments on the words of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the policy interpreted biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage in terms of “fornication.” The policy stated that members should not be permitted to continue in church fellowship if they remarried while their former spouses, whom they divorced without biblical reasons, were still alive. However, the “innocent party” to a divorce did have the “right” to remarry. It was the responsibility of the officiating minister to determine whether or not a person had the right to remarry, based on “satisfactory evidence of the facts of the case.” If in doubt, the minister was to seek counsel from the local conference officers.
So, for the first time in 1932, Seventh-day Adventists adopted a policy that was considered binding on all church members. And in broad outline, the 1932 policy, with its distinction between guilty and innocent parties, its emphasis on rights to remarriage for the innocent but not the guilty, and its provision for excluding guilty remarried persons from membership, has served as the template for subsequent church policy.
Ten years after the first Church Manual, the church looked again at its divorce and remarriage policy. Some leaders believed that the 1932 policy needed to be clarified and expanded. A special study commission was appointed, and it reported to the 1942 Autumn Council. The result was the adoption of a six-point policy that solidified the provisions of the 1932 policy and generally made them stricter.(13) For example, all members found guilty of adultery must be disfellowshipped, and could only be readmitted to the church by way of rebaptism even if they had reconciled with their spouse. People who were disfellowshipped because of wrongful second marriages could “not be readmitted to church membership so long as the unscriptural relationship continues.” And the pastor was responsible for investigating “all the circumstances,” and for requiring any member seeking to remarry to “produce satisfactory evidence in support of his or her claim.”
Moving Toward Balance
The 1942 statement stands at summit of stringency. For the most part, subsequent revisions have had a moderating effect.
Already in 1946, for example, the delegates to the General Conference Session revised the Church Manual. No longer would it be required to disfellowship all adulterers. Those who confessed their misdeeds and were deeply repentant could be placed under censure for a stipulated period of time. Nor would rebaptism be required for all such erring ones.
More significant revisions occurred at the 1950 General Conference Session and were incorporated in the 1951 Church Manual. In the introduction to the revised policies, the Manual stated: “The church believes in the law of God; it also believes in the forgiving mercy of God. It believes that victory and salvation can as surely be found by those who have transgressed in the matter of divorce and remarriage as by those who have failed in any other of God’s holy standards.”(14)
The 1950 changes left most of the earlier elements of Adventist policy intact. Only “unfaithfulness to the marriage vow” could lead to the dissolution of marriage. If it did, then only the innocent spouse could remarry with impunity. If the church’s reputation had been sullied by the flagrant actions of a transgressor, the church might elect to disfellowship him or her even if there was evidence of genuine repentance. For the first time, this policy also called for disfellowshipping the person who married someone who had been divorced without biblical grounds. Members who divorced without biblical reasons, and remained single, were to be censured. But, if they later remarried, they and the one they married were both to be disfellowshipped. The policy did recognize, however, that some members might, for reasons of safety, need to seek a legal separation or even a divorce. If such persons did this and remain chaste and single, they “would not be condemned.”
In all these provisions, the 1950 changes and additions served primarily to clarify and extend previous policies. But the most noteworthy change in 1950 was the new provision for readmitting members who had been disfellowshipped for errant remarriages. The Manual notes that circumstances of such second marriages may be complicated in many ways. For example, the welfare of children might be at stake. Then the Manual stated: “In a case where any endeavor by a genuinely repentant offender to bring his marital status into line with the divine ideal presents apparently insuperable problems, his (or her) plea for readmittance shall before final action is taken be brought by the church through the pastor or district leader to the conference for counsel and recommendation as to any possible steps that the repentant one, or ones, may take to secure readmittance.” If such a one was readmitted to the church, the policy insisted on rebaptism. And the policy said that the readmitted member should not hold leadership positions in the church, especially positions requiring ordination.
This provision for readmission to membership was the source of considerable discussion in subsequent years. What, for example, would it mean for a remarried person to “bring his marital status into line with the divine ideal”? Is the implication that he or she should divorce a second time? And what should be counted as “insuperable problems” which would lead the church to grant mercy to those in second marriages? How long must such people wait before being readmitted to membership? Once readmitted, what positions of leadership, if any, should be open to such people?
These and many similar questions have continued to provide opportunities to think about relevant biblical principles and their practical outworking in policy. While the main provisions of the 1950 statements have remained in force to the present time, efforts have been made to answer some of the perplexing questions. For example, the 1976 Autumn Council established both local conference and union conference committees to review difficult cases and make recommendations about how they should be treated.(15) A number of criteria were also outlined for readmitting formerly disfellowshipped members. These criteria included evidence of sincere repentance, the establishment of wholesome family life and a “praiseworthy reputation,” and fulfillment of financial obligations to one’s children or former spouse. The guidelines did not say exactly how long a person must wait to be readmitted, but they indicated that “a period of years shall be required.”
The 1976 statement also contained another significant development. In one of the appendices, the meaning of adultery and fornication, as grounds for divorce, were discussed. For the first time, the church officially acknowledged that “fornication” (from the Greek porneia) which Jesus mentions as a reason for divorce (Matthew 5:32 and 19:9) may have broader meaning than the act of physical adultery. The statement went on to list examples, such as sexual perversions, homosexual practices, and “persistent indulgence in intimate relationships with a partner of the opposite sex other than the spouse, even though falling short of coitus.”(16)
The most recent revisions of church policy occurred at the 1995 General Conference Session. At that time, the broadened definition of “fornication” was approved for inclusion in the Church Manual.(17) The wording of the Manual was also clarified regarding those, who for reasons of safety, find it necessary to seek legal separation or divorce. The revised language makes it clearer that such members need not be censured for their actions.
Finally, the 1995 General Conference Session voted to establish a study commission to give thorough reconsideration to the subject of divorce and remarriage and to make appropriate recommendations for changes in the Church Manual. The prescribed commission completed its work in 1999. Its final report to the Administrative Committee of the General Conference, which was later circulated among members of the General Conference Committee at the Annual Council of 1999, called for fuller statement of biblical principles regarding marriage and care of members who experience divorce and remarriage. Some of the commission’s work has been incorporated in the proposed changes in the Church Manual that will receive consideration at the 2000 General Conference Session in Toronto.
The ongoing discussion of how our church should best treat the matter of divorce and remarriage is evidence that we desire to take seriously the principles of the Bible and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We should not be surprised that the church has struggled with these matters from its inception. When we consider the complexities of marital relationships, the potential for harm when things go wrong, the desire of the church to protect high standards of moral conduct, and the conviction that we should treat our erring members with grace, we should expect to need God’s ongoing guidance. Let us hope and pray that the meetings in Toronto will represent a further step toward maturity of understanding God’s will and God’s grace.
(1) Joseph Bates, “Business Proceedings of the Michigan State Conference,” Review and Herald, October 14, 1862, p. 157.
(2) Uriah Smith, “Divorce and Marriage,” Review and Herald, Feb. 8, 1887, p. 89.
(3) The Annual Council of the General Conference Committee, General Actions, October 13-21, 1976, Washington, D.C.
(4) The record of the 1879 meeting, at which divorce and remarriage was discussed, was never published. The quotations given here are from the handwritten minutes of the 1879 General Conference Session. These minutes are in the General Conference Archives. A fuller quotation of the relevant portion of the minutes can be found in the unpublished manuscript of Bert Haloviak, “Law or Compassion: SDA Approaches to Divorce, Remarriage and Church Fellowship,” presented to the General Conference Divorce and Remarriage Study Commission, meeting in Hoddeston, England, September 14-16, 1997 (available on the General Conference Archives and Statistics website: www.adventist.org/ast). The most comprehensive historical, ethical, and sociological account of Adventists’ treatment of divorce and remarriage is in Michael Pearson, Millennial Dreams and Moral Dilemmas: Seventh-day Adventism and Contemporary Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 182-228.
(5) Ellen White, Manuscript 2, 1913.
(6) W.C. White, Jan. 6, 1931 quoted in Elbio Pereyra, “Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Writings of Ellen G. White,” unpublished manuscript, Ellen G. White Estate, Feb., 1987.
(7) In addition to the compilations of Ellen White statements in Adventist Home, Selected Messages, vol. 2, and Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery and Divorce, the following manuscript releases from the Ellen White Estate have aided the church in continuing to experience the influence of Ellen White’s ministry:
“The Spirit of Prophecy and Adultery, Divorce, Remarriage, and Church Membership,” Manuscript release 448, August, 1975.
“Dealing with Ministers and Workers Who Have Violated the Seventh Commandment,” Manuscript release 449, August, 1975.
“Ellen G. White Counsels Relating to Adultery, Divorce and Remarriage,” a compilation by Robert Olson, June, 1976.
“Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Writings of Ellen G. White,” by Elbie Pereyra, Feb., 1987.
“Summary of Biblical and E.G. White References to Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage,” by Teofilo Ferreira, 1997.
(8) See, for example, the accounts in Elbio Pereyra, “Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Writings of Ellen G. White.” Cited above.
(9) Ellen White, Letter 175, 1901 quoted in Selected Messages, vol. 2, pp. 341-42.
(10) “Actions of the Autumn Council of the General Conference Committee,” Meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, Oct., 1925.
(11) On this point see B. Haloviak, p. 7 of manuscript cited above.
(12) General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Church Manual, 1932, pp. 175-77.
(13) General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Church Manual, 1942, pp. 187-89.
(14) General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Church Manual, 1951, p. 240.
(15) General Actions of the 1976 Annual Council of the General Conference Committee, pp. 25-33.
(16) It should be noted that the 1977 Annual Council of the General Conference Committee voted to amend Appendix C of the 1976 statement, resulting in a shorter list of examples of “fornication.” The 1977 statement reads, in part, “Gross sexual perversion, including homosexual practices, are recognized as a misuse of sexual powers and a violation of the divine intention in marriage. As such they are just cause for divorce.” General Actions of the Annual Council, Oct., 1977.
(17) Following the 1977 Autumn Council’s revised statement on the matter, the Church Manual of 1995 reads: “Unfaithfulness to the marriage vow has generally been seen to be adultery and/or fornication. However, the New Testament word for fornication includes certain other sexual irregularities. (I Cor. 6:9; I Tim. 1:9, 10; Rom. 1:24-27) Therefore, sexual perversions, including homosexual practices, are also recognized as a misuse of sexual powers and a violation of the divine intention in marriage. As such they are just cause for divorce.” Church Manual, 1995, p. 182.
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Ellen White’s statements concerning “amalgamation” are among her most troubling & difficult to understand. Recently I came across a .pdf of a Powerpoint presentation by Dr T. Joe Willey at the Association of Adventist Forums meeting on the 13th of October, 2007; in the Tierrasanta SDA church in San Diego, USA, that examines this issue in some detail. Willey’s presentation is available in .pdf form here. The original webpage raising the issue was For the Gospel.
For those unfamilar with the quotations in question:
“But if there was one sin above another which called for the destruction of the race by the flood, it was the base crime of amalgamation of man and beast which defaced the image of God, and caused confusion everywhere. God purposed to destroy by a flood that powerful, long-lived race that had corrupted their ways before Him.” (Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, p 64.)
“Every species of animal which God had created were preserved in the ark. The confused species which God did not create, which were the result of amalgamation, were destroyed by the flood. Since the flood there has been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men.” (Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, p 75.)
This volume was published in 1864 & republished in 1870; though it is no longer being published by an SDA press. It forms the basis for her later “Conflict of the Ages” series.
Willey does an excellent job of locating White’s comments on race within Antebellum culture–focussing more broadly on White’s anthropology as a whole. I highly recommend it.
Other resources on the topic include the less well researched http://ellenwhiteexposed.com/critica.htm; and the White Estate’s official response: http://www.whiteestate.org/issues/faq-unus.html#note-c1-1 The White Estate’s response argues from semantics that White did not actually mean what she says but rather meant something else. It is a quite superficial & inadequate response.
I have added a new permanent page here. Let me know what I’ve missed.
Johnny’s Cache pointed me towards a recent Adventist Review news article on the death of Irene Morgan Kirkaldy on August 10, 2007. In 1944, Morgan–11 years before Rosa Parks–as a young SDA woman, refused to surrender her seat to a white couple while on an interstate bus. I have previously presented her story in much greater depth here.
Goodbye, and thank you. You made a difference.
I don’t know how I missed this, but I did. In 2006 a number of sources–including the National Public Radio, reported, “A construction crew excavating land for a new high rise in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood recently dug-up a well-preserved chunk of the city’s maritime past: A 19th-century whaling ship that archeologists believe was buried and forgotten as landfill after being abandoned by fortune-seeking sailors during the Gold Rush.”
So what does this have to do with Adventist history? Plenty as it turns out. The ship was identified as the barque Candace which once carried Captain Joseph Bates on a voyage from Peru to Boston. Bates did not command the ship on this particular voyage but apparently travelled as a passenger, according to the Adventist News Network report.
Joseph Bates was a founding member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and is particularly known for his promotion of the seventh-day Sabbath. During the spring of 1845 he accepted the seventh-day Sabbath after reading a pamphlet by T. M. Preble. Bates became known as the “apostle of the Sabbath” and wrote several booklets on the topic. One of the first, published in 1846, was entitled The Seventh Day Sabbath, a Perpetual Sign.
Bates’ autobiography has the wonderfully unwieldy title: The Autobiography of Elder Joseph Bates; Embracing a Long Life on Shipboard, with Sketches of Voyages on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas; Also Impressment and Service on Board British War Ships, Long Confinement in Dartmoor Prison, Early Experience in Reformatory Movements; Travels in Various Parts of the World; and a Brief Account of the Great Advent Movement of 1840-44; and was first published as a book in 1868. (Its first publication was as a series of fifty-one (yes 51!) articles in the Youth’s Instructor between November 1858 and May 1863.), Later editions carried the more readable title: The Early Life and Later Experience and Labors of Elder Joseph Bates. An online copy of this second (1877) edition edited by James White is available online. In this edition, Bates’ voyage home to Boston is found in chapter 14.His voyage on the Candace take place before his conversion and before his encounter with the teachings of William Miller. A dedicated sailor, Bates records his feelings as the Candace left port:
“None but those who experience these feelings can tell the thrill that fills every soul, from the captain to the cabin-boy, when the order is given to ‘weigh anchor for home.’ New life, with energy and strength, seems to actuate all on board. The hardy sailors clinch their hand-spikes, the windlass begins to roll and bring the watery cable on deck. The gallant ship, seemingly participating with her joyous crew, advances step by step to her anchor, until the officer cries out, ‘Hold! the cable is a-peak!’ The top-sails are now loosed, sheeted home, and hoisted to the mast-head, and the yards are braced to cant the ship’s head out of the harbor. The windlass is now manned again. The ship is soon up with her anchor. A few more turns of the windlass, and the anchor breaks its hold, and the gallant ship is free. The anchor is up and swung to the cat-head, and the ship’s sails fill with the freshening gale. The sailors cry, ‘We are homeward bound.’”
Upon his arrival in Boston, Bates met a daughter whom he had not yet seen: “A little blue-eyed girl of sixteen months, whom I had never seen, was here waiting with her mother to greet me, and welcome me once more to our comfortable and joyous fire-side. As I had been absent from home over two years, I designed to enjoy the society of my family and friends for a little season.”
Godfrey T. Anderson has written a wonderfully interesting article based on Bates’ logbook for his 1827 voyage on the brig Empress (“The Captain Lays down the Law” The New England Quarterly, Vol. 44:2 (1971), 305-309.).
As Anderson points out, the logbook “handwritten by Captain Bates and over a hundred pages in length, gives an insight into the strong feelings on religion which he was experiencing at this precise time. Typical of the comments was his entry of September 28, 1827: (Sunday) ‘I know not what the Lord is preparing me for, or why I have such conflicts in my mind…. But I feel sometimes such a spirit within me for fear I shall be led to commit some dreadful sin for which I know I must suffer.’”
The Biblical Research Institute (BRI) was “organized in 1956 and operated as part of the world headquarters, [it] … exists to answer and expound on questions of doctrine for Seventh-day Adventists and for those interested in Adventist beliefs. BRI distributes informative papers on specific topics; presents programs for ministers’ meetings; provides specialized short courses for ministerial education programs; operates a vigorous program of Bible Land seminars in Israel and publishes major book-length studies on specific subjects. It also issues a periodic newsletter of theological information and discussions.” (From the GC website.)
The BRI’s newsletter mentioned above is called Reflections and it has been issued four times a year since 2003. Until now it has only been available via email to SDA theologians and administrators. Recently a decision was taken by the BRI to post Reflections on their website – including all past issues. HOWEVER, “The newsletter is only accessible to pastors, theologians, and administrators of the church. User name and password are required.” http://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/
The weird thing is, there’s nothing particularly controversial or difficult about the information contained in the newsletter– this is after all, an official GC organization.
I do know the secret password (and it is kind of odd theologically for an SDA organization) but I won’t reveal that here. What I have done is uploaded all the issues of Reflections, 1-19 on box.net (a very cool file-sharing site). They are then available now via the widget you see in my side-bar.
INFORMATION WANTS TO BE FREE!!!!!!!!!
Some months ago I posted briefly on Sarepta Myendra Irish Henry. I’d just like to draw your attention to a wonderful resource that has just been added to the General Conference Archives online resources. It is a biography of Henry by her daughter Mary Henry Rossiter titled My Mother’s Life (A Memoir of S. M. I. Henry). Interestingly, the introduction–written by Bishop John H. Vincent of the Methodist Episcopal Church–has the following comment:
“Of her change of religious profession I say nothing. I do not understand it. But she did; and that is enough for me. She was, under her later confession, just what she was through all the years before,–a sweet, consistent, unselfish Christian. The Church with which she spent her latest years is to be congratulated for the service she rendered, and for the memory of goodness and serenity she bequeathes [sic] to it.” (p8)
Vincent is of course referring to Henry’s conversion to Seventh-day Adventism at the age of 57 in 1896
The book is quite long–353 pages, but it is worth reading. Henry is a fascinating woman. To be remembered for one’s “goodness and serenity” is a fine epitaph.
Just to keep you up to date with the recent auctions on Ebay:
- God’s Memorial by James White (Battle Creek: Seventh Day Adventist Publishing Association, Not dated, circa 1870). SOLD for $52.50.
- Why Evil was Permitted by Henry Smith Warleigh (New York: George Storrs, Circa [1847-1863]) SOLD for $146.50.
I hope both of these items have found a home where they will be preserved and made available (by digitization perhaps) to those interested.
Allow me to add my voice to that of Julius Nam on Progressive Adventism regarding the upcoming Questions on Doctrine 50th Anniversary Conference (October 24-27, 2007) at Andrews University. The Conference has a website at http://qod.andrews.edu/index.html with all the details.
In my last post Ebay History #2 I mentioned a few items of interest:
- Scripture Searcher 1-7 Published by Hastings Horace Lorenzo, (Keyport, New Jersey: E Wolcott, 1870). SOLD for US $77.76
- Jesus is Coming Again Published in Herald of the Morning, Vol. 11, No 2, August, 1880. (Rochester, NY: Nelson H. Barbour). SOLD for US $305.00 !!!
- John Couch The Two-Horned Beast (Boston: The Advent Christian Publication Society, Not Dated, c.1870-1874). Sold for US $24.99
- [J. N. Andrews] The Two Laws (Battle Creek: Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, Not Dated c.1860). Sold for US $32.55
There are two more items currently for sale from the same dealer who has obviously obtained a group of such items:
- God’s Memorial by James White (Battle Creek: Seventh Day Adventist Publishing Association, Not dated, circa 1870).
- Why Evil was Permitted by Henry Smith Warleigh (New York: George Storrs, Circa [1847-1863])
I don’t know who Henry Smith Warleigh was, but George Storrs was a Methodist minister who became a Millerite & is best known for his promotion of the doctrine of Conditional Immortality. You can read some of Storrs’ sermons on the topic here. A brief biography of Storrs can be found here (scroll down the page).