Post 58: Authority in Seventh-day Adventism: A Creative Tension Between Scripture and Ellen White?

Catherine Albanese defines religion in terms of three words: creed, code, cultus.

These notes explore some of the ways that Seventh-day Adventists arrive at their beliefs, practices and patterns of worship; that is, how they understand authority.

Bernard Ramm suggests that authority is “that right or power to command action or compliance, or to determine belief or custom, expecting obedience from those under authority, and in turn giving responsible account for the claim to right or power,” New Dictionary of Theology, 64.

It will illumine our quest to understand something of Christianity’s experience with the issue of authority.

Each of these headings call for a detailed exploration, but the discerning readers will be able to assess the direction they indicate.

The New Testament (Christianity formed). Scripture. “The Apostles’ Creed.”

The “deformation” of Christianity: Scripture/tradition/papal and conciliar authority.

The Reformers and Scripture (Christianity reformed).

The Wesleys, Scripture and the challenge of “enthusiasm.”

The Restorationists and the Bible without creeds.

The Millerites and Scripture (William Miller, Hiram Edson). The recent doctoral study by Jeff Crocombe (University of Queensland) illumines this theme powerfully.

The Sabbatarian Adventist Experience with Authority: The Formative Years

Ellen White, December 1844: “God has shown me in holy vision.”

“A Word to the Little Flock,” the Bible but…. (page 13)

John N. Loughborough in 1861, as a “church covenant” was under discussion, stated: “The first step of apostasy is to get up a creed, telling us what we shall believe. The second is to make that creed a test of fellowship. The third is to try members by that creed. The fourth is to denounce as heretics those who do not believe that creed. And, fifth, to commence persecution against such.”

SDA Statements of Belief

1872, 25 propositions, Number 3: “That the Holy Scriptures, of the Old and New Testaments, were given by inspiration of God, contain a full revelation of his will to man, and are the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”

1931, 22 propositions, Number 1: “That the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, contain an all-sufficient revelation of His will to men, and are the only unerring rule of faith and practice. 2 Tim. 3;15-17.”

1980, 27 propositions, preamble: “Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed and hold certain fundamental beliefs to be the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. These beliefs, as set forth here, constitute the church’s understanding and expression of the teaching of Scripture. Revision of these statements may be expected at a General Conference session when the church is led by the Holy Spirit to a fuller understanding of Bible truth or finds better language in which to express the teachings of God’s Holy Word.”

Fundamental Belief, Number 1: “The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration through holy men of God who spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. In this Word, God has committed to man the knowledge necessary for salvation.  The Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history. 2 Peter 1:20, 21; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Ps. 119:105; Prov. 30:5, 6; Isa. 8:20; John 10:35; 17:17; 1 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 4:12.”

Some significant indicators during the twentieth century

The 1919 Bible Conference.

Ellen G. and Her Critics (1951).

The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (1954-7).

“The Inspiration and Authority of the Ellen G. White Writings,” Adventist Review, 23 December 1982, 9.

George W. Reid, Understanding Scripture: An Adventist Approach (Silver Spring, MD: Biblical research Institute, 2005.

Summary: Contrast the Catholic understanding, that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Christian Science, the Jehovah’s Witnesses with the Adventist position.

Arthur Patrick, notes for a lecture presented to MA students on 14 July 2011 that now requires writing out and detailed editing.  Posted 27 April 2012.

 

 

 

 

Post 57: Understanding the QUESTIONS ON DOCTRINE Conference of 2007: Can Adventists move beyond the conflict?

Dear Reader: If you are going to invest an hour reading either the sdanet version or the Andrews University version of my paper entitled “The Questions on Doctrine Event: Contrasting Perceptions, Their Impact and Potential,” it may be worthwhile to spend a few minutes reading these paragraphs, first. They were written a few days after the historic conference that convened fifty years after the publication of the most controversial book ever produced by Seventh-day Adventists.

The conference at Andrews University that convened 24 to 27 October 2007 is already well reported on the Internet by Richard Rice, David Larson, Bronwen Larson, Ervin Taylor, Robert Johnson, and by me. These reports are on The Spectrum Blog, Ponder Anew, and Adventist Today Newsbreak. I have also read helpful perspectives by Leroy Moore, Rick Ferret, and others. Such reports and analyses may help you to understand the conference. Also, you may read about the organizers’ intention for the event on qod.andrews.edu and elsewhere. Note especially Julius Nam’s blog at Loma Linda University.

My paper was assigned to me during November 2006. My initial preparation was greatly helped by reading again the main books written by the people I call “the enthusiasts.” I had not read parts of this material for a long time, even though my pastoral and teaching responsibilities have required me to deal with the issues constantly. I needed to read such basic materials again, “as though for the first time.”

I long for a better descriptor than “cautioners” for the passionate minority of Adventists who oppose Questions on Doctrine. If we are ever to move beyond the controversy that surrounds this important book, we much engage these earnest brothers and sisters in a conversation that embraces the full body of the evidence that is now available to every diligent Adventist. The historic and current voices include those of M.L. Andreasen, Al Hudson, Robert Brinsmead, Vance Ferrell, Ralph Larson, William Grotheer, Colin and Russell Standish, Herbert Douglass, Larry Kirkpatrick, and more.

Even more importantly, my paper contends that we must understand “the analysts,” especially twenty or so people who have written doctoral dissertations that help us understand “the big picture.” Of course, if we chose to read thirty other doctoral dissertations that are relevant to the discussion, we will much better understand Adventist identity and mission. An article I have written, “Contextualising Tensions in Seventh-day Adventism: ‘a constant process of struggle and rebirth’?” tries to summarize aspects ot these studies. Currently, that article is with the editors of The Journal of Religion History. Two of the journal’s referees have recommended its publication, a third should report on it soon.

I am very keen for the podcasts and the full text of the conference papers to appear on the Internet, a task that may take until early in 2008 to complete. Many features of my paper need the balance and wisdom of other presenters. For instance, George Knight gave us a superb historical introduction to Questions on Doctrine and the issues surrounding it on the first evening of the conference. Julius Nam brilliantly profiled the four positions adopted in response to the book. Paul McGraw built on this understanding effectively.

Minority viewpoints were also expressed clearly. The Standish brothers gave the attendees two books that detailed more fully their understanding of the history and theology of the book. Others presenters showed where the book fits within the historical development of Adventism (especially Ciro Sepulveda), or detailed its influence within major geographical areas like South America (Alberto Timm). The insights of contemporary Evangelicals were crucial (Kenneth Samples, Donald Dayton). Theologians and pastors gave us valuable analyses: Richard Rice, Roy Adams, David Larson, Woodrow Whidden, Larry Christoffel, and Leroy Moore, for instance. Moore emphasised fittingly the importance of both paradox and a Christian spirit.

But the impact of the conference cannot be understood apart from the messages of the devotionally-orientated speakers (Nik Satelmajer, John McVay, and Angel Rodriguez), as well as the panellists moderated by Merlin Burt, Robert Johnston, and Nicholas Miller. For me, exceedingly valuable input was given by three speakers on the Friday night: Denis Fortin, Mervyn Warren, and Jon Paulien.

What I am really saying here is that my paper needs to be read within the context and in the light of the content of the entire conference. Ten intense sessions filled the time from Wednesday night to Sabbath noon. There were from one to five speakers per session, not counting the panel discussions.

Did the conference cover all the essentials? Of course not. We now need to study anew the New Testament teaching on Christ’s nature during His incarnation; the proper and improper use of the writings of Ellen White; the biblical definition of sin; the ways in which sociologists can help us to understand ourselves, and a cluster of related matters.

But the conference was wisely conceived and brilliantly led. Thank God for what it can tell us about “the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”

Arthur Patrick, third draft, 9 November 2007, posted 22 April 2012

Post 56: Gay, Lesbian and Adventist: The Film!

What do thoughtful Adventists say about the film that will be released on 29 April 2012?

“The movie, which simply tells stories rather than taking an advocacy stance, is powerful. It disturbed me but forced me to face realities. It can, I believe, do much to make Adventists more compassionate in this controversial area of lifestyle.” – Dr William Johnsson, retired editor The Adventist Review

“Whatever one’s position regarding homosexuals and the church may be, this film is worth seeing because it candidly probes issues with real human faces and stories.” – Dr Roy Gane, professor, Andrews University (Seminary)

“It’s a very powerful film. Gentle in its way. Only tree stumps could get through the film without tears or sobs; yet it ends with joy.” – Dr Charles Scriven, president of Kettering College of Medical Arts

You can decide whether this film is for you: see http://www.sgamovie.com/trailer/

Here’s some text that the film’s producer, Daneen Akers wrote to help set it in context when film supporters invite others to screenings:

Seventh-Gay Adventists is a character-driven documentary about faith on the margins set in the context of the fastest growing Christian denomination in the United States (and one of the fastest growing denominations worldwide) with a membership of approximately 17 million. The film follows three gay and lesbian Seventh-day Adventists as they wrestle with how to reconcile their sexual orientation and their deeply held faith, and it explores what it means to belong when you find yourself on the margins.

The film was created with the intent of promoting conversations about religion and sexuality with an opportunity to hear rarely heard voices in the larger conversation about gay rights, particularly in faith communities where the debate is often quite shallowly as God vs Gays. But the subjects of this film don’t fit easily into any box and exist on the margins of all of their communities of belonging. Their church is uncomfortable with their sexuality, yet they often don’t feel like they fit in the larger LGBT community because of their loyalty to a church which has not always been tolerant much less accepting and affirming of their sexual identities. Their yearning to belong, to fully embrace themselves and define a spirituality of their own is compelling for all of us, even for viewers who can’t tell their Adventists from their Mormons.

The film is just stories and doesn’t invite arguments or contention–it’s just an opportunity to listen and enter someone else’s faith walk–and that’s why it’s so powerful. The film is playing well, even for conservative Adventists, and several Adventist thought leaders have endorsed the film.

Thanks Daneen! You and your husband Steve are helping the church we love better understand how to deal Christianly with precious people!

Arthur Patrick, 21 April 2012

Post 55: Adventism as an Apocalyptic/Millenarian Movement

Note: Currently I am working on a series of lectures that will seek to illumine the General Conference session that convened in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during 1888. Why did significant conflict erupt at that epochal event? What was at stake? Who were the thought-leaders in the discussion and, in particular, what was the role of Ellen G. White? What was the continuing legacy of the conference? Since Sabbatarian Adventism cannot be understood in isolation from its principal precursor, Millerism, this short paper opens the multi-phase discussion with reflections on Millerite Adventism as an apocalyptic/millennialist movement.[1]  

As far back as 1980, Dr Fritz Guy of La Sierra University offered a succinct description of contructive change within Seventh-day Adventism (hereinafter abbreviated to Adventism, Adventist, the church). Guy suggested that “theological reflection and construction” involves “an ongoing consideration of the bases, definition and implications of beliefs” and may include five processes: “(1) REFORMULATION, as eternal truth is understood in the language of each different culture and each generation; (2) CLARIFICATION, AND SPECICATION, as new questions arise and require a more careful investigation and more precise answers; (3) ELABORATION, as the church enlarges its thinking by probing deeper and thinking farther; (4) APPLICATION, as the ongoing course of human histiory produces new situations; (5) REINTERPRETATION, as further study and the witness of the Holy Spirit indicate that the Biblical revelation means something slightly different from what it has been understood to mean.”[2]

Such indicators of change are problematic for an apocalyptic/millenarian movement if there is an assumption that the understanding of truth is absolute and as unchanging as the character of God. By contrast, this paper suggests that human perceptions of truth are usually partial, and that the Adventist concept of “present truth” encourages the continuing discovery of the depth of meaning in the Scripture and the progressive application of its message. Such a view seems to embrace the essence of Ellen White’s counsel in numerous passages.[3]

The Nature of Adventism

Douglas Morgan’s ground-breaking study charts the development of Sabbatarian Adventism from its founding era to the recent past. Obviously, the early decades of the movement were fraught with particular difficulties, especially those years between the Great Disappointment of 1844 and the adoption of a denominational name and structure in the 1860s. Recent biographical studies highlight the continuing importance of the movement’s three co-founders: Joseph Bates (1792-1872), James Springer White (1821-1881), and Ellen Gould White (1827-1915). While the trio left a rich literary heritage, the output of the longest-lived of the three far exceeds the combined quantum of the other two. Ellen White is in a special sense the church’s mother, but nowhere in her vast literary corpus does she use the words apocalyptic or millennialist as descriptors of the Second Advent Movement. Even so, we would be seriously mistaken if we failed to recognise the profound inluence that Ellen White and her co-founders exerted on what Morgan well describes as an “apocalyptic movement.”[4]

Bates, James White and Ellen Harmon were introduced to what aptly might be described as “apocalyptic millennialism” by William Miller (1782-1849) and his colleagues.[5] The message proclaimed by Miller and perhaps fifteen hundred clergy and public lecturers[6] initiated a millenarian movement that spread widely in North America before the seismic shock of its Great Disappointment. While Millerism was related to revivalism, restorationism and several other impulses that were its contemporaries, its distinctive pre-millennialist emphasis sought to ready the planet for an imminent, cataclysmic (as opposed to a post-millennialist) Second Coming.[7] The key texts of the movement were many and they were explicit: “the people of the Advent near” (as they were apt to describe themselves) were literally “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:14, KJV).[8]

Defining and Applying Key Terms

At the outset, we need to define three nouns that are germane to our present discussion: eschatology, apocalypse and millennium. Eschatology (from the Greek eschatos, last, and logos, word, reason, or discourse)[9] focuses on “last things.”[10] Hence eschatology may “refer either to the fate of individuals (death, resurrection, judgment and afterlife) or to events surrounding the end of the world.”[11] The latter meaning carries most significance for this exploration.  An apocalypse (Greek, apokalypsis) is a revelation, discovery, disclosure; the noun is derived from apocalyptic writings that flourished in Judaism and then Christianity from 200BC to AD 350, claiming to reveal the ultimate purpose of God.[12] Mather and Nichols aptly observe: “Characteristic of apocalyptic literature is deep symbolism alluding to impending doom and judgment on the wicked, and deliverance and reward of the righteous.”[13]

Every Adventist knows that the word millennium implies a period of a thousand years, well described in Revelation 20:1-7.[14] However, we need to be acutely aware that millennialism has a broader frame of reference than just a period of a thousand years; its freight of meaning is loaded with a sense of present crisis and immediate hope. Note a recent encyclopedia begins its description of millenarianism with an indicative definition: “Religious movements that expect salvation to come very soon in this world.”[15]

The Millerites were Advent believers par excellence; their Sabbatarian descendants developed their new movement with minds crowded by vivid biblical passages that included descriptors like “flaming fire” and “fervent heat.”[16] The Adventists re-applied the Old Testament prophecies about “the day of Lord” to the consummation of this earth’s history, Christ’s return, and the creation of “new [atmospheric] heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).[17] They fed avidly upon the apocalyptic portions of both the Old Testament and the New, especially the Book of Daniel, Christ’s Olivet sermon (Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21), 2 Thessalonians, and the Book of Revelation. The Millerites had emphasised the cleansing of the earth by the fires of the last day; the Adventists could find no way of being faithful to Scripture that did not include an apocalyptic end for the planet and all the finally impenitent.[18] However, in their teaching and preaching they highlighted the theme of hope that climaxed in the restored Eden of Revelation 21 and 22.[19]

The experience of 1844 and its aftermath posed the crucial question for Adventists, What does it really mean to believe in the Second Advent? Within half a century, a major debate within the developing movement posed a parallel question, What does it really mean to believe in the First Advent?[20] Adventists slowly came to grips more fully with the pervasive concept that all Scripture orbits the two comings of Christ. “In every page, whether history, or precept, or prophecy, the Old Testament Scriptures are irradiated with the glory of the Son of God,” Ellen White wrote in 1898.[21] If this is true of the first major portion of the Bible, that replete with promise, it is even more evident in the New Testament that details the fulfilment of the promise in Christ’s incarnation, and affirms the further promise that he will consummate the plan of salvation with “the restoration of all things” (Acts 3:20-21). Therefore, by the time of Ellen White’s death Adventists were aware that her challenge to “be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world” was indeed substantive, embracing as it did the Christ who saves from sin (Soteriology), the Christ who makes all things new (Eschatology), and more.[22]

Depth-Soundings: Adventism Approaches the Shore of Eternity

As the troubled ship carrying the Apostle Paul toward Rome neared the trecherous shore of Malta, “the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country” and twice “sounded” the depth of water (Acts 27:27, 28). It would effectively inform our investigation if we took numerous soundings from the 1830s and 1840s in order to better understand the Second Advent Movement, but we must limit ourselves here to a very few.

The life history, character and personality of William Miller are available for detailed analysis from both primary and secondary sources.[23] Miller’s years as a Deist were  a direct result of his personal associations with innovative thinkers in the upstate New York town of Poultney, and the books written by Ethan Allen (1738-1789), Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899, Thomas Paine (1737-1809) and other sons of the Enlightenment. Miller was influenced to the end of his life by the rationalism that so deeply informed his “common sense” approach to the Scriptures and predisposed him to reject the charismatic tendencies of some of his ardent followers, such as Hiram Edson (1806-1882) and Ellen Harmon. Joshua V. Himes (1805-1895) was a principal “publicist, promoter, and organizer” of Miller’s movement, most notably the publisher of some of its most significant periodicals, including The Signs of the Times and Expositor of Prophecy and The Midnight Cry.[24] Since the mid-1950s the contextual understanding of such matters has been faciliated by LeRoy Edwin Froom’s six volumes on prophetic and conditionalist faith, now refined by the more scholarly writings of Bryan Ball. In addition, “The Millerites and Early Adventists” microfilm collection conveniently references an enormous quanity of primary sources. We will be forever indebted to the conference that gave us The Rise of Adventism and thus laid an effective foundation for the more recent studies of Millerism so aptly described by Gary Land.[25]

The study of Millerite history leads us to ask penetrating questions about biblical apocalyptic and the hermeneutics that helped to unlock and apply its meanings. Miller and his associates were so possessed by a sense of urgency that they gave slight attention to making an abstract analysis of the genre of apocalyptic literature. During the twentieth century, however, extra-biblical apocalyptic writings, in particular the Jewish apocalypses that formed a backdrop for Miller’s favourite Scriptures, have been the focus of painstaking research. According to D.S. Russell, Jewish apocalyptic literature “has the prophetic tradition as its father and faith in the ultimate triumph of God in times of peril and persecution as its mother.” Its categories of thought often include a pessimistic view of human history, dualism, the division of time into periods, the notion of two ages, numerology, ecstacy, claims of inspiration, and the concept of esoteric privilege. Important to such literature is “the idea of the unity of history and the conception of cosmic history which treats of earth and heaven,” plus “the notion of primordiality with its revelations concerning the creation and the fall of men and angels,” and “the source of evil in the universe and the part played in this by angelic powers.” Often present is the idea of a “conflict between light and darkness, good and evil, God and Satan,” and the emergence of a transcendant figure called “the Son of Man,” together with notions of resurrection, judgment, and a future condition of bliss. Russell contends that while such “marks” are not present in all apocalyptic writings, they convey an impression of its “particular mood of thought and belief.” Hence the apocalyptists wrote of the dramatic conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, they affirmed both primordiality and eschatology, and they freely employed such categories as universalism, determinism and supernaturalism. They looked forward to a cataclysmic end of a “supramundane character” for all things earthly, believing, Russell says:

God has set a limit to the powers of evil in the world: the era of conflict will soon be over; the triumph of God’s predetermined purpose will provide the key to all life’s mysteries and problems. This triumph will come, not by a gradual transformation of the universe and not by a whittling down of the power of evil, but by a supernatural and catastrophic intervention. This intervention will take the form of a great crisis, usually seen as about to happen in the writer’s own day. God will break into history in a mighty act of judgement and establish his kingdom.[26]

It is apparent that the biblical diet on which the Millerites avidly fed nourished their sense of immediacy and gave them and their Sabbatarian descendants the “mood of thought and belief” that characterises the genre of apocalyptic literature.[27] It is easy in Century 21 for us to reflect on the pitfalls that this climate of thought embraced; for instance, Seventh-day Adventists see no light whatever in fourteen of Miller’s fifteeen ways of arriving at the date 1844, from a hermeneutical standpoint.[28] But there is much about Millerite millennialism that we can cherish.[29]

The “shipmen” made two depth soundings on the shore of Malta. We have, in this short paper, “sounded” Millerism in its climatic years; we should now ask how this “particular mood of thought and belief” persisted and was attenuated in Sabbaratian Adventism. Particularly instructive in this regard is Ellen Harmon’s first vision of December 1844 that gave the about-to-emerge new movement a presiding symbol of Millerism to guide its ongoing pilgrimage.[30] We might also make frequent soundings in Seventh-day Adventism thereafter, and expect fruitful results, especially it we enlist the help of the finest doctoral thesis ever written on the development of the church’s thought.[31]

Arthur Patrick, 18 April 2012

[1] This paper should be read in conjunction with other surveys that I have written, such as A Brief, Annotated Introduction to the Field of Adventist Studies for Higher Degree Students (Cooranbong, NSW: Avondale College, 2009), and “Contextualising Recent Tensions in Seventh-day Adventism: ‘A Constant Process of Struggle and Rebirth’?” Journal of Religious History 34, no. 3 (September 2010), 272-288. For an earlier snapshot of apocalypticism in a wider context see my article, “Seventh-day Adventism in the South Pacific: A Review of Sources,” Journal of Religious History 14, no. 3 (June 1987), 307-326, especially 318-320. I have published many other relevant studies in magazines, journals, book chapters, Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre CDs, and on sdanet.org/atissue. See in particular “Doctrinal Development Studied,”  Record, 15 March 2003, 10, and the use I made of Rolf Poehler’s books in “Continuity and Change in Seventh-day Adventist Doctrine and Practice,” a presentation to the San Diego Adventist Forum, 12 July 2003; cf. “The Reality of Change in Seventh-day Adventist Doctrine and Practice,” Adventist Today, September/October 2003, 16-17.

[2] A typescript copy of Guy’s lecture, “The Future of Adventist Theology: A Personal View,” is available in an indexed Document File at the Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre, Avondale College, and (in edited form) appears in his volume Thinking Theologically: Adventist Christianity and the Interpretation of Faith (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Andrews University Press, 1999), 73-83, and elsewhere.

[3] See, for one luminous instance, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1 (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press), 262-3.

[4] Douglas Morgan, Adventism and the American Republic: The Public Involvement of a Major Apocalyptic Movement (Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 2001) presents a compelling, longitudinal view of the way Adventist millennialism has been attenuated and transformed over time.

[5] R. D. Linder offers an excellent context for understanding Millerism in the setting of the Second Great Awakening; see his introductory chapter “Division and Unity: The Paradox of Christianity in America,” in Daniel G. Reid, editor, Dictionary of Christianity in America (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 1-22, especially 7-10.

[6] The Midnight Cry, 24 March 1844, page 282, suggested from 1,500 to 2,000 lecturers were “proclaiming the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

[7] A.H. Anderson describes Miller as an “interdenominational millennial revivalist,” in “The Seventh-day Adventist Church,” Dictionary of Contemporary Religions in the Western World, Chris Partridge, editor (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity, 2002), 339. Millerism is well introduced by Ronald L. Numbers and Jonathan M. Butler, The Disappointed: Millerism and Millenarianism in the Nineteenth Century (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1978). For wide-ranging bibliographic citations and comment, see Ted Daniels, Millennialism: An International Bibliography (New York and London: Garland, 1992.) Contextual data are given in the three-volume work, The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism (New York and London: Continuum, 2000), that treats the Jewish and Christian origins of apocalypticism, its development in Western history and culture, and its manifestations in the modern and contemporary periods.

[8] Since this chapter engages with the early historical development of Adventism, it cites the King James Version of the Scriptures, the common Bible of Adventists until the middle of the twentieth century.

[9] Cf. William Arndt, “Eschatos,” A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000).

[10] Note Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, editors, “Eschatos,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1985), 264. 

[11] See T.W.Weber, “Eschatology,” Reid, editor, Dictionary of Christianity in America, 397-401.

[12] J.A. Patterson, “Apocalypticism,” in Reid, Dictionary of Christianity in America, 70-71. For worthy cautions about attempts to “record the shadow of Providence over human affairs,” see Tom Frame’s Review Article, “Making History for God: A discordant review,” Lucas: An Evangelical History Review ns 1 (2009), 163-173.

[13] George A. Mather and Larry A. Nichols, Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 23.

[14] Few non-Adventist publications clearly portray the distinctive Adventist stance on the millennium that is so well described by Kenneth Newport, “The Heavenly Millennium of Seventh-day Adventism,” in Stephen Hunt, editor, Christian Millenarianism: From the Early Church to Waco (London: Hurst, 2001), 131-148.

[15] Robert Ellwood, General Editor, The Encyclopedia of World Religions, Revised Edition (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2007), 293-4.

[16] Observe the stark contrast between premillennialism and postmillennialism. The former envisions a world in which “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse” (2 Timothy 3: 13) prior to a cataclysmic end that introduces a thousand years of “justice, peace and righteousness on earth.” The latter maintains that Christ’s coming will climax a thousand years of increasing “peace, prosperity and righteousness.” See R.G. Clouse, “Premillennialism” and “Postmillennialism,” in Reid, editor, Dictionary of Christianity in America, 929, 919

[17] Raymond F. Cottrell wrote the most influential survey of “the fundamental problem of the interpretation of the prophetic portions of the Old Testament in terms of their message to Israel of old and to the church today,” in “The Role of Israel in Old Testament Prophecy,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Seven Volumes (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1955), Vol. 4, 25-38.

[18] See Richard P. Lehmann, “The Second Coming of Jesus,” in Raoul Dederen, editor, Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, Commentary Reference Series (Washington. D.C.: Review and Herald, 2000), Vol. 12, 893-926.

[19] For an overview of the rapidly-growing discipline of Adventist Studies, see Patrick, A Brief, Annotated Introduction to the Field of Adventist Studies for Higher Degree Students available on the Avondale College website, www.avondale.edu.au/research.

[20] Cf. the fuller expression of similar ideas in George R. Knight, A Search for Identity: The Development of Seventh-day Adventist Beliefs (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2000).

[21] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1898), 211.

[22] Gospel Workers, 156, cited in Evangelism as set forth in the writings of Ellen G. White (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1946), 188.

[23] A recent, substantive account of Miller is that by David L. Rowe, God’s Strange Work: William Miller and the End of the World (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 2008).

[24] “Joshua Vaughan Himes,” Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, Commentary Reference Series, Second Revised Edition (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1996), Vol.10, 694-5.

[25] Edwin Scott Gaustad (ed.), The Rise of Adventism: Religion and Society in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Harper and Rowe, 1974); Gary Land, “The Historians and the Millerites: An Historigraphical Essay,” in Everett N. Dick, “William Miller and the End of the World, 1831-1844 (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Andrews University Press, 1994), xiii-xxviii. An excellent index to the micoform materials is that by Jean Hoomstra, editor, The Millerites and Early Adventists: An index to the microfilm collection of rare books and manuscripts (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms International, 1978).

[26] D.S. Russell, The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic, 200 B.C. – A.D. 100 (London: SCM, 1964), 104-6. Currently, Russell’s writings are widely discussed on the Internet. For succinct summaries with bibliographies see John J. Collins, “Apocalypse,” and Hillel Schwartz, “Millenarianism,” in Mircea Eliade (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion, sixteen vols (New York: Macmillan, 1987), Vol. 1, 334-6; Vol. 9, 521-532. A multi-volume reference work (with helpful indexes) progressively available in English is that by Hans Dieter Betz, Don S, Browing, Bernd Janowski, Eberhard Jungel, Religion Past and Present (Leiden and Boston: Brill, Volume 1, 2007; Volume 9, 2011).

[27] For a contextualised account of such matters, see Arthur Patrick, Christianity and Culture in Colonial Australia: Selected Catholic, Anglican, Wesleyan and Adventist Perspectives, 1891-1900 (Sydney: Fast Books, 1993), 81-83.

[28] Kai Arasola, The End of Historicism: Millerite Hermeneutic of Time Prophecies in the Old Testament (Uppsala, Sweden: K.J. Arosola and Datem Publishing, 1990).

[29] See, for instance, Arthur Patrick, “Revisiting Millerism,” Record, 23 April 1994, 8-9, as well as many Signs of the Times articles in which I present evidence for the enduring significance of Miller’s movement.

[30] The broadside account of this vision addressed “TO THE LITTLE REMNANT SCATTERED ABROAD” (Portland: Ellen G. Harmon, 6 April 1846) offers an accurate account of what the early believers read. Subsequent versions (as in Early Writings) are edited in terms of later understandings.

[31] Rolf Poehler completed his magisterial dissertation at Andrews University in 1995 and subsequently published it in two books. Poehler will offer lectures in Australia during September 2012.

 

Post 54: The Cooranbong Airport and Adventist Aviation

On 17 April 2012 I had occasion to drive up Avondale Road to the administrative office of the Adventist Schools, and noted the earthworks that were underway at the new subdivision being developed west of Avondale Road. That experience recalled for me the intriguing history of the “back paddock” of what is now Avondale College of Higher Education. Hence this post.

The first Seventh-day Adventist missionaries arrived in Australia during 1885; after only nine years a group rowed up Dora Creek to Cooranbong and chose 585 hectares as the location for a multi-disciplinary, co-educational college. At that time the land on which we stand this morning had known centuries of sustainable use by Aborigines; during the last 112 years it has been used variously for grazing; as a source for firewood and pit props (that’s coal miner’s language); and as a location for recreational aviation, evangelistic aviation and flying instruction.

Innovation and Danger: Enter Adventurers

The early years of aviation in Australia abound in stories of people rather larger than life, especially men with imaginations fired by such events as Charles Lindberg’s 1927 flight across the Atlantic. We salute the Cooranbong residents who determined to defy gravity, sometimes in vulnerable-looking, homemade flying machines. When Albert Harris built Sky Baby Too, its wings were covered in calico, varnished to make the calico taut. The early saga of adventure, skill, risk-taking and crashes also had some successes.

There were dangers aplenty. How to get enough space to fly was one of them; room to land was the rather literal flip side of that issue. The present airstrip’s history begins on 26 June 1946 when an undated letter was received from three persons (identified in the College Board minutes as “Brethren Harris, Davis and Lantzke”) requested “permission to clear and prepare ground for an airstrip in the 600 acre back paddock.” The Board voted to grant the requested permission, specifying “that the sponsors be willing to vacate at call and that the airstrip be formed in such a way as not to destroy valuable timber.” A letter signed by the College Principal conveyed the Board’s decision to “Mr. A. Harris of Avondale Road, Cooranbong.” At the Board meeting on 18 September 1946, “a letter from Allen Allen and Hemsley, regarding the legal aspect of matters pertaining to the use of the airstrip in the back section of the College property” was noted before the Board voted: “That we allow the air strip to be used only in accordance with the advice of the Solicitors, namely, that no charge be made and that Messrs. Lantzke, Harris and Davis be required to sign a contract that the field will not be used in any commercial way.”

Construction of the airport began with hand tools (no wonder Albert Harris was tired when he arrived for his afternoon shift in the press at the Sanitarium Health Food Company!) but implements later included a “forest devil” and eventually bulldozers and graders sometimes driven by volunteer owners like John Strong. Long-time resident Herb Pocock recalls (2004) that his father, Herbert George (Bert) Pocock, loaned his “forest devil” to the group clearing the airstrip and later disced and harrowed the surface with his team of horses. In recognition of this assistance, Frank Wainman promised Bert the first ride in a plane taking off from the airstrip, a promise that Herb says was fulfilled.

At first the airstrip was too short for Australia’s aviation standards, even though it was (apparently) used in unofficial landings. A more official opening and landing (it is claimed) took place in 1949 (but that particular event may have been as late as 1952); the airstrip was from time to time extended and upgraded over many years. Meanwhile the number of aviation enthusiasts grew steadily. When in the 1950s I played in the Avondale Advent Band with Frank Wainman, I could never work out whether he was a garage proprietor whose real passion was flying or an aviator who ran the garage at the corner of Maitland Road and Alton Road to pay for his real career: flying.

Enthusiasm and Vision: the Adventist Aviation Association and Instruction

One of the side effects of World War II was a heightened awareness of the possibilities of aviation. Adventists began to dream that the Good News might be shared more effectively with the help of aeroplanes; Dick Hall pioneered the concept in Borneo; a South American initiative was taking shape in 1960, followed by Inter-America and Africa. Len Barnard, a young medic who served in New Guinea during the horrors of war had gained his pilot licence in 1946. Beginning as superintendent of a leper colony in 1948, Len served as an Adventist missionary in Papua New Guinea until 1972. For years that pilot licence seemed to be burning a hole in Barnard’s pocket: “Lord,” he thought, “you have three angels flying in the midst of heaven while I’m ploughing through mud on earth.” Fund-raising and logistics converged on July 1, 1964, when Barnard landed a plane at Goroka and Colin Winch teamed up with him. The success of mission aviation, frequently using handmade airstrips, highlighted two things: a need for flight training and the promise of evangelistic aviation here in the brown land of distance.

So, back in Australia, Len was a catalyst for developing the Adventist Aviation Association as a way to transport people quickly from the coastal fringe to inland towns of New South Wales. There are filing cabinets with fat files telling of that sterling endeavour, so well narrated by Mary Stellmaker as publicity officer and even supported by a Womens Auxiliary. The success of Adventist aviation in Papua New Guinea demonstrated a need for better airport facilities that would enable flying instruction. In the Magnusson decade it also seemed logical for Avondale College to do what Andrews University and other institutions had done: develop a Flying School.  That program brought minister/pilot Colin Winch to Cooranbong, 1979-1982, to be followed by such others as Glynn Lock, Garry Fraser and their teams.

Facilities for a School of Aviation

Drawings by architects and engineers from the 1970s record the airport’s most significant developments with two runways, lights for night landings and improved buildings. The Board on 16 March 1977 received a seven-point report from the Aviation Sub-Committee and before the year was over granted “approval in principle to plans as submitted for building and landscaping of the flying school facility on the airstrip section of the Cooranbong estate.”  The same year, the Board accepted the quotation from W.G. Guidox Pty. Ltd. of $22,000 for the construction of the proposed east-west runway” and approved “the purchase of a Cessna 152 aircraft for the Avondale [College] Flying School.” The next year, at an estimated additional cost of $4,000, it adjusted the location of the east-west runway, and planned the dedication of the Cessna 152. On 22 June 1978, it decided to fence the new east-west runway “at an estimated cost of $3,000 to be financed from the special appropriation for the development of the flying program”; later it appointed B.B. Houliston as supervisor of the projected building of “Stage I of the Flying School facility at the College airstrip.” In 1979, the Board authorised the Airport Control Committee to “extend flying training operations” and to “extend the use of airstrip and tie-down facilities to other selected private operators.”

Transition

The story of the Cooranbong airstrip is part of a narrative about people whose dreams of human flight for recreation, for sharing the Good News and for training pilots involved hard work, ingenuity and energetic fundraising. It was a venture involving cooperation from many different people. Today we are seeing an initiative towards wise stewardship of land that Avondale’s pioneers sacrificed to buy in the 1890s. Times have changed, vastly, in many ways. The new location of the Flying School takes about as long to reach from Cooranbong as it used to take me to walk from Haskell Hall to the airstrip, when I was cutting pit props here in the 1950s. I trust this new generation will confront its obstacles with the energy and the spirit shown by Avondale’s original founders and later those magnificent men in their primitive flying machines, plus the others who developed the Adventist Aviation Association and the School of Aviation, transforming bushland into an airstrip and the facility cherished in this community until the end of 2005.

Arthur Patrick, 31 August 2004; revised 23 September  2004 and 5 February 2006, posted 18 April 2012

 

Post 53: Homosexuality in Pastoral Perspective: Notes on a continuing conversation

The processes of drafting a document Adventist Studies: An Annotated Introduction for Higher Degree Students (2006, revised 2009) and writing a journal article “Contextualising Recent Tensions in Seventh-day Adventism” (published in Journal of Religious History, September 2010) have helped to alert me to the need for a better understanding of human sexuality in its various dimensions. This blog is part of a conversation on the related but more specific theme of pastoral care for lesbian and gay Adventists that I initiated almost four years ago, on 13 September 2008. 

During the early 1970s, my approach to ministry was deeply impacted by the teaching of Charles Wittschiebe at Andrews University (Berrien Springs, Michigan) and the insights of Clinical Pastoral Education. Wittschiebe’s shock of white hair helped to preserve his dignity, despite the fact he was writing a book under the startling title God Invented Sex (1974).

Clinical Pastoral Education as recommended by Christian Theological Seminary (Indianapolis, Indiana) for its Doctor of Ministry students, required us to actively listen to our counselling clients and congregants. This form of process-learning was monitored by skilled supervisors and prodded by fearless input from our peers.

What Wittschiebe Knew

Charles Wittschiebe was not a biblical scholar, nor was he a church historian. But, as a well-trained, caring pastor he sensed Adventist ministers needed to better understand human sexuality in the combined light of Scripture, history and science.

Our heritage offers some interesting observations. Early in 1846, two Advent believers were “published for marriage” as required by law in New England at that time. By so doing they “denied their faith,” according to James White. Why? “We look upon it [marriage] as a wile of the devil,” he wrote. “The firm brethren in Maine who are waiting for Christ to come have no fellowship with such a move.”

The New Testament reminds us how the Apostle Paul questioned marriage, no doubt due to a combination of hope in Christ’s imminent return and the active persecution believers were experiencing in the first Christian century. Eighteen hundred years later, it took much Bible study and prayer for our Adventist pioneers to balance their Advent hope and lifestyle patterns.

Issues relating to human sexuality were particularly difficult in the mid-nineteenth century. Christianity was still profoundly impacted by past thinkers like Saint Augustine, who believed sex was essentially evil, even though it was necessary for procreation. In Augustine’s view, it was a pity sexual activity had to be experienced; certainly, it should never be enjoyed!

American culture of the 1840s and later added other heavy burdens. It was widely believed that humans had a limited store of “vital force” and that every act of sexual expression was a withdrawal from this finite deposit. Augustine’s teaching had helped to galvanise the church into priestly celibacy. The notion of vital force caused nineteenth-century stalwarts to recommend sex only for procreation. Some people (like the famous health reformer John Harvey Kellogg) forever avoided consummating their marriages. It is no wonder that Adventist literature declaimed against “secret vice” (masturbation) as the cause of many horrendous diseases, including (it was claimed) “the inward decay of the head.”

Slowly new concepts were developed. Think of such landmark volumes as that by Harold Shryock, Happiness for Husbands and Wives (1949). So Wittschiebe’s generation was made ready to appreciate his unblushing affirmation that God actually invented sex and gave it as a precious gift to humankind.

What Wittschiebe Didn’t Know

Charles Wittschiebe’s classes would have been even better if he had had the benefit of later Adventist authors like Eldon Chalmers, Alberta Mazat, Richard Davidson (an Old Testament scholar) and Ivan Blazen (a New Testament specialist). During the early 1970s we were all too engaged with the need to put straight sex into a mature pastoral perspective to even contemplate the difficult task of dealing with homosexuality. So most Adventist pastors just perpetuated the patterns of millennia: homosexuality was regarded simply as a perverse, evil choice.

Seventh-day Adventist leaders in the 1970s and 1980s spent hundreds of thousands of dollars either trying to help homosexual pastors and others become heterosexuals, or defending the church from being tainted by having its name associated with a more open view of homosexuality. Most of us failed to translate the vision of the Adventist church as “caring” or “welcoming” into effective pastoral care for gay and lesbian believers.

The results of conversion (or “reparation”) initiatives were usually disastrous. False hopes were imposed on fragile individuals and some of them were sexually abused by the very people who were reported to be facilitating their transformation. Adventist magazines and journals, like Adventist Review and Ministry, largely failed to keep members and ministers abreast of constructive research. Once Michael Pearson’s doctoral dissertation was published (Cambridge University Press, 1990), it was clear that the church was falling well behind the wave of understanding relating to human sexuality, except for the independent Adventist press that Pearson cited at length. Without the constructive input of Spectrum (from 1969) and Adventist Today (from 1993), Adventist perceptions would be even more inadequate.

A Tragic Harvest

For gay and lesbian believers, the options were mostly dismal indeed. Some followed specific pastoral advice to marry, being assured the perceived problem of their sexual orientation would then disappear. For some of these desperate individuals, the result was years of trauma from living hopefully yet deceitfully and, when their situation became unbearable, breaking the hearts of wives or husbands, as well as children—when their marriages ended in disgrace. For church employees this often meant dismissal from their employment without the financial provisions others received. Thereafter, most such people had great difficulty in preparing for and finding suitable employment.

Parents of gay and lesbian young people were often traumatised by the realisation that their son or daughter was homosexual. Some could never admit this to their friends; they  hid the dark secret from their church. Some homosexuals felt, especially when earnest prayer or “conversion” initiatives proved fruitless, that suicide was the best option. Some were expelled from both family and church. Many sought to hide their pain and shame by drugs, alcohol, or the anonymity of city life.

Intimations of More Effective Pastoral Care

In 2008, Adventist Forum again offered a more constructive understanding by publishing a volume entitled Christianity and Homosexuality: Some Seventh-day Adventist Perspectives. The book carries a tribute to Mitchell Henson, a pastor whose “congregation became a beacon of what it means to have an inclusive congregation,” despite the attendant difficulties. In a chapter of the book, Pastor Henson tells the story of his church (pages 23-35).

The issue of homosexuality cannot be understood by Adventists without close attention to the Bible, church history, Adventist heritage, the social sciences (including sociology and psychology), as well “hard” sciences such as biology. Pastors and people need to assess the data demonstrating that for most homosexuals, there is absolutely no element of choice in their sexual orientation.

This fact underlines our need for the careful studies that the Forum book reports in the biblical, biomedical, behavioural and social spheres. Roy Gane examines Leviticus; John Jones looks intently at Romans; Fritz Guy uses expertly the tools of a theologian; David Larson employs in a similar way those of the ethicist; Mitchell Tyner probes the importance of legal issues in the United States. We need all these insights and more if we are to function effectively as pastors. Richard Rice and Gary Chartier help to round out the discussion of the biblical, theological and sociological perspectives.

Conclusion

In the last sentence of the book’s text, Gary Chartier reflects upon the value of the Larson, Tyner and Henson chapters. In my view, Chartier’s words can be more generally applied to the book as a whole. An Adventism that adopts the moral, political and spiritual stances this book recommends and models them effectively will make giant strides toward becoming the kind of community—just, open, caring— that it can and must be.

We owe this as a duty to our Creator. The lives of people made in His image depend on it. Let us be about offering more effective pastoral care for Adventism’s significant group of gay and lesbian adherents, their families and congregations.

Bibliographic Note: In order to understand this brief paper in its wider context, the reader should consult two items: Adventist Studies: An Annotated Introduction for Higher Degree Students, and “Recent Tensions in Seventh-day Adventism” that are available electronically from the author ([email protected]) or http://www.avondale.edu.au/research::Journal_Articles/.

FURTHER NOTES Effective pastoral care begins by understanding the person and the issues they face. I need to listen carefully to all those who wish to share experiences and perspectives that relate to the theme under consideration. Toward that end, I have shared drafts of the above paper with several trusted friends. I value the comments already received and invite others, both pro and con. A few of the insights shared with me are appended here. My respondents tell me:

  1. The history of the SDA response to HIV-AIDS issues could be considered fruitfully in the context of the discussion about homosexuality.
  2.  There are many ex-SDA gays and lesbians, some of whom now are a part of other faith communities or have lost all connection with God. This little paper has been affirmed as a very welcome consideration of gay and lesbian believers. Sometime, the broader gay and lesbian community, whether ex-SDA or of “no fixed church address” should also be considered.
  3. One respondent says: “Very much agree [with the comment re Spectrum and Adventist Today]. The articles in these publications were of great help to me in the early 1990s when I spent many hours in the … library ‘researching’ the issue of homosexuality from an SDA perspective.”
  4. A range of health impacts has also been documented [in the experience of lesbians and gays], including increased depression, eating disorders and difficulties in establishing and maintaining healthy intimate relationships. SDA homosexuals have typically grown up without positive role models or useful parental feedback on partner suitability and have typically skipped the usual learning process of “teen dating.”  A general lack of confidence can permeate many aspects of life and impact upon job opportunities.
  5. The ACON Lesbian Health Study, for instance, is another relevant source:

http://www.acon.org.au/community/index.cfm?cat_id=72

A respondent writes: “There certainly can be anonymity in the city, contrasting to a small church community where gossip can be very destructive to individuals and families. I’d also like to add that there is a strong sense of community in ‘gay ghettos’ like Newtown in Sydney. For many it’s the first and only space where there’s total acceptance and a feeling of normality.”

Another respondent states: “Contributions from many authors show the diversity of feeling and thought on the issues. The sometimes divergent conclusions, and counter arguments serve to strengthen rather than weaken the book’s [Christianity and Homosexuality] overall impact. Quite simply, this issue is very challenging. Questions and ambiguities remain both in scientific understanding and theological approaches. Yet, total unconditional love and support is needed and wanted.”

Further, a respondent writes of their personal experience as follows: “When an SDA pastor last officially contacted me, I argued to retain my SDA membership. The pastor at the time was called upon to investigate my admission of homosexual orientation by an elder at another church, who I had trusted and was betrayed by. For the record, some years after having been welcomed into another faith community, it was safe and saddening for me to resign my SDA membership. All along, from my youngest years, I have felt and known the love of God’s spirit. It’s been the official church, and some of its people that made my being [homosexual, that is lesbian or gay] like leprosy.”

Anyone who wishes to add notes on this topic for my consideration is welcome to do so.

Appendix 

Back to where the contemporary conversation began, for me. An invitation to a 13 September 2008 event gathered 28 people to our home.

An introduction followed by a presentation by Dr Ronald Lawson took ninety minutes and appeared to elicit a constructive response from the attendees. The initial invitation to the meeting stated that Joan and Arthur Patrick invited (name; the event was open by invitation only) to a time of listening and conversation on the theme Toward Effective Pastoral Care for Lesbian and Gay Adherents and Their Families in our home at 49 Martinsville Road, Cooranbong, on Saturday, 13 September 2008, 3:30pm-5:00pm.

Our special guest for the occasion was Professor Ronald Lawson, City University of New York. We welcomed Professor Lawson, as an Australian who earned a PhD degree in history and sociology at the University of Queensland prior to a long and distinguished career in the United States. He was a guest in our home while filling speaking appointments and conducting interviews in this area.

Currently Dr Lawson is busy writing three books focusing on international Adventism and its development, based on research that includes thousands of interviews conducted worldwide during the past three decades. He has authored many articles in the finest journals of their type, such as Journal of the American Academy of Religion and Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

The meeting in our home invited attendees to reflect on biblical, historical, sociological and and scientific considerations relating to human sexuality in asking how the church might relate Christianly to its homosexual  adherents and their families. Such a dialogue should be viewed as a small part of the ongoing  discussion taking place throughout the world amongst persons who are interested in the discipline of Adventist Studies and the delivery of Pastoral Care that is informed by Clinical Pastoral Education, Pastoral Psychology and Christian Ethics.

Back in 2008, informal discussion between Dr Lawson and some of the attendees continued for more than an hour after the benediction. Fourteen copies of the book Christianity and Homosexuality left the meeting in the hands of attendees and ten others were taken by an attendee for delivery to Sydney (New South Wales). It is my opinion that the reading of that publication will help to create a better understanding of homosexuality and enhance the present discussion of how to offer more effective pastoral care to gays, lesbians and their families.

The private screening of a new film about the experience of gay Seventh-day Adventists in the Morisset Multi-Purpose Centre on 31 March 2012 is another stimulus to the conversation that began in earnest (for me) almost four years ago. We will hear much more about this important film when it is formally released; in the interim, my readers may like to log on to http://www.sgamovie.com/

 Arthur Patrick, posted 6 April 2012

Comment received by e-mail from a Clinical Pastoral Education supervisor on 8 April 2012:

“Thank you Arthur for posting on our response to and care of homosexual people  both in and out of the church. For the people I have known it is as you say, there is no element of choice.I have worked alongside pastors who are gay and they have been among the most compassionate and effective persons in pastoral care I have known. For them to reflect on their sexuality and also their mostly non inclusion in the church as a whole has, I think, sensitised them to the voices of exclusion and pain they encounter in pastoral care. One minister commented that he understood a little more of what church is like for a woman, which I found an interesting observation.

“I have several close and rich friendships with gay and lesbian people and I see in them a faith that hangs on in spite of the way churches treat them. Nothing I have seen would cause me to question the depth of their faith.

“On the other hand we have experienced the aftermath of several instances of gay people marrying and hoping that might solve the problem. In most cases the fallout was destructive and did not help the cause of acceptance in the church.

Thank you again for your reflective material.”