Post 74, Women’s Ordination in Humour and Union Sessions

My colleague Dr Lester Devine, long-time director of Adventist Education for the South Pacific Division and now director emeritus of the Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre serving the same geographical region, has momentarily launched into humour that in actuality supports serious research. During forty years of “studies” by many of our most responsible biblical exegetes, theologians and other experts, we have been unable to discover coherent reasons why women should not be ordained.

Many of our non-Adventist friends are astounded when they read of the role of women in Millerism and early Adventism, plus the prophetic ministry of Ellen White, to learn that we are still not united on this important issue. So many people believe that if God showers his spiritual gifts on people without gender tags attached, it is our duty to recognise what he has already done by ordaining people who give evidence that they possess these spiritual gifts, to the ministries for which their training and talents fit them.

No doubt to lighten what is in some quarters an intense debate, Dr Devine has sent to me (and others) a tongue-in-cheek list of ten reasons why men should not be ordained for ministry, as follows:

10. A man’s place is in the army.

9. The pastoral duties of men who have children might distract them from the responsibility of being a parent.

8. The physique of men indicates that they are more suited to such tasks as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do ministerial tasks.

7. Man was created before woman, obviously as a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. Their conduct at football and basketball games demonstrates this.

5. Some men are handsome, and this will distract women worshipers.

4. Pastors need to nurture their congregations. But this is not a traditional male role. Throughout history, women have been recognized as not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more fervently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

3. Men are prone to violence. No really masculine man wants to settle disputes except by fighting about them. Thus they would be poor role models as well as dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

2. The New Testament tells us that Jesus was betrayed by a man. His lack of faith and ensuing punishment remind us of the subordinated position that all men should take.

1. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep sidewalks, repair the church roof, and perhaps even lead the song service on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the church.

This impressive list is the work of Dr David M. Scholer, a former professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. It is so much in the public domain that I hope its author will not mind if I post it yet again. I thank both Dr Scholer and Dr Divine for the comic relief that this witty piece offers. In fact, readers of earlier blogs on this website might well be forgiven for noting that the level of these arguments accord rather well with some of the standard arguments used against the ordination of women.

Of more serious substance are recent votes that strongly support the ordination of women in Europe (Germany) and North America. I commend Adventist Review for its report, “Columbia Union Votes Gender-Neutral Ordinations: Constituency meeting delegates vote change despite leadership plea,” in the edition that reached my mail-box this week (16 August 2012). Of course you can read much more about this on the Internet from the Adventist Review site, the Spectrum site, the Adventist Today site, and many others. The recent Adventist Today report opened with these paragraphs:

“For the third time this year a union conference constituency session has voted to authorize ordination to the gospel ministry in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The vote was 79 percent in favor despite a personal appeal from Elder Ted Wilson, president of the General Conference, to reject the concept and two short speeches by Doug Batchelor, the noted television evangelist and senior pastor of the Sacramento Central Church.

“Perhaps the most unexpected development of the day was a speech by Elder Ernie Castillo, a vice president of the North American Division and former executive secretary of the Pacific Union. He pointed out that the actions of these union conferences are in direct response to steps taken last fall by the GC Officers to force the NAD to back off on a policy that would have permitted commissioned ministers, including women, to serve as conference presidents. What is known as Working Policy E 60.

“’This is not rebellion,’” Castillo said directly to Wilson in front of the entire body. ‘This is a reaction. People who for 40 years have been repressed and discriminated against will eventually react. That is sociology 101.’”

We live in exciting times when the profound value of our heritage sometimes emerges clearly in the public discussion of important issues. May I again refer my readers to blogs such as the one that I posted earlier on this website (4 November 2011) outlining some of the history of this matter.

Arthur Patrick, posted 28 August 2012

Post 73, Fundamentalism and Adventism: After Controversy, Growing Understanding?

A compelling PhD study by Paul McGraw of Pacific Union College offers fuller understanding of “one of the thorniest problems in Adventism”1 and thereby strengthens the possibility that the Seventh-day Adventist church can transcend a fifty-year conflict.2

McGraw intimated the nature of his research at the Triennial Session of the Association of Seventh-day Adventist Historians in Portland, Oregon, on 11 April 1998; now his 315 pages fulfil the high expectations that seemed latent in his project from its beginning. McGraw’s dissertation became available to me for extended scrutiny only on the morning of 3 August 2006; it was so interesting that I completed a first reading of it by the next evening. Coincidentally, on August 4 the Sydney College of Divinity gave notice that a doctoral study by an Australian pastor, Rick Ferret, had received the approval of its examiners.3

I almost held my breath as I re-read Ferret’s final draft in the light of McGraw’s dissertation: both plough some of the same historical ground. However, the two studies are vastly different in methodology: McGraw writes primarily as an historian, making effective use of copious and often new primary sources; Ferret offers trans-disciplinary perspectives. including a strong sociological orientation that makes fresh syntheses and applications of existing literature. Both dissertations are greatly needed by the church, not least because they demonstrate why and how two scholars working in total isolation from each other arrived at conclusions that are congruent.

The Adventist Problem

There are a small number of issues so close to the core of Adventist identity that different perspectives relating to them have led to serious debates and even long-term wars. Elsewhere I contend that it required about one hundred years for the primary sources relating to the General Conference of 1888 to be adequately gathered, focused, understood, and coherently interpreted in writing. However, long before the hundred years had elapsed, indeed, as early as the General Conference of 1950, a new phase of the conflict over the 1888 message of Righteousness by Faith was initiated. This controversy had little chance of an effective resolution prior to the Palmdale Conference of 1976 and more especially the Righteousness by Faith Consultation that began in 1979 and published its definitive report on 31 July 1980.

The Adventist fire that re-ignited in 1950 was fed with explosive fuel as the reality of a sustained conversation between Adventist leaders and Fundamentalists/Evangelicals became known and itself began a long process of misinterpretation. While the principal alternative viewpoint was given credence by the “Great Dane” of Adventism, Milian Lauritz Andreasen, it relied on a rapidly developing independent press in the United States and, in Australasia, Robert Daniel Brinsmead’s Awakening Movement. By the 1970s, as other issues increased the complexity of the conversation about Adventist landmarks, their history and meaning, streams of independent publications were flowing over the church, with one strand of them alleging that in 1957 Adventism either commenced or accelerated a journey into apostasy.

Since then, the opposing sides in this ongoing debate have found it increasingly difficult to talk calmly to each other. Some strategists suggest that usually a particular conflict engages only between twenty and forty per cent of the citizens of a nation or the members of an organisation, those who adopt polar-opposite positions. In other words, often the majority are unknowing of the issues or perhaps indifferent to them.4 To quantify the participants in any Adventist struggle may be subjective, even risky. But there is a constructive truth that can be stated with reference to 1957: the warfare that began five decades ago can now be understood effectively in terms of the primary documents from that effervescent period.

Touring the Battlefield with McGraw

Back in 1978 at a conference in Washington, D.C., my colleague James Nix kindly offered to introduce this naïve Australian to the Civil War battleground of Gettysburg. I assumed the visit may require an hour, or even two. How wrong I was! Nix introduced me to a particular battle but also to a war that was fought in ten thousand places, a struggle that told much about its participants, their nation, its past and its future. I came from Nix’s one-person, guided tour of Gettysburg with a sense of profound humility and awe, sorrow and hope.

McGraw’s early chapters make clear the conflict that escalated with the publication of Questions on Doctrine must be interpreted in the light of Seventh-day Adventism as it developed after 1844 and later suffered unresolved traumas, including the departure of the stalwart D.M. Canright in the 1880s and the foreign missionary E.B. Jones in the 1940s. As a movement developing its landmark ideas in a hostile environment, Adventism cherished the distinctiveness of its remnant concept, fostering separation from the wider society and even from those Christians who also held a high view of Scripture. McGraw pictures well the crying need for a new appraisal of Adventism in the 1950s when so many earnest Christians labelled it as a cult, and he details effectively the pioneering efforts and considerable skill of such leaders as LeRoy Edwin Froom in effecting that process.

McGraw’s history is not a partisan one; it is irenic, even-handed. He has listened to contrasting voices amid the confusing sounds of battle so perceptively that he can interpret their meaning faithfully. He avoids the impulse to engage in “right-on-our-side” apologetics and the violent polemics that sometimes parades as history. Like that by Nix at Gettysburg, McGraw’s tour leaves me with a profound sense of humility in view of human perceptions versus the way it appears God would want to lead His people, with awe at what was actually achieved by Adventist and Fundamentalist/Evangelical leaders, with sorrow at the way in which both people and processes were misunderstood, and with hope that all of us who are members of the Adventist family can better value each other as we focus more intelligently on our identity and mission.

A Brief Summation, for Now

We are less than honest if we fail to admit that currently a deep rift exists in the Seventh-day Adventist church and that this rift derives in considerable measure from events that occurred between the initial representations by Robert Wieland and Donald Short to the General Conference (1950) and the death of M.L. Andreasen (1876-1962).5 McGraw’s guided tour through the disputed terrain introduces us to the participants in the struggle with honesty yet empathy. His account makes sense in terms of the existing studies by those who have particular axes to grind as well as the responsible analyses offered by such authors as Keld Reynolds and George Knight. Therefore, McGraw’s dissertation offers a capstone for the arch of understanding that has been built by others with diligence yet amidst danger, with enthusiasm and yet often with the need for demolition and redirection of effort.

McGraw also helps us understand the vibrant presidency of Reuben Figuhr (1954-1966), preceding an era of particular intensity led by Robert Pierson and his colleagues (1966-1979), and followed by far-sighted church councils during Neal Wilson’s leadership (1979-1990). He provides us with a way to begin to understand the nature and mission of both the Adventist Society for Religious Studies and the Adventist Theological Society. After taking McGraw’s tour, we can better appreciate who we are, why conflicting maps of the Adventist journey since 1957 abound, and how the Adventist future may be more promising if we choose to learn from our past.6

Such a limited review as this can intimate some of the strengths of McGraw’s study but it can neither express nor evaluate them adequately. His dissertation illumines two related matters: Adventist identity and the relationship between Adventists and other Christians. He contends that since the inception of Christianity, “the question of legitimacy has faced every emerging religious group.” Therefore, it is not surprising that Seventh-day Adventism has for so long “struggled with the question of whether acknowledgment by other Christian groups was desirable or simply a sign that it had compromised its calling.” McGraw’s concluding paragraph specifies an important aspect of his  multi-phased contribution to a rapidly-developing discipline, Adventist Studies:

Because of the fact that even in 2003 there continue to be individuals on both sides of the debate who hold to opinions which mirror those held by both sides prior to the Evangelical Conferences of 1955-56, this work is important. Just as the conferees on both sides realized that the issue which most deeply divided them was that of terminology, it is equally important for those who still see an insurmountable divide to look at the complete story in which at least some individuals on both sides tried to reach out the hand of fellowship and bridge the divide created in the minds of many by a simple word, “cult.”

That “complete story” has dynamic potential for the Adventist future. Internal unity is crucial for our mission as Seventh-day Adventists, as are effective relationships with other Christians.


ENDNOTES

1 See George R. Knight, “Historical and Theological Introduction to the Annotated Edition,” Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine (Berrien Springs, MI.: Andrews University Press, 2003), xiii-xxxvi.

2 See my review entitled “Moore’s Light on An Adventist Trouble,” Adventist Today 14, no. 3 (May/June 2006), 22, 23, 20 for an assessment of A. Leroy Moore’s helpful volume and notice of other  researchers that should be consulted.

3 Rick Ferret, “Charisma, Sectarianism and Institutionalisation: Identity Issues in Seventh-day Adventism” (PhD dissertation: Sydney College of Divinity, 2006), 416 pages. Ferret invested seven years of effort in this study; currently he is negotiating its publication. I have reviewed it briefly under the title “After Richard Ferret: Should Adventists Baptize Sociology, Now?” (publication forthcoming).

4 David Brubaker, “Church fights and the ‘third voice” middle,” Ministry, November 2001, 20-21.

5 See sdanet.org/atissue for the full text of Virginia Steinweg’s biography of Andreasen, originally published as Without Fear or Favour (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1979).

6 McGraw’s dissertation is entitled “Born in Zion?: The Margins of Fundamentalism and the Definition of Seventh-day Adventism.” It was directed by Dewey D. Wallace, Professor of Religion, The George Washington University, and is available from University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hopefully, all Adventist institutional libraries will accession it in the near future.

Arthur Patrick, written 22 September 2006, posted 22  August 2012

Post 72, Communion: Facets of the Diamond

For years I’ve carried these vivid lines in my head, but where do they come from? The Internet says Miriam LeFevre Crouse wrote them.

“Three men shared death upon a hill,

But only one man died;

The other two-a thief and God himself-

Made rendezvous.

“Three crosses still

Are borne un Calvary’s Hill,

Where Sin still lifts them high;

Upon the one, sag broken men who, cursing, die;

Another holds the praying thief,

Or those who penitent as he

Still find the Christ

Beside them on the tree.”

When he entered a North Rocks jewellery store, he looked innocuous: plump, wearing a baggy hat, uneven teeth with gold fillings, about 60 years of age. But he has an eye for diamonds. In three months, the man with fifteen false names and a computer to forge bank cheques acquired seven diamonds rings worth $250,000. No wonder police in three states searched for him.

Now that sum is small change compared with the diamond-studded piece of clothing (a very small piece!) we saw once on TV, worth $11 million.

They say diamonds are forever. Our culture prizes them and is willing to pay huge sums to get them. Part of the value of a diamond is in its facets, its polished surfaces.

Communion is a precious gem cherished by the Christian church. Like a diamond, it has many facets; in other words, many planes of meaning. Some Bible students think we hear of it first in Acts 2 chapter 2 which tells us that the believers met as a group day after day in the Temple at Jerusalem, (KJV) “breaking bread from house to house.” We are on more certain ground as we read five New Testament passages from four different authors who bear witness about this central ceremony of our faith.

We do well to hear these witnesses, often. The first is the Apostle Paul. One tradition claims that Paul was short of stature, stooped, bow-legged and suffered from a chronic eye defect. He also wrote about one third of the New Testament and planted the main stem of the many-branched tree that developed into Christianity. We have Pauls’witness in I Corinthians 11: 17-34.

Mark was not an apostle, but we believe he was a close associate of the Apostle Peter. Certainly his vivid gospel sounds like the kind of witness we might expect from the Big Fisherman. Some think that Mark, whose rather well-heeled family lived in Jerusalem, was the young man “dressed only in a linen cloth” no doubt hiding in the shrubbery nearby where Jesus was taken into custody. When the soldiers grabbed Mark, his linen cloth remained in their hands as he fled naked from their clutches. Mark’s account of the first communion is in Mark 14: 12-26

Matthew was, of course, an eyewitness. He was so pleased with Mark’s expression of the gospel story that he used much of it in his own gospel, written for a different purpose, one that Mark clearly believed but chose not to emphasise as much. Matthew’s testimony is given to us in Matthew 26:17-30.

Luke, a medical doctor, is also the first historian of Christianity. He tells us that “many people” did their best to report the gospel story, and after careful study of eyewitness accounts he wrote Luke 22:7-23.

Ours is an age that values meaning. What are the facets of meaning that these Bible passages emphasise?

Paul speaks in I Corinthians 10:16 of  “the cup we use in the Lord’s Supper and for which we give thanks to God.” Each of the passages we have listed above records that Jesus “gave thanks to God” or “gave a prayer of thanks.” It is small wonder that from early Christian times the Communion has been known as the Lord’s Supper or simply as the Thanksgiving. (The Greeks said it in their language as Eucharistia, gratitude, thankfulness; hence its oft-used name, the Eucharist.) This in its very essence is a service of thanksgiving to God for what He has done in Jesus Christ.

But the New Testament witnesses also stress this is a time of “sharing in the body of Christ.”  We are many, Christ’s body is one, broken for the many. The experience of partaking of the emblems makes us, by faith, part of His one spiritual body, the church. (In baptism we become part of Christ’s body; Communion is a renewal of that relationship with the Lord and His people.) This is at the heart of the belonging that the New Testament calls fellowship. So we have come to call the whole service Communion, an act of sharing, a time of fellowship.

But the Communion is also a time of doing. Paul and Luke quote Jesus as saying, “Do this.” The Communion is not just something we read about, think about, talk about. The doing is reinforced by a cluster of words: “Take, eat.” “Drink this wine.” “Do this in memory of me.” We are called to act out a parable; this time of thanksgiving and sharing is also a time of action, doing. And the doing in the Communion service has pervasive meaning for all the other actions of our lives.

There are yet more facets to the diamond of Communion. The doing sharpens memory; it leads to better remembering: “Do this in memory of me,” Jesus said. The Communion reminds us of a body broken to achieve our wholeness, life-blood shed that we might be cleansed from all sin and experience life eternal. Here we see the infinite price of our redemption, God’s settled purpose to bring us salvation through the dying of Jesus. We recall these truths more acutely as we partake of the symbols of bread and wine.

The Scriptures affirm that Communion bears witness to the sealing of God’s covenant to save us by the gift of Christ’s life. God is absolutely committed to our rescue; Christ’s blood seals His promise to redeem us by what the Apostle Paul calls his unspeakable gift, a gift beyond words.

Here too, is an emphasis on God’s forgiving and our release from sin. Blest is the one whose sins are forgiven, the Psalmist sings, whose wrongs are pardoned. As John Donne reflected on meeting his Maker, he prayed:

“As the first Adam’s sweat surrounds my face,

May the last Adam’s blood my soul embrace.

 So, in His purple wrapped receive me, Lord,

By these his thorns give me his other crown.”

Christ’s blood is the assurance of our forgiveness and acceptance; every Communion is a time when we focus on the reality of God’s forgiving.

The seventh facet of this diamond speaks not of time but of eternity. The thanksgiving, the sharing, the remembering, the sealing, the forgiving are all in the present tense; they emphasise the meaning of Communion, here and now. But Jesus clearly emphasised the not yet, the there and then, as well as the now. “I will never eat it until it is given its full meaning in the Kingdom of God.” “I will never again drink this wine until the day I drink the new wine with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” The present joys of the Christian life are a foretaste of something far greater. God does not will us to coexist with evil and death. Christ arose. He returned to God. He will come again. The coming kingdom is real. We eat the bread and wine in the Kingdom of Grace: they are appetisers by which we anticipate the celebratory meal, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, in the Kingdom of Glory.

No wonder that for twenty centuries the Lord’s Supper, the Communion, the Eucharist, has for so many Christians been a daily, weekly, quarterly or annual time of thanksgiving for what God has done, is doing and will yet do.

Communion is like a diamond; it has many facets. Some of its precious planes of meaning are identified in seven expressions: thanksgiving, sharing, doing, remembering, sealing, forgiving, anticipating. So Communion calls us to gratitude, oneness, action, reflection and commitment. It assures us of release from sin and it is a promise of our future with Christ in the Kingdom of God.

Arthur Patrick, 20 August 2012

 

 

Post 71, Women’s Ordination: Are we reaching a tipping point?

The following paragraphs are cited from the ADVENTIST TODAY newsletter that is usually available on my computer each Sabbath morning when I wake up. This report seems so crucial for my readers that I will cite several sections of it, but I encourage you all to go to the original source for a wealth of related information.

“Delegates from the local conferences of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in five western states will convene Sunday in a special session. It was called specifically to consider a recommendation from the Pacific Union Conference executive committee to end the practice of refusing ordination for women serving in pastoral ministry.”

“If the delegates approve the recommendation, it will be the third union conference around the world to take this step. The North German Union and the Columbia Union have already voted the same action. The Adventist Church in China has been ordaining women pastors since the 1980s.”

The report next points out that the” recommendation was approved by a vote of 42 to 2 by the union conference executive committee on May 9,” that listed six reasons for the action.” We need to be aware that “if the recommendation is voted, the Pacific Union Conference will not change any procedures. It has for the last ten years processed approvals for both ordained and commissioned ministers together in one list and it will continue to do so. Local conferences will have the choice of ordaining approved women, and at least one of the conferences has already taken the step of issuing Ordained Minister credentials to the women who were commissioned in the past.”

However, “The General Conference (GC) officers have issued two documents arguing that the delegates should vote against the recommendation. They give three reasons: (1) The GC Session voted in 1990 not to go ahead with the ordination of women to the gospel ministry although the study commission did not find any biblical reasons for not doing so. (2) At the 2010 GC Session the current GC president announced another study of ordination which was later authorized by the GC executive committee and is to result in a report to the 2015 GC Session. (3) If the union conference goes ahead of the current study it will break the unity of the denomination and result in ‘grave consequences’.”

We Adventist who live in distant parts of the world need to clearly appraise the arguments, pro and con. “Some Adventists argue the ‘male headship’ doctrine which is taught by the Southern Baptist Convention, but the Adventist denomination has consistently taken a position against this doctrine as the Baptists have developed it over the last three or four decades and even conservative Adventist Bible scholars oppose it. Some even resort to the same arguments used by the papacy to defend an all-male clergy in the Catholic church.”

“Spectrum, the journal of the largest organization of Adventist academics, has published a list of three web sites that oppose the Pacific Union recommendation.” One entitled “Christ or Culture” asserts that ordaining women “presents a serious crisis that threatens to fragment our beloved church, create confusion in our homes, and cripple the progress of the three angels’ messages.”

“Those who oppose the ordination of women have used the words ‘rebellion’ and ‘mutiny’ in recent weeks in response to the vote of the Columbia Union Conference constituency delegates by a four to one margin to end gender discrimination. Last week GC President Ted Wilson appealed for ‘unity’ in an interview on the independent television channel, Three Angels Broadcasting.”

“Because the Pacific Union Conference includes an amendment to its bylaws on the agenda Sunday as part of the package of recommendations, that item will require a two-thirds majority vote. This opens the possibility of a mixed outcome in which the majority votes in favor of ordaining women but the bylaws amendment fails to get a sufficiently large majority to pass.”

“The General Conference made a specific request to Adventist Today for us to publish the latest and most detailed statement from the GC officers on this topic:  http://www.adventistreview.org/artcle/5601/archives/issue-2012-1522/questions-and-answers-regarding-issues-of-unity.”

So there you have available arguments from both sides of this important issue. I hope ADVENTIST TODAY will forgive me for quoting its report at such length. Do log on to the ADVENTIST TODAY and SPECTRUM sites, and keep reading ADVENTIST REVIEW.

Arthur Patrick, posted 18 August 2012

________________________

Post 70, Robert Daniel Brinsmead: A Reflection After Fifty-seven Years

My memories of the years 1954 to 1957, while I studied for a Bachelor of Arts (Theology) degree at the institution that is now known as Avondale College of Advanced Education, are peopled by individuals that illustrate a great variety of stances toward the principal theme of this website, Adventist Studies. Few were to become as well-known as a Queensland/North New South Wales farmer (I was a cutter of sawmill logs) with whom I shared classes for two years: Robert Daniel Brinsmead.

Bob was a superior student. When Pastor Nelson Burns (“Nubby”) was off campus, he sometimes arranged for Bob to make class presentations in his stead. Bob was passionate about his faith; at times his face would redden visibly and the veins in his neck would expand markedly as he engaged in vigorous discussion during Ministerial League and other meetings with his peers. Little by little we came to understand something of the years of conflict between the Brinsmead family and such leaders as Queensland Conference president Robert Greive. That rift became clearer when the church published its most-controversial volume ever, Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine (1957).  Fifty years later some us tried to unpack the significance of the book during a major conference at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA. The papers presented, readily available on the internet, are vital for anyone who wants to understand the development of Adventist thought since the 1950s.

Both Pastor Greive and Bob Brinsmead were early victims of the conflict that erupted during the 1950s and is unresolved for some Adventists today. Bob was fervently on the right, taking a high view of 1844 and struggling to understand the dynamic General Conference of 1888. Robert was passionately on the left, seeking to better interpret such conflicted doctrines as the nature of Christ during the incarnation and Righteousness by Faith. The two were cast aside as either too proscriptive or too innovative for the community of faith they so highly valued.

The cross-currents that were so violent almost ended my ministry early in the 1960s. As a church pastor I and my members welcomed a young man who came to our church while visiting his non-Adventist relatives in our city. We invited Mike to engage with us in community evangelism and home visitation, as in the Appeal for Missions (now the ADRA Appeal). As the months went by, we were convinced that we should invite him to become a member of our congregation on Profession of Faith, knowing he had been a baptised church member for some years. The fact that Pastor Greive and his team had disfellowshipped Mike (as a schismatic heretic) seemed an incident of the past that should be reversed by reason of Mike’s commitment to Adventism and its mission.

Earnest souls saw matters in a quite different light. They were firmly of the conviction that Mike and people like him should never darken a church door again. They were “sure” Mike was in some type of communication with Bob, and that if I as a church pastor suggested Mike was suitable to receive as an Adventist member, I was suspect. Intense hours of discussion in Christchurch led to a decision by the Executive Committee: if I could say six words (“Robert Brinsmead is of the devil”), there was a continuing place for me in ministry. I could say that, like me, Robert Brinsmead had done some devilish things, but my conscience would not allow me to mouth the desired proscription. In the intensity of the moment, I requested leave of absence to prepare a paper setting out the issues for examination by the Committee on Special Study (the comparable body is now known as the Biblical Research Committee) at the Australasian headquarters of what is now the South Pacific Division. Ten months later my Conference president received a cable, “Replace Patrick in ministry if satisfied of his loyalty,” and I was assigned to the most exciting pastorate of my career.

Meanwhile, Mike was not available to be welcomed into church membership in our conference; he had moved to Africa to share the Good News. I lost all contact with him for 38 years, until Joan and I visited the Palm Springs Church in California. When we read the bulletin and saw the name Michael Marsh as one of the Sabbath School teachers, we attended his class (and enjoyed his presentation). A stroke had somewhat impaired him but he was obviously a loyal and appreciated teacher.

Looking back on those effervescent years, I am deeply saddened by the conflicts that impacted individuals and congregations. We needed to ask all the questions that people like Robert and Bob were asking. Without the abundance of primary historical sources that are now so readily available, we had no hope of forming final answers, so we needed to engage in what Fritz Guy calls “the dialogue and dialectic of a community,” for years, until clarity was possible. In Bob Brinsmead’s case, I was convinced that wise leadership could avert the destructive tsunami that impacted New Zealand, the United States, Africa and elsewhere.

This short blog is not the place to offer anything like a detailed history of the effervescent life of Robert Daniel Brinsmead. In the 1970s he ardently asked questions about Adventism and its relationship to Reformation teachings. He excelled as a writer and publisher before putting more of his abundant energies into an enterprise that called for the skills of a farmer and the initiatives of a tourist operator. How cheered we were when Bob and his then-wife Val came to an Avondale Homecoming, an event that emphasises fellowship as far above any notions of conflict. Bob and Val planned to come to the next Homecoming, until a tragic aneurism ended Val’s life. Since then, Joan and I have only visited Tropical Fruit World once. Bob warmly insisted we come up to his house; I was a bit awed by the extensive readings in two rooms of his home. One set of books focused on the planet, the other on Jesus and the way he dealt with people.

On Thursday this week, after a few years without contact, Bob and his new wife Irene sent me an e-mail that is of immediate interest: this weekend they are launching a book Bob has written written about a remarkable medical doctor. You can read the following about Laugh and Tough it Out on the website of www.irenicpublications.com.au:

Sam Underwood was born into a Tamil family in the old Ceylon. He grew up at Penang in the old Malaya under British rule and dreamed of becoming the best medical doctor he could possibly be. His life was dramatically changed by his very personal encounters with the Japanese Occupation during the War and by the Communist insurgency after the War. His life too was vitally impacted by the remarkable transformation of the old Malaya into the fully independent nation of Malaysia in 1957.

The beginnings of Malaysia’s career as an independent nation co-incided with the beginnings of Sam Underwood’s very distinguished medical career in which he earned 5 medical degrees, including a PhD in plastic surgery and the man has forged remarkable success stories, neither of them are unblemished success stories. Sam has experienced the commendable and not so commendable features of his nation’s multi-racial policies. He has met both triumph and disaster in his own personal life – illustrating that excellence is never achieved by the absence of human fault-lines, but in spite of them.

Bob has given me his kind permission to cite this description on my website. I also asked him to send me “a descriptive paragraph on the most significant events” of his life during he past ten years. Here is what he wrote:

During the past ten years:  Lost my life partner (almost 50 years together) and married again about 3 years later.  Watched my grandchildren grow up and my own children advance in their work/business ventures etc. Retired from local politics and operations at Tropical Fruit World. Always thinking about theology and the meaning of it all, always reviewing and updating my ideas, continue to pursue, read the best material I can find on the historical Jesus. Wrote a bio about a medical doctor in Malaysia who became a friend over 15 years ago. Starting to gather ideas of putting together an account of my spiritual/intellectual journey.  Playing tennis, trying to keep moderately fit. Attached please find outline of my thinking on Apocalyptic – this is only the start of an extended treatment. The heart of my thinking in this Paper is actually an extended footnote on the historical Jesus. The Paper is unedited, in the rough as yet, but an SDA would find my thinking pretty scary I suppose; I did not come to such views suddenly, but have been years in development.

This website encourages the idea that the better we humans understand each other and the Word, the more satisfyingly we will find our existence and our mission. We could well be challenged by Bob Brinsmead and spend more time “thinking about theology and the meaning of it all”! I look forward to his account of his “spiritual/intellectual journey.”

Arthur Patrick, posted 17 August 2012 

 

Post 69, A Sanitarium and a Hospital in Sydney: Why?

These ideas are fragments from presentations that I made soon after writing (under the gentle supervision of Dr Tom Ludowici as one of the Hospital’s administrators) the centennial history of Sydney Adventist Hospital.

History at its beginning level involves the task of description. At 185 Fox Valley Road, Wahroonga, an elegant wooden building was opened as a sanitarium on the first day of 1903. During the next one hundred years various physical changes occurred as a range of activities related to healthcare took place at the site. On the first day of 2003, a commemorative program was initiated that in the course of that year helped those involved with Sydney Adventist Hospital reflect on the institution’s first century and better plan the early part of its second century. Such observations describe what occurred.

The historian in exploring the what may also address issues far beyond the planting, naming, development and mission of the institution. For example, What was occurring in the wider society and how did that influence the San until 1973 and the Hospital since that date? Obviously the recognition of nursing as a profession in Australia (during the 1920s) and this nation’s belated acknowledgement that women and men (during the 1930s) can be good nurses impacted the San, and the move to educate nurses in College of Advanced Education and university settings (during the 1970s) deeply influenced the Hospital. Change in modes of transport, industrial dilemmas, two global wars, the Great Depression, the relentless development of medical science, changing conditions in the developing world-all these things and many more influenced what was built and what was done here. So the historical task may be a quite pervasive process if it is to document a century of healthcare in these terms.

In its 277 pages, The San: 100 Years of Christian Caring, 1903-2003, describes what you might see on this site and who you might meet in the buildings and how this institution has reached out to Australia and the world. This lecture is being delivered the day before I leave for the United States, in part to present 108 classroom hours of essentially historical substance to undergraduate and graduate university students. The examination questions those students will face and the papers they write will demand much more than description. Analysis moves into the more subjective, even debatable area where what gives centre stage to why. Even though the centennial volume is of the coffee-table genre, its text and more than five hundred pictures give a reasonable introduction to the what. Here I will begin to explore the more demanding question, why; that is, to account for the existence, characteristics and activities of the San and the Hospital.

It is fruitful to seek to identify sources of influence so fundamental that without any one of them the San would not have been established. Three immediately stand out: a nation (the United States of America), Adventism (a religion) and a woman (Ellen White).

Authors like Martin Marty of the University of Chicago are apt to write a book as often as I write a major article. There is a vast literature produced by authors in several countries that looks at the political, social and religious history of the United States with its warts and its desirable features. This is a fascinating subject that must be dismissed here with passing mention. This I want to say: without the climate of openness to the Bible and its interpretation that was possible in even the eastern United States in the first half of the nineteenth century, Adventism may not have gained a foothold in a culture where it could grow and reproduce itself. We need to notice the powerful reaction in North American religion to the French Revolution, the energetic development of Bible societies, missionary impulses, reform movements and more, including the Second Great Awakening with its revivalism, evangelicalism and millennialism. It was from this ferment that Adventism developed a new impulse under William Miller and his associates between 1831 and 1844. In his impressive books published by Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press, Bryan Ball demonstrates that where the Scriptures are studied there is likely to develop an awareness of the landmark ideas of Adventism, including the recovery of the seventh-day Sabbath and a wholistic view of human personhood. But it was in Maine, New York and Michigan that Adventism took root, not in London, Manchester and Oxford.

The Sanitarium never bore a denominational name: that designation waited until the important rebuilding program gave the institution a new identity during 1973. But it was distinctively Adventist in both its conception and its nurture. So if Sabbatarian Adventism had not developed from the Great Disappointment of 1844, found a name for itself (Seventh-day Adventist) in 1860, developed its primary structure by 1863, begun its spread to other nations (1864, with a volunteer, 1874 with an official missionary to Europe, 1885 with an eleven-strong “first fleet” to Australia) there would have been no Sanitarium in Wahroonga. Of course we Adventists need to recognize the long history of involvement by Christians in creating hospitals, especially in Europe, to fully understand the relationship between the salvation of the soul and the salving of body. But the San and the Hospital can only be understood as part of a worldwide initiative that has created the mission of sanitaria, hospitals, clinics, medical launches, aeroplanes and such in places as diverse as Los Angeles and Atoifi, Maluti and Sydney.

We could toy with a host of names that had to do with the founding of the Sanitarium. What if Alfred and Emma Semmens had not ventured to the United States and brought a vision of the Kellogg Sanitarium idea to Australia and initiated it in Ashfield and Summer Hill? What if Edgar Caro with his newly-minted medical degree had not had the temerity to come to Summer Hill in 1898 and call the fledgling institution the Sydney Medical and Surgical Sanitarium? What if the Wessels family from South Africa had failed to lend expertise and money to the enterprise, if locals like Fred Sharpe had not been involved, if the wheel had come off the Radley family buggy that came from Castle Hill to Thornleigh so this site would be inspected? What if John Harvey Kellogg had not fostered ideas, methods and earned money that would boost the initiative, or what if Merritt Kellogg hadn’t drawn the plans and supervised the construction of the Fox Valley enterprise? What if William White and Arthur Daniells had failed to foster the idea as presidents of the then infant Australian Union Conference? So the list might go on and on—the San was a venture of many minds and willing hands.

But the San was mothered uniquely by Ellen Gould White (1827-1915). This influence goes beyond her symbiotic relationship with Sabbatarian Adventism from 1844 onward. It was during 1863 that teasing ideas began to coalesce as a tangible impulse toward health reform. Ellen White began to write down her insights. By 1866 the very experimental Western Health Reform Institute was planted. It would grow with Kellogg’s leadership from the 1870s to become for nineteenth-century Adventism the flagship institution that Loma Linda is for twenty-first century Adventism.

When the Sydney Medical and Surgical Sanitarium opened on 1 January 1903 with speeches by its designer and builder Dr. Merritt G. Kellogg, medical superintendent Dr. Daniel H. Kress and business manager John A. Burden,[1] Ellen White was beginning her third calendar year of residence at Elmshaven in California. However, White’s influence was decisive in the founding and development of what is currently the largest, single-campus private hospital in the Australian state of New South Wales.

White ministered from 1891-1900 within the territory of what is now the South Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists, fostering the development of numerous health-related initiatives, but after a century only the Sydney “San” and the international Sanitarium Health Food Company remain. Ten key ideas deriving from her major health vision of 1863[2] shaped the Battle Creek Sanitarium where Australian staff trained during the 1890s for service back in their homeland. In expanded form these concepts provided the essential philosophy of the antipodean institution.

Supportive as she was of preliminary ventures from 1896 in the Sydney suburbs of Ashfield and Summer Hill, on 21 July 1899 White told the 46 delegates at the Australasian Union Conference session[3] that “the grand and ennobling work we have to do for the Master” required a purpose-built institution. Almost spontaneously, immediate fund-raising began; White pledged (and borrowed to pay) 100 of the 905 pounds raised the same day. Thereafter she actively stimulated the search for land in a non-urban setting yet close to the significant population of the country’s first city. She inspected the 80-acre Wahroonga site with others during October 1899, fostered the gathering of funds (8,453 pounds was spent on the building, its furniture and equipment by opening day), and vacationed on the property in January 1900. Her letters until 1907 demonstrated a sustained interest in the Sanitarium.

The institution, extensively rebuilt and renamed Sydney Adventist Hospital in 1973, has changed from a rural “health home” with orchards, vegetable gardens, poultry and a dairy, to embrace scientific medicine. White’s writings fostered this transformation as well as a continuing emphasis on the values of wholistic healthcare. The outreach of the hospital’s nurse education program continues to enrich Adventist mission in many parts of the world, and has been enhanced since 1973 by the visits of surgical teams to the Pacific Islands, Asia, Africa and elsewhere.

Further perspectives on its first hundred years are available in a 277-page illustrated volume printed by Signs Publishing Company, Warburton.[4]

 Arthur N. Patrick, posted 15 August 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Australasian Good Health, Vol. 6, No. 2 (1 February 1903).

[2] See Roger W. Coon, The Great Visions of Ellen G. White (Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 1992), 90-107.

[3] Union Conference Record, Special Numbers 1-10 (10 July 1899 to 31 July 1899).

[4] Arthur N. Patrick, The San: 100 Years of Christian Caring, 1903-2003 (Wahroonga: Sydney Adventist Hospital Limited, 2003).

Post 68, Brief Published Report from RECORD on Dr Rolf J. Pöhler’s Doctoral Thesis

“When I took up advanced theological studies in 1973, the issue of doctrinal change immediately caught my attention,” Dr Rolf Pöhler states in the preface of one of his books, entitled Continuity and Change in Christian Doctrine (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1999).

God changes not. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Should the Christian faith, therefore, be static? Not according to Pöhler. And he has credentials that make his testimony impressive.

By 1975 Pöhler had earned a Master of Divinity degree  summa cum laude from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University (Michigan, USA). Three years later he wrote a study on early Adventist history that caught my eye, leading me to expect more from a researcher who demonstrated such thoroughness and skill.

But for long years Pöhler seemed invisible, immersed as he was in pastoral and leadership duties back in Europe. Only one more of the 100 articles and book chapters he wrote filtered down to the Southern Hemisphere.

Finallt, in 1975, Pöhler completed a Doctor of Theology degree at Andrews University, supervised by Dr Raoul Dederen. University Microfilms International of Michigan has available almost every doctoral dissertation accepted in the United States since 1861. So the Avondalke College library could secure a copy of Pöhler’s magnum opus; 591 pages of fascinating reading.

Better news still: Pöhler has since published his dissertation in two volumes; the slim one named above and the other, Continuity and Change in Adventist Teaching (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2000).

This two-part study is exciting because Pöhler has researched his 1973 issue of doctrinal change more thoroughly in Christian and Adventist sources than any other mortal has chosen to do. Part of the proof of this is plain to see in his bibliography of 94 pages. Now, any diligent student can create a long list of relevant sources. But Pöhler understands the vast literature that bears on his topic, and he stands on the shoulders of many comptetent writers who have already researched aspects of his theme.

No-one can claim any longer that Christianity is a static religion. Jesus was sensitive to what the disciples could “bear”while He was still with them and promised the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth (John 16: 12, 13). The richness of truth embodied in the Scriptures has challenged His followers for 20 centuries. Adventist evangelists celebrate this reality as they invited people to accept “the truth as it is in Jesus” (to use a cherished refrain from Ellen White’s writings).

What about Seventh-day Adventists? Pöhler’s second volume documents “the historical reality of doctrinal development” in our peripheral teachings, fundamental doctrines and distinctive beliefs. Then he explores the nature and direction of doctrinal development through seven eras of Adventist history, identifying three concepts we have adopted.

The static approach presupposes doctrine is “unvarying,” whereas the opposite stance opts for “unrestrained change.” Neither is adequate. By contrast, Pöhler is drawn toward the “dynamic approach” with its built-in safeguards. In this choice he has a lot of sterling company, like F.M. Wilcox who wrote in 1930: “The pioneers of this movement never claimed infallibility, nor do we claim it for them. We do, however, believe in the sincerity of heart and honesty of purpose which prompted their lives. Instead of censuring them for their limitations of vision and their lack of understanding divine revelation, we honour them for their loyalty to truth as they saw it, for their honesty of heart in renouncing error as it was revealed to them, and for their lives of labour and sacrifice in the promulgation of the cause they espoused.”

The most important chapter in Pöhler’s books is surprisingly short–a mere 20 pages. Entitled “Prophetic authority and doctrinal change: An analysis,” it claims that Ellen White “exerted a significant influence on the development of Adventist doctrines, being actively involved in the formation, preservation, and revision of the teachings of the church.”

Not only did she surpass her fellow believers in the depth of her understanding, “but also in striking a balance between the need for theological continuity and substantial identity, on the one hand, and the possibility of theological revisions and doctrinal changes, on the other.”

Adventist pioneer John Andrews had a similar attitude. He declared, “I would exchange a thousand errors for one truth!” Thank God that Pöhler has enabled Adventist Studies to take another leap forward, more accurately understanding and faithfully applying our heritage.

Arthur Patrick, posted 11 August 2012, originally published in Record, 15 March 2003, page 10.

 

Post 67: Pöhler, Continuity and Change in Adventist Thought

Dr Rolf Pöhler (for biographical details see the post dated 10 October 2011) will arrive in Sydney via MH123 on 14 September 2012 at 8am and will be available for the following speaking appointments up to and including 22 September 2012. His specialty is Systematic Theology, with particular reference to Adventist doctrine, ethics, ecclesiology, eschatology and hermeneutics. The over-arching theme of his presentations will be:

“Journey of Hope: Living the Faith in Today’s World”

Friday night, September 14, 7pm Dr Lynden Roger’s study group: “My Adventist journey” and “Samson a great (post-modern?) guy!”

Sabbath, September 15, 9:40am, Dr Howard Fisher’s E14 Sabbath School: “Is there no heavenly bliss without an ultimate judgment?”

Sabbath, September 15, 11am, Avondale College Church Sermon focused on the central question of the Apocalypse and Adventism, “How long, O Lord?’’ God’s love is not unlimited and his patience is not endless.

Sabbath, September 15, 3pm, College Church Educational Event: “Understanding Continuity and Change in Adventism.” If Seventh-day Adventists have “The Truth,” why does theology (still need to) change?

Monday, September 17, a presentation entitled “Prophetic versus apocalyptic eschatology” arranged by Dr Murray House and Dr Wendy Jackson for their Systematic Theology class, 9am to 11am. Noon, lunch with the staff of the School of Ministry and Theology followed at 1pm by a presentation entitled “Solid foundation or dangerous ground?” (on the risk of following Truth wherever it leads) for Ministry/Theology Staff/Students, Ladies Chapel, arranged by Dr Barry Gane, Acting Head of School.

Tuesday, September 18, South Pacific Division Worship (8:15am, “Are you successful?” a message from John 15:5-8 for busy administrators and staff), followed by a visit to Sydney Adventist Hospital. From 10 am to noon, Pastor Garth Bainbridge has arranged for Dr Pöhler to meet with ministers from the Greater Sydney Conference and other invited guests, in The Opal Room, Fox Valley Community Church, for a presentation entitled “In search of identity: Reflections on Adventists’ self-understanding.”

Thursday, September 20, noon, Avondale College of Higher Education Staff Colloquium: “Is there a place for a ‘Regional Theology’ in Adventism?”

Sabbath, September 22, 11am, Sermon at Erina coordinated by Pastor Cristian Copaceanu, “On Love for Truth.”

Sabbath, September 22, 3pm, a meeting arranged by Dr Lynden Rogers for the Sydney Adventist Forum: “(Re)discovering and (re)contextualising ‘The Truth’: The perils and promise of being a thinking Adventist,” The Opal Room, Fox Valley Community Church.

For further details contact Arthur Patrick, telephone (02) 4977 3598 or e-mail [email protected]

Draft dated 10 August 2012

Here is a reflection on the important subject of Continuity, Change and Mission:

Adventists are a pilgrim people, journeying from the counterpart of Egypt to the real Canaan. On such a journey through a vast landscape, landmarks are essential. The Bible gives us the significant truths that meet this need.

A number of years ago, I was one of a party of four that hiked in the Warrumbungle National Park where volcanoes and time have shaped fantastic mountains. Colourful names for various peaks reflect human perceptions and experience: Crater Bluff, Split Rock, Needle Mountain. And Mount Exmouth, reaching 1206 metres into the clear sky of New South Wales, beyond the Great Dividing Range.

Let’s press Mount Exmouth into service as a symbol of an Adventist teaching, the message of the First Angel. See Revelation, chapter 14, especially verses 6 and 7.

Even though it towers over other impressive tors like the Breadknife and Bluff Mountain, Exmouth cannot be seen from Blackman’s Camp. From that angle, other peaks hide Exmouth.

From part of the walking track Exmouth looks like a single, rounded mass of rock.

When at last we reached its crest, we found Exmouth is a small range with a number of rocky outcrops.

How similar is the “range” we call the First Angel’s message: proclaiming the everlasting gospel for earth-dwellers, announcing judgment in the present tense, calling for worship of the Creator. Each of these “outcrops” is an important truth; our spiritual journey is orientated by all of them.

But each aspect of this teaching has been viewed very differently from various vantage points during the sixteen decades of the Adventist journey. Let’s test that statement with respect to just one feature: the gospel, for everyone.

In 1845 when William Miller read in his King James Version about preaching “the everlasting gospel unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” he wrote: “We have done our work in warning sinners, and in trying to awake a formal church. God in his providence has shut the door; we can only stir one another up to be patient, and to be diligent in making our calling and election sure.”

No sense of continuing mission there!

When Uriah Smith read those same words in 1859, he wrote that the United States “is composed of people from almost every nation.” He mused that it may not be necessary, then, for Adventists to go everywhere preaching the gospel; and probably there wasn’t time for them to do so, anyway, because Jesus was coming so soon.

That was an improved but short-sighted concept of mission! Jesus declares in Matthew 24:14 (NIV) that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

The concept of mission that we cherish from Revelation 14:6-7 propelled earnest folk from North America to every continent, beginning with John Andrews and his two motherless children who went to Europe in 1874. By 1885, that message was moving Stephen Haskell and his ten companions past Samoa and Auckland to Melbourne, to begin their Australian mission.

By the 1950s some Adventists were beginning to ask whether our mission should target non-Christians more effectively. Rather than a main emphasis on re-converting believers, shouldn’t we go more intentionally to those who had never heard the name of Jesus? That line of thinking would help to develop research centres focused on how best to present Adventism to Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and so on.

Late in the 1960s a fresh concept of mission was forming in the minds of people like Gottfried Oosterwal of Andrews University, formerly a pioneer missionary in what was called Dutch New Guinea. By the 1980s for Oosterwal and the church the necessity was clear, Adventists must consciously plan what is now named “Global Mission,” a way of reaching every people group within every nation. For instance, it will never do to tell the story of salvation to just Anglo-Saxon Australians: our Aborigines must hear the Good News, as must immigrants from India, China, Cambodia and everywhere else. God is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance,” 2 Peter 3:9.The New International Version expresses the task of Adventist mission in unmistakable terms: the gospel must go to “every nation, tribe, language and people.” Currently Adventists are working in 209 of about 230 geographical divisions of the world. The other countries are in their minds, as is every people group in every nation under heaven.

So much for a brief account of 160 years of Adventist mission. Of course, like Exmouth, the vital truths of the First Angel’s Message were there even when we failed to see them at all, or when we peered at some of them as through a dark glass. And as our vantage point changed, so did the substance of what we saw.

All of us need to take responsibility for understanding the truths of the Bible in the light of history. Ellen White’s memorable words reassure us: “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history,” Life Sketches, page 196. One of the deepest problems Adventists face is that we can so easily forget what God has taught us so clearly in the past. That’s like paying for experience but failing to keep the receipt.

To summarise: the concept of world mission was crucial in Millerite Adventism. It was put on hold in the era of transition when Millerites were becoming Sabbatarian Adventists. After the theological foundation of the new movement was laid effectively, Seventh-day Adventists developed an understanding of their mission in several stages, matching the capacity of the movement to engage with an ever-enlarging task. Thus believers were challenged progressively to better perceive and implement the biblical ideal: God’s Good News is for everyone.

Undergraduate students study such conceptual change in classes focused on Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) history and the life and writings of Ellen White. Seminary or graduate students go into it all, in far greater depth, when they study the development of SDA theology. But all of us need to benefit from understanding how God has led Adventists during their pilgrimage. Not all of us can sit in college or seminary classrooms. But all of us can learn a lot about the essentials with the help of books, journals and magazines, plus valuable information we can access at the push of a computer button.

Arthur Patrick, posted 11 August 2012