The Crying Stones
A Reply to Recent Articles in the Adventist Review and Ministry on Hope International and Associated Groups
By Kevin D. Paulsen
NOTE: This a revised version of the originally published document. Revision published 7 September 2000. ed. LK
Once again, self-supporting ministries find themselves in the spotlight of high-level administrative concern in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Recent discussions between a select group of church officials and scholars and the leaders of Hope International, "Hartland Institute, and Remnant Ministries have produced a response titled, "Hope International, Hartland Institute, and Remnant Ministries--Report," prepared by an ad hoc committee appointed by the General Conference administrative committee. This report has now appeared as an article in the August 2000 NAD edition of the Adventist Review (1), as well as the August 2000 issue of Ministry (2).
The charges made by this report against the ministries in question are gravely serious, to say the least. To be sure, many of the charges are not new. But they deserve careful analysis and reply, not merely for the sake of the ministries under scrutiny, but also for the sake of the church leaders, pastors and laypeople who have no connection with self-supporting ministries but who share many of the concerns raised by these ministries regarding current conditions in the church.
Leaders of the ministries in question can take some comfort from the fact that the present report shows at least some improvement over a previous one submitted for their consideration at their most recent meeting with church officials. This first report, titled, "Report on Hope International and Associates," made a number of accusations against these ministries which are not included in the present report. The previous report, for example, accused the ministries in question of having "their own schools" (3), "their own workers/ministers" (4), and of associating themselves with such dissident groups as the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement and the Branch Davidians (5).
Faithful church members can be grateful that the latter charges have been withdrawn for being utterly false while the former have been withdrawn for being irrelevant. (Many self-supporting ministries acknowledged as fully supportive of the church, such as Weimar Institute and Laurelbrook Academy, operate their own schools and employ their own workers/ministers.) Such willingness on the part of church leaders to thus demonstrate a reasonable spirit is a positive sign.
An even more positive sign is the almost total absence in the new report of attacks on the theological positions held by the ministries in question. Aside from the report's criticism of additions to the Baptismal Vow, which we will address shortly, there are no specific references to the theological agenda of these ministries. This is in sharp contrast to the book Issues, published a few years ago by the North American Division regarding these same ministries as well as others (6). This book contained a number of very specific attacks on the theology of these ministries regarding salvation, the nature of Christ, sinless perfection, etc. (7). The unnamed authors of Issues even included the following statement, making clear the theological motivation that seemed to underlie much of their discomfort with the ministries in question:
"The key elements in the Christology, soteriology, and anthropology of the majority of the critical independents have found legitimation from voices within the mainstream of the church. To the extent that these voices claim to be the true representatives of 'historic Adventism,' the church has laid the foundation for the current divisiveness" (8).
The above statement made it obvious to any thoughtful observer that for the authors of this book, the relationship of these ministries to the official church was only part--perhaps only a minor part--of what bothers them about these ministries. Perhaps it can fairly be said that the friction between these ministries and the organized church has offered a convenient opening for those whose animus toward conservative Adventist theology has at times been frustrated by the fact that those holding this theology also hold positions of influence in the official church.
No careful observer will deny, including many connected with these very ministries, that an occasional excess of zeal, generalization, and at times poor judgment have attended the labors of the various reform-minded self-supporting ministries. Reformatory movements throughout history, both religious and secular, have seen their efforts tarnished in this manner. But the language used by the report in question seems likely to continue the pattern set by other recent assessments of self-supporting ministries by official church sources--efforts which have sought to frame the concerns raised by these ministries as more an issue of institutional loyalty than one of doctrinal and spiritual faithfulness. Sadly, such an approach to the concerns in question has made it easier for enemies of reform within the church to label all who share these concerns--whether they support self-supporting ministries or not--as "offshoots," "dissidents," etc. The generalized use by the report in question of such words as "critical," "condemnation," and "judgmental"--popular epithets among resisters of reform--is likely to further strengthen the hands of those encouraging what many in responsible positions would themselves acknowledge as worldliness and compromise in the contemporary church. Such aid and comfort to those nurturing the very conditions which have prompted the growth of self-supporting ministries cannot bode well for the health and prosperity of the body of Christ.
The report in question criticizes the ministries in question for having "their own publishing enterprises" and "their own camp meetings," (9). These assertions are just as irrelevant as those we noted above regarding these ministries having their own schools and workers. Many other self-supporting ministries, including a wide variety of ASI members and other groups recognized as fully supportive of the church, do these things also. ASI itself holds yearly self-supporting convocations. Self-supporting publications are by no means unique to ministries such as those in question. Teach Services and similar organizations exist throughout the network of ASI organizations. Many of these publishing ministries exist to address the same spiritual needs in the church which the publications of Hope, Hartland, and Remnant Ministries seek to address.
The problem with a number of current church periodicals is not solely a perception of Hope, Hartland, and similar ministries. It has long been recognized by conservative Seventh-day Adventists at all levels in the church--including some at the GC Biblical Research Institute--that the Adventist Review, since Elder Kenneth Wood's retirement, has moved decidedly in the liberal direction. Statements in the current Review on controversial church issues nearly always gravitate away from clarity and firmness toward ambiguity and compromise. Ministry is no better. Publications such as the Guide and Insight are even further devoid of clear doctrinal and spiritual instruction. One recent issue of Adventist View, an NAD magazine for young adults, contained an article encouraging acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle (10).
Church leaders have at times publicly noted these problems. If self-supporting ministries are to be faulted for expressing concern about these publications, it is only fair to acknowledge that many others,--including some in leadership--share these concerns. Perhaps the content of self-supporting publications hasn't always found the right balance. But those who criticize self-supporting ministries for starting their own periodicals would have more credibility were they to frankly acknowledge--and seek to correct--the doctrinal and spiritual problems in more than one denominational publication. It has at times been stated by the founding editor of Our Firm Foundation that if the Adventist Review were to get another editor with the courage and convictions of Kenneth Wood, Our Firm Foundation would cease publishing within a year.
The reason for self-supporting camp meetings is much the same. Faithful church members throughout the denomination--including the BRI officials and others in leadership--recognize the decline of doctrinal and spiritual faithfulness in the church which has affected many thought leaders, pastors, professors, etc. They also recognize that this tragedy has affected the spiritual content of much that is offered at some conference camp meetings. It would seem difficult for any faithful Seventh-day Adventist to view as disloyal the efforts of self-supporting ministries to fill this void by offering camp meetings and convocations of their own. These should rather be seen as an effort to help church members recover faith in the church's fundamental beliefs, evangelistic mission, and prophetic destiny.
1. Acknowledging the need for revival and reformation. The report in question declares, "No one will question the importance for church administrators, pastors, teachers, and laypersons to be personally involved in the task of calling the whole church back to the purity of faith and Christian living as found in the Scriptures" (11). "All agree that there is serious need for revival and reformation in God's remnant church" (12).
"No one will question" and "all agree" are very sweeping phrases. Such statements may accurately reflect the convictions of those who wrote this paper, but they certainly do not reflect the convictions of all in the contemporary church, especially in the developed world. The current BRI officials and other leaders are well aware that numerous SDA pastors, teachers, laypersons, and even some administrators in the contemporary church do not support revival and reformation through "calling the whole church back to the purity of faith and Christian living as found in the Scriptures." A significant group in First World Adventism, especially among academics and other so-called "intellectuals," don't even believe in the full authority of Scripture as Scripture presents it. Revival and reformation of a Biblical sort is of no interest to these persons, for unless they should repent it would mean the end of their employment as well as their membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Many in responsible positions know this. But unless they and others in church leadership candidly acknowledge the widespread departures from doctrinal, behavioral, and liturgical faithfulness in contemporary Adventism, they cannot realistically hope to curb the excesses--real or supposed--among those who know full well that the church's current state is not one of general prosperity with problems no greater than the usual. So long as concerns raised by self-supporting ministries and others are shrugged off with the rejoinder, "We've always had problems so what else is new?", constructive dialogue about the church's current dilemmas cannot proceed. Thoughtful church members at all levels of denominational life are aware that while the majority of our current problems may not be "new" in the strictest sense, the widespread acceptance and tolerance of current doctrinal and other aberrations is very new, and deeply disturbing.
2. An Allegedly "Distorted View of the Nature of the Church." The report in question claims, regarding the ministries under discussion: "It is our clear impression that Hope International and associates believe that the church is composed of both an organized system of administration and a parallel self-supporting ministry independent of the organized system. We understand their position to be that, as divinely-appointed self-supporting ministries, they are not ultimately bound by the decisions of the world church" (13).
To accuse these ministries of believing in "a parallel self-supporting ministry independent of the organized system" is simply not so. For example, all staff members at Hartland Institute, Hope International, and Remnant Ministries maintain membership at local Conference churches. In fact, the leaders of these ministries--in contrast to the leaders of other ministries, such as Steps to Life--have consistently advised their supporters to remain active in Conference churches until and unless circumstances become sufficiently hostile to the faith and practice of Seventh-day Adventism that worshipping elsewhere is seen as necessary. Neither the BRI leaders nor other loyal Seventh-day Adventists, when pressed, would deny that in certain parts of the contemporary church such dilemmas are very real. But it should be noted that even in cases where faithful believers have felt forced to worship in self-supporting congregations, the ministries in question have never recommended that anyone withdraw membership from the organized Seventh-day Adventist Church. Such a course is certainly not consistent with the allegation that these ministries view themselves as "a parallel self-supporting ministry independent of the organized system."
One might argue to what extent various self-supporting ministries--including perhaps the ministries in question--have endeavored to work as constructively as possible with the official church. But perhaps some of the non-cooperation between these ministries and certain branches of the official church has been due to the recognition by these ministries that church organization exists solely for the purpose of promoting the doctrinal and lifestyle witness of Scripture which the Seventh-day Adventist faith represents. The current edition of the Church Manual plainly acknowledges this to be the purpose of church organization:
"For the sake of her healthy development and for the accomplishment of her glorious task of carrying the gospel of salvation to all the world, Christ gave to His church a simple but effective system of organization" (14).
Statement number 11 of our Fundamental Beliefs likewise states: "The church derives its authority from Christ, who is the incarnate Word, and from the Scriptures, which are the written Word" (15). In other words, the church derives its authority from Scripture, and exists solely for the purpose of proclaiming the message of Scripture. Obviously, simple reason dictates that if church authority is ever used to mitigate or deny the authority of Scripture, church authority loses the legitimacy and purpose for which the Church Manual--not to mention Inspiration--says it exists. The above statements, both from our Fundamental Beliefs and the Church Manual, need to be considered carefully when the Manual's later reference to "properly constituted church authority" is cited (16). These official church statements are clear that in Seventh-day Adventism, church authority is constituted for no reason except to promote the teachings of God's Word.
The Fifth Commandment illustrates this point well. The Commandment declares, "Honor thy father and thy mother" (Ex. 20:12). The law of God is absolute, which is why the commandment says "honor" rather than "obey." Honor to one's parents is always possible, while obedience is possible only if the parents' commands agree with God's Word. This we see in the New Testament command: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Eph. 6:1, italics supplied). The authority of church leaders is no different from the authority of parents. Like parents, church leaders are ever deserving of honor and respect because of the position they hold in God's work. Elijah demonstrated this in his relationship to King Ahab. Despite his stern rebuke and opposition to Ahab's policies, Elijah still acknowledged Ahab as Israel's king, for which reason he guided the king's chariot through the rain (I Kings 18:46).
The report in question makes an even more groundless statement when it accuses the ministries in question of "rejecting the authority of the world church in session when their interpretation of Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy differs from that of the church" (17). Yet they cite no specific interpretation of these inspired writings by the world church with which these ministries disagree. Even the baptismal vow these ministries use, while it may contain understandings of Inspiration not explicitly spelled out in the Church Manual's current baptismal vows, does not espouse any views denied by vote of the world church in session.
Regarding the alleged "redefinition" by these ministries of the "tithe storehouse" (18), it should be noted that even with regard to the returning of tithe, the Manual is not unequivocal that tithe should always, under any and all circumstances, be returned to the official church. Here is what the current edition of the Manual says on this point:
"The tithe is the Lord's and is to be brought, as an act of worship, to the conference/mission treasury through the church in which the person's membership is held. Where unusual circumstances exist, church members should consult with the officers of their conference/mission" (19).
Nowhere does the Manual define the nature of these "unusual circumstances," nor is it decreed that the advice given by the officers of one's local conference or mission in such predicaments should under all circumstances be obeyed. In other words, far more flexibility is given to believers by the Manual on this point than perhaps either church officials or self-supporting ministries have realized. Though I myself have consistently opposed the use or acceptance of tithe funds by self-supporting ministries, what the Church Manual does and does not say on this point should be faithfully represented.
In view of these points, it is difficult to see on what grounds the report in question can claim that these ministries view themselves as "not ultimately bound by the decisions of the world church" (20).
3. "Their Own Baptismal Vow." The report in question claims:
"A baptismal vow was put together by Colin Standish using the 1932 Church Manual and other sources. An examination of this baptismal vow reveals that it is significantly different from what we find in the current Church Manual as approved by the world church" (21).
The fact is that the baptismal vow used by Dr. Standish and his associates differs very little from the "Outline of Doctrinal Beliefs" found in the current edition of the Church Manual (22). According to the Manual, "this summary of doctrinal beliefs is especially prepared for the instruction of candidates for baptism (see p. 30)" (23).
The report in question claims that the baptismal vow used by the ministries in question "does not identify the Church as the repository of tithe, as does the official baptismal vow" (24). Actually, the official Vow published in the Church Manual doesn't identify the Seventh-day Adventist Church as the repository of tithe either. It only asks, "Is it your purpose to support the church with your tithes and offerings?" (25), without specifically--at least in this setting--defining what the church is. The more detailed Outline of Doctrinal Beliefs in the current Manual simply says, "The tithe is holy unto the Lord, and is God's provision for the support of His ministry" (26). Neither this nor other statements in the current Baptismal Vow define either the church or the ministry as exclusively either the Conference system or ministers employed by that system.
The official Baptismal Vow in the current Manual does declare that "the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the remnant church of Bible prophecy" (27). The report in question claims that in the self-supporting ministries' baptismal vow, "the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not receive a mention. The Remnant Church is mentioned, but it is never identified with the Seventh-day Adventist Church" (28). This, in fact, is false. The vow used by the ministries in question very specifically asks, "Do you believe that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the remnant church of prophecy?" (29).
In other words, when the two vows are placed side by side, the positions taken on tithe and the identity of the Remnant Church reveal no differences at all.
One can express legitimate concern about the addition of vows not voted by the organized church in general session. To be sure, the statement, "Christ took upon Himself our fallen nature," is Biblically sound, and clearly supported by the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy--from which these very words are taken (30). But not every particular of our Fundamental Beliefs or lifestyle standards needs to be spelled out in the baptismal vow, as evidenced by the fact that the vow used by the ministries in question also fails to make explicit mention of certain matters. For example, their baptismal vow makes no statement at all about the punishment of the wicked (denial of eternal torment) or the millennium, as does the Outline of Doctrinal Beliefs in the current Church Manual (31). In no way does this imply ambiguity on the part of Hope, Hartland, or Remnant Ministries on these key doctrinal points. It does demonstrate the difficulty of including every single one of our beliefs in any baptismal vow.
The ministries in question deserve gratitude from the world church for pointing out the failure of so many pastors in the contemporary church to thoroughly instruct converts in the church's Bible-based teachings prior to baptism. But this failure cannot be blamed on the Church Manual, since--as we noted above--the Manual contains the detailed Outline of Doctrinal Beliefs which it declares is to be used in preparing baptismal candidates (32). The problem here is not with the church's official actions or stated beliefs. The problem is the failure of various pastors and others to adhere to these actions and beliefs. Conformity by the ministries in question to what the world church has voted along these lines would not involve compromise of any sort.
4. Alleged Support of Dissident Movements. The report in question accuses the ministries in question of supporting various splinter groups and rebellious pastors in various parts of the Seventh-day Adventist world. Reference is made to alleged support by these ministries of splinter groups in various parts of the world, and such dissident pastors as Norberto Restrepo in South America and Raphael Perez in Florida (33).
Hope and Hartland did give support for a time to a disfellowshiped conference in Zimbabwe, because it had been disbanded illegally by the higher organization against church policy. Regarding the Hungarian situation, the Adventist Review itself indicated that those in the separated group had been "improperly disfellowshiped" (34). To defend the rights of church members in such a setting could hardly be depicted as disloyalty to the denomination. Hartland and Hope have sought to encourage these believers--perhaps imperfectly at times--to maintain a faithful Adventist witness and to seek what reconciliation might be possible with the official church which wouldn't involve the compromise of Bible truth. The BRI leaders and other conservative Seventh-day Adventists are well aware that local church officials in various parts of the world have not always been faithful to the church's Biblical message, and that faithfulness to the church's Bible-based teachings has at times forced conscientious believers to take a course different from that of the local leadership.
Varied opinions exist among conservative Seventh-day Adventists--both denominational and self-supporting--regarding the support by Hope and Hartland of Raphael Perez in the recent Florida lawsuit. But if full cooperation with church policy and guidelines is to become a test for the legitimacy of self-supporting institutions, denominational institutions should be held to the same standard. If Hope, Hartland, and Remnant Ministries should be kept at arm's length from the church because of their support of Raphael Perez, shouldn't Columbia Union College suffer similar ostracism for going to court in its quest for government aid, in defiance of counsel from the North American Division and other church officials? Perez has been asked not to use the Seventh-day Adventist name because of what many hold to be an indiscreet proclamation of what the church in fact believes. What discipline has been suffered by CUC for publicly placing itself on the opposite side from what the church believes? Though the president of the college has resigned, the question should be asked whether college officials have received appropriate reprimand so that the institution recognizes that unless its course is changed on this point and the lawsuit called off, there will be consequences for their relationship with the church.
Before we leave the trademark issue, we should note that some conference-owned Seventh-day Adventist churches and institutions seem to be shying away from the Seventh-day Adventist name, perhaps thinking that concealing their denominational identity will make for better public relations. A very disturbing example of this is the new Mountain View Community Church in Las Vegas, Nevada, whose drawing cards for the public include Sunday morning services. (35). Other congregations in Tennessee, Florida, and southern California are following this same pattern. From the way this congregation is being marketed, it would be difficult to identify it as a Seventh-day Adventist Church. Such cloaking of our Seventh-day Adventist identity brings to mind the following Ellen White statement:
"Men will employ every means to make less prominent the difference between Seventh-day Adventists and observers of the first day of the week. A company was presented before me under the name of Seventh-day Adventists, who were advising that the banner, or sign, which makes us a distinct people, should not be held out so strikingly; for they claimed that this was not the best policy in order to secure success to our institutions. But this is not a time to haul down our colors, to be ashamed of our faith. This distinctive banner, described in the words, 'Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus,' is to be borne through the world to the close of probation. While efforts should be increased to advance in different localities, there must be no cloaking of our faith to secure patronage. Truth must come to souls ready to perish; and if it is in any way hidden, God is dishonored, and the blood of souls will be upon our garments" (36).
Thoughtful observers may find it hard to understand why some who wish to unabashedly (perhaps indiscreetly) proclaim the true Adventist faith are dragged to court for using the Seventh-day Adventist name, while those wishing to hide their Adventist identity are promoted in our publications and--at least thus far--face no disciplinary reprisals.
The report in question insists: "Although we acknowledge that there is apostasy in the church--Jesus Himself accepted the co-existence of wheat and tares in the church--we reject the blatant and irresponsible accusation that God's remnant church is in apostasy" (37). This argument is really not worth belaboring, since the consequence of both positions is the same. If a woman finds a malignant tumor in one of her breasts, would it be more correct to say that there is cancer in her body, or that her body has cancer? One way or the other, the cancer should be removed, or it will spread.
This brings us to our next point.
Two Fundamental Flaws
The above statement by the report in question deserves review, because it illustrates a basic problem with the perceptions of some in the contemporary church:
"Although we acknowledge that there is apostasy in the church--Jesus Himself accepted the co-existence of wheat and tares in the church--we reject the blatant and irresponsible accusation that God's remnant church is in apostasy" (38).
Here, embodied in this sentence, we see two fundamental flaws in the approach to the church's problems used by so many--laity as well as leaders--in the current scene.
First, Inspiration is clear that Christ's parable of the wheat and the tares in no way forbids the removal of open sin and apostasy from the church. Jesus didn't contradict Himself. In Matthew 18:15-17 He gave a formula whereby those who fall into error, refusing to repent after having been lovingly labored with, were to be removed from church fellowship. Nor did Jesus' parable of the wheat and tares contradict the apostle Paul, who likewise stated circumstances under which erring believers were to be separated from the church (I Cor. 5:11-13; II Thess. 3:14-15).
Ellen White makes clear what Christ in fact meant by His parable of the wheat and tares, and what He didn't mean:
"Christ has plainly taught that those who persist in open sin must be separated from the church, but He has not committed to us the work of judging character and motive" (39).
The measuring of character and motive is solely God's responsibility, for only He can read the heart (I Kings 8:39). But open departures from truth and purity can--indeed, must--be measured by believers according to the standard of God's written counsel.
The implication of the above statement from the report in question--perhaps not intended--is that the apostasy currently seen in the Seventh-day Adventist Church merely proves the co-existence of wheat and tares which Christ not only accepted but commanded His followers not to try to correct. Far, far too often have faithful church members heard this sad excuse for the lack of corrective reform in numerous areas of denominational life. But the inspired references cited above give no ground to the argument that open apostasy and sin should be tolerated in the church because of Christ's command to let the wheat and tares grow together. The open sin and apostasy seen in the contemporary church--pastors and professors denying fundamental doctrines, institutions operated in direct defiance of inspired counsel, the open trashing of Biblical and Spirit of Prophecy lifestyle standards, forms of worship promoted which Inspiration forbids--is not what Jesus' parable was talking about.
Open departures from doctrinal and moral integrity in the church are to be lovingly but firmly curtailed, even if it means removing large numbers of pastors, teachers, and laypeople from employment as well as membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The failure of too many in leadership to pursue aggressively such a reform agenda is, without question, the principal reason for the growth of self-supporting ministries in recent times, and explains why even the occasionally intemperate observations of some in these ministries are taken seriously by growing numbers of truehearted believers who recognize with great pain what is happening to their church.
The second of the two flaws in the report's use of this wheat-and-tares analogy is the glaring, pointedly obvious inconsistency in the way this analogy is used. The facts speak for themselves.
The tragic reality in today's Seventh-day Adventism is that the willingness to let the tares grow with the wheat seems to apply far more to liberal tares than conservative ones. We noted earlier the rebellious actions of Columbia Union College and the apparent lack thus far of appropriate disciplinary measures from the official church. Consider some other cases:
In June of 1992, Dr. Ralph Larson--a retired pastor and seminary teacher with many years of denominational experience--officiated at a quasi-ordination service for three independent ministers, one of whom was John Osborne of Prophecy Countdown. This action by Dr. Larson, among others, resulted in the deliberate non-renewal of his ministerial credentials as a retired pastor. Few if any denominational pulpits are open to Dr. Larson as a result of this.
Yet little more than three years later, another quasi-ordination service was held, this one at the La Sierra University Church in Riverside, California. This service, held on September 23, 1995, presumed to ordain three female pastors in defiance of the vote taken at the General Conference session in Utrecht, Holland, earlier that summer. Among those officiating at this service were more than one employed denominational worker, including Dr. Lawrence T. Geraty, president of La Sierra University (40).
Yet despite the flagrant defiance of properly constituted church authority embodied in such a service (and in others which followed elsewhere), Dr. Geraty remains president of La Sierra University to this day. Dr. Fritz Guy, professor of theology at LSU and also a participant in this "ordination" service, also remains on the denominational payroll. Neither of these men, nor the women who chose to participate in this illegal service, have been removed from church employment, nor have the pulpits of the denomination been closed to them.
On October 21, 1999, the Southeastern California Conference executive committee voted for a so-called "ordination initiative" to proceed to ordain other women pastors, in similar defiance of the world church (41). On March 16, 2000, the same committee voted a policy to issue identical credentials to male and female pastors. This action was followed, on April 22, with a blatantly illegal "ordination" service at the Loma Linda University Church for a female associate pastor of that congregation.
While the General Conference President and the former NAD President are to be commended for public statements regretting these action by the SECC, church administrators must surely know that polite regret never stopped a rebellion of this magnitude. Unless hurtful consequences result to the denominational careers of those responsible for such actions (akin to those felt by Ralph Larson and many other supporters of self-supporting ministries), such actions will continue. The Southeastern California Conference has more recently announced plans to "incorporate" itself, thus making itself a separate organizational entity immune from administrative reprisals from the world body of Seventh-day Adventists. Concerned church members in this field have appropriately observed that unless church leadership or the local members intervene, the Southeastern California Conference is likely to become "the mother of all offshoot movements."
We noted earlier the accusation by the report in question that Hope, Hartland, and Remnant Ministries are guilty of "rejecting the authority of the world church in session" (42). For the moment we won't argue whether or not this is true. But most assuredly this is true of the Southeastern California Conference. Are church officials prepared to write a paper--perhaps another Issues book--detailing how this conference is guilty of a "persistent refusal to recognize properly constituted church authority and to submit to the order and discipline of the church" (43)? Are they prepared to give SECC, as they have given to the ministries in question, a clear-cut directive to "bring themselves into harmony with the body of the world church, clearly evidenced within twelve months" (44)?
Dr. William Loveless, pastor of the Loma Linda University Church, has repeatedly declared from his pulpit in recent years that he doesn't accept all of the church's 27 Fundamental Beliefs. The remnant church theology and the investigative judgment are among the teachings he avowedly rejects. Many of these sermons are on tape. Though Dr. Loveless has now left the University Church pulpit, he has suffered no disciplinary measures at all for his outrageous statements. In fact, he continues to hold meetings for ministers in different parts of the country, such as a recent ministers' meeting in the Potomac Conference. Many church members in the Loma Linda community and elsewhere have been outraged by Dr. Loveless' statements, and even more outraged by the refusal of church administrators to bring appropriate measures against him.
On April 15, 2000, one week prior to the "ordination" at Loma Linda, the senior pastor of the La Sierra University Church declared himself to be in fundamental agreement with the major attacks on the investigative judgment as taught by Desmond Ford. This sermon is on tape, and has been distributed to church leaders at various levels. At the present time faithful church members pray that leaders will possess the courage to demand that this pastor either repent of his blatant heresy or be stripped of his credentials as Ford was. Like Loveless and the Loma Linda University Church, this man has demonstrated clear disregard for the church's doctrinal message. How can church officials possibly see a greater threat to order and discipline in the church from self-supporting ministries than from pastors such as this?
This past year Dr. Reinder Bruinsma, Secretary of the Trans-European Division, wrote an article in Spectrum denying the historic Adventist position on the papacy (45). This article places Dr. Bruinsma in direct opposition to the church's Fundamental Beliefs regarding both the papacy's role in prophetic history and its role in last-day events (46). This challenge by Bruinsma to one of our fundamental doctrines is as much a public denial of our faith as Desmond Ford's attack on the investigative judgment. Yet as of this writing, Dr. Bruinsma remains in his position of leadership. According to the Church Manual, the very first criterion for church discipline is "denial of faith in the fundamentals of the gospel and in the cardinal doctrines of the church or teaching doctrines contrary to the same" (47). According to this standard, Dr. Bruinsma should be removed from his position, defrocked, and disfellowshiped. Why hasn't this happened?
On May 10, 2000, the World Council of Churches issued a document titled "Towards a Common Date for Easter," which includes the following statement: "Besides the work already done on baptism, eucharist and ministry, the churches need to address the renewal of preaching, the recovery of the meaning of Sunday and the search for a common celebration of Pascha (Easter) as ecumenical theological concerns" (48). One of the names listed at the close of this document is Dr. Bert Beach, of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (49). The name of any Seventh-day Adventist leader on such a document is difficult for any faithful church member to understand. What could a Seventh-day Adventist possibly contribute to a committee discussion intent on "the recovery of the meaning of Sunday and the search for a common celebration of Pascha (Easter)?"
Was Dr. Beach just an observer at this meeting? If so, why would he be listed as one of the committee members? The Seventh-day Adventist public has repeatedly been assured from official church sources that our denomination is not a member of the National or World Council of Churches. Why, then, do documents of this kind keep surfacing which seem to imply our active participation in such gatherings? Even if our status is only that of an observer, documents such as these clearly convey something beyond observation, which make the statements of our leaders look equivocal and lend credibility to the notion--however false--that our church has entered into official agreement with ecumenical bodies compromising our basic doctrines.
In four consecutive issues of Kin News, a newsletter published by SDA Kinship International, the Glendale City SDA Church in the Southern California Conference has been praised as "a very gay supportive church" (50). It should be remembered that Kinship is not a group seeking help to escape the gay lifestyle, but instead seeks affirmation for the same. They wouldn't likely be praising a Seventh-day Adventist congregation that offered help to those struggling to escape the homosexual way of life. Such accolades to this congregation can only mean that it allows members to remain in good standing while practicing the homosexual lifestyle. According to the Church Manual, homosexual practice is also listed as grounds for church discipline (51). What actions have been taken by the local conference to correct this defiance of Scripture and church policy? Have any higher governing bodies in the church demanded that the local conference take action?
Not long ago a teacher at Walla Walla College was called on the carpet by school administrators for inviting Colin Standish to speak on campus. Yet these very administrators continue--despite the protest of laity and leaders alike--to protect religion teachers who (among other things) deny the Biblical view of inspiration, believe Noah's flood was less than universal, and teach that "monogamous" homosexual behavior is an acceptable Christian practice. For any college administrator to find the defense of SDA fundamentals by Colin Standish more disturbing than attacks on those fundamentals by religion professors, is bizarre in the extreme. And if Dr. Standish was viewed as unwelcome on the Walla Walla campus because of friction between church leaders and Hartland Institute, recent events have demonstrated that Walla Walla College has little credibility in lecturing anyone on loyalty to denominational policy or leadership!
Last year the executive committee of the Atlantic Union Conference approved a resolution condemning Hope International and Hartland Institute and forbidding church entities throughout its territory to have anything to do with these ministries. But in the most monstrous of ironies, this resolution was introduced to the union committee by one who openly published an article--one complaining about the presumed harm done to her church by self-supporting ministries--in the magazine Adventist Today, a publication harshly critical of SDA Fundamental Beliefs and denominational leadership (52). One could hardly keep from being amused at this article's frequent references to "offshoots" and "offshoot literature"--derogatory references made by the author to publications by Hope and Hartland. As if Adventist Today--a magazine that defends homosexuality and attacks such core SDA doctrines as the Sabbath and the investigative judgment (53)--is not itself offshoot literature!
The irony gets worse. While Our Firm Foundation is banned from many churches, and Hope International speakers ostracized from most conference pulpits, the editor of Adventist Today--a fact perhaps unknown even to many in leadership--is a credentialed SDA pastor in the Washington Conference! Why is the editor of a magazine which openly attacks basic church doctrine permitted to carry pastoral credentials and live off the holy tithe?
The current issue of Adventist Today contains an article by a pastor in the Florida Conference, which attacks Biblical standards of Sabbath observance (54). Has this pastor received any reprimand for publicly associating his name--not to mention his convictions--with a magazine hostile to the basic teachings of the church?
Spectrum magazine is much older than Adventist Today, but we see the same irony in its pages also. Church employees in presumably good standing regularly write for Spectrum, despite its repeated denial of core Adventist beliefs as well as many core Christian beliefs. The most recent issue of Spectrum contains the names of no less than 15 denominational employees--some, like President Geraty of La Sierra University, in very visible and responsible posts. Why, while supporters of Hope and Hartland are shunned and condemned at the behest of many in responsible positions, do these Spectrum supporters continue to live from the sacrificial donations of church members and thus sustain their pretensions as Seventh-day Adventists?
The Association of Adventist Forums, which publishes Spectrum magazine and regularly sponsors meetings which attack church policy and doctrine, also holds many of its gatherings on denominational property. Denominational speakers often accept invitations to speak at Adventist Forum meetings, usually without reprisal from church authorities. Yet self-supporting ministries such as Hope and Hartland, which defend our fundamental doctrines and standards, are often forbidden to use church facilities for their meetings. Again, faithful members ask, why the inconsistency?
At the Annual Council of 1989, it was voted to forbid SDA academies and colleges from participating in interschool league sports (55). Yet since this vote was taken, interschool sports have spread almost unhindered throughout the North American Division. Which school administrators have been disciplined for permitting and sponsoring such activities? Which of these have been told to "bring themselves into harmony with the body of the world church, clearly evidenced within 12 months" (56), on account of their "persistent refusal to recognize properly constituted church authority or to submit to the order and discipline of the church" (57)?
Leaders of Hope International, Hartland Institute, and Remnant Ministries have recently completed a series of meetings with church officials due to the latter's concern about the former's activities and church loyalty. But what of the individuals and organizations listed above who stand in defiance of church doctrine, lifestyle, and policy? What about supporters of Spectrum and Adventist Today? What meetings have been scheduled with these individuals and organizations to address their doctrinal and ecclesiastical rebellion? What of the continued encouragement by some in leadership of the Willow Creek-inspired church growth movement, which has caused several congregations throughout North America to be disbanded for doctrinal and organizational subversion? Have the leaders of this movement been summoned for meetings with church officials? Have they been advised by church leaders that their standing in the work will be jeopardized if they continue their present course?
Many will doubtless say, when reviewing the above list, "Neither two nor a multitude of wrongs make a right. Wrongs committed by self-supporting ministries don't become right because others in the church are getting away with different wrongs." Granted. But looking at the current scene in Seventh-day Adventism, one could be forgiven for concluding that denying our basic teachings poses significantly less danger to one's standing in the church than the occasionally intemperate defense of those teachings. Regardless of what happens to the self-supporting ministries in question, the credibility of leadership will continue to suffer if this inconsistent use of church authority continues.
Perhaps one reason for this inconsistency is the widespread acceptance of a popular lie in the contemporary church. Too many have embraced the theory that the end-time church is destined--as was the Jewish church in Jesus' day--to be divided between Pharisees and Sadducees, labels they use to characterize the conservative-liberal split in the Seventh-day Adventist Church today. Just as the Jewish church of Christ's day was dominated by the conservative Pharisees, it is assumed that the SDA Church in the last days will be dominated by works-oriented, pharisaical conservatives who are seen as a much greater threat than the liberals, whom they characterize as modern Sadducees. A recent Adventist Review article, written by a popular evangelist, uses this approach in trying to depict the liberal-conservative divide in the church as a war between equally undesirable extremists (58). As is typical in such portrayals, the article's sharpest criticisms are reserved for the conservatives.
Popular as this view may be among "moderates" in the church these days, it is not supported by Inspiration. Neither Scripture nor Ellen White describe the conflict within the church in the last days as a struggle between equally extreme, equally wrong viewpoints. Nowhere, despite the wishful hopes of modern Adventist "righteousness by faith" promoters, does the inspired pen depict pharisaical legalism as the prevailing problem among Adventists at the end of time. When speaking of the conditions which will cause the great majority to be shaken out of the church at the end, we read of "those who have step by step yielded to worldly demands, and conformed to worldly customs" (59), "the careless and indifferent" (60), those "not willing to take a bold and unyielding stand for the truth" (61), those who "have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth . . . uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit . . . prepared to choose the easy, popular side" (62).
None of this sounds like some legalistic obsession with rules and obedience. Statements such as the above represent by far the preponderance of those which describe the conditions of God's people as they face the final crisis. For responsible Seventh-day Adventists to fear the excesses of conservatism more than the fundamental errors of liberalism is decidedly unwarranted when the weight of inspired evidence is examined.
That such a document as this report could command the focus of church leaders at the present time may well be among the great ironies of Seventh-day Adventist history. At a time when church policy and doctrine face increasing attack from the church's liberal element, while strategically placed pastors and professors take aim at some of our most basic beliefs, when the largest Seventh-day Adventist congregation conducts an "ordination" service in direct defiance of the world church in session, some in leadership appear more troubled by the imperfections--real or imagined--of a few conservative self-supporting ministries with meager resources and comparatively small influence.
Screwtape, of C.S. Lewis fame, once spoke of getting people to run around with fire extinguishers in the middle of a flood (63). Listening to the anti-legalist obsession of so many in the church today, the paranoid articles, editorials and sermons which inflate the rarest of "right wing" excesses into monstrous church crises, and now this report on the ministries in question, one is persuaded that Screwtape is hard at work in the church we love.
The Crying Stones
On one occasion Jesus said, "I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out" (Luke 19:40). Perhaps to some in church leadership the self-supporting ministries seem as insensitive as stones to administrative counsel. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that to a degree this concern is valid. But even so, a survey of conditions in the contemporary church cannot but call to mind Jesus' words about stones crying out. In the final day of reckoning not far distant, those refusing to pursue decisive measures against apostasy in the church will find little consolation in citing the imperfections of those who brought these issues to their attention.
1. "Report on Hope International and Associated Groups," Adventist Review, August 2000, pp. 34-37.
2. "Decision on Hope International and associated groups by a General Conference-appointed committee" Ministry, August 2000, pp. 28-31.
3. "Report on Hope International and Associates," (original unpublished report), p. 4.
4. Ibid, p. 3.
5. Ibid, p. 6.
6. Issues: The Seventh-day Adventist Church and Certain Private Ministries (North American Division, 1992).
7. Ibid, pp. 46-49; 114-130.
8. Ibid, pp. 48-49.
9. "Report on Hope International and Associated Groups," Adventist Review, August 2000, pp. 36-37.
10. Beth Schaefer, "Homosexual Warfare," Adventist View, Special 1999, pp. 18-21.
11. "Report on Hope International and Associated Groups," Adventist Review, August 2000, p. 35.
12. Ibid, p. 37.
13. Ibid, p. 35.
14. Church Manual (1995 edition), p. 20.
15. Ibid, p. 11.
16. Ibid, p. 169.
17. "Report on Hope International and Associated Groups," Adventist Review, August 2000, p. 37.
18. Ibid, p. 36.
19. Church Manual, p. 137.
20. "Report on Hope International and Associated Groups," Adventist Review, August 2000, p. 35.
21. Ibid, p. 36.
22. Church Manual, pp. 189-193.
23. Ibid, p. 189.
24. "Report on Hope International and Associated Groups," Adventist Review, August 2000, p. 36.
25. Church Manual, p. 31.
26. Ibid, p. 191.
27. Ibid, p. 31.
28. "Report on Hope International and Associated Groups," Adventist Review, August 2000, p. 36.
29. "Baptismal Vows," (Hartland Institute), p. 2.
30. See Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 112.
31. Church Manual, p. 190.
32. Ibid, pp. 30,189.
33. "Report on Hope International and Associated Groups," Adventist Review, August 2000, p. 37.
34. "The Hungarian situation," Adventist Review, Nov. 6, 1984.
35. C. Elvyn Platner, "Adventist Sunday church reaching the unchurched in Las Vegas," Pacific Union Recorder, February 2000, pp. 34-35.
36. White, Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 144.
37. "Report on Hope International and Associated Groups," Adventist Review, August 2000, p. 35 (italics original).
38. Ibid, (italics original).
39. White, Christ's Object Lessons, p. 71.
40. Traci Winters, "La Sierra Responds to Women's Ordination," La Sierra University Criterion, Oct. 25, 1995, p. 9.
41. Southeastern California Conference Supports Women in Ministry with Ordination Initiative" Adventist Today, November-December 1999, pp. 6-7.
42. "Report on Hope International and Associated Groups," Adventist Review, August 2000, p. 37.
43. Church Manual, p. 169.
44. "Report on Hope International and Associated Groups," Adventist Review, August 2000, p. 37.
45. Reinder Bruinsma, "Adventists & Catholics: Prophetic Preview or Prejudice?" Spectrum, Summer 1999, pp. 45-52.
46. Seventh-day Adventists Believe, pp. 155-157,168,343.
47. Church Manual, p. 169.
48. World Council of Churches, Faith and Order, "Towards a Common Date for Easter," p. 1.
49. Ibid, p. 4.
50. Kin News, January 1997, p. 3; March 1997, p. 3; April 1997, p. 3; May 1997, p. 3; June 1997, p. 3.
51. Church Manual, p. 169.
52. Debra Lloyd Foote, "Living with the Remnant," Adventist Today, July-August 1998, pp. 16-17.
53. Bob Bouchard & Harvey Elder, "Kampmeeting Supports Gay Adventists," Adventist Today, Nov.-Dec. 1995, pp. 16,19; "Adventist, Pastor, Husband, Homosexual," Adventist Today, July-August 1999, pp. 16-19; Jerry A. Gladson, "The Sabbath in Christian Life: A Reconsideration," Adventist Today, July-August 1996, pp. 15-17; Dale Ratzlaff, "The Sabbath: A Shadow of Grace," Adventist Today, July-August 1996, pp. 18-21; James Walters, "Sabbath in a New Key," Adventist Today, July-August 1996, p. 22; Theodore S. Lewis, "The Adventist Foundation: Pillar or Sliver?" Adventist Today, March-April 1998, pp. 12-13.
54. James Coffin, "Thank God for the Gentiles," Adventist Today, March-April 2000, pp. 14-15.
55. Adventist Review, Nov. 9, 1989, p. 7.
56. "Report on Hope International and Associated Groups," Adventist Review, August 2000, p. 37.
57. Church Manual, p. 169.
58. Ron Halvorsen, "Cities Under Siege," Adventist Review, January 1999 (NAD edition), p. 8.
59. White, Testimonies, vol 5, p. 81.
60. _______, Early Writings, p. 271.
61. Ibid, p. 50.
62. _______, The Great Controversy, p. 608.
63. C.S. Lewis, quoted by George Vandeman, Sail Your Own Seas (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Assn, 1975), p. 71.
Last Modified 22 September 2000