Sunday, October 14, 2018

If the church disappointed you today . . .

I watched the live stream of Annual Council today. Sometimes I wanted to cheer, and sometimes I wanted to chuck the TV into the next state. But most of all, I wanted to do something. All afternoon I watched my church teetering on the edge of an abyss, wishing I could yank it back. And finally I could only look away while it jumped.

I think the vote was wrong. I think we are now that much further from the church Jesus founded on his own passion for lost human beings, his overwhelming burden of love for a lost world. We have one more callus of bureaucracy, hierarchy, and institutionalism to strip away before we can feel as he feels, serve as he served. And we continue to insult millions of women who serve the church worldwide, both professionally and as volunteers.

So what can we do? What do we do now?

Since this is, in fact, the other shoe I expected to fall last year, it's only fair to revisit the bold vows I made then, in anticipation. It's time to see if I can keep them.

This is what I wrote last year. And once I get through the frustration of today, I'm going to take a deep breath, and do as I said I would:

(from October 6, 2017)

I'm going to stay here. Right here.

This is why:

1. This is my faith.-- I may not agree with church leadership--hey, I might not even follow. But it was never about policy.  I'm not here for the organization, I'm here because of the faith.  The ideas I value most are at core of Adventist doctrine--loyalty to Scripture over creeds, the God who loves us, and saves us based on his own merit, not ours. A God who offers rest (Sabbath), who values our free will enough to die for it, who has the answer to all our pain (Second Coming).

2. These are my people.-- I belong to a local community, and they are my church. In fact, I've been to a number of local communities where I have belonged.  I know there are local churches where I might not fit in. It's okay. There is no one person, not even a committee, who gets to determine what Adventists must be. The body is bigger than those voices. I won't give up a real, living community because of a committee of people I've never met.

3. This is not the end of the story--Churches change.  This one has been worse in the past, and it will be better in the future. I don't know how long it will take or how hard it will be to pick ourselves up off our faces from this crisis. It will depend on other people's choices how far in the hole we get. But we've dug ourselves out as a denomination before. We'll do it again. There are better days, and more benevolent leaders, ahead.

So I have a plan for what happens after Annual Council. This is what I'm going to do:

1. I'm going to recover.  I don't know how long it will take.  I don't know how I'll feel. Luckily,I know at least that I can recover from a bullet-wound to my church loyalty. Time helps.  So do walks outdoors, a blanket and a tea-mug, music, and time with friends.

2. I'm going to worship. My faith isn't built on the work of committees of (mostly) men in suits. It rests on the generous and profound grace of God. It's about this Jesus who loves me personally, and who's promised to come back and fix the messes. The equality of men and women is only an outworking of the gospel. I plan to spend time submerged in that gospel, to remember why it matters, as well as what matters most.

3. I'm going to love my church. It's been a stressful ride for all of us. It's now when the church family needs one another most. So I'm going to stay engaged, nurture friendships, listen, and pray. I'm going to remember that my "church" is not out there somewhere, it's right here.

4. I'm going to keep working for what I believe. This isn't the end of the story. I think the church's rosy future is still a long way out, but I can work toward it. I'm going to preach when asked (and I might go and offer). I'm going to write and speak what I believe.  The idea of equality is getting stronger, in the world as well as the church. I'm not going to give up on it.

This is my plan. I don't know the future, but I've decided to be in it. I'm choosing to control the one thing I can--my own actions. Maybe I'm a lightweight, but I'm going to swing that weight toward the better elements of my church.

That's my nuclear apocalypse--I mean, Annual Council--survival plan.  I plan to survive (and get to better days somewhere--perhaps far--on the other side).

I hope you will, too. I could use the company.


  1. Lovely! I agree. Keep moving forward in God's power. After all, we have read the ending.

  2. I appreciated watching the proceedings with you which probably saved my viewing equipment from demolition! Having an audience of even one made exclamations, applauding and groaning more exceptional!

  3. Thank you Laura. Today has been painful for me, but at this point, I'm not ready to step away. Where else would I go? Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Couldn't have said it better, Laura. Morris Venden once said that you can't change the church by leaving it. Sadly, many will. I will remain a voice of protest in my column. I take serious the Bible's call that we be watchmen on the walls. It's time to find an honorable person to replace our fearless leader. I firmly believe I see the hands of Satan behind this. Bullying and browbeating and trying to force everyone to comply to the dictates of a handful of hand-picked men in Silver Springs is not in the great Protestant tradition, nor according to the council of the spirit of prophecy. PERIOD!

    I aim to misbehave (by Ted Wilson's standards). It's time to sound the trumpet and call out the sin of arrogance and power grabbing for what it is and who inspires it.

    If Elder Wilson is going to call for public shaming of church leaders who disagree with him, then what is sauce for the goose is definitely sauce for the gander. And like you, I will not be leaving. I will stand and fight for my church.

  5. Leaving the church wont help, we must take our stand on the Lord side, Jesus is in the midst of Her and His will, will be done.

  6. At the age of 80 I find I can be very disappointed in the Seventh Day Adventist Denomination. The one main flaw (as I see it) in the 48 years that I have been a member is the overwhelming mood of arrogance from our hierarchy. This puzzles me as we have such a sweet, relevant, self-revealing message to share with the world. I am in the 11th reading of the Bible and we seem to be eager to relive the mistakes of Israel over and over. Take heart and keep the faith - we are the Laodiceans and Jesus is coming soon.

  7. Being only 13 years in church, I have realised that the church and world have hardly any difference. I'll be disappointed with any organisation I join. But I believe that faith is beyond organisation.

    I am glad that you've shared what you've felt.

  8. Thank you for sharing a perspective that will help so many hurting people who don't know quite how to respond. This provides for healing.

  9. Thoughtful and wise words. It is at times like this that our faith must truly be our anchor to Christ. Faith does not run away. Faith stays and meets the challenges before it. Thank you for your encouraging words.❤️��

  10. “There is no need to doubt, to be fearful that the work will not succeed. God is at the head of the work, and He will set everything in order. If matters need adjusting at the head of the work, God will attend to that, and work to right every wrong. Let us have faith that God is going to carry the noble ship which bears the people of God safely into port.” - EG White.

  11. Thank you for your honesty and the tone of thoughtfulness that you exuded in this blog. I am keeping our church in prayer and asking God to keep our eyes focused on Christ.

  12. Remember that we are warned that a shaking is coming that will be a terrible ordeal. We must keep our focus on Jesus, not the church leaders. God help us I pray.