Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Knight Takes a Stand

Retired SDA historian, George Knight is on the hot seat.
some of the Adventist Book Centers have even considered removing his books from their shelves as a result of remarks he made at a recent "Unity Conference" in London where division leaders gathered to discuss the ramifications of recent moves to consolidate power by the GC and threats to close certain troublesome divisions who were not properly submitting to the authority of the GC administration. Knight
asked how the Seventh-day Adventist Church went from disdaining church organization in its earliest days to becoming one of the most highly organized churches in Christian history. And HE SAID IT OUT LOUD!

It was an interesting meeting to say the least. Knight's talk title was
“Catholic or Adventist: The Ongoing Struggle Over Authority + 9.5 Theses.” George is safely retired so I suppose he felt he was in a position to say such things. That he did so casts in sharp relief the trouble brewing between Silver Springs and the world church. The Spectrum article is worth reading as is the text of Knight's talk which is linked therein.

I've had similar concerns about church leadership since the 2010 GC. After that there was a spate of calls for unity and sermons on unity. Why was the church in 2010 suddenly needing to be reminded that we should be united? George Knight seems to have spoken about something unpleasant and did so out loud. The GC may not be able to forgive him.

GC President Ted Wilson's father, Neal, was unhappy at being removed from office in 1990 (witnesses say he threw a fit out in the hall). Four years before Wilson, in a letter to the Unions and Conferences had made it clear that he considered the General Conference was the “highest authority in the church”. This went against the decentralization of church authority that had happened in 1902. After he "retired", he was part of, if not leader of, a group who seemed intent on overthrowing the next president and offered himself as replacement when they were successful. Since then there has been a controversy bubbling around Wilson ever since. There was even a public prayer I heard one pastor give at the 2010 GC where he said, not everybody was happy with or agreed with what they had done, but called for God to bring us together in unity. It's not an exact quote but it was the gist of it. I heard rumors that a group had worked behind the scenes to get Ted, son of Neal, nominated to the presidency. Since then there has been a steady stream of articles and sermons and pleas for unity in our SDA magazines. The San Antonio GC was even more divisive and the ordination of women vote seemed to be more of a power grab than a theological issue. After all two Bible conferences sponsored by the GC had failed to find women's ordination against scriptural authority. What the measure voted on in San Antonio actually did was pull back authority from the Division to the GC - authority that had been transferred to them in 1903 at a GC that Ellen White said that angels had walked the aisles during that decision. She warned, if you remember that the GC administrators should not exercise what she called "kingly powers".

I've watched with dismay as my church has leaned suspiciously toward Babylon in the political maneuvering behind the scenes that took place. I loved Elder Folkenberg and Jan Paulsen as GC presidents but both continued the process of gathering authority to the GC administration. Within these centralizing forces we find the Wilsons supporting the centralizing authority, but jockeying for the place at the top of the administration.  I remember after the 2010 GC, when Ted Wilson was elected, we almost immediately began to hear sermons that my pastor appeared uncomfortable giving in which the chains of authority were discussed and exhortations to members that they should obey pastors, and then conference presidents and division presidents etc. up the chain of authority. Then the editor of the Review wrote an editorial, talking about marginalizing independent ministries on the heels of Amazing Facts being kicked out of Florida Conference, and a Texas Conf. President banning a former (and very good in my opinion) Texas Conf. President from Texas pulpits with a mass email, well something seems wrong. And at its core, the dispute seems to be not about Biblical truth, but about church authority.

Hamlet said the believed something was rotten in the state of Denmark. While not exactly rotten, something feels wrong in my beloved church and that feeling is coming from above. I hate to say it, and nothing will drive me from this church. I am a loyal Adventist always, but Christ is my authority. Him I obey. With every human being, however, it's conditional by a long shot.

I think our church is under a stealthy attack from within. I think Satan would try to convince us to conform to the world more in order to bring in new members. That's where the Roman church went wrong and we should beware. Some change is good. Some not so good. We are students of the whole Bible. I've been studying scripture for my entire 45 years as a Christian. When you spend that much time with the Word you train your internal radar to sense if something is wrong. "If we do these things in the green wood," says Shakespeare, "What will happen in the dry?" When we face an external assault, can we survive if we are crumbling at the core?

I hope the church can work it out. I am kind of rooting for the divisions on this one, though. I think Ted and company overstepped on the ordination issue and it feels like power is being shifted in the wrong direction at this stage of the game. As the church begins to face opposition from the one world church movement, it will become imperative that we shift power and decision making farther afield. A church in which power and decision-making is scattered across the world as the creation of Divisions was intended to do, is harder to kill than one where power is strongly centralized where the head can be lopped off and the whole organization killed in one fell swoop.

We should be planning for the final stages of the work and be drawing more on local energies, skills, ideas and strengths to spread the world to every kindred, tongue and people.  As I've said too many times to count, the church is not a museum for saints, it's a hospital for sinners. If you don't see sin in the church it's because you ain't lookin'. The best we can do is try to use Biblical principles to heal the rifts that arise within the fabric of the church. Power does not corrupt absolutely, but it certainly attracts the corruptible. And to those for whom power is attractive, the temptation to exercise it can be overwhelming. That's why I believe in keeping centralized power away from our leadership and spread it about. Return the power to the people as much as possible and let the "leadership" serve rather than command.

This is just my opinion. I am no prophet nor do I pretend to be one. As a simple Christian man, I serve Christ in any case. The Christian church has a short hierarchy or should have. Our shepherds serve the flock, not the other way round. At least that's how Jesus explained it to me.

© 2017 by Tom King

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