Sunday, August 29, 2004

Open Dialogue

When Adventism started in the 1800's, it was based on a system of open dialogue. Anathemas, name calling, and power struggles were the coercive powers of the established denominations who were kicking out (and even persecuting) the Millerites. But the Adventist movement had, as the core of its doctrinal and organizational development process, open fora consisting of Sabbath conferences and barn gatherings. The Adventist pioneers shied away from a formalized structure and a formalized creed, because they knew that over time the two would fossilize. And then anathemas, name-calling, and power struggles would be standard operating procedure for OUR denomination, as well.

After the Mission Catalyst news broke, I heard no careful dialogue or reason about what was going on. All I heard were anathemas, name calling, and invectives, all from church leaders careful to distance themselves from Mission Catalyst. Unfortunately, in my Conference, there is a sense that we are not even to engage the subject, lest we be considered traitors to the Adventist Movement. One cannot engage in questioning the use of tithe or the actual representative structure of the church without being marked as a trouble-maker or insubordinate. It saddens me that I have to be anonymous in this blog.

I believe the Adventist pioneers would have chafed at the notion of the church becoming so inflexible that it would no longer engage in open dialogue. Open dialogue should be a natural part of the Adventist Movement as it remains faithful to and effective in its mission. Maybe we should have bureaucracized and fossilized the Sabbath conferences, making someone's paycheck dependent on them. Perhaps then they would still be part of our system. They would be defended rigorously from any change or tampering. And then there might be an open forum.