9.5 theses for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 2017
GEORGE R. KNIGHT
October 31, 1517, witnessed Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door—signaling a commitment to dialogue and a willingness to discuss issues troubling the church in his time.
His 95 Theses identified serious issues facing the church in 1517, and were presented in a spirit of respect, seriousness, and love for his church.
His actions changed the course of history, and became the basis for the Protestant Reformation.
In the spirit of Martin Luther—here are 9.5 theses for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 2017:
1. The only basis for Christian unity is Scripture, trust, and the love of God.
2. The Church Manual makes it clear that the General Conference is the “highest
authority” for the world church, “under God.”
3. It is God who calls pastors. All the church can do is to recognize God’s call by the
laying on of hands.
4. Ordination is not a biblical topic. (The passages using the word in the King James Version of the Bible generally mean to appoint or consecrate.) From the perspective of the Bible there is absolutely no difference between ordaining and commissioning.
5. For Adventists the Bible is the only source for doctrine and practice. An appeal to policy is not an appeal to the Bible. A vote by a General Conference session is not equivalent to Bible evidence.
6. On issues not definitively settled in the Bible, James White utilized the only possible way forward in unity of mission. He moved away from an understanding that stipulated that practices must be expressly spelled out in the Bible, and toward an understanding that held that practices were permissible if they did not contradict Scripture and were in harmony with common sense. This new approach made it possible for the Sabbatarian Adventists to organize as a denomination even though the bible said nothing about conferences or a General Conference.
7. The so-called noncompliant unions are not out of harmony with the Bible. They have based their actions on an understanding of the bible consistent with Adventist history and its pioneers.
8. History shows that Adventism has moved at times from being a church based on Scripture to one based on tradition and ecclesiastical pronouncements.
9. Let it be said with love, but let it be said: The General Conference leadership in 2017 is coming dangerously close to replicating the medieval church in its call for the serious discipline of large sectors of the church on the basis of a non-biblical issue.
9.1. For Adventists the Bible is the only source for doctrine and practice. The recent General Conference documents and procedures do not reflect faithfulness to the Bible’s teachings in such passages as Matthew 18 and Acts 15.
9.2. Crucial information—including the recommendations of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee was not shared with the delegates at the General Conference Session in 2015. Due to this suppression of data and the manipulation of the events surrounding the voting process, it is not credible to suggest that the 2015 vote on the issue related to women’s ordination indicated the voice of God.
9.3. When you study the Bible, you begin to see that one of the important functions of the ancient Hebrew prophets was to confront priests and kings over their abuse of authority. When you study the work of Ellen G. White, it becomes evident that one of her functions was to confront conference presidents for similar reasons. And, if there were a prophet in modern Adventism, that prophet would find plenty to do.
9.4. Let it be said with love, but let it be said: The current atmosphere of confrontation in Adventism has not been brought about by the unions, but by the General Conference leadership and its non-biblical and manipulative tactics.
9.45. Soon the leaders from around the world will be coming to the Annual Council of the General Conference, where policies are made that govern the church. We are all praying that the October 2017 meetings may help the worldwide Adventist Church decide whether it wants to move more toward an Adventist Ecclesiology or toward a more Roman Catholic variety.
9.5 The so-called nonconforming unions must stand together, come into line with General Conference demands, or go down one by one. Martin Niemöller, a leading German Protestant pastor during World War II, has written a thoughtful piece:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I didn’t speak out—because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out.”