Saturday, October 6, 2007

Reviewing the Review

September 20, 2007
Vol. 184, N. 26

I have been a family member of the Education Department at California State University, Chico, for the past 37 years. Consequently, I was interested in a Jimmy Phillips article “The Invisible Majority”. It has been my experience that most Seventh-day Adventist students who attend this university do not wish to attend the local Adventist Church or wish to identify themselves to the local pastor. Perhaps they attend church when they go home, but when they are here, they seem to enjoy the freedom that anonymity grants them.

Two students referred to me by our local church did not belong here. They chose to take science and religion classes that allowed them to “witness” (noisily confront) their professors. They complained to me about “the godless faculty". Even these students, however, did not affiliate themselves with the local church or the Adventist outreach program, Sadaven House, that existed at that time. One former Adventist student was so anti-church that he complained loudly and emotionally when I mentioned Jesus, in the context of teaching as storytelling. He transferred out of my class!

Ron Pickle suggests that there are five things Adventist college students want: membership in a Christian community, the chance to get involved in that community, the opportunity to develop spiritual friendships (what I take to mean a social life with other Adventist young people), spiritual mentors, and a place where it's safe to be an Adventist college student. In our town we have a number of religious communities that meet these needs. They are not affiliated with or sponsored by an Adventist Church.

It has been my experience that the students, myself included, who attend a secular university are young people who can best be described as “Adventist survivors”. They are generally fed up with the dogmatic Adventism they have been exposed to and enjoy the freedom provided by a university campus where they are not constantly “ministered to” by well-meaning church members.

The Frederick A. Russell editorial, “The Death of the Movement?” is a brutally honest appraisal of where we are is an Adventist Church in North America, and I agree with him. The following comments are direct quotes.
"There are many things in life I'm uncertain about. But one thing I'm certain of is that our church in North America has ceased being a movement...If the movement as a movement is dying, it is not something happening only in administrative offices around the country. The most important decline happens in you and me."

I along with Juan Prestol am uneasy with the outcomes of constituency elections. I believe our shared unease stems from the fact that constituents are not psychologically prepared to function in a democratic environment and are uninformed as to the consequences of the decisions that are made. Consequently, they follow the suggestions of the administrators in charge of the meetings like sheep.

I think the following suggestions might be helpful in making constituency meetings real democratic decision-making bodies. First, inform delegates about the issues the same way we are informed when we cast our ballots in local, state, and national elections. Pro and con arguments are required if delegates are to make informed decisions. Next, with this information at hand, delegates from each church should be required to meet without the supervision of the pastor and thoroughly discuss each issue prior to the meeting. Finally, in the information sent to each delegate, there should be a request from the conference president to make informed decisions, regardless of personal loyalties or respect for existing church officials. The president should assure delegates that neither he nor members of his administrative team will address the assembled delegates as church authorities.

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