Sunday, December 2, 2007

Reviewing the Review

November 15, 2007

This edition of the Adventist Review is outstanding. I would be comfortable sharing this magazine with any of my colleagues at Chico State. I am truly impressed, and I am saddened to know that many of my fellow church members, and this includes SDA pastors, will not experience the excitement and thrill of seeing the contribution this magazine has made in changing our Church for the better. My hope is that the changes celebrated in this edition reflect the changed and changing lives of my Adventist friends and family.

One of the unfortunate and unintended consequences of belonging to a Church that has the “Truth” is that the “official” magazine of the Church is of little interest to a readership interested in honest discussion rather than a reiteration of official theology and devotional articles. There is no incentive for thoughtful readers to read about what they already have been told. Perhaps this is why blogs like this one are popular and increasingly influential.

I review the Review in the hope that what I have to say will improve the quality of the magazine and, as a consequence, motivate readers to get back to reading “The Flagship Journal of the Seventh-day Adventist Church”. If this edition is an indication of future journalistic efforts, The Review will become a “must read” for all audiences, and I can spend my time reading it instead of reviewing it.

I am delighted to report that this Review published one of my letters. The first thing I noticed was the fifth word in the first paragraph. I intended the word to be “faculty” but instead I vote “family”. On one hand I'm embarrassed that I didn't "catch" that mistake. On the other hand the word family is really a truer word, a more honest word. Chico State has been my “family” for 37 years, and the colleagues and staff that comprise the Department of Education have consistently treated me respectfully and lovingly despite my mistakes and misadventures.

SILVER LININGS by Kimberly Luste Maran is a delightful preface for what follows. I'm sorely tempted to quote her paragraph beginning with the words, “Please don't misunderstand. I'm not talking about the metaphoric patronizing tap on the head that most of us have received at one time or another”. She's speaking here about well-meaning people who claim to feel the pain of “your double amputation”. But she deserves to be read, beginning with the first word.

Nancy Vazquez’s cover feature, WHEN YOU LOSE A SPOUSE, is both an honest and painful account of loss, a description of what it feels like to be a widow, what to say to the bereaved, and how to prepare oneself for the death of a spouse. Her words have convinced me that my wife needs to be in possession of a clear written summary of our present financial situation which also includes my future hopes and dreams.

CORRECTION by Frederick A. Russell is a revelation of Christian character. He uses Proverbs 12:1, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid”, to remind us that “God is continually speaking corrective words into our lives”.

OUT-OF-THE-BOX MINISTRY by Paula Olivier as told to the Adventist Review is an inspiring story of how one young woman can teach a community how to love its young people. The other thing that impressed me about this Adventist Service article was the fact that the school’s graduation photograph identifies by name every person in the picture.

Jan Paulson continues to impress. His world Church feature, PAUSLEN COUNDS UNITY CALL IN ANNUAL COUNCIL KEYNOTE, is remarkable. The nonverbal impact of the photograph that accompanies the article conveys the seriousness of his words, the urgency of his message, and his concern for his Church. I was particularly awed by the way he seems to be encouraging a Division and Conference solution to the question of the ordination of women. “I encourage young people, men and women, to follow the calling God has placed within them. To deny the calling God may have given them is often at the risk of their own spiritual life. If this is an employment issue which you need to fix in your part of the world, then let's do that. We are going to need everyone--everyone--to finish our mission, and for God to usher in eternity.”

He also made it crystal clear that a continuing controversy over the Church's rather vague definition of Christ's nature will not, “’on my watch’, cause a reevaluation by the church of its position on the nature of Christ”. He went on to say, “I have to tell you I just cannot imagine a postmodern person in Europe, a businessman in Asia or Latin America, any more than a farmer in Africa will care one I owed a whether Christ had the nature of man before the Fall or after the Fall. The realities of the world in which we live have other concerns which occupy us”.

Mark Kellner goes on to provide the reader with another important Paulsen quote. “If we do not get it right in the local church, it cannot be fixed anywhere else. So, let us listen carefully to what the local pastors say to us as leaders . . . about the flow of ideas, about diversity and unity, about the needs of our people, what they say to us about standards, and about the use of tithe. Their voice must be heard, or our decisions as leaders will not be safe”. These are the words of a leader. Today Ellen White would call him the “real deal”; then she would have identified him as “The Want of [our Adventist] World”.

CHURCH POSTS GAINS IN TITHES, MISSION OFFERINGS. As a longtime critic of the way tithe has been used, I was heartened to read World Treasurer Robert Lemons words. “Tithe is for support of the ministry and evangelism; it is not for in endowing and then just using the interest.”

It was also exhilarating to learn that the General Conference has added an Office of Assessment and Evaluation of Programs. Paulson justified the new office in this way. “if we are spending many, many millions each year in developing initiatives, tools, and services for the world field, it seems right to have something in place to say how well we are doing. We've never had in place a mechanism to evaluate the effectiveness of these programs, both in terms of if they meet the expected needs or if they are effectively delivered or if there are adjustments that can be made.”

GROWING CHURCES, GAINING MEMBERS. It was encouraging to note that there is an increased concern for statistical accuracy when it comes to reporting church growth.

When Sherian Atkins Wills discusses God's mysterious ways in her story WHEN GOD ORDAINS, she might also consider it doubly fortunate that her Bible ended up in the hands of the old alcoholic. That Bible was ”marked [with] all the crucial doctrines--the Sabbath, the state of the dead, Christ's work in heavenly sanctuary, the Second Coming, with chain references”. She now has the opportunity to rediscover and reevaluate those “crucial doctrines” as she annotates her new Bible.

Monte Salin supplies some excellent RSOURCES TO ‘TOOL’ US FOR MINISTRY, and the books that are BOOK MARKed deserve Sandra Blackmer and Jean Kellner’s thoughtful and provocative reviews.

Stephen Chavez’s WHEN FEARFUL is as inspiring, honest, and self-deprecating as usual. Stephen, when you inform readers that you sometimes “visit other congregations that are brave enough to invite me to preach”, add Grace Connection to that list if your travels take you to Northern California.

I want to conclude my review with LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO DOCTOR LUKE by Lyndon McDowell. I will reread St. Luke through different, more discerning, and grateful eyes. Thoughtful and beautifully written.

Lyndon’s Bible Study has also reminded me that Grace Connection, the Magazine, includes Sakae Kubo’s online book, CHRIST’S PARABLES FOR TODAY, in which he provides a timely, fascinating, and scholarly interpretation of thirty parables.

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