Thursday, May 29, 2008

This Might be the SCC Department of Evangelism's Plan "B"

Modified from the comic Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click to enlarge)

If only it were this easy to explain

The best thing to do about a belief in evolution for a Christian or an Adventist is to believe it in private and not rub it in anyone's face. It causes more harm than good in spite of fostering honesty. There will always be similar people who believe like you, but to burden loved ones or very close conservative or struggling friends with a personal belief in evolution, sounds vaguely like unkindness. God bless. (taken from the blog Wishing Doesn't Make It So, June 18, 2007)

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing Adventist World: NAD Edition

May 2008

In many ways this is a landmark edition of Adventist World. For that reason the format of this review will be different. That's because I want to highlight and celebrate Jan Paulsen's, " Five Things the World Needs to Know About Us", "Dreaming of a Better World" by Stephen Chavez, and "Italy, Adventists Mark 20 Years of Religious Freedom" by the Adventist News Network Staff. These three contributions to Adventist World provide our sometimes myopic Christian fellowship with new prescription contact lenses.

This editorial by our President describes the basic Christian beliefs that unite us worldwide. The following are quotes from his five identifying characteristics.

1. A "culture-less" faith
"Compassion, selfless service, love of freedom, tolerance and respect for each other, willingness to give rather than take—these eternal biblical values have an immense significance in today's world."
2. A living faith
"I want the world to know we will do more than simply talk about the Scriptures; we will live its principles. And because of this we will inevitably be drawn into positive, constructive engagement with our communities."
3. Shaping people for eternity
"We need to talk not just about statistics, but the reason for [our] tremendous investment in education. We need to say, without falling too far into religious jargon, that our commitment is grounded in our belief that eternity begins now. This is the time when we want to start shaping people for a never ending potential. We live and plan for an infinite future, and our concern for the development of individuals—spiritually, mentally, physically—is driven by this perspective."
4. Peacemakers
"We can demonstrate in our congregations and in our relationships within the community that Christ has the power to heal divisions of all kinds: personal, political, or ethnic. This means taking risks at times, stepping outside what is comfortable. And it means acting carefully to avoid tainting the church with even the 'aroma' of partisan politics. But difficulty does not excuse us from this fundamental Christian responsibility to teach and model peace."
5. A people of integrity
"In an era when corruption of all kinds dominates the headlines, Seventh-day Adventists have something to say about morality, ethics, and integrity. We're not happy to confine our spirituality to the church pew. We don't subscribe to a theology that says actions don't matter. But rather, we know that our conduct is either a constant confirmation or denial of our faith."

In the cover story, Dreaming of a Better World, Stephen Chavez reports on the Canada-based relief and development agency, A Better World.

"In 1990 Eric Rajah teamed up with Brian Leavitt, then campus chaplain at Canadian University College, to fund developmental projects around the world. Using the College Heights Seventh-day Adventist Church as a base to receive funding . . . and with members of the church board serving as the administrative body . . .Rajah and Leavitt began their modest operation by donating CAN$5,000 to fund a rehabilitation program for victims of polio in Kendu Bay, Kenya.”

Today, "A Better World works in 12 countries, including Afghanistan, Bolivia, India, Kenya, Rwanda, Tibet, Uganda, and the United States (following Hurricane Katrina)" It "has a volunteer base that is 90 percent non-Adventist. And Rajah estimates that 98 percent of the financial donations . . . come from non-Adventist donors. . . 'This is an unwritten passion for me,’ says Rajah about the wider community . . .’to engage them and let them know what the church does’."

"From its modest beginnings 18 years ago, A Better World now oversees nearly 20 projects a year and brings in more than CAN$2.5 million in donations. . . It partners with other development and relief agencies around the world, notably the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), the Red Cross, Action for Hunger, and Medical Assistance Program (MAP) International."

"Rajah's next initiative is to enlist the youth and young adults in the work of A Better World, especially those who study on public college or university campuses."

"Overhead expenses are kept at an absolute minimum. 'Our goal is zero overhead', says Rajah. 'Nobody's paid: we have no office; we don't even have a telephone bill. Everybody who travels has to pay their own way; they have to donate their own time. None of the donor money goes to pay for overhead’."

Italy, Adventists Mark 20 Years of Religious Freedom, is reported by the Adventist News Network Staff. This news has got to come as a shock to the Adventist church’s anti-Catholic, Mark of the Beast 666’ers, and the Pope is the Antichrist, reactionaries.

"Seventh-day Adventist representatives met with Italy's prime minister and officials March 6 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the agreement between the government and the Adventist Church. Once signed into law, it legalized relations between the church and the Italian state without compromising the church's identity or independence.

"'We wish to thank the authorities of our country for the freedom we enjoy,' said Daniele Benini, president of the Adventist Church in Italy. In 1988 Adventists were among the first Protestant denominations to sign the agreement in a predominantly Roman Catholic nation.

"Dora Bognandi, director of the church's department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) in Italy, said the agreement made full provision for seventh day Sabbathkeepers in Italy. It also officially recognized Adventist ministers and ceremonies officiated by them, allowed Adventist young people to choose community service over compulsory military service, and established Adventist chaplaincy posts in the country's hospitals and prisons. Following the agreement, the Adventist Church was allowed to advertise, as well as collect contributions."

Editors Note: I can’t end this review without recommending Handysides and Landless’ informative discussion of Bell’s Palsy. This edition also reports eight community services projects, the mind-boggling evangelistic successes of the Inter-American Division, and the news that the first phase of Loma Linda University’s Medical Center’s cancer center, is completed. World Exchange letters continue to be inspiring and heartbreaking.

I continue to be disappointed that the statement regarding marriage and family, the 23rd of the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the Adventist Church included with Catherine Boldeau’s essay, Marriage and the Family, still states "that the person who divorces espouse, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery".

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

When sleeping women wake

"When sleeping women wake, mountains move."
Chinese proverb

I don't want to seem unreasonable, but . . .

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." George Bernard Shaw "Man and Superman" 1903

Oxymorons in SDA Publications

Re-elects Officers
Messiah’s Mansion
The State of the Dead
News Legend, Paul Harvey
Prayer warrior
The edge of eternity
Tofu steaks
Maximizing talent
Religious liberty
Face of death
Break down prejudice
Down to earth, God
Spirit filled preaching
It is Written, Telecast
Silent Candidate

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Reviewing the Adventist Review

May 15, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 14

This edition of the Review has a great deal to recommend it. However, it has earned my lifetime award for including the ugliest illustration ever. This drawing introduces an otherwise excellent article, And to All—A Good Night, and may well have driven its author, Victor M. Parachin, to take those sleeping pills he believes should be taken only as a last resort.

It Really Is All About Jesus
Shane Anderson sets up a straw man and, predictably, knocks him down by assuming that those of us who are critical of the 28 Fundamental Doctrines of the Adventist Church have made three faulty assumptions: Jesus is inherently inoffensive, doctrine is irrelevant to ones salvation, and doctrine has only a distant relationship to Jesus.

Anderson argues for the almost uncritical acceptance of the "teachings" of the Adventist Church. "If an Adventist doctrine seems unpalatable, could it be that it's time for a reevaluation of the doctrine rather than throwing it out altogether? And might it be that Adventist doctrine still has a central and indisputable role to play in evangelism—that is, in bringing our friends and neighbors into the arms of Jesus Christ?" (Editors Note: The 28 have not been helpful in evangelizing my nonAdventist friends. And the overwhelming majority of my Adventist school classmates, K—16, are no longer Adventists.)

The Weight of Glory
An inspirational quote by C. S. Lewis

Finding the Source
Bert Williams argues that Jesus’ prayer life sustained him. "It is unimaginable that Jesus could have sustained His ministry apart from His relationship with His Father. The possibility is even more remote that we can maintain spiritual life apart from a continuous connection with Heaven."

God Vision
Ron Reese tells the story of a fledgling realtor that made $75,000 in commission because she ignored the appearance of a client despite the initial snickering of her colleagues. Reese goes on to write, "We need some kind of spiritual goggles; we need God vision. We need to look past the limitations of those we interact with daily and see them as God sees them."

And To All—A Good Night
Don't be "turned off" by Terry Crews revolting illustration. Victor M. Parachin has ten important tips for a better night's sleep: be predictable in your sleep habits, practice emotional and spiritual stress management, observe and modify your sleep environment, avoid caffeinated drinks eight hours before bedtime, exercise, quit smoking, be mentally and socially engaged during the day, don't take an alcoholic drink before bedtime, make your bedroom a sleep haven that is associated with pleasure and rest, and "if you and your doctor decide you need a sleeping pill, use one that's short-acting, doesn't leave you with a hangover, works quickly, and doesn't accumulate in the body”.

Tools of the Trade
Monte Sahlin highly recommends, Sometimes I Don’t Feel Like Praying by Mike Jones (Pacific Press) He also recommends, Summer Ministries by Tyner, Gillespie, and Wood (AdventSource) and Winning Ways to Witness, a four-session video seminar by David Hartman (AdventSource)

Once again readers’ comments surprise, inform, and delight.

World News Perspectives
PREACH Seminar Marks Decade of Service
Lloyd John Ogilvie, Earl Massey, JoAnn Davidson, and Lawrence Turner conducted a worldwide satellite seminar on preaching at Walla Walla College on April 22. The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Ministerial Association sponsored the seminar.

Review Web Site, Cover Feature Garner Top Awards at ACP Convention
Kimberly Luste Maran reports that the Adventist Review and the Messenger, published by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada, covered themselves with glory at the Associated Church Press Awards Convention. Way to go folks!

The George E. Peters Seventh-day Adventist School in Chillum, Maryland, was partially destroyed by a tornado. Fortunately the twister did not hit on a school day, and there were no injuries.

Birding and Life Lists
Rosalind Landless has definite favorites when it comes to birds, but she's resolved not to play favorites when it comes to people. Though she would much prefer "a rare visit from a Baltimore oriole or a rose breasted grosbeak", Landless reminds herself that sparrows are also included in God’s bird list.

Life Matters
Kimberly Luste Maran reflects on the murder of a four-year-old classmate of her daughter. His father also drowned Austin’s two-year-old sister and six-year-old brother. Her editorial is a call to action, political and personal. "As I dwell on the impact of their deaths these are things that break my heart—and call me to act—because Austin and his siblings mattered. Because life matters. And what I do now, from here on out, does matter.”

Are You Watching?
Mark A. Kellner is bothered by a drop in news ‘consumption’ by people younger than himself. "Having a global news perspective will aid our understanding, fuel our prayer life, and let us fulfill Jesus’ command in Mark 13: 37:’ What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.’”

Reviewing the Adventist Review

May 8, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 13

Nice job Jimmy Phillips. I was also impressed by the cover story, My Space: What are the Dangers? What are the Possibilities?

My Space: What roles do social networks play in the lives of Adventists?
Even though the article was a bit wordy, it was an informative, balanced, and objective discussion of online social networks. The authors conclude the piece with the words of Jon Cicle, pastor of the Vallejo Central Adventist Church in Vallejo, California. "If you're looking for scandals, you will be scandalized. If you're looking for the inspirational, you will be inspired." Authors Stephanie Kinsey and Tyler Craft did themselves proud!

The Search for Meaning: Why does life often look so hopeless? Where’s the Silver lining?”
Editors, Melody Tan needed your help. She concludes “life is genuinely meaningless only when we take God out of the picture." However the tenor of the article and the following quotes do not support Tan’s conclusion. "But when you consider the wisdom of Solomon, what he says in Ecclesiastes makes perfect (albeit depressing) sense. Whatever our actions may be, they do not make a difference." "Meaning in life comes with God and pertains to what comes after our existence here on earth is over."

Balancing Ambition With Contentment
Judith H. Nembhard suggests the following seven ways to strike that healthy balance: acknowledge God’s faithfulness, cultivate God’s friendship, share with others, accept life's inadequacies, accept yourself, and make a habit of thinking positively.

Another Side of Motherhood
Caring for an elderly parent is one of life's great challenges. Vickie Hillary was up to the challenge. Caring for her mother proved to be a difficult assignment, but her prayer that God would give her "a positive cheerful attitude" was answered.

The comments on these two pages reflect an enlightened editorial policy. Journalistic credibility is enhanced when published letters to the editor balance praise with objective criticism.

On Lacking Tact
Sari Fordham, you summarized Proverbs counsel to all of us tactless bloggers, "Be judicious, but don't be phony."

World News and Perspectives
The Mosier Missionary family survived a deadly Congo Jet Crash.

Cornelius M. Matandiko, Zambia Union Conference President, died after a short illness. He was 48.

Adventists Church Vice President, Ella Simmons, represented Seventh-day Adventists at the Woman, Faith, and Development Summit to End Global Poverty at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. "Summit speakers agreed that merely funneling money into disenfranchised hands does little to dent poverty rates. Rather, any solution to poverty must fully utilize women and girls as ‘agents of change, not just objects of charity.’"

Roscoe Howard III is the new president of the Mid-America Union of Seventh-day Adventists.

Stennett H. Brooks, retired Northeastern Conference President, was killed in an automobile crash on April 4.

Introducing the Why
Forget “Success” by Jimmy Phillips’ is a MUST READ. His story about the compassion of twelve businesspeople from Minneapolis, Minnesota, will lead you to conclude with Jimmy that “Jesus would have given His life if none would have accepted salvation. His motivation was not to fill a quota for Heaven; it was to love and serve with every ounce of His being".

Touching Base
This is the story of Feryl Harris’ amazing willingness to mentor a troubled boy from childhood to his adult years. I can think of no finer expression of Christian love.

The Devil’s Favorite Story
Bill Knott doesn't mince words. “Tabloid journalism invites us to window-shop on moral issues, teasing us into believing that thinking—and even emoting—about the world's poor is enough. Unless our righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees . . . we will not enter the kingdom of God, even though our souls overflow with lofty sentiments."

All Things Grace Is
Wilona Karimabadi’s equates "grace" with forgiveness. "Grace", in my view, is God's gift of discernment, the ability to think rationally and to make "right" decisions as we live our lives in this chaotic world.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Reviewing Adventist Today

May-June 2008

This is a landmark issue! Adventist Today has served notice that it is a publication to be reckoned with. I predict that more and more Adventist Review and/or Spectrum readers will subscribe. "It's what's happening!" Special kudos to Art Director, Chris Komisar. Great cover!

Praying for a Recession? by David Beckworth as a steely-eyed analysis of why church membership in the United States fluctuates significantly. His conclusions can be summed up echoing that old political mantra, "It's the economy, stupid". Included here is his final paragraph.

"Both theory and empirical evidence, then, seemed to confirm what the frustrated Adventist pastor told me the late 1990s—at least for evangelical Protestant Christians. Economic hardship does seem to make people who gravitate toward evangelical Protestantism more aware of their true need for God, even if it does mean they first approach God from a cost-benefit perspective. On the other hand, mainline Protestants may find God more easily during prosperous times. These results suggest, then, that it may not be a bad idea for leaders of evangelical Protestants to be hoping—dare we say praying—for a recession this year."

Currently, he hierarchy and membership of the Adventist Church are predominately “mainline”. (See the 28 Fundamental Beliefs.) This essay begs the question, “If our evangelistic efforts add members who ‘gravitate toward evangelical Protestantism’, how likely is it that these new members will remain Adventist church members?”

Essentials and Accidentals
In this MUST READ essay, Larry Downing asks the right questions and requires the reader to thoughtfully consider doctrinal essentials.

“There are [Adventists] who believe it is important to . . . set precise doctrinal boundaries. These members expend energy and resources to promote what Hilgert defines as Accidentals. The end result of these efforts is division, infighting, and loss of credibility. To the extent to which this continues, the Adventist Church’s contribution to the world’s progressive understanding of Essential Christian theology may become heavily discounted.”

Ranking the 28 Fundamental Beliefs by Lynn Sauls features a graphic of four concentric blue circles that contain the numbers and names of all 28 Fundamental Beliefs. The circles become lighter the farther they radiate from a dark blue 3/4" circle labeled “God is love”. Each circle identifies beliefs by name and number. The color intensity of the concentric circles indicates the importance of the belief. The following beliefs are listed by their number, the order in which they are listed, the circle in which they appear, and their order of importance. Saul provides the following note.” For lack of space, I have not explained why I placed each belief where I did.”

First Circle: 9, 8, 4, 3, 5, 2, 19, 1, 6
Second Circle: 7, 23, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28
Third Circle: 13, 17, 18, 21
Fourth Circle: 22

The value of this exercise is in Saul's brave attempt to evaluate the essential Christian content of each belief. Perhaps it is a necessary first step in the creation of one Adventist circle of belief containing only the Gospel: love God and your neighbor as yourself.

The Adventist Church and Lawsuits
James Coffin argues for what he calls The Jesus Model for settling disputes in his essay, The Adventist Church and Lawsuits. "The Jesus model advocates dialogue—carried on in a gentle, conciliatory, truly concerned tone. It advocates agreeing quickly with the aggrieved—before the ongoing debate creates an additional mountain of grievance. It advocates going beyond the call of duty—not doing just the absolute minimum. It advocates turning the other cheek—even when it would be more natural to vigorously defend oneself. The goals are not only truth and justice, but also redemption, pastoral care, and nurture."

Adventist Mediation Service Finds Few Takers
Jim Walters is disappointed that the Adventist Justice Commission is not popular with the Southeastern California Conference constituency. As a consequence, its funding may be discontinued.

The Problem With Generational Loyalty by Andy Nash is a creative, articulate and a thoughtful reminder that smug certainty is often a generational legacy. "The challenge each of us faces is to keep the good and throw out the bad."

A letter of mine is one of the nine selected for publication. I feel honored to be included.

News and Analysis
Katherine Brownlow's Adventist Publishers Face Changing Markets is a MUST READ. She does a brilliant job of describing the challenges facing the Review and Herald and Pacific Press Publishing Associations. She also provides an objective demographic portrait of an aging, philosophically traditional membership when she includes these publishers 2007 best-selling books and authors.

In his analysis of Adventist Publishing Then and Now, James Stirling comments, "College students and young parents who have been exposed to publications outside the church's domain have come to look for reasoned thinking beyond the apologetics of writers who simply afirm 'the truth' with greater emphasis. They expect that writers who deal with large questions about life and science will demonstrate their sympathetic acquaintance with reasonable, divergent views."

Alden, no one can be A Calvinist on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and something else on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. You can't have it both ways. Either God chose us—predestined some of us to be saved—or all of us have the freedom to choose God. Alden, this essay is schizophrenic!

7 Questions for . . .
Andy Nash asks Chris Blake seven questions. His answers, along with a brief biography supplied by Nash, reveal an author (Swimming Against the Current, Pacific Press) and teacher with a generous Christian outlook and a flair for Christian leadership.

Building Momentum—Thanks to You
Readers, renew your subscriptions early, give AT subscriptions as gifts, and send an additional buck or two whenever you discover that you can speak intelligently about Adventist politics and religious life thanks to an article in Adventist Today.

Adventist Man
Historic Claims, Sabbath Evening, Jesus the Omnivore! Adventist Man has found his voice. Brilliant! Funny!