In response to the ongoing dialogue and debate surrounding First SDA Church’s decision to implement Sunday morning worship services, representatives from the Pastoral Evangelism Leadership Council (PELC) have insolently and threateningly voiced their resolution concerning the Sunday worship question, in connection with the issues of women’s ordination and worship styles in an article entitled “No More! Affirming the Need to Ignore Naysayers.” The author, Rebecca Davis, associate pastor of Atlanta’s Berean SDA Church, opens her article by stating “There’s a quiet riot among us. It’s like an underground movement happening right in our midst! It’s because pastors are no longer satisfied with the status quo. There are pastors who are no longer ok with the exclusive, separatist, controlling, traditionalist, one size fits all mentality that has consistently threatened the life of our denomination.”1
Davis’ choice of words is intriguing yet calculated, as she juxtaposes the usually peace-loving pastors with a tumultuous throng of rioters, referring to the movement of dissatisfied pastors (of which she belongs), as an underground riot. As she goes on, it becomes very clear that this movement is soon to emerge from the underground and penetrate to the very core of the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination; and indeed it has already begun to show itself. She continues, “You see no matter how many times you explain to some members or some denominational leaders why space should be given to have Sunday eleven am worship service, no matter how many Ellen White quotes you throw their way, they still will never get it. And I mean, you can talk and argue until you’re blue in the face! We have become so focused on internal battles such as, whether or not ethnic conferences should be dissolved, worship styles, women’s ordination and why we shouldn’t have services on Sunday, that it has effectively restricted our ability to move forward. However, there are so many of us who are standing up saying, ‘No more!’ We, like Hannah, are not content with a portion of meat! God has promised and he can deliver more!”2
The intentions of this underground movement of pastors are to ignore the “naysayers” and push forward in the evangelistic methods and approaches that they consider most effective in winning souls, which inevitably ignore the history, identity and fundamental principles of Seventh-Day Adventism. Davis gives the impression that this collection of pastors is a minority group of oppressed ministers whose liberty of conscience and freedom to do evangelism in their own way, irrespective of historic denominational practices and policies, is being denied and that they are being victimized by the majority “exclusive, separatist, controlling, traditionalist” leaders and members. This is not the case at all; this so-called “quiet riot” gaining traction is highly influential. According to the PELC’s official website “PELC has become the largest continuous gathering of Seventh-day Adventist pastors and leaders in the world.”3 Furthermore, Davis leads out in a young adult ministry called “Connect,” which happens to be popular, well-supported, and highly promoted. Therefore, because of the influence which both PELC and “Connect” have, and with the blessing and backing of so many individuals of both leadership and laity, it would be difficult and nearly impossible for the worldwide church to ignore the concerns brought forth from this group, which are also the concerns of many others. For this very reason, issues such as women’s ordination will be voted upon at the General Conference session this year, which should not even be a consideration, as the Bible is clear upon the issue of male leadership in the home and the church.
According to the premise of and sentiments expressed in the article under analysis, the methods of evangelism used in times past to carry forward gospel evangelism, as well as the position to remain true to the historic identity of Adventism, are today outdated, ineffective and inhibit church growth/progress and therefore need to be challenged, changed and new-modeled. “This is not to incite insurrection,” Davis states, “but to state very clearly to the powers that be that we have a systemic problem that dates back to before any of us were thought of. An [sic] now we have a generation of youth that is not the least bit interested in being Adventist, there are communities not being impacted, and unchurched people who are not being reached. And we, WE, must break free from the traditional, orthodox views in order to meet these people’s need. A close examination of these issues doesn’t illuminate some gross deviation from scripture or Adventist doctrine by these creative and committed pastors (although there are those that would like to argue that such is the case). Rather, it’s these archaic, traditionalist, fundamentalist, extremely conservative, even marginal views, and personal opinions that have plagued us and inhibited the mission of our church. It is by these very views that we have been indoctrinated to believe that they cannot be challenged. ‘This is what it is. This is what it’s always been. End of discussion.’ To that we say, ‘No more!’”4 Individuals with such opinions as thus expressed, view church growth only from a numeric standpoint and are therefore willing to lower the standards that God has established and use any method (i.e. worldly music, sports, secular entertainment, etc.), in order to facilitate the acceptance of the faith by worldlings, and bring them into a denomination that is almost identical to the popular non-SDA churches. And indeed, an increase in membership has ensued from these endeavors, yet these churches that souls are brought into, in no way resemble the Seventh-day Adventism of the past built upon the standards and foundational pillars.
The question is put forth to us in The Great Controversy, “what was the origin of the great apostasy? Looking back centuries before and comparing the state of affairs today, it is undeniable that the very reasons for the origin of this apostasy are prevalent in the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination, which indicates that the great apostasy has reemerged and is in its omega/ending phase.
“What was the origin of the great apostasy? How did the church first depart from the simplicity of the gospel? By conforming to the practices of paganism, to facilitate the acceptance of Christianity by the heathen…During the lives of the apostles the church remained comparatively pure. But ‘toward the latter end of the second century most of the churches assumed a new form; the first simplicity disappeared, and insensibly, as the old disciples retired to their graves, their children, along with new converts . . . came forward and new-modeled the cause…’ To secure converts, the exalted standard of the Christian faith was lowered, and as the result ‘a pagan flood, flowing into the church, carried with it its customs, practices, and idols…’”5
Davis, asserts, “My cause and my burden (like so many other pastors), is to see this denomination become the impactful movement it once was!”6 This is incongruous with the entire tenor of the article; all throughout, she stresses and urges other pastors to challenge the status quo, the orthodoxy and traditions of this denomination, and employ new and innovative methods of reaching people, which denotes a divergence from the church’s historical methods and views. How then can her burden be to see the denomination become “the impactful movement it once was” if she is criticizing the very methods that made it such? Again, as the omega of the great apostasy is predominant in Seventh-Day Adventist churches, and proponents of this change are emboldened in carrying forward their agenda, I am reminded of a statement that says that nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of such a movement. However, the statement closes by saying that when the storm and tempest come—the mark of the beast crisis and the seven last plagues—their structure and movement will be swept away.
“The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. Were this reformation to take place, what would result? The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error. A new organization would be established. Books of a new order would be written. A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced. The founders of this system would go into the cities, and do a wonderful work. The Sabbath of course, would be lightly regarded, as also the God who created it. Nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of the new movement. The leaders would teach that virtue is better than vice, but God being removed, they would place their dependence on human power, which, without God, is worthless. Their foundation would be built on the sand, and storm and tempest would sweep away the structure.”7
In these times when postmodern thinking, relativism and pluralism have permeated every level of the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination, it is crucial that God’s people return and cling to the old paths and He who designed and Himself trod those paths; for His ways and methods alone can bring success. But sadly, many will choose not to walk therein and instead walk in a path of their own devising. “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” Jeremiah 6:16. Those choosing to construct and walk in their own ways are verily affirming “We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach” Isaiah 4:1.
“Has not the same process been repeated in nearly every church calling itself Protestant? As the founders, those who possessed the true spirit of reform, pass away, their descendants come forward and ‘new-model the cause.’ While blindly clinging to the creed of their fathers and refusing to accept any truth in advance of what they saw, the children of the reformers depart widely from their example of humility, self-denial, and renunciation of the world. Thus ‘the first simplicity disappears.’ A worldly flood, flowing into the church, carries ‘with it its customs, practices, and idols.’”8
5 White, Ellen. The Great Controversy, (1911), page 385
7 White, Ellen. Selected Messages, Book 1, (1958), page 204
8 White, Ellen. The Great Controversy, (1911), page 385
by Hilari Henriques