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Adventist Church at War? A Reflection and Call to Action on George Knight’s “Adventist Authority Wars”

There are three ways in which I would like to reflect on the words written by George Knight in
his most recent book, “Adventist Authority Wars.” First as a general youngish believer, second,
from the practical level of a pastor, and third, from the level of scholarship.


As a GenX/Millennial believer, my first impression is that the compilation of facts and historical
data feels like a bit of a conspiracy theory. If it wasn’t for the fact this is George Knight, a
recognized Adventist historian, writing this I would think this is coming from some retired guy
who has been thinking too much in his spare time. In addition to this, the recent actions of the
general conference towards the unions, which are “out of line,” are all to bizarrely real. On
another note, the idea that the general conference in session was every considered the “voice
of God” or the “highest authority under God on earth” blares warning signs in my mind. I am
suddenly transported back to the first revelation seminar I attended at the age of 12 and the
warnings against the Roman Catholic church taking the place of God on earth. This language
seems absolutely crazy to the GenX/Millennial me!


On the practical level as an ordained pastor in the Adventist church, I find the discussion of the
practical growth of the Adventist church very helpful. The carefully laid out history of the way in
which the Adventist church was organized, following the lead of James White, for practical-
common sense that is not in contradiction of the bible gives great clarity. How would we be
able to move forward in the 21 st Century with the ministry of the church if we must do
everything by explicit commands of the context of the 1 st Century? The bible doesn’t tell us to
use hymnals or power point in church. It doesn’t even mention the ownership of church
buildings because the New Testament church was meeting in homes. There has to be some
ministry methodology that is developed by common sense that is not in contradiction to
scripture. When it comes to women in ministry practical common sense demonstrates that
women are in ministry and they are doing powerful work for the kingdom. The work in China
alone is a strong demonstration of this let alone the work of women in leadership in each local
congregation.


I am currently finishing my Ph.D. in systematic theology at Andrews University Theological
Seminary. I will, therefore, also reflect on these ideas at a scholarship level. George Knight is a
profound scholar in the Adventist church and his writing and teaching is of great value to our
community of learning. His detailed description of the historical data regarding the
development of the authority and structure of the Adventist church is compelling and well-
articulated. There are many points of agreement in his theology and conclusions that I share.
There are also a couple of questions that are raised.


I am in agreement with Knight in his clear explanation of the non-biblically explicit nature of
ordination currently practiced by the Adventist church. However, using James White’s principle
of common sense practices that are not prohibited by scripture could be a double-edged sword
here for Knight’s proposal. If ordaining pastors can help the mission of the church move

forward in the same way that the Adventist pioneers gave cards to preachers who aren’t
teaching heresy and is not in contradiction to scripture, could ordination be a valid way for the
church to proceed? However, the excluding people from ministry based on ordination is against
scripture. The NT does teach a priesthood of ALL believers who are equipped for the purpose of
ministry – male and female, all races, and via various spiritual gifting. It is also clearly the Holy
Spirit who choses those gifts, so if the Holy Spirit has gifted a woman with the gifts of
pastor/teacher who are we not to recognize that gifting and work against the Holy Spirit.
I am also concerned, as Knight is, concerning the use of authority which the General Conference
is exerting over the “disobedient” unions. I think Knight’s historical argument regarding the
practical need for unions to determine the methods of ministry as long as they do not
contradict scripture is essential for the forward movement of the mission. At this point trying to
move unions backwards from ordaining women who are called/gifted and currently moving the
mission forward is both impractical and unbiblical. Whether the General Conference alone can
be blamed for the “atmosphere of confrontation” is debatable as a confrontation takes two to
tango.


Knight’s spirited and prophetic tone can at times feel like an underserved punch in the gut, but
his concerns are valid and the issues of authority are significant for the church to think about at
the GenX/Millennial, pastoral, and theological level. To my fellow GenX/Millennial peeps, we
may feel like running away screaming for the hills. To my fellow pastors, we may feel like
dismissing this over the top discussion and get back to the ministry at hand. To my fellow
scholars, we may feel like this is a curious theological question to ponder among many.
However, if we have any desire to take ownership and engage our church in a crisis of unity we
need to be willing to listen and engage these issues. Let us read the significant discussions
attend and vote in relevant meetings and above all publically recognize the various
giftings/callings of all of the members of the body of Christ.

For more information on George Knight’s new book, paper, and call to action visit: www.equalityinministry.com

Interested in checking out the book? Click on the title below:

 

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The Haystack is awesome. Nuff said.

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