A lot of my readers are Seventh Day Adventists. There was a major vote at the church's General Conference Meeting in San Antonio last week on the subject of who decides whether it is permissible to ordain women to the ministry. Before your eyes glaze over, this isn't about that.
Stuff like the picture above has been popping up on SDA Facebook member sites since the big vote last week went "NO". Nothing actually changed with regard to women in the ministry. The vote merely said that the General Conference President and his aids will decide, not the local conferences and churches. The president of the General Conference is one Ted Wilson, who, like George W. Bush, is the son of a previous General Conference president, Neal Wilson. Adventists as a group are rebellious Protestant with a long history of ignoring popular opinion and going with Scripture for their source of authority. We even demand that our church's resident prophet conform to the Bible - something she, herself, recommended.
But, if you are an SDA and saw the picture above, your mind probably went immediately to last week's contentious vote on women's ordination? I kow mine did.
The controversy reminds me of the kerfuffle over the Confederate battle flag of recent weeks. As the flags are being torn down one by one from monuments and government property throughout the South in response to a massive media campaign to eradicate the flag from display, Southern folk have felt compelled to hoist the Confederate Battle Flag in their homes, at NASCAR events and everywhere else you can imagine over the last couple of weeks.
Many, especially liberals and Yankees assume that flying the Confederate battle flag is racist. They really don't understand the situation. Stuff like this is an expression of rebellion, something Americans have done since before 1776. You will note that neither group, pro-ordination Adventists nor the children of the soldiers who lost the Civil war have gone out blowing things up or occupying some city park to raise "awareness". They've just raised their banner here and there. It's more about tweaking the noses of the victors - in essence saying I'm not going away just because you say so. Most Southerners care not a fig for racism, but do care about being from the South and resent people trying to crush what they see as their heritage. In the same way, I find a majority of Adventists who voted "yes" last week, or would have if they'd had a vote, are more angry that the power to decide that issue was held in the hands of Ted Wilson and his confederates.
|This flag is the actual racist Confederate|
Flag - Southerners abandoned it long ago.
It is, therefore, not useful for fomenting racial
unrest if you're looking to promote a meme that
all white people (at least Southerners) are racist.
Besides, the battle flag was actually NOT the flag of the Confederacy, but the flag of the troops and so is far less racist than the flag shown to the left. If you want to ban the real "racist" flag, this is the one chosen by the high-born plantation owners and slave-holders who wrote the entirely racist Confederate constitution? This is the flag you ought to be getting hacked off about if someone flies it. The battle flag was flown by armies that thought they were fighting for their rights.The battle flag flew over men who thought they were fighting against government overreach. For instance, I fly my Texas flag and my Texas Navy flag up here in very liberal Washington State as a symbol of pride and my resistance to current government overreach. I fly it alongside the Stars and Stripes. I do so because my home state has resisted progressive socialism successfully and we're kind of proud of that.
Adventists, meanwhile, at least those who felt the vote on women's ordination was more about the centralization of power in the hands of a few high up administrators than it was about women in the ministry, are searching for ways to express their frustration. They are not rebelling against the church, but against the kind of high-handed strong-arming that can take place if too much power is settled in the hands of a few. Even the GC said it wasn't about whether women could preach but about who, as President Bush once colorfully described it, is the "decider".
Ironically, both the battle flag and pictures like the one above are more about who's going to tell who what to do than they are about the issues they purport to be about. It will be interesting to see whether the church cracks down on the rebellious murmerings of the members who had hoped last week's vote would affirm the 1903 GC's move to decentralize the power and authority of the church's world leaders. It won't help if they do crack down on expressions of discontent by Adventist members, anymore than ordering Southerners not to display the Battle Flag did anything other than to stimulate sales of the flags. If the church leadership truly wants unity, it should look around for ways to put more decision-making authority in the hands of the unions and the conferences and divest itself very publicly of the mantle of authority they wear. That authoritarian leadership style looks more and more like another top-heavy church organization we all know and fear. This is not the time for sermons on the headship doctrine. It is time to reaffirm that Jesus is our Lord and it is to him we are directly responsible.
Just one man's opinion
© 2015 by Tom King