"The Wall of Adventism'' and Baby Fae

Cutting edges. Controversies. Challenges. Creative energies. They suggest exciting possibilities I Jesus handled them all well. The author of this Viewpoint suggests that in recent times our church has quite literally experienced mixed success in dealing with them. What do you think?

Lawrence G. Downing pastors the Green Lake Seventh-day Adventist church in Seattle, Washington.

Viewpoint is designed to allow readers an opportunity to express opinions regarding matters of interest to their colleagues. The ideas expressed in this feature are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church or the opinions of the MINISTRY staff. You are invited to submit your ideas to Viewpoint on any topic. However, the editors reserve the right to make a final decision regarding the appropriateness or suitability for publication.—Editors.

Adventists had significant exposure recently from two rather disparate sources. The first was a major article in the October 19 issue of Christianity Today "The Wall of Adventism" (pp. 20-25). The author, Joan Craven, described as "formerly active in the Adventist Church," recounted her Adventist heritage and presented her understanding of Adventism today.

Rather gently she led the reader in an exploration of our relationship to evangelical Christians and our tendency to surround ourselves with walls of safety. Her account of Adventist views of the Sabbath and of our concepts of diet and education were, on the whole, quite in keeping with what any observer might find among us.

No doubt there are those who have taken umbrage with what the author said. Some would prefer that any statements about us originate from the General Conference PR Department or reflect the type of writing we find in The Seventh Day or the recent (March, 1984) Saturday Evening Post article on Adventists. But in general, Ms. Craven was kind.

The criticisms she expressed are reflective of what others, both within and without our church, have said before. We would do well to listen and heed what other authors say, even if their statements may not be such that we would distribute them door-to-door.

Our second brush with fame came from, of all sources, a babe, a baboon, and a zealous, adventurous group of scientists, technicians, and researchers. Baby Fae brought Loma Linda University onto the national stage in a way that only media blitz and hype can do. We heard animal rights people, hospital PR people, ethicists, and surgeons present point-counterpoint. The debate has only just begun. (Relating to the use of animal organs, I did like Jack Provonsha's response on the Today Show interview that he would not expect any criticisms from critics who are not vegetarians. Love it!)

I find it interesting to compare the point ot the Christianity Today article and the Baby Fae event. Here we are, the very group that builds these powerful institutions on, and maybe even beyond, the cutting edge in exploring scientific possibilities. But when it comes to the aspect of our church which gives foundation and purpose to our health work, we are perceived as being isolationists or, as our own missiologists describe us, cherishing a fortress mentality. On the surface the two points are incompatible, contrary, and mutually destructive. How is it we can live in two worlds and continue as though each were normal?

It is time for us to stretch the frontiers of theology, governance, and churchmanship in the same ways we have encouraged or at least allowed advances in science. It is time for us to take similar risks in church polity to those we have seen demonstrated at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

We have not put the degree of creative energy and resources into our church work that we see at Loma Linda. Nor have we cherished and aided creative people. In fact, the opposite has been the practice.

I believe that our church desperately needs to welcome and nurture those people who will expand our understandings of faith and will lead us to new frontiers that await spiritual exploration. We have not done well in this, nor are we doing well now. My hope is that we would be as adventurous and challenged by the opportunities in the spiritual life as we have been in the medical sphere. May that day come soon!

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Lawrence G. Downing pastors the Green Lake Seventh-day Adventist church in Seattle, Washington.

January 1985

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