Recently I visited three inspiring World Ministers' Councils representing nine union conferences and fields in Africa and Inter-America. In total, these councils hosted about 1,500 Adventist ministers and their spouses. At all three venues a particular question was asked in one form or another. It is a question that possesses underlying presuppositions and desired responses. It is freighted with important implications for this publication even if it is not asked in places like Kenya, Zimbabwe, or Colombia. Succinctly stated, the question was "Does Ministry represent the official voice of the Seventh-day Adventist Church?"
From a number of points of view this question is significant. I must admit that for me, right or wrong, it is omnipresent. After all, our editorial office is located in the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and as such, this magazine clearly represents much more than the thinking of any one person, place, or time. Besides this, Ministry has an illustrious and rather definitive history with this church of ours and its ministers. Along with these realities, any medium of communication that targets the thought leaders of a given organization obviously needs to responsibly and accurately reflect the outlook of that organization. We definitely try to keep the contents of each issue of the journal consistent with this reality.
No thoughtful person would deny, however, that Ministry, in order to be of any substantive value to the church, has to play a broader part than that of simply reiterating the official positions of the church. In fact, for the magazine to exist simply for this purpose would, by its nature, create a predictable, sterile periodical.
Ministry's original charter and significantly, its ensuing history demands a broader character and purpose. In targeting the thought leaders of the church, the journal must endeavor not only to be consistent with denominational belief, but to be on the cutting edge of thought and study. It must provide a medium by which the best thought and study of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is pooled and responsibly exposed to a world readership. Because the magazine embraces more than one role, with some of the roles being by their nature in tension with one another, it is almost inevitable that it will at times raise questions in some minds as to whether or not its treatment is exactly as it ought to be. Let me explain what I mean from a historical point of view.
In a fascinating article to appear next month, Bert Haloviak will touch on some of the controversial aspects of the magazine's history. In doing so, light will be thrown on the potentially conflicting roles of Ministry as both an expressor of the church's collective voice and a judicious articulator of fresh positions that may seem to some to be risky or worrisome in the life of the church.
Bert will point out how the first editor of Ministry, L. E. Froom, addressed traditional yet questionable theological positions in the church. The August 1928 issue of the magazine, its eighth, declared a preference for the Revised Version rendition of Revelation 22:14 over the KJV, and so proliferated a decade-long debate. More significant than this controversy was one surrounding the question "To Creedalize or Not to Creedalize," in which Froom expressed positions considerably different from some of his brethren.
Probably because of such editorial positioning, in 1931 the magazine was aligned more directly with the administrative leadership of the church, when C. H. Watson succeeded A. G. Daniells as chair of the Ministerial Association and vice president I. H. Evans became, as association secretary, joint editor of Ministry with L. E. Froom. In conjunction with these adjustments, it was declared that the work of the Ministerial Association was to be done in close relationship with the executive staff of the General Conference.
This history opens our eyes to the tension that exists to this day between faithfully declaring the official positions of the church and exposing with fidelity some positions or perspectives that are challenging and even debatable. It also exposes the fact that Ministry's involvement in such discussions is not new.
Above everything, as we at the editorial office strive to maintain humility, prudence, delicacy, and disciplined integrity, I pray that our readers everywhere will open themselves to deeper prayer and study and the spirit not only of conserving truth, but the prospect of uncovering so much more yet to be discovered.
Above all else, I want Ministry to be true to all of the roles God has called it to fulfill, however contradictory these may sometimes appear.