By Jay Gallimore
What a stunning event this 59th General Conference Session turned out to be! As we approached this GC Session, many wrestled with God in prayer, and I believe the Lord heard and answered wonderfully. As most now know, Elder Ted N. C. Wilson, a vice-president of the General Conference, was elected as President of the General Conference. With outstanding support on the nominating committee he was destined to affect this Session dramatically, and possibly shape the future of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
As we came to this session, the church was astir over the teaching of some forms of evolution in certain parts of higher education in North America. Important questions burned in our hearts. Why was fixing this issue such a problem? Even more seriously, how deeply had the authority of Scripture been eroded among us? Teaching evolution as fact in the Adventist church? How could Sabbath-keepers ever embrace something so hostile to the seventh-day Sabbath? And, what about our children? Would these schools, established through much sacrifice to pass on Adventist faith to our children, be sacrificed on the altars of academic pride? Would the Session deal with this issue in a strong way or would the politically articulate and strident voices of secularism and liberalism stifle the whole?
Before the GC Session, and against this background, the Michigan Conference Executive Committee, supported by its Board of Education, respectfully approved an action to ask that the General Conference in Session vote the following.
1 â€œResolved: To encourage each Seventh-day Adventist college and university to continue to strengthen the principles of biblical authority and faith. In support of these principles we urge continued development of educational strategies and faculties which would move these institutions to becoming centers of excellence in promoting, cultivating and defending creation science. We define creation science in the context of the recent creation week of seven ordinary, literal, historical, consecutive, contiguous twenty-four hour days of divine creation and rest as described in Genesis.â€
2 â€œFurthermore: We request that the 2010 General Conference session vote a resolution affirming the above, with the direction of bringing to the following GC session a statement that would serve to strengthen our fundamental belief number six. Hence, our Creation doctrine would more clearly articulate our biblical view of â€˜a literal, recent, six-day Creation,â€™ in which â€˜the seven days of the Creation account were literal 24-hour days forming a week identical in time to what we now experience as a week,â€™ as the statement affirmed by the General Conference Executive Committee in October 2004 noted.â€
Elder Paulsen, our former General Conference President, while very gracious, answered by telling us that instead of taking this to the Session floor, they had decided to have the GC Executive Committee vote an affirmation statement of creation which would then be released. Of course, the GC Executive Committee has weight, but not like the entire GC Session.
In a dramatic turnaround, Elder Wilson, the newly elected General Conference President, took the action of the GC Executive Committee and brought it to the floor. In one of the finest moments of GC presidential leadership he did three things:
1 First he gave a very clear and articulate speech about where the Seventh-day Adventist Church stood on creation. He was passionate, as he rejected the idea that the days in Genesis were long eons of time during which evolution was allegedly overseen by God. He quoted an Ellen G. White statement calling such views â€” â€œthe worst infidelity.â€
2 Second, he called on the delegates to vote two basic items. The first was the very fine â€œAffirmation of Creation Statementâ€ that the GC Executive Committee had voted in 2004, after the Faith and Science Committee had finished its work.
3 Third, he asked that the delegates vote to start the process that would strengthen and clarify our fundamental belief regarding creation, and bring it back for approval at the 60th General Conference Session. [The reason for this request is as follows: Even though for most of us the statement is clear, some have taken ad- vantage of the general language in the statement so as to create a loophole to justify their teaching of evolution.]
The microphones were immediately filled with passionate speeches of support. After 15 minutes of speeches on each issue the delegates voted to stop discussion, so as to vote on the issues. From what I could see, on the first vote there were no negative votes. On the second, there may have been a handful of negative votes. We were very grateful and happy that delegates were given a chance to speak. Without Elder Wilsonâ€™s leadership it may not have happened.
In my opinion, the message from the Session was very clear to those who are promoting evolution and undermining creation in our schools and even in our pulpits. The message goes something like this: â€œThe Seventh-day Adventist Church is aghast at such behavior, and will not tolerate the faith of our youth being sacrificed on the altars of evolution or academic pride.â€ This also means that administrators who oversee these institutions have the Seventh-day Adventist Church looking over their shoulders expecting the right thing to be done, and quickly.
In a powerful presentation, at the â€œYES! Creationâ€ seminar on Thursday, Dr. Ted Wilson noted that â€œwe will stand firm on our foundations,â€ and that we will keep our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. Quoting from Ellen White, he warned of these infidel geologists who teach evolu- tion, and thus seek to destroy the seventh-day Sabbath. Finally, he called on all Adventist teachers to believe, accept, and teach what we as a Church officially believe regarding creation.
But Elder Wilsonâ€™s holy boldness was not finished yet. Everyone waited with bated breath for his sermon on the final Sabbath of the GC Session. What a sermon it was! Again, I have never seen such courage, insight and clear articulation of the issues and dangers that surround us, expressed by a GC President.
First, let me share a bit of background. It is no secret that over the last thirty years, in certain areas of the western world, the Adventist Church has seen considerable drift from our beliefs and practices. Lately this drift has greatly accelerated. It began with attacks on the inspiration of the Spirit of Prophecy. Then the higher critical scholars among us began to undermine the authority of Scripture until there were loud voices in many places expressing disbelief in nearly everything we hold true. The creation/evolution issue is a case in point.
In the name of â€œrelevance,â€ some conferences opened the door to churches to experiment with just about everything pertaining to worship. Worship shifted from being God-centered to man-centered. Borrowing nearly everything from wild dance music to drama, the methods of secular Christianity were imported into our divine services. â€œWe will worship God in any way we pleaseâ€ was the theme. Of course, this was all done with the excuse that the church had to be â€œrelevantâ€ to todayâ€™s young people. It didnâ€™t work! After all of these years of experimentation the same voices are today lamenting the great loss of young people. Sometimes one wonders what lessons from the golden calf experiment modern Israel just doesnâ€™t get?
Elder Wilson left no doubt about what â€œwallâ€ this church must put its faith-ladder on. â€œGo forward,â€ he said, â€œin lifting up Christ and proclaiming Godâ€™s grace; Go forward in presenting the three angelsâ€™ messages; Go forward in pleading for revival and reformation; Go forward in following the Bible as it reads; Go forward in reading and adhering to the counsel of the Spirit of Prophecy; Go forward in proclaiming to the world the good news of salvation and the imminent second coming of Jesus Christ.â€
Then, with caution against unscriptural methods, he mentioned some specifics: â€œWe must be vigilant to test all things according to the supreme authority of Godâ€™s Word and the counsel with which we have been blessed in the writings of Ellen G. White. Donâ€™t reach out to movements or mega church centers outside the Seventh-day Adventist Church which promise you spiritual success based on faulty theology. Stay away from non-biblical spiritual disciplines or methods of spiritual formation that are rooted in mysticism such as contemplative prayer, centering prayer, and the emerging church movement, in which such things are promoted.â€
Then he addressed the matter of worship. â€œUse Christ-centered, Bible-based worship and music practices in church services; while we understand that worship services and cultures vary throughout the world, donâ€™t go backwards into confusing pagan settings where music and worship become so focused on emotion and experience that you lose the central focus on the Word of God. All worship, how- ever simple or complex should do one thing and one thing only â€” lift up Christ and put down self.â€
Next, putting his finger on the root of the drift, he said. â€œLet Scripture be its own interpreter. Our church has long held to the historical-biblical or historical-grammatical method of understanding Scripture, allowing the Bible to interpret itself â€” line upon line, precept upon precept. However, one of the most sinister attacks against the Bible is from those who believe in the historical-critical method of explaining the Bible. This unbiblical approach of â€˜higher criticismâ€™ is a deadly enemy of our theology and mission….â€ In addition, he expressed his great confidence in the Spirit of Prophecy with these words: â€œAccept the Spirit of Prophecy as one of the greatest gifts given to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, not just for the past but even more importantly for the future.â€ He continued: â€œWhile the Bible is paramount in our estimation as the ultimate authority and final arbiter of truth, the Spirit of Prophecy provides clear, inspired counsel to aid our application of Bible truth. It is a heaven-sent guide to in- struct the church in how to carry out its mission…. The Spirit of Prophecy is to be read, believed, applied and promoted.â€
What a Sabbath! After hearing this powerful courageous sermon, I thought about the unseen forces present. If our eyes could have been opened, would we have seen Jesus Himself taking charge of His church in the battle against
Satan? By means of the Holy Spirit, I believe Jesus was using His servant and calling His church to Himself.
We are in a Great Controversy. It was no surprise that Pastor Wilson could hardly finish his sermon before being assailed online by those for whom compromise is no stranger. Of course, one sermon will not fix everything. There is more need than ever for a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We must â€œgo forwardâ€ into Christ-likeness, not backward into secular worldliness.
This may have been the most important sermon to the Adventist church in modern times. Even though it may be mocked and abused by self-styled â€œprogressiveâ€ elements in our Church, let us pray that we will have ears to hear. Elder Wilson will need our prayers. May the Lord protect him and his family, spiritually and physically, and use him along with the rest of us to display the splendor of His love, to a broken world. Let us â€œgo forwardâ€ whatever the dangers, letâ€™s go forward in Christ Jesus, the true Captain of our ship.
This article was published in the August edition of the Michigan Memo. Bold emphasis added.