Moving away from exclusivity (Part II)
The Adventist church is sometime called indifferent because of the way it handles major social issues in the world. This handling of social issues is link to the church’s understanding of the Remnant. The mission of the Remnant is to call people out of religious confusion and point people to God. “This understanding of special blessing and a sense of destiny, which Adventists feel, can lead to pride and indifference. Furthermore, it can lead to triumphalism and a narrow exclusivism and the church turning its back on the cry of suffering, desperate humanity.” Furthermore the Adventist church has been missing in action to most major humanitarian tragedies for most of its existence. Adventists are not totally missing from the marketplace. Adventist are engaged in topic they have championed from there beginning. Adventists were occasionally involved in politics, but it was highly selective involvement: temperance, religious liberty and military service, for example were always areas of Adventist concern. Examples of areas that the Adventists have been missing in action are its handling of race relation here in American and around the world and gender issue especially in denominational work. All this is primarily due to Adventistism understanding of itself as the Remnant of God, its strict adherence of scripture and its refusal to engage in issues that could lead to the break up of its worldwide church.
The implications of Adventism through its social gospel could by the rest of the Christian world standards be view as too narrow, however, if these were the only ways that Adventists were exclusive then these short comings could be overlooked. I have spent the pass seven years as an Adventist motorcycle evangelist. As I have talked to people about Jesus, most people don’t know whom Seventh-day Adventist are. However, there has been a vocal minority of people in the motorcycle community that see us ministering and make rudimentary statements. Statements made as an example were “how did you get the day off,” referring to our activities at motorcycle rally’s on the Sabbath, or people would strongly vocalizing how they have been told that they are “going to hell because of the day they worship on”. I have personally talked to hundreds if not thousands of people at these motorcycle events and this is how we are perceived. This is problematic if this is the view of many people in America of Seventh-day Adventists whose mission is to take the everlasting gospel to all people as a witness. Exclusivism of this type is not of the character of Jesus or the mission He had on earth. Jesus was so visible that He had to hide at time to keep from being killed earlier than it was prophesied. The views of the Remnant within the Adventist church to stay unpolluted by Christian denominations, appears to leave us out of the Christian marketplace.
The Remnant doctrine has been used to separate Adventist from other Christian Denomination, where it’s considered heresy for pastor of other Christian tradition to speak to Adventist. This is because “the Adventist message is caught in this tension between its connection with the past and at the same time with a requirement to be disconnected from the rest of the religious world.” This is the struggle for most Adventists whom are trying to walk the thin line between “being in the world without being corrupted by it”. It speaks loudly that the Adventist church views all other Christian denominations as being Babylon, making it hard for outsiders to Adventism to feel anything other than antagonistic towards them. It would appear that some people would rather there be no dialogue between Adventistism and the rest of the Christian world solely based on the Remnant doctrine. This type of exclusivism is not the only view seen in the Adventist church. There are prominent Adventist pastors and Theologians who frankly speak out about the weak Adventist presence in the public sphere and our institutionalized arrogance toward other Christians. This arrogance has been demonstrated through hate mail sent to Adventist institutions of higher learning upon receiving word of non-Adventist clergyman being invited to make presentations. One such event that illustrates the tensions and inconsistencies in Adventist discourse toward other Christian was the reactions to Denis Fortin, dean and professor of theology at Andrew University, over the speakers for the Swallen Mission Lectureship at Andrews University in April 2008. Fortin received for lack of a better word, hate mail from other Adventists because the seminary at Andrews had invited two Catholic Priest to speak. Another incident is the invitation extended to Evangelical Pastor T.D. Jakes to speak at a Pastoral Evangelism Leadership Conference at Oakwood University. T.D. Jakes was uninvited because of the outcry over him speaking at the university. Wintley Phipps and Barry Black both disapprovingly and pointedly addressed the Disinvitation of T. D. Jakes to Oakwood due to extremist outcry and public critique from Ted Wilson. There are calls for the Remnant to be less exclusive about the way they view other Christian traditions but on what basis can Adventists and others find common ground?