"I still hold to the 28 [Fundamental Beliefs], but for the first time I wonder if I will be in the organization."
That was a comment I saw in response to GC annual council. Last week's conference created a lot of conversation on social media and pretty much dominated the Adventist sections of my Facebook newsfeed and Twitter timeline. At first I joined in on the jokes about Adventist cosplay but as the worship services and business sessions continued, the tweets, posts, and comments I saw began to change. The light comments about the "Adventist Halloween" became serious concerns about the current state of Adventism.
By the end of the first official day of business sessions, the vote on the compliance document had passed and the tone on social media had taken a drastic turn. I saw a lot of hurt, disappointment, frustration, and even anger. Whether leaders and delegates knew it or not, quite a lot of people were paying attention and for many, this was a point of no return.
Let's be real. Overemphasizing the past- to the point of dressing up in 19th century clothing- while in the same breath, decrying modern social justice movements is simply not a good look for a church that struggles to be relevant. Preaching multiculturalism but having a once size fits all approach to worship, methods, and practice is problematic for a global institution.
And those issues barely begin to scratch the surface of how young Adventists have responded to the events of annual council.
I have seen so many people for the first time in their lives question why they are Adventist. Others have openly expressed that while they no longer feel comfortable identifying with this church, they don't know where else to go.
Some are fueling their anger to action and have vowed to fight for the church they love. And there are those who have made different decision. They are leaving Adventism and won't be looking back.
No matter what "side" you are on, it seems as if this year's annual council has left us more divided than ever and has triggered an unintended consequence. Something that I would argue is even more dangerous. A crisis of faith.
For the first time, perhaps ever, thousands of young (and not so young) Adventists are being forced to define their spiritual identity, what they believe, and where they stand.
I think that is a good thing. It will force us to be real- with each other and with ourselves. And that is what we need if we are serious about being affective and sharing the love of God in a 21st century world- real and authentic faith.
To those who have chosen and will choose to walk away, I know you have not made this decision lightly. Do not let anyone make you feel guilty for it. Your spiritual walk is not bound to or defined by Adventism.
To those who will stay and dedicate their time and talents to local ministry, thank you. Local church ministry is what is needed the most right now and is ultimately how we will reach the world.
To those who have decided to remain in their leadership roles and speak truth to power as we enter this new world of compliance, never stop raising your voice.
And to those who are heartbroken, angry, confused, and have no idea what to do now, I see you. I hear you. I've been there. I understand. God will give the answers you are looking for and wisdom as you navigate how to move forward.
This is a tough moment for the world church and there are a lot more questions than answers. But maybe this needed to happen. Perhaps we need to be ripped apart, shaken up, and sifted in order to achieve the unity that we all desire and the unity Jesus prayed we would have.