Making New Light Known
“How can I make my views known to the church at large?” is a question asked from time to time by members and also by workers in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In these days of dialog and mass communication there is an increasing desire on the part of members and ministers to communicate to the church various theological views.
In principle it has ever been the spirit and genius of the Advent Movement to keep the lines of communication open throughout the body, of which Jesus Christ is the Head. The handing down of dogma is contrary to the pioneering spirit and experience of the movement.
As an evidence that it is still the intent of the church to keep the channels of communication open, the reader is referred to the “Suggested Procedures for Hearings on Theological Questions Requested by Members of the Church.” (These same procedures are adaptable to the needs of a worker.)
In answer to the occasionally expressed sentiment that the leadership of the world church tends to pontificate, these procedures are intended to clarify the fact that the responsibility for hearing and evaluating theological views rests primarily with the local field leadership of the church, for there is no disposition at world headquarters to give the slightest encouragement to the concept that an oracle exists at Takoma Park!
Since these procedures involve ministers and conference administrators, it is urged that they be studied carefully for their implications and field for future reference.
Sometimes those who have a burden to get the ear of the church tend to leapfrog over the intervening levels of church organization in an attempt to obtain the ear of the General Conference. As we become sensitive to the function of the proposed procedures we should guide such persons to the beginning of the procedural structure and urge them to take the first step first. These procedures are designed to preserve the channels of communication for those views that seriously merit careful consideration.
A careful reading of the “Objectives” enunciated at the beginning of these procedures will provide the worker with the philosophy that has guided in their development.
It is the earnest prayer of the Biblical Research Institute that these procedures, adopted throughout the world field, will prove a strength to the cause of God and may preserve for the church all rays of true light from the Lord that may come to any of us.
Suggested Procedures for Hearings on Theological Questions
Requested by Members of the Church
The Resident Administrative Committee of the Biblical Research Institute recommends a procedure whereby a church member may present his views on doctrinal and exegetical matters to “brethren of experience” for counsel, in harmony with the admonition of the Spirit of Prophecy in Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 293, and Counsels to Writers and Editors, pp. 43-51.
These procedures are intended to assist in the accomplishment of the following objectives:
1. To demonstrate that the church will welcome the opportunity to examine “new light.”
2. To ensure to the individual church member the right, the channels, and the assurance of all reasonable speed in bringing his views to the church for consideration.
3. To set reasonable limits on the possibility that minor matters command the major attention of the church.
4. To demonstrate confidence in the wisdom which God bestows upon all levels of the church’s organization.
1. A church member desiring to present his views to the church is invited to review them with his church or district pastor. If the pastor or the member feels the need of wider counsel, the pastor will forward the member’s written presentation to the local conference or mission president. (In the case of persons employed by a denominational institution, the forwarding might well be done by the head of the institution.)
2. The conference or mission president may deal with the matter himself, provided that it is to the satisfaction of the church member, or he will arrange to submit the matter to an ad hoc committee of experienced Bible students (remembering the availability of trained theologians at our educational institutions). The matter would be presented to the committee members in written form, and a decision to call them together as a committee to study the matter, or to hear the church member in person, would hinge upon the reaction received from the readers of the presentation.
3. Should the previous steps fail to satisfy the member presenting his views or the brethren taking the view under advisement, he or they will request the conference president to report the matter to the union conference president for a comparable consideration at the union level. (In counsel with the union conference president, the local conference president might merge steps 2 and 3, carrying the matter to the union level at the outset.)
4. Depending upon the involvement and seriousness of the views presented, and the satisfaction of those involved in the hearings to this point, the union conference president in turn may direct the matter to the division president for comparable consideration.
5. Only after such steps in the process have been completed will the division president forward the matter to the General Conference for the attention of the Biblical Research Institute. In such instances, the member’s presentation and the findings and recommendations from the several study groups will be forwarded to the director of the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference.
6. The Resident Administrative Committee of the Biblical Research Institute will consider the matter and determine whether and in what manner it should involve the membership of the Biblical Research Institute.
7. The Biblical Research Institute will present its findings to the General Conference President’s Administrative Council, which will determine whether to refer the findings to the General Conference Committee. In either case there will be a report to all those who have been concerned in presenting and hearing the matter previously.
8. As an evidence of good faith, the church member making the presentation and all those hearing him throughout the procedures are requested to refrain from any and all public discussions of the points at issue, whether as to substance or procedure, and whether orally or in writing. The committees and the church member are requested during this time to refrain from publishing or circulating or causing to be published or circulated any documents relating to the points at issue or to the request for a hearing.
9. A member who, without a knowledge of the above procedures, has published his views, shall have the right to present his views, as set forth in the foregoing, for the fair consideration of his situation and his views.
10. A disfellowshiped church member who wishes to present his views to the church is advised first to exercise his right to appeal for reinstatement as outlined in the Seventh-dal Adventist Church Manual (1971 edition, pp. 70, 241, 242). Upon reinstatement he would follow the procedures outlined above. Exceptions to the provisions of this paragraph would be made at the discretion of the organization to which appeal is made and would be based on the merits of the case.
11. Upon the completion of any step in the procedures outlined above, the church member making the presentation has the right of appeal for a review of the case by the next level of the church’s organization. Before making such appeal he is requested to consider prayerfully the counsel given in Counsels to Writers and Editors, pp. 43-51.