See ‘God’s Peculiar People,’ a new musical play by Marilynn Loveless of Redlands, May 11, 13 and 14 at La Sierra University

Redlands Daily Facts

La Sierra University Drama will present a new musical play, “God’s Peculiar People,” opening at 7:30 p.m. May 11 in Matheson Hall on the La Sierra University campus, 4500 Riverwalk Parkway, Riverside.

Performances continue at 7:30 p.m. May 13 and 14, also in Matheson Hall.

“God’s Peculiar People,” written by Marilynn Loveless of Redlands with music by Merlin David, is set in 1962 and is about a family dealing with a returning son who has left the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Continue reading

Netherlands Union Conference Postpones Ordination of Female Pastors

Alisa Williams
Spectrum Magazine

In a surprise effort to appease the General Conference and its Unity Commission, the Netherlands Union Conference (NUC) Executive Committee has “decided to postpone the ordination of female pastors until after October 2017 to contribute to the process of dialogue and reconciliation” within the Adventist Church.

The statement came as part of a 25-page question-and-answer document for NUC delegates, written in preparation for their upcoming Constituency Session held on May 4-6. The document was uploaded on April 21 to a secure part of the union’s website accessible only by delegates.

The response regarding the postponement of women’s ordination followed the question (translated from Dutch):

“Many are under the impression that the Union is trying to slow down the reconciliation process with actions that delay acceptance of the San Antonio decision on the matter. To avoid more difficulties in the church, why hasn’t the Union embraced both the San Antonio decision and the reconciliation process, by implementing a moratorium on women’s ordination to the Gospel ministry?” Continue reading

Adventists and Muslims Meet for Learning and Fellowship

Sarah McDugal
Adventist Review

Adventists and Muslims from all over the San Diego area in California, United States, recently gathered at El Cajon Seventh-day Adventist Church for “One San Diego,” a day of mutual learning and fellowship.

The day was the brainchild of Richard Smith, pastor of El Cajon church, as well as of Peter Thomas and Tawfik Abdalla, Muslim ministry coordinators; and Gerald Babanezhad, volunteer coordinator of Muslim outreach for the Pacific Union Conference church region. They recognized that if people wish to become better neighbors to those around them, they should first attempt to understand each other better.

Posters advertising the event were placed in local mosques and Adventist churches, and emails were sent to area imams—a kind of Muslim spiritual leader. Adventists and Muslims from Sunni, Shia and Baha’i backgrounds came to the event, as did a Jewish woman who heard about it and asked if she could join in.

Good Neighbors

Creating a mutually welcoming and comfortable environment was a top priority for the organizers. Before the event, an imam visited the El Cajon church sanctuary so that leaders could discuss how to best accommodate the Muslim prayer times throughout the day. They also discussed ways that Muslims and Adventists can be good neighbors.

The program included prayers from leaders of Adventist and Muslim faiths, music from the San Diego Academy—a local Adventist-operated primary and secondary school—choir and bell choir, a question-and-answer time and a panel discussion about shared Muslim and Adventist history, values, goals, and needs.

“I loved this experience and would enjoy having another panel discussion,” said Amir Imam from the Al-Salam Mosque.

Leman Hamid, a Muslim, described the event as “a wonderful meeting between Muslims and Christians.” He said he would like to hear more about Christianity and what Christians feel and believe about Muslims.

Shared Beliefs

Organizers were pleased by the positive response of those who attended. “The day began with a measure of apprehension on both sides of the cultural divide which eased as attendees discovered how many beliefs both Seventh-day Adventists and Muslims hold in common,” Smith said.

Some of these shared beliefs include a strong emphasis on showing compassion, a deep desire to treat others as good neighbors, a refusal to eat pork and the desire to live a healthy lifestyle.

The mutual interest in health led to a follow-up health expo at a mosque a few weeks later. Also, Muslim women invited Adventist women who attended the One San Diego event to visit their mosques for worship time to experience their tradition and culture. The Adventist women responded positively, feeling that it would be helpful to the community for both groups to meet more and work together.

Plans include organizing sports activities for Adventist and Muslim school children, starting a home fellowship where Muslims and Adventists can learn from each other by sharing stories from the Bible and Quran, and planning future panel discussion events.

An original version of this story was published in the Pacific Union Recorder.

 

Former SDA “Pastor” Alicia Johnston begins New Ministry, makes War on SDA Church, takes her LGBT Activism to NBC & World Stage

Andrew & Hilari Henriques
Saved to Serve

“The world is watching Seventh-day Adventists because it knows something of their profession of faith and of their high standard, and when it sees those who do not live up to their profession, it points at them with scorn.”[1] In recent months, Seventh-day Adventists have been brought into national and even international spotlight, sometimes for good reasons and other times for reasons that bring reproach upon God’s name, his cause and the Seventh-day Adventist Movement.  Most recently, Seventh-day Adventists have received national attention for something that is an embarrassment to the cause of Christ and the belief system that Seventh-day Adventists historically hold to, which can and will be used by Satan to cause individuals to look with disdain upon the biblical messages that are borne by faithful Seventh-day Adventists who hold solely to the law and the testimony (Isaiah 8:20). Continue reading

Pacifist Jehovah’s Witnesses now banned in Russia as “extremists”

John Burger
Aleteia

The pacifistic religious group known as Jehovah’s Witnesses has been declared an “extremist group” in Russia and forbidden to carry out public activities.

Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday accepted a request from the justice ministry that the Jehovah’s Witnesses be considered an extremist group and ordered its national headquarters in St. Petersburg and all 395 local churches closed. It banned all their activity immediately, and ordered their property seized by the state.

This is the first time that a court has ruled that a registered national centralized religious organization is “extremist” and therefore banned, according to Forum 18 News Service.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses intend to appeal Judge Yury Ivanenko’s decision and have said that, if necessary, they will take their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Russia’s estimated 170,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses now risk criminal prosecution if they continue to meet for prayer or Bible study, Forum 18, a religious freedom monitoring organization, said:

Any attempt by Jehovah’s Witnesses to share their beliefs, even within the restrictions of the July 2016 so-called “missionary amendment” to the Religion Law, will now be illegal, as the amendment prohibits any missionary activity by former members of banned “extremist” organizations (see Forum 18’s “extremism” Russia religious freedom survey). The July 2016 changes also imposed harsh restrictions on anyone sharing any religious beliefs, including where and who may share them, as nges (see Forum 18’s general Russia religious freedom survey).

The news service said that Russia’s Federal Financial Monitoring Service (Rosfinmonitoring) had already added the Jehovah’s Witness Administrative Center to its list of “organizations, against which there is evidence of involvement in extremist activity or terrorism,” and the Center’s financial transactions are already blocked.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom said Friday it is disappointed, but not surprised, with the ruling.

“The court’s decision sadly reconfirms the disregard of the government for religious freedom in present-day Russia,” commented Jesuit Father Thomas J. Reese, chairman of the commission. “Individual and community expressions of faith, and even private religious beliefs, are not safe from state-sponsored repression and coercion in Russia today.”

And Sen. Roger F. Wicker (R-MS), chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords, stated: “People who practice their faith peacefully should never be in danger of being harassed, fined, or jailed. The court order to seize organization property owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses adds insult to injury.”

But Daria Kirjanov-Mueller, who teaches Russian at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, said the development needs to be seen in the context of the the Law on Freedom and Religion enacted under former President Boris Yeltsin in 1997. In the first years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate “was struggling to serve a huge population of atheists just finally entering into a post-Soviet reality and ready and excited to take on a faith,” Kirjanov-Mueller said. “There was competition, but the majority of the seekers sought Russian Orthodoxy. Nevertheless, there was a selection of religions, and the Russian Orthodox Church lost many ‘native’ Orthodox to various other Christian and non-Christian denominations.”

The 1997 law was meant to address the “unwelcome competition” between the Moscow Patriarchate and other Christian denominations, she said.

“Several churches foreign to Russia were barred from registering” as official religions, Kirjanov-Mueller said. “Twenty years later, the situation has not changed much. The main issue as I see it lies in the fact that the Moscow Patriarchate, along with other branches of the Russian Orthodox Church (such as the Orthodox Church of America) as well as with the support of the Muslim clerics, sees such religious groups’ activity in Russia as a threat. They actually do not see them as pacifist, because their methods are quite activist and, perhaps in the Russian view, ‘extremist.’ Proseletizing is not a part of the religious culture in Russia, and many Russians, as well as the government and the religious establishment are suspicious of it.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses are not the only ones affected, she said. The law applies also to Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists, for example.

She said that the Orthodox in the south of Russia are generally very religious and see groups such as 7th-Day Adventists as competition. “There have been many examples of people from Christian [sects] going into Orthodox churches and distributing literature or in some way disturbing church services,” she said. “They go door to door…and the Russian Orthodox Church sees them as aggressive because they talk to people very openly, they give out literature, they often say very negative things about the Russian Orthodox Church, they’re very good at debating. … They are being perceived — by a very conservative religion that is in the process of reshaping itself and has been doing so for 25 years after a very long time of atheism — they are being perceived as the guys coming in and taking away our future converts.”

 

General Conference Issues Statement on Transgenderism

Alisa Williams
Spectrum Magazine

The last item on the agenda for day one of Spring Meeting was a “Statement on Transgenderism.” The statement, crafted by the Biblical Research Institute (BRI), a General Conference entity, has been in the works for several years. A previous version of the statement was set to be voted on during last fall’s Annual Council, but dissension among the executive committee led BRI to revise the statement and re-present it at Spring Meeting.

BRI has been issuing studies on transgender individuals since 2008 and crafted its first official “statements on transgenderism” in October of 2014. The topic of transgender individuals within the church has been the subject of multiple position statements, at least one film project, and numerous articles in recent years.

The presentation of the revised document at Spring Meeting spanned an hour and a half. Artur A. Stele, General Conference Vice President, introduced the topic, acknowledging its sensitive nature and telling the committee BRI sought advice from both inside and outside the church, including specialists. President Ted Wilson added that this document has now gone through 21 revisions, and while it may not be perfect, it has been “vetted and vetted and vetted.”

Elias Brasil de Souza, Director of BRI, then took the Executive Committee through a lengthy presentation, discussing various definitions and descriptions of transgender individuals, how the Bible guides on this topic, and references to transgender individuals throughout history.

Brasil de Souza then led the Committee through a reading of the three-page statement. Afterward, the floor was opened for questions. Many committee members issued praise for the statement. A few offered concerns and critiques.

Randy Roberts, pastor at the Loma Linda University Church, questioned the use of Deuteronomy 22 in the document and the church’s support of only the verses regarding gender, sexuality, and marriage, while seeming to disregard the verses on other subjects. Brasil de Souza responded by saying the Church seeks to uphold those verses that speak to God’s original intent for humans in the Garden of Eden. Roberts also mentioned that transgender research is ongoing at Loma Linda University and this should be taken into account.

Allan Handysides, an obstetrician/gynecologist, brought up multiple concerns regarding the wording of the document, particularly the use of the phrase “transgender phenomenon” because it implies a reduction of transgender individuals to “phenomenon.”

Ted Wilson thanked Handysides for his “passion for people,” and said BRI may be open to some phrase adjustments. After several more comments and a reiteration from the front that many specialists and experts were consulted during the document’s creation, Wilson called for a vote. The vote appeared to be unanimous with strong “yays” heard throughout the audience and no audible “nays.”

The “Statement on Transgenderism” can be read in full below.

[embeddoc url=”https://ftsnautodesk.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/344973332-statement-on-transgenderism-1-1.pdf” download=”all”]

Border Angels Celebrate Easter by Hiding Water for Migrants

Jared Wright
Spectrum Magazine

For the faith-based nonprofit Border Angels, the Easter resurrection narrative finds its most meaningful expression in providing life-giving supplies for those facing death crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Yesterday, about sixty volunteers with Border Angels spent Holy Saturday of Passion Week walking in the footsteps of undocumented border crossers in the desert expanse between San Diego and Tijuana, leaving supplies for migrants along known migration routes. By providing water, clothing and nonperishable food items, Border Angels volunteers hope to prevent the death of migrants attempting the perilous crossing. An estimated 10,000 have died attempting to reach the United States since Operation Gatekeeper, a Clinton-era measure to curtail unlawful immigration. Continue reading

General Conference Adopts New Brand Identity

One of the surprisingly hot button topics at the Spring Meeting of the General Conference Executive Committee was the unveiling of a new Adventist branding identity. The Seventh-day Adventist symbol, which is owned by the General Conference Corporation and may only be used by official church entities, remains unchanged. The current symbol has been in use since 1997. The official font and design guidelines, however, have undergone extensive modifications.

The new sans-serif font, Noto Sans, which has been dubbed “Advent Sans” by the GC, is an open source font that will purportedly save the GC “millions of dollars.” The font was chosen specifically because it is available for free and works well in a variety of languages, thereby allowing for a unified look for all global Seventh-day Adventist churches and organizations.

Commissioned by Google, Noto Sans is currently the only universal typeface in the world and was just recently released for use. It took five years to design and covers over 800 languages. The GC says they adapted Noto Sans into “Advent Sans” by making “extensive modifications to the latin and cyrillic alphabets, and where applicable, we have made some recommendations for non-western character sets.”

A new seven-panel design grid – the “Creation Grid” – is to be used for all visual materials. The first six panels are open for the designer to use as she/he so chooses, while the seventh panel – the “Sabbath Column” – is reserved for the official symbol and a background that is “beautiful” and stands in contrast with the other six panels. The Adventist symbol is the “only non-background element that may be placed in the Sabbath column.”

Also new to the identity guidelines is the encouraged use of color. The previous identity system “restricted the coloration of the symbol and accompanying wordmarks,” but the new guidelines have no official color palette.

A new website, identity.adventist.org, was also unveiled and all in attendance were encouraged to go to the site to review the guidelines in more depth and to adopt them going forward.

GC legal counsel spoke to the committee about the importance of using the trademarked logo and design elements appropriately. To use them incorrectly is a violation of the trademark and could cause the trademark to be invalidated, cautioned Jennifer Gray, associate general counsel for the General Conference.

The discussion of trademark concerns seems timely considering the GC’s current legal battle with the Lillards, a Seventh-day Adventist couple who is being sued by the GC for selling Pathfinders gear that is emblazoned with the church’s logo.

After the new branding identity presentation, the floor was opened for questions from Executive Committee members, and several expressed concern, confusion, and frustration over the new guidelines. One commenter took issue with some of the examples used in the presentation, which included use of the new design on items including a cereal box, a veggie-meat can, and other items. The commenter reminded the audience that the working policy prohibits the name “Seventh-day Adventist” and the symbol from being used for commercial purposes. Williams Costa Jr, director of the communications department, apologized for his team’s creativity.

After expressing pleas that the Executive Committee be willing to work with the GC on this, Ted Wilson called for a vote. The vote passed, though there were several “nays” throughout the audience. Wilson noted the nays and called again for a willingness to work together to adhere to the new branding guidelines.

WATCH: Adventist Identity Guideline System Introduction

Adventist Health Transfers 110 Years of Walla Walla Hospital Care to Sisters of Providence

Adventist Today

 Stunned physicians, nurses, and staff of the 72-bed acute care Seventh-day Adventist Walla Walla General Hospital in Walla Walla, Washington, were notified at 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. meetings on Monday that their parent organization, Adventist Health, had agreed to transfer their hospital and clinics to the control of the Roman Catholic Providence St. Mary’s Medical Center.  Employees were notified that as of July 1, 2017, they would be employed by Providence St. Mary’s Medical Center. Continue reading

Church in North-America Reinforces Position on Church and State Separation

North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists
Adventist Review

Recent events by both the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. Government have brought the Johnson Amendment and participation in elections by non-profits (including churches) to the forefront. The Johnson Amendment is the 1954 amendment to Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code prohibiting tax exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing candidates for office. This amendment is so named because of its sponsorship by then Senator Lyndon Johnson who had been targeted by a non-profit during an election.

While not controversial when passed, it is now viewed by some as an infringement on the religious liberty and speech rights of churches. Critics contend that it regulates what can be said from the pulpit, normally one of the most sacrosanct places free from government intrusion. Others have raised concerns that it creates an environment for further regulation of churches via the tax code. Continue reading