The Balkanization of Adventism
in North America
Peninsula is located in southeastern Europe, and is bordered by the Black
and Aegean Seas on the east, and the Adriatic Sea on the west. A range of
mountains, called the Balkans, runs through most of this region, splitting
it into several different small countries: the former Yugoslavia, Romania,
Bulgaria, Albania, and Greece.
nations, lying close together, yet often unfriendly toward one
another have given rise to the word Balkanize, which means
to break up into small, hostile political units or states.
Adventists in North America are moving into a state of partial or full
Balkanization. This unfortunate condition, which has been accelerating for
over a decade, is intensifying and will ultimately affect most of our
people in the North American Division. In addition, because North America
is the financial base for the entire world field, it will affect overseas
missions as well.
This is a
brief survey of this trend toward Balkanization.
The Black Conferences
recommendation to organize full-fledged, separate black conferences was
made at the 1944 Spring Council. Most of the eight North American Regional
Conferences were organized in 1945 or 1946.
Most of us are
acquainted with the fact that (with the exception of the Pacific Union and
North Pacific Union) each regional conference office directs all the black
churches in that union (with the exception of the Southern and Columbia
Unions, each of which have two regional conferences).
In the early
1980s, leaders of the black conferences wanted to organize their own
unions, but this was not approved.
As we reported
earlier, beginning at the 1990 Indianapolis General Conference Session,
black conference leaders held black caucus meetings at that city
just prior to the start of the Session. This was done under strong protest
by North American Division and General Conference leadership. Why the
opposition? Church leadership correctly surmised that, if black leaders
voted in concert on key North American Division nominations, they might
represent a decisive swing vote. That is exactly what occurred. The black
voting block, which resulted, became a new political power in North
American Adventist politics. It influenced both the 1990 and 1995 Session
votes. As reported earlier, Al McClure, president of the Southern Union,
was elected NAD president because black leaders favored him. Conference
and union leaders in the Western U.S. controlled many votes and wanted one
of their own placed in that office. But the black vote was the deciding
earlier, for several years a move has been on foot to split off regional
conferences from the Pacific Union and North Pacific Union membership. If
this is done, it will give the black caucus even more power at Spring and
Annual Councils and quinquennial Sessions.
The Independent Ministries
We next turn
our attention to a second unfortunate split within the church: the
historic Adventists. It is with special sadness that we mention this; for,
at an earlier time, a majority of the denomination was historic in its
standards and beliefs.
always been liberals and conservatives in the church, but it was not until
the early 1980s that decided efforts began to be made to lessen the
influence and silence the voice of historic believers in the local
churches. With the exception of the smallest churches, which sometimes
still have a majority of conservatives, faithful believers who have tried
to teach our historic doctrines, and urge the retainment of our earlier
standards, have been gradually shoved out of their offices. This has had a
devastating effect on local congregations.
resulted in a clear fracturing of churches into liberals and
conservatives. The cleavage has greatly weakened the local congregations,
as it has resulted in stifling the high moral teachings of the
It has also
caused many of those conservatives to redirect their donations to other
The Independent Churches
walling-off tactics of the liberals has been deliberately done to isolate
the faithful. Modernist pastors were determined to silence or cull them
out entirely. Appeals to conference offices generally accomplished
nothing; the liberal pastors were generally backed, unless the complainers
So, from the
mid-1980s onward, a growing number of faithful, Bible/Spirit of Prophecy
believers left the church and formed themselves into small independent
churches. The tragedy was deepening. Gods plan for a united historic
church preaching the Third Angels Message of obedience to the laws of
God by faith in Jesus Christ to all the world was being thwarted!
liberals were saying it was no longer necessary to obey any laws of God,
since we were saved at the cross! So many of the faithful departed. These
separations, within the churches and out of them, continue.
The day will
come when conference, union, and General Conference leaders will discover
they picked the wrong side to unite with.
conservatives were the ones who were most faithful in giving tithes and
offerings; the liberals could care less. The conservatives were the ones
who believed in law and order, and working together, as long as Gods
Word was supreme; the liberals believed in enjoying sin for a season and
following the latest fads.
disposition on the part of the modernists in the church, to flaunt (dis)obedience
to God, is now leading them to reject the authority of the very church
leaders who have done so much to advance their interests.
ordination was the catalyst, which started in earnest the Balkanization of
issues of Waymarks, we have reported at length on progressive
events in this rebellion by liberal local churches.
Here are the
latest developments. They are significant:
In the spring
of 1995, we predicted that, if Utrecht voted down women's ordination,
the Potomac and Southeastern California Conferences would be the first to
begin ordaining women. And so it happened. However, in both cases, it was
liberal local churches which did it. The conference, union, and division
offices chose to remain with the General Conference on the ordination
issue. (Although those leaders have issued an official joint statement
that they will work together toward the day when women's ordination will
become a reality, all the while knowing the world field will never
women's ordinations occurred at the Sligo and La Sierra University
Churches. It is known that several other local churches have also been
considering it. But many wondered why the Loma Linda University Church had
The reason for
the delay lies in a crucial report being prepared at this time by a
specially appointed LLUC committee.
The man in
charge of that ordination committee is William Loveless, LLU senior pastor
and foremost moderator of the meditation retreats, which (as
we reported earlier) are teaching our pastors how to use entry-level
hypnotism to gain greater control over their congregations. (See our Hypnotism
Tractbook for more on this and related subjects.)
Not to be
outdone by Sligo and La Sierra, Loma Linda is hard at work developing a
comprehensive policy statement,one which any church in Adventism can
use to enter the rebellion against Utrecht and the General Conference!
ministerial education and ordination policy may include Lovelesss
meditation training, but it definitely will include women's ordination
It is known
that a number of other large liberal Adventist congregations are waiting
for this paper to be published, so they can recommend enactment of them by
their local boards!
The new policy
will have three special features: it will be gender inclusive (no
difference in any respect between men and women in the ministry), have uniform
standards (which churches everywhere can adopt), and be congregation-based
(be founded in rebellion against conference and higher level authority).
well-known that Loveless is a prime mover in the formulation of this
document, therefore since it is said to include both ministerial
education as well as ministerial ordination, it may well include
a procedure for setting up meditation sessions as part of the educational
policy will be much more comprehensive than merely womens ordination.
As such, it will be a partial replacement for the Church Manual. Those
using it, will be churches in rebellion against conference authority.
Can you see
where the denomination in North America is headed?
consensus of pastors are voicing the opinion that ministerial ordination
should be decided at the local church level. But, of course, they will not
stop there. If they succeed in rebelling on one point, they will broaden
it to others.
We are all
acquainted with how birth control and abortion became the issues
crystalizing rebellion within the Roman Catholic Church. It appears that
women's ordination will lead the rebel banner in our own.
clearly a trend in North American Adventism, that liberal congregations
are moving toward complete separation from the Division and General
Conference! How many of them will take conference offices with them cannot
be known at this time.
American colleges and universities are also moving toward Balkanization.
Gradually, a number of them are becoming independent units, doing whatever
One area this
reveals itself is the growing rebellion against church regulations
governing intercollegiate sports.
this means competitive sports
in which one college plays against another. It is also called
intervarsity sports or just varsity sports.
In the 1940s
and 1950s, on-campus sports were approved in our schools; but
intercollegiate sports never had been. In the late fall of 1989, both the
Annual Council and North American Division Year-end Meetings voted down
varsity sports. But that same NAD meeting did approve friendship
games between two Adventist schools. (Since sporting events are a type
of war games, how can they be called friendly?)
Since 1989, a
growing number of Adventist colleges and academies have rebelled against
that ruling. At the present time, these include Atlantic Union College,
Columbia Union College, Southwestern Adventist College, Union College, and
Walla Walla College. It also includes an increasing number of academies.
University and Oakwood College play an annual friendship game,
so they consider themselves as following the rules laid down by the NAD.
As noted by us
in several earlier reports, during the school year these Adventist
intervarsity institutions regularly send players hundreds of miles away to
play athletics of competing schools. The highest excitement prevails.
example, the Portland Adventist Academy Cougars. On Saturday night, March
9, 1996, this basketball team fought and defeated the Roman Catholic Regis
High School team, and won the state 2A OSAA championship. Over a thousand
Adventists watched the exciting game, and Oregon Conference President Alf
Birch, was among those present to cheer their team on to victory.
Yet all this
was done in defiance of a church ruling against intervarsity competitive
Norm Ballou nor principal Michael Connor say they have heard any complaint
from church members. The problem is that, as the apostasy in the church
intensifies, the opposition is numbed into silence. The degree of
backsliding seems overwhelming. Part of the silence arises from the fact
that many of the faithful are leaving.
Balkanization of our colleges into competing institutions, not accountable
to church policy, widens. A very knowledgeable person told us recently
that our colleges are receiving as much as 50 percent of their funds in
government grants and loans. This is an additional reason to ignore church
leadership: Much of their money now comes from outside the church. In
addition, while a growing number of the faithful refuse to send their sons
and daughters to these worldly institutions, the colleges are turning to
advertising for non-Adventist and overseas students to attend.
On a different
level, another instance of this growing isolation of our educational
institutions from church recommendations is to be found in the latest
meetings at Atlantic Union College. We recently reported on the March 10,
1996, meeting, when it was disclosed that AUCs yearly operating loss
(which was $390,000 for the 1990-1991 school year) had risen to $1.9
million, as of March 10, 1996and that it would total $3.2 million by
the opening (opening) of the 1996-1997 school yearless than half a year
render the situation financially dangerous. The Atlantic Union has the
lowest per-capita income of any union on the continent, and responsible
leadership in the North American Division has urged the AUC constituency
to either close the school or merge it with Andrews University.
But, in spite
of this, the AUC constituency voted on March 31 to keep the school open,
and the officers of the Atlantic Union voted to hand over $3 million to
the college and cover the $8 million it already owed! It was also voted
that the union constituency would hand over an additional $1 million each
year for the next five years.
agreements were made, while knowing that only 31 percent of the students
attending Adventist colleges, who live in Atlantic Union territory, attend
AUC (28 percent go to Oakwood, 22 percent to Andrews, 13 percent to
Southern, and 6 percent to Columbia Union).
that the entire Atlantic Union may financially collapse! Time will tell.
is becoming wildly incoherent, with each entity doing what is right in its
North American Division
As you may
know, the North American Division was always closely affiliated with the
General Conference. In fact, it was little more than a set of subsidiary
offices in the General Conference building! One of the General Conference
officers was given the title Vice president for North America.
But in recent
years the NAD has separated
from the General Conference, and last fall agreed to sign a statement
issued by the union presidents declaring that ways would be found to
circumvent the Utrecht decision not to ordain women.
continues. It appears that the North American Division leadership
anticipates joining the womens ordination rebellion.
The General Conference
an Internet posting, released December 16, 1995, Robert Folkenberg
declared the women's ordination celebrations to be just like Korah,
Dathan and Abiram. This adds fuel to the Balkanization fire, and brings
it all the more into the open.
the same time, the General Conference is building strong fortifications
around itself, and tightening every rein of control it can lay its hands
summer we reported at length on the various measures which Folkenberg
pushed through at the Utrecht Session, granting the General Conference
much greater authority and control over its own subsidiaries, while
gaining still more.
of these is the Adventist Review. Ellen White told the leaders that
the publishing houses were not to be placed under centralized authority
and that all three publishing houses were to remain in operation.
the late 1970s, Southern Publishing in Nashville was closed, and in the
mid-1980s, during the Pacific Press crisis, this writer was told the
General Conference already controlled their publications. When asked how
this was done, he was told that if the press did not comply, rights to
print certain popular books and journals would be canceled. A similar
arrangement had been worked out with the Review and Herald Publishing
the magazine, Adventist Review, continued to remain separate from
General Conference control.
1983, that is. Until that year, Adventist Review was owned and
operated by R&H but that year the Spring Council voted that the
editorial offices of the Review would be located in or near the
General Conference building, and that, henceforth, the General Conference
would both cover its editorial office expenses, and would set up a
publishing review board over the editing office.
in the January 1996 monthly edition of Adventist Review, William
Johnsson, its editor-in-chief, disclosed that the General Conference now
totally owns and controls, what used to be, our general church paper.
Adventist Review will be the promotional arm of the General
Conference, in its ongoing efforts to defuse the splintering and gain more
authority to itself.
the retirement of Kenneth Wood from its editorship about 1981, the staff
of Adventist Review could think for themselves. The situation
worsened when Johnsson took over. Then its gradual subduction began. (Subduction
occurs when something slides under something else.)
now the transfer of control is complete. Henceforth Adventist Review
will be the public relations arm of the General Conference.
world church no longer has a church organ, for Adventist Review has
become a player piano.
describing these growing trends, we could have titled it The Fracturing
of Adventism in North America. But Balkanization is a more
fracture is to split into pieces. But, when the pieces oppose one another,
it is Balkanization. To a great extent, this is occurring today. Indeed,
it is because of resistance and conflict that these splinterings within
Adventism are occurring. Some entities want more power, others want more
freedom to do as they please, while still others are demanding a return to
our historic beliefs.
entire situation is regrettable, yet keep in mind that Ellen White called
for decentralization. It is intriguing that, at a time when a small clique
in the General Conference is trying to draw all lines of control into its
own hands, a growing number of groups within Adventism are refusing to
acknowledge its authority.
there is a providence in this. Yet it still seems to be a perverse one.
addition, there is every reason to believe that it may gradually spread to
the entire world field.
is true that there are advantages in decentralization, but it should be
ever based on friendly cooperation and unity in obedience to the Bible and
Spirit of Prophecy.
what we are finding here is a splitting apart caused by differences. In
this present study, we have observed that, while part of it is cause by a
concern to avoid domination and over-control, many of these fractures are
caused by a desire to escape from Bible/Spirit of Prophecy principles.
if to make matters worse, we recently reported on plans to close those
smaller churches which do not appear to be complying with higher level
directives. It is time to pray. Surely, we must be nearing the end.