ne of today’s more popular tropes is that the laity, somehow, have “ownership” of the church. Because members are “stakeholders,” the reasoning goes, those in the pews have the “right” to expect, even demand, the church bend its teaching to fit our whims, or the mores of the moment. If society accepts a practice, even if that practice contradicts a clear “you shall not” from God, the church must find a way around the stricture as we all stride toward greater “freedom.”
Forgive me if I don’t join this procession. Christian faith has already “emerged”; it is eternally “relevant”; and the message of the gospel has been “localized” for “every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6, KJV). I don’t “own” the church—and neither do you. Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18), which makes Him the one in charge.
It’s alarming to see people—ones who claim affiliation with and fidelity to the Seventh-day Adventist Church—turn around and proclaim this church “must” embrace teachings and practices that are at odds with our historic faith and the clear statements of God’s Word. I grieve that our longtime embrace of religious freedom is seemingly morphing into solipsistic license.
When, like so many, I chose Adventism, it wasn’t with the idea of junking our core beliefs after a season, to then fit the fashion of the times. I freely support everyone’s right to their own conscience; they just don’t have, as the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, the right to their own facts.
For Seventh-day Adventists, our facts and our faith are found in the Bible. I invite all in our church family to embrace and support its teachings. God will bless that effort.
Mark A. Kellner is news editor of the Adventist Review. This article was published May 27, 2010.