October 13, 2010

Our Time Together

Early in my term at Adventist Review, I attended a professional meeting, from which I took away a single point from a veteran religion journalist presenter: An editorial is not a devotional. Rather, it is a statement addressing some important issue in the church—or in society, with implications for the church.
Guided by that definition, I’ve generally stayed away from presenting simply “nice spiritual thoughts” in this space. Instead, I’ve tried to tackle the difficult stuff; handle the biting questions; deal with issues of pressing moment. Issues such as abortion, gay marriage, racial and gender equality, women’s ordination, creation, perfection, music, gun control, etc. Often it’s been a lonely task, running afoul of liberals and conservatives alike. Which, I’m afraid, will be the lot of anyone grappling with contemporary issues today, and who has the temerity to think for themselves.
Over the years, I’ve envied those leaders who have the luxury of keeping their thoughts to themselves, without (so to speak) having to spill their guts for the whole world to see. There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about that posture (as the French might say)—a certain smugness, akin to the self-righteousness one feels following a controversial meeting in which one said nothing, while many others left depressed over remarks they made.
2010 1533 page6On the other hand, I’ve often thought that God made me an editor to keep me from exploding. My mind, you see, is constantly probing, reflecting, dreaming. And it would be difficult to imagine all these thoughts, dreams, and reflections piling up in the system with no outlet. My work at the Review provided an outlet, a vent, a medium to share.
And I learned much in the process. Some who disagreed with me made so much sense, came across with such impeccable logic, that they sharpened me. Others struck me as the complete opposite, writing with disrespect, even anger. But it taught me patience.
There might be those who think Review editors kowtow to the powers that be, touting “the church’s official line.” But I can say that not once have I felt pressure from church officials regarding what I write—not once. By the same token, there were no personal compliments either. Over the course of some 22 years, I can remember just one instance of personal affirmation from a high church official. But that, precisely, was the way I liked it. It was as if I had an unwritten compact with the members in the pew. They were the ones uppermost in mind as I wrote; and they’ve been my steady support. Their letters and counsels have taught me, encouraged me, nurtured me. And I’ve often found myself praying: “Lord, make me worthy of these good people.”
I arrived at the Review office expecting a grace period, a time simply to observe before being asked to write. Instead, in the midst of all the disruption of moving (from Canada), with boxes and things everywhere, I found my name already on the editorial list, with the first column due within a week!
My feeling of sheer inadequacy came through in that first shot, entitled “A Prayer as I Begin.” My deeper concern was not about the “ouch” that comes from some stray word or typo, but about “errors of theology, errors of doctrine, errors of judgment”—serious blunders that get stuck on the printed page forever.
My prayer then was for wisdom—“To know when to speak and when not to. What to say and what not to. How to say it and how not to. Which issues to cover and which to leave alone.” And I prayed for “courage to say it. With dignity and courtesy and tact.”
Did I succeed? The Lord alone will judge that. But I’ve enjoyed our time together.
Roy Adams has served as an associate editor of the Adventist Review for 22 years. This article was published October 14, 2010.