The Scratch’s weekly Brief is broken down into two sections. First, “The Need to Know” covers this week’s main story—one story, several paragraphs, and opinions separated at the end. The second section, “The Ought to Know,” covers other stories—each paragraph is a separate story entirely. Lastly, while our content is serious, our headings are not. We like to spice up our headings with a little personality. :)
A force awakens
Dennis Stevens recently wrote an opinion piece for Spectrum Magazine in which he proposes structural changes to the Adventist Church. He wrote this in response to comments that suggested the General Conference should be eliminated completely. This article has picked up steam on social media and in ministry circles, so here’s the rundown.
The empirical evidence strikes back
Stevens has three main concerns driving his opinion. He believes:
The money spent running the global levels of church structure (i.e. administrative overhead) could be better utilized on the local level.
There appears to be a power accumulation at the administrative level of the Adventist church.
Laity seems more and more pushed out of the decision-making process of the denomination (i.e. lay members no longer have much of a voice).
The last jedi president
Stevens is calling for Seventh-day Adventism to mimic the structure of the Church of the Nazarene. He cites that the Nazarene Church has only three levels (Adventism has five) and, with fewer levels, overhead maintenance costs less at all organizational levels. A notable portion of this suggestion includes the Nazarene Church’s lack of a “president.” Rather, it has six General Superintendents who are elected every four years. The six superintendents delegate responsibility amongst themselves such that the workload and authority is shared.
A new hope
Stevens ends his article with three recommendations for the 2020 GC Session:
Eliminate the GC President and Vice-President roles and replace them with six Vice-Presidents that are equal in power and responsibility.
Elect an Executive Committee with membership rising no higher than the local Conference.
Those who fill the aforementioned positions should present a plan to downsize the organizational structure and transform it into a more “nimble, accountable, efficient organizational structure.”
Word on the street is...
Definitely mixed opinions. Some are grateful for the unconventional thinking here and are excited about a new and fresh idea. Others are more pessimistic, saying the Church would never adopt this proposal. A third school of thought suggests we don’t need to change the model, but we do need to change how accountable church leaders are to their constituents. It’s important to remember that all of this is a suggestion made by one person. While any suggestion can be turned into a motion on the floor in meetings, at the moment there isn’t any indication this model will be voted on any time soon. Nevertheless, it is this week’s main topic of conversation.
Make it a supreme
The Supreme Court may decide to hear a religious liberty case early next year involving a Seventh-day Adventist and Sabbath rights. Darrell Patterson is an Adventist who worked as a trainer in Walgreens’ call center. He argues that he was fired in 2011 without reasonable accommodation for refusing to work on Saturday, in accordance with his religious beliefs. Since the firing, Patterson has brought his case through the lower courts with mixed results. Among the nine courts that gave opinions, there was a three-way split. Walgreens claims that it met its obligation to Patterson for reasonable accommodation, his firing was avoidable, and it was his own fault since he only asked one other employee to cover the Saturday shift for him before refusing to work. Several other religious organizations have filed amicus briefs supporting Patterson. In March, the Solicitor General was invited to file a brief expressing the US government’s view on the matter.
New conference, who dis?
Elders from the Nairobi Central SDA Church have registered a new conference after a conflict over the selection of church officials and accusations of misconduct by two pastors resulted in factional splits. While the church is a part of the Central Kenya Conference (CKC), this new conference, called the Nairobi Cosmopolitan Conference (NCC), was registered on March 15, 2019. They have also opened bank accounts and have begun calling for people to direct their tithe to the NCC instead of the CKC. The CKC has fired back by disowning the NCC and claiming it is not recognized by the worldwide Adventist Church.