It's Time To Talk
By Thomas Loghry, assistant pastor, North Scituate Advent Christian Church
Why is it that open discussion has largely fallen out of practice in Advent Christian circles? How is it that a denomination that is so full of diversity and was quite noisy during the 20th century is now quieter than a church mouse? Undoubtedly much of it is rooted in the collapse of the Advent Christian educational institutions, institutions that were the essential catalysts for the denomination’s theological maturation. With maturation emerged definitive differentiation, epitomized by the respective schools of thought represented by C.H. Hewitt and J.A. Nichols. From these the demand for voices in the denominational publications was met with ready supply. But Hewitt and Nichols are now shadows of the past. A whole era of Advent Christian thought is now lost to an entire generation of pastors entering Advent Christian ministry.
In the wake of this collapse, the efforts of the Berkshire Institute of Christian Studies have undoubtedly saved the denomination from dissolution. Without the work of BICS, it is doubtful there would have been very many Advent Christians to be supported by Berkshire’s seminary fund. But for all that both BICS and the Berkshire fund have done in maintaining the vital trickle of pastoral candidates, they have been unable to reproduce the sort of vigorous dialogue and debate that once existed. There are no books being published. There is no theological debate. There is little ecclesiological debate. Silence presides over the deteriorating Advent Christian landscape.
We have mourned the collapse of the institutions long enough. It remains to be seen whether the Antioch School will do any better in this regard and I do not believe that we have the luxury of waiting around to see what happens. We who remain are it. You who are reading this are J.A. Nichols. You who are reading this are C.H. Hewitt. I believe it is better for us to be that presumptuous than for us to continue on in lazy humility. There are vital issues facing our denomination that we must discuss and work through together: How should we train our pastors? How should we do church planting? Is our denominational structure effective? What should the theological boundaries of our denomination be? What implications might conditionalism have for Christology, Soteriology, and other theological items?
We must discuss these things. It will likely mean conflict but we must work through it and quit running away. We need to pull up around the table and hash this out. These issues are too important for our denomination, our churches, and our place in the Gospel mission for us to remain silent. I do not know what our future holds. Please say something. In the words of the poet Dylan Thomas, I plead,
"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."