Congregationalism: Why Is It So Attractive to SDAs

Speaker: Categories: Sep 11, 1999


[1hr, 10min, 20sec / 1hr, 19min, 56sec]


CONGREGATIONALISM!To some that term has taken on a very negative meaning. Others consider such to be associated with better days ahead for Adventism. Why the difference; why the mixed feelings; why the heated emotions whencongregationalismis uttered in conversation, even among good friends?

Words change -- at least their meanings. Language is dynamic, not static. What once was clearly understood as positive and to be desired, may take on the aura of negative and to be shunned. Has that happened tocongregationalism? If so, why? If so, how? If so, when? Might those who viewcongregationalismas a harbinger of good things to come have ample reason for such a perspective?

Please note: Dr. Newman, our September speaker, has observed that the Adventist bureaucracy has reached the personnel distribution ratio of onein the office, i.e., associated with church administration, to onein the field, i.e., pastors and bible workers (without factoring education personnel into the comparison).

Is there a down side of such a distribution? Typically each local SDA church supportsfivelevels of organization, observes David Newman, resulting in escalated costs for maintaining field personnel. For instance, in the Potomac Conference it now requires $200,000 in annual tithe to support each pastor in the field -- with the pastor receiving but one-fourth of that. Costs for running the SDA educational system, the denominational retirement system, and maintaining employee medical insurance coverage have increased dramatically during the last twenty years -- yet Conferences today are required to send along the same percentage of tithe to the Union and to the General Conference as previouslyeven though tithe income has not risen proportionally.

Added to the above is the reality that“the Adventist church has become increasingly diverse in its theological understandings,"asserts Dr. Newman, and is"following the same sociological path that all other denominations have taken. Will the final results be an exception for this church?"

Congregationalism-- is this a solution to the problem or a complication, even a compounding, of the problem? What are your views before hearing David Newman share his perspectives onpurecongregationalismandmodifiedcongregationalismon September 11?


J. David Newman, who last spoke to our San Diego Adventist Forum nearly a decade ago (October, 1989, onThe Future of the Adventist Ministry), is uniquely qualified to make the September 11 presentation oncongregationalism. He is senior pastor of Damascus Grace Fellowship, a contemporary Seventh-day Adventist church which came into existence after the previous church, Damascus Road Community Church, membership 560, separated from Adventism leaving only 60 members behind!

He received his Doctor of Ministry degree in church organizational behavior from McCormick Theological Seminary. He has served in conference administrative positions, as editor ofMinistry, and for ten years as a member of the General Conference Executive Committee. He is an adjunct professor of Christian Ministry, SDA Theological Seminary at Andrews University where he teaches courses in innovative evangelism and conflict resolution.

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