An Open Letter to the Biblical Research Institute & the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Regarding the Suspension of the Record Keeper

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Dear Church Leadership,

My name is Marcos Torres. I am a senior theology major at Southern Adventist University and am both passionate and committed to the message of the Seventh-day Adventist church. When I first heard of the cancellation of the Record Keeper I posted a blog in which I clearly asserted my trust and confidence on the Biblical Research Institute (BRI) and respected the decision they made regarding this issue. However, in that same post I also expressed my desire for more transparency on behalf of the BRI. I, along with thousands of other Adventists, are disappointed in the church's decision to suspend the Record Keeper but what has hurt us the most is that secrecy inherent in the news article that revealed this decision. No examples of the theological inaccuracies that prompted this decision were given which has left many of us wondering if there is something else motivating this decision.

I just finished sending an email to the Biblical Research Institute, regarding the decision to suspend the Record Keeper, in which I called for a transparent analysis of the issues involved. I believe the BRI and the GC owe this to the many Adventists, particularly those of the younger generation, who were excited and committed to this project. The Facebook page for Save The Record Keeper, a grassroots movement that sprung into action when the initial cancellation threats were made, has over 21,000 likes. That number represents 21,000 Adventists who are excited about the project and who have been let down, not so much by the cancellation, but by the lack of transparency that has followed in its wake. For many of us, trust in the leadership has been broken, hope for Adventist creativity has been suspended, and the concept that our voices actually make a difference in church decisions has been shattered.

For those who think this entire controversy is nothing but a "big nag", I quote to you the words of a commenter on Spectrum's recent article "The Record Keeper's Makers Express Disappointment at Its Cancellation". The commenter who goes by the name TKM answers that question saying,
It's a "big nag" because we who are on the front lines and in the trenches with the real world are sick of having to introduce our religion as "Haha, nooo we're not a cult.".... 
It's a big nag because I got a text after this that said "I'm trying really really hard to look past my church and see God right now." When "rising up and finishing the work" is starting to happen WITHOUT the church, there's an issue. 
And it's a big nag because for ONCE, there was something that lit a spark among the young people to share something their church did; something that also shared their faith, and for it to be sucked back into the atmos, it turned on the old familiar bitterness towards our archaic leadership that refuses to speak in the language of present day. 
We in the creative world are being forced to work outside the church because what we have to offer is neither welcome nor appreciated. This absolutely destroyed any hope we had to be involved in something relevant that also involved the support of our church. With all the precautions they took, what are the odds we'd get the rug pulled out from under us again?....
I'm not sure they realize the damage they've caused. [2]
Telling us that there were theological problems is simply not enough. According to an interview with the writers for the Record Keeper "the General Conference was involved in every aspect of the development of the project. We turned over every script. I believe the Ellen White Estate itself reviewed our content."[1] If this is true, how is it that these theological issues were not discovered at any point within these 2 years of production? And if they were somehow missed why can they not be fixed? And if the errors are so deeply embedded in the plot that they cannot be fixed then I ask again, How in the world did the script receive approval in the first place? Why would the GC invest so heavily in a project without evaluating its theological accuracy first instead of waiting to the very end to do so? None of this makes sense.

As a committed member of this church who values and respects the leadership that God has placed to guide our movement, I humbly request that the BRI and the GC provide a detailed and transparent analysis of the film complete with the theological inaccuracies involved that led to the decision to cancel the project. I also request that you respond to the allegations that the cancellation was inspired by less ethical considerations. The youth of this church need to have their trust and faith restored in the authenticity and integrity of their leadership. If you ignore this request then do me a favor and do not publish an article in the Review five years from now with theories as to why the youth are leaving the church, for the answer will be quite clear.

Sincerely,
Marcos Torres

[1] http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2014/04/13/record-keepers-makers-express-disappointment-its-cancellation# 
[2] A comment left on the above article.

Comments

  1. Women's ordination, this film project, and many other issues are the very reasons I believe that lay-persons will finish the work. I pray for our church and the leadership.

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  2. Quote: "Women's ordination, this film project, and many other issues are the very reasons I believe that lay-persons will finish the work. I pray for our church and the leadership."

    It was always the lay-people who were supposed to finish the work. Ephesians 4 says that gifts were given so that the people could be equipped to do the work. A freakish combination of over-controlling "over shepherds," ill-equipped lay-people, and general lackadaisical-ness have lead to an incorrect understanding that a program, pamphlet or pastor is what is going to finish the work. Its you, and it's me. There is not an approval that is needed. Seek God's heart, ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and then obey with boldness. Who knows... maybe the administrators will follow the example of the people.

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  3. I'm encouraged to know that there are people out there like you who will take it upon themselves to write the BRI and ask for a more detailed response. I find your post to be respectful, genuinely concerned, yet clearly articulating the issues at hand which is far more than any of the other posts I've read since the announcement of cancellation was made. I too am writing the BRI with the same hope that we can have more transparency with regard to the issues that lead to this decision. I pray that we will receive an answer.

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  4. Thank you for your clear headed thoughtfulness and call for transparency. Well said! I concur fully!

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  5. As a pastor and youth leader for almost 32 years in the Adventist Church, first of all, let me say thank-you. Thanks for taking the high road. Well thought out response and well articulated. Second, I think you are right on in calling for more transparency. Please let us know what the response to your letter is.

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  6. Thank you all for your wonderful comments! They have been very encouraging. I am not sure if the church leaders will ever actually see this letter. My blog, while mildly popular among my peers, has probably never been seen by anyone in the GC. However, I do hope that this letter can be a small voice among the many voices of Adventist creatives who are looking for answers. If my contribution serves that purpose then I will be happy.

    I encourage you all to check out the latest episode of Red Letter Round Table, a college-age Adventist podcast. The podcast has dedicated their last episode of the semester to The Record Keeper controversy and addresses the myriads of creative Christians who feel shunned by the traditions of church culture. Check it out and share it with others:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KKcBgYTzn8&feature=youtu.be

    Blessings!

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  7. I am filled with admiration at your approach to this matter, unfortunately, my near 40 years with the Seventh - day Adventist church doesn't leave me hopeful for a response of any kind let alone providing any proof of the inaccuracies claimed. Some of us are just going to continue to speak with those who are objective and willing face our realities head on.

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    1. Thankfully a statement has been released by the BRI containing the innacuracies they discerned. I will respond to it, and other developments, this week.

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  8. Amen to that. Many young people feel the same way. I hope the GC will read this letter.

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  9. They should release it anyway. Who is the church? This all seems very Catholic/totalitarian to me....

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    1. Well the church owns the program. They hired Big Puddle films to develop it for them. So in the end the Record Keeper always belonged to the GC. It never belonged to Big Puddle. If someone leaked it it would create lots of legal problems due to copy rights etc. The GC hired Big Puddle to develop this film for them, they weren't satisfied with the end result, and so they decide not to air it. I don't see that as a Catholic/totalitarian thing.

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  10. The Senior Pastor of the Emmanuel-Brinklow SDA Church (host church for the project release and initial evangelism effort), responds in an open letter to the General Conference last Sabbath. See the comments here:

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152101462296319&set=vb.144383311318&type=2&theater

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    1. This video was extremely instructive anonymous. Thanks for sharing!

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  11. I love these quotes from a pastor that I really admire (not an Adventist- but neither am I): “Jesus is bigger than any one religion. He didn't come to start a new religion, and he continually disrupted whatever conventions or systems or establishments that existed in his day. He will always transcend whatever cages and labels are created to contain and name him, especially the one called "Christianity.”
    ― Rob Bell

    and especially this one: Churches and religious communities and organizations can claim to speak for God while at the same time actually being behind the movement of God that is continuing forward in the culture around them . . .

    without their participation.”
    ― Rob Bell, What We Talk about When We Talk about God

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  12. I resonate with much of what you write. Here you can find the BRI's list of theological problems you requested:
    http://news.adventist.org/fileadmin/news.adventist.org/files/news/2013/TRK_BRI_i.pdf

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    1. Thank you for sharing that link Anthony! I am going to write my last article on this controversy this week. I will address the leadership openly again and thank the BRI for their transparency. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  13. Great Blog Marcos. Proud of you and may God guide you and bless you and yor family in your ministry.
    Randy

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  14. Marcos,
    Te felicito por tomarte el tiempo para escribir esta carta de una manera brillante, sincera y respetuosa.

    Dios te bendiga

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