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Friday, December 8, 2023

Great Controversies

November 2, 2023
Judy Lorenz

Why Can’t Adventists Talk to Each Other?

Judy Lorenz

Like most organizations, the Adventist Church struggles with unanimous agreement. Since its founding in 1863, Church members have disagreed about everything from important theological matters (such as Bible prophecies) to smaller matters (such as drums in the worship service). The issues may change, but the arguments continue, causing anger and misunderstanding. The problem is not so much the lack of agreement, but the way that members judge each other and refuse to listen to each other.   

“It’s a little bit hard to be humble as Adventists because we all like to be right,” said Bill Roberts, ministerial director for the Washington Conference. [1] 

Kayla Hastings, a junior music and education major, has seen the division that the debates on women’s ordination and the LGBTQ+ community have caused. 

“I think these topics are controversial because people misinterpret what the Bible says and God’s instruction,” she said. “They pull politics into these conversations. I think people have a hard time agreeing because we talk to prove we are right and not to listen or learn.” [2] 

Elena Pang, a junior psychology major, stated that the Adventist church has become divided due to differing perceptions of the Bible.  

“The Bible, which we use as our guidebook for these controversies, was written to address the needs of its time because God meets people where they are at,” she said. “So, taking the valuable lessons from the Bible and applying them to our lives in 2023 leads to a wide range of interpretations.” [3] 

Janelle Glover, a junior exercise science major, believes that the division stems from the Church’s inability to heed change.  

“We preach inclusivity and tell people to come as they are, but there is no room for conversation,” said Glover. “There is no room for struggling with your spirituality. There is no room to talk about what’s wrong with the Church.” [4] 

According to Roberts, Church members are struggling to have useful dialogues because there is disagreement about the very approach to faith. “Adventism has always had a tendency to drift into fundamentalism,” he said. [5] 

Fundamentalism focuses more on the externals—what a person says and does, rather than on forming a relationship with Jesus. “If we have a more external religion, then we don’t have to focus on what’s inside and what’s broken,” said Roberts. [6] 

Recently, the Adventist Church is once again experiencing controversy over external vs. internal religion in the form of Last Generation Theology. Adherents of this fundamentalist theology believe that some people will become perfect before Jesus comes and that the world must see this perfection. The focus is on what people do or do not do. 

Last Generation Theology’s wide influence has kept Adventists fearfully focused on lifestyle issues. “We forget what is really important,” said Roberts. “People are in pain and hurting and fearful. The gospel is supposed to be good news… If the Church forgets we are a lifeboat, we will get caught up in the rigging on the ship.” [7] 

College-age students who disagree with Church teachings often decide to leave. Roberts encourages them to stay. “The Church was started by young people,” he said. “This is your Church, too.” [8] 

If you want changes to be seen in the Adventist Church, don’t assume that your voice is powerless. As future leaders of the Church, it is your time to step up and be the change that you want to see in the Church. 



  1. Interview with Bill Roberts, 10/22/2023. 
  2. Interview with Kayla Hastings, 10/29/2023. 
  3. Interview with Elena Pang, 10/29/2023.  
  4. Interview with Janelle Glover, 10/29/2023.
  5. Ibid. 
  6. Ibid. 
  7. Ibid. 
  8. Ibid. 


  1. Great Controversy. Photo taken from Adventist Book 
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