I apologize for my lengthy absence from blogging. A great deal is been going on in my life, not the least of which is the publication of my new book, For Such a Time, which regular readers will recognize, since the first draft of many of the chapters appeared as blogs here. It answers the question, “How does God respond  when women take the lead?”

And I have begun a new series entitled, “The Bridge between Us and Them.” I intend to continue that series. But I have a heavy heart. I see my denomination increasingly polarized. Those who favored women’s ordination — and I count myself on that side — have become increasingly strident, not just about women’s ordination, but about a series of topics which are not directly related.

This is the phenomenon of “mission creep,” a malady which too often has characterized American military operations, and causes in general. What starts out as one thing — in this case, the ordination of women — becomes many other things, some of the related, some of them not. Not only does this make achievement of the original goal more difficult, it gives ammunition to the opposition, as inconsistencies proliferate.

Those who oppose women’s ordination are becoming increasingly authoritarian and coercive. Coercion is not a tactic ever employed by God. They, too, are experiencing “mission creep,” as they find more and more evils in those who disagree with them.

I have friends on both sides of the issue. More than that, I see men and women on both sides of the issue whom I know are children of God, and I believe truly want to serve him. And what I see is that, while I am trying to write about building a “Bridge between Us and Them,” I see both sides pushing away from each other. I say to both sides, “This has to stop!”

If you believe the Adventist movement was raised up by a prophetic imperative — I do — then it is far too important a movement to let it splinter over a policy disagreement. For that is what this is, a disagreement about policy, about “how,” when we should be talking about “Who,” and “what.” The “Who” is Jesus Christ, and the “what” is growing into a saving relationship with Him.

Our task is to establish the saving relationships for ourselves, and for as many as are willing, to build up The Kingdom of God both here and hereafter. In my experience, and in Scripture, that requires the talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts of everyone who wants to follow Jesus. That, and as regular readers of this blog will by now have realized, my study of how God responds when women take the lead, has convinced me that women have as great a role to play in this great commission as do men. But I do not want to stress one side of the argument here.

Rather, my task is to say to both sides, “Is your position on this single issue more important than bringing individuals into saving relationships with Jesus?” If it is, then it is sabotaging the mission of the church. If it is not, why focus on that alone?

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have had my own issues with the institutional church. At one point, one of my daughters, a teenager at the time, asked me, “Why do you stay?” Perhaps someday I will share that answer here. For now, the important thing is that, despite some significant disagreements, and frankly, serious abuse by the church, I choose — note that is present tense — to remain.

Why? Because, in the depths of my discouragement, I recalled a statement that goes something like this:

Weak and defective though it may appear, the church is the object of Christ’s supreme regard.

The flaws I saw then, and still see sometimes, were very real, and very serious. But I could not reconcile my disgust with the institutional church, and claiming to be a follower of Christ. How could I despise the object of his supreme regard and still claim to care for him? I will not pretend the answer is easy, but it is simple: if I love Christ, thenI must find some way to love his church.

I have come to realize that the church will always appear weak and defective, in fact, it will always be weak and defective, because it is made up of flawed people, people like me. And though I may have serious disagreements with the church, I cannot, I must not, write it off. I put it this way, “I sometimes fight with my wife, but under no circumstances would I leave her.”

I appeal to my brothers and sisters on both sides of the issue: do not let this issue, important as it is, divide us; do not let it divert us from our primary mission. Let us agree to disagree, and move forward. Together.