I feel compelled to comment on the recent cancellation of “The Record Keeper” online video series.  Although I will question the official decision and its reasoning, I want to make it clear that the problem does not lie with the General Conference. Remedy would be much simpler if it did. It runs much, much deeper than that.

First of all, saying there were “theological problems” with The Record Keeper just doesn’t cut it, and for two main reasons. Over the last 50 years, I have participated in at least that many evangelistic series. There may have been one or two that featured flawless theology, but I don’t remember them. I do remember often cringing at some of the statements made. And from Adventist pulpits? Don’t get me started.

But then, I remember some Sabbath School classes I taught 40 years ago that I would like to have back. My understanding of the Bible, and therefore my theology have undergone significant changes. For that matter, anyone who reads widely from Ellen White’s writings can see large shifts in emphasis over her lifespan, and even complete reversals. Closed door, anyone? Six-pm Sabbath?

We are a large and diverse church. We are human. We don’t get everything exactly right. It’s OK. God remembers that we are dust. We’re the ones who forget.

Just so no one misses the point, I’m saying “theological problems” is not the real reason. If it were, things would get cancelled left and right. Theological problems are the pretext. But once again, I’m not blaming the General Conference.

The problem is trying to serve two masters. From the little I’ve seen of The Record Keeper, I have no doubt it would be an excellent vehicle for outreach to a particular audience. That audience would not be aware of theological problems. What a blessing it would be if they could be won to Christ, and become aware of those problems. I wouldn’t withhold my well water from a person dying of thirst because it’s iron-heavy and not very tasty. Once they’re hydrated, they can become a water connoisseur.

The problem is the existing membership. You and me. We elected the General Conference. And The Record Keeper does not match the tastes of a North American church, more than half of whom are over 50 years old, or a third world church won by those over 50 using 19th century approaches. Ten years ago I described the dilemma the church faces today.

“[P]astors and administrators [are] in a bind between reaching the lost and placating the saints. If we allow contemporary and/or rock music, we lose the older members; if we don’t, we lose the young people! Older members provide more financial support to the church than do younger ones. If the older members go, their financial support goes with them. The church must receive financial support to survive. But if we don’t reach the young and the unchurched, we have no reason to exist”  (Dead Languages, Adventist Review, 2004).

The General Conference finds themselves in that same situation. The tools we have used for many years are not effective with affluent, educated contemporary audiences. Would The Record Keeper have been? Many think so. We may never know. The real tragedy here is that it seriously damages the likelihood of further experiments. We won’t find effective tools without experimenting, and sometimes failing. But if we never experiment, failure is guaranteed.

The problem isn’t the General Conference. The problem is a self-satisfied membership that refuses to move outside its comfort zone. Ironic, isn’t it? Because the Faithful and True Witness in Revelation tells Laodicea, tells us, our comfort is our problem.