Date of Award
Doctor of Ministry
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
Doctor of Ministry DMin
Problem. Some members of the Bethel Seventh-day Adventist Church have demonstrated tendencies towards extremes in their belief system accompanied by conflicts, attraction to fringe groups, and a lack of progress in evangelism and mission. There is a tendency to place strong emphasis on fragments of the Adventist message rather than the whole. Anecdotal evidence and biblical principles suggest that this fragmented theology leads to an imbalance in understanding of gospel principles, and the noted problems are a corollary of this (Knight, 2008). Thinking affects being (Prov 23:7).
Methodology. A holistic framework for ministry was developed based on the template of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral where Scripture is the source of theology while tradition, reason and experience are resources that confirm scripture. The framework was informed by Ellen White and Adventist theologians under the blaze of Reformation theology. Chapter 1 is a general introduction of the project. The root problem is identified as theological fragmentation while the problems of conflicts, attraction to fringe groups, and lack of growth are the symptoms. The topics addressed are introduction, statement of the problem, purpose of the study, justification of the study, definitions, delimitation, limitations, and methodology. In chapter 2 a general theological reflection is developed accompanied by Ellen White’s reflection on the components of the holistic framework: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. In chapter 3 there is a literature review in which current evangelical theology is presented as it impacts the holistic framework. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral and its development through the Anglican tradition is analyzed through Wesley’s writings and the views of Wesleyan scholars. Adventist theologians is also be analyzed pertaining to the components of the Quadrilateral. In chapter 4 the Bethel context is presented with its challenges. The pastor’s biography presents the faith, experience and skills brought to Bethel especially in relation to the Holistic Framework. Paul Hiebert’s anthropological model of mission and its relation to the holistic framework for leadership is presented as it will guide the pastor in his participant-observer approach to Bethel. In chapter 5 the implementation of the holistic framework for leadership is described as it impacts preaching, teaching, administration, mission and leadership. In chapter 6 the summary and evaluation of the project is made. A seminar based on the holistic framework and evaluation surveys are described. Conclusions both positive and negative are drawn. Recommendations for future development and application of the framework are made.
Result. Bethel became a healthy place relationally. While people still have differences, they have learned to bear with each other. The church has assumed a new role as the center of mission in a large territory involving two church plants and other benevolent work. It gives support to the rest of the district generously. The possibility of planting other churches is quite feasible given its large territory. Parkdale is now the only church in the downtown area of the western half of Toronto. The Perth Avenue Church, which has been the flagship of Seventh-day Adventism in that area since the 1970s, has now moved out of that vicinity. It is no doubt providential that the Parkdale Church now exists. Bethel has grown theologically. A multitude of issues and problems disappeared. Improvements in all sectors of ministry have taken place. Theological fragmentation has decreased. Those who were consistently involved in prayer meeting, Bible class, health ministry and church planting have shown maturity in greater ways than the larger population There is a clearer sense of the Adventist identity and the Adventist place within Christianity. Some cultural impediments to theology have eased, as members are thinking scripturally rather than culturally where principles are concerned. The business side of the church has been placed on a sound foundation. My experience at Bethel has been involved and special. Creating the changes demanded presence physically, mentally and otherwise. The church has recognized that our time together has been very special and that God had truly blessed. A foundation is set on which to build a better future. Leadership development has been significant at all levels. Two couples have developed in pastoral leadership. They gained experience in preaching, teaching, and administration. Young people studying to be pastors received opportunity to practice and develop at Bethel, and have moved on successfully to pastoral ministry. Youth have been involved in church planting and development in the areas of preaching, teaching, and church administration. They are engaged in mission at a creative level, studying and analyzing how to advance church ministry. The mother church—Bethel—strengthened in all ministries. New ministries like the seniors ministry were developed. Yearly evangelistic series and revivals produced baptisms continuously. Baptisms varied from a low of five per year to a high of 22. Meanwhile the Parkdale Church grew by about 40 new members in the duration of my ministry. The AIM group grew to about 20 people in attendance and its programs attract many non-Adventists.
Conclusion. Adventists need to disciple converts to the church. Pastors can use the Holistic Framework for personal and leadership development, and congregational development. The accomplishments at Bethel can be largely credited to the facilitation of the Holistic Framework in leadership. The weak point of the process at this seminal stage was the extent to which the members adopted the process of the framework individually. Work at Bethel was more pastor-dependent than was desirable. This is not the best-case scenario for the long term. Some congregations may be more ready to adopt the framework than others may. However there was advancement in getting members to think and work theologically. An outstanding part of the project at Bethel was the education that came through prayer meetings, Bible classes and diverse ministries. The power of Ellen White’s conflict series and The Ministry of Healing were evidenced in these classes. The impact was both expressed and seen. Believers became familiar with resources they can use independently to understand scripture and to motivate theological pursuits. This strategy was fitting for a congregation that respects Ellen White’s role as messenger in the Adventist Church. Many witnessed to the blessings received through the books and passed on copies to others. Creative simplification, a hallmark of Wesley, is necessary for each context. The utilization of the gifts and resources resident in the local church as well as the Adventist church in general is a godly responsibility. Often Adventists gravitate towards new and popular resources, which lack the spiritual power of our established resources. Getting people to study independently and reflect theologically will do far more to enhance their development than remaining dependent on pastors, teachers and experts. Taking responsibility for personal development is crucial to fulfill the priesthood of all believers. Since the components of the Holistic Framework are present in Ellen White’s writings, the pastor can use them to impart this theological process to his students.
Church controversies, Conflict management
Lue, Vincent, "Developing and Implementing a Framework to Address Theological Fragmentation at Bethel Seventh-day Adventist Church in Toronto" (2013). Dissertation Projects. 73.