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Philosophy & Mission

What Is Adventist Identity?

The elements in this blog arose out of talking with administrators, teaching staff and students in Adventist schools in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. While there are numerous points arising out of these encounters, one key question stands alone, and that is the question that many find difficult to answer: What is Adventist identity?

When I ask those involved with Adventist education this question, inevitably there is ‘stunned mullet’ silence, an Australianism that means: “I don’t have a clue.” Then come the platitudes aplenty! To be fair, some can answer but these are few and far between and don’t always fit with the official directives, designs and discussions that come from those above. Straight up, we seem to be stuck. To be frank, many cultural and corporate identities shift and change as they age, but understanding ‘who we are’ at each stage of the aging process is critical for groups to move positively into the future.

Silhouette of man praying in church in sunset light, tonedPlease notice the deliberate use of the words age and aging, because the next sentence is the kicker! More and more I am coming to the realization that while Adventism is obviously getting older, it’s not maturing. Adventist education is caught up in this cultural paradigm paralysis, as all organizations fall into the stagnation of identity crisis at some stage in their development. In particular, history is littered with the corpses of faith-based groups who fell into the trap of torpor. We’re not at the latter point yet, but from where I stand it’s on the horizon!

This means we are somewhere in the middle of the three types of organizational cultures:

  • culturally morte
  • maddeningly mollifying
  • strategically moving

For any group to grow they must constantly regroup their thought processes and question who they are and where they are. I’m sure this blog will annoy many, as it seems to imply that I am advocating a shift away from our fundamental beliefs. To some degree this is true. This raises another set of questions: what are our fundamental beliefs and what do these mean for our daily lives? I’m going to leave these questions for further comment, but will finish with a critical suggestion.

Beliefs don’t matter if they take precedence over being ‘lovable and loving Christians.’ Our beliefs are so far removed from the average person’s everyday life that ‘unconditional love’ must be the ‘be all and end all’ if Adventism is to be truly understood, and Adventist education truly make a difference!

Phil Fitzsimmons

Phil Fitzsimmons

Prior to accepting a position at Avondale College of Higher Education, Phil worked as Director of Research at the San Roque Research Centre (Santa Barbara, CA), the University of Wollongong (Australia) and has been researcher in residence at Thames Valley University (UK) and the University of Alabama (Birmingham). He is currently working on projects in literacy, and adolescent spirituality with colleagues in the United States, Canada and Israel.
Phil Fitzsimmons

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