Some sweet, kind soul at church last week expressed how glad they were to see my face because they thought I might be too upset to come to church now that the Adventist Church has voted no to allowing divisions to decide on ordaining women. I couldn’t help but chuckle because they must not know me very well.
Of course I disagree with the vote and no, I don’t believe it is ever God’s will that anyone be discriminated against for their gender or race. But I’ve also seen all kinds of crazy in this church and I am mature enough to not be swayed by what anyone else does in the name of God. My faith depends not on any conference structure made by humans—but on Jesus alone.
My family tree has many broken branches where people have taken detours or walked away from God altogether. When I realize how much religion is abused, I can hardly blame them.
My great, great grandfather Arthur Mellish studied to be a clergyman in the Anglican Church. His father was a rich banker and the family had friends in high places. The family and many important dignitaries came to Arthur’s ordination at St. Paul’s Cathedral. All went well until Arthur was asked if he had any questions. Suddenly he wondered out loud why the church kept Sunday instead of Saturday—which caused the ordination to come to a complete halt. Later that night his father knocked on his door and gave him a one way ticket to America on a ship named “The Baltic.”
Arthur Mellish had shamed his parents and now was disowned by his family and exiled to America in 1883 at age 21. He never went back home to England. It must’ve been a sad journey not knowing if he would ever see his family again or have someone to understand him, but he moved in across the street from a beautiful young woman named Sedora who caught his eye. He soon discovered Sedora and her family were Seventh-day Adventist Christians. His family may have abandoned him, but God had been standing in the gap for Arthur and he was soon married to a woman who celebrated the Sabbath with him every week.
These wonderful people were my grandma Veronica’s grandparents. When she was eight years old, Veronica’s mother asked her to attend a séance with her, but Veronica was convinced it was wrong, so she walked a mile to Arthur and Sedora’s home which she found full of love and music and great talks about God. When her mother returned, Veronica said her mother’s eyes were hard and she knew her mother’s love for her had grown cold.
Arthur Mellish stood in the gap, between the Church of England and Adventism. Between those happy with the status quo and those who had inquiring minds. Between England and America. And He and Sedora stood in the gap between their daughter-in-law’s beliefs and God. By standing in the gap, Arthur and Sedora represented God’s love and truth to Veronica.
Decades later, when I was young and bounced around by my family’s dysfunctional habits, Grandma Veronica stood in the gap for me just like her grandparents once did for her. Her memory still stands between the struggles of last generation theology and the gospel of grace. She stood between men with frail egos and women of God. She stood between misrepresentation of God and the love of God. Veronica (and my Grandpa Don) stood in the gap for me between fear and faith, instability and trust and between false beliefs and God’s love.
Even though Arthur & Sedora and Veronica & Don are all gone now, they all stood in the gap and their faith is why I am here today. And in case you thought I would break this tradition, even though there is no merit to being a sixth generation church member, the blood runs thick to say I would not walk away from the church and message I love, but it is now my turn to stand in the gap.
I will continue to join with my brothers and sisters around the world who plan to show up to church wearing black to signify our mourning with yellow scarves to show our faith that Jesus is indeed bringing the dawn. And I will continue to write about our mission to show God’s character and how is has been maligned by this vote.
I read a friend’s post saying “I’ve never left my church, but it feels like my church has left me.” This seems true. In a church founded by a woman preacher who supported women preachers, this idea of women preachers being less than their male counterparts is a strange concept and does not resemble our pioneers or our Savior.
Whether people can see it or not, our world church family has a gap—more like a gaping wound, but if you are thinking of leaving, please don’t.
Now is our time to stand in the gap—
Between controlling leadership and grassroots believers.
Between male headship and the headship of Christ.
Between hierarchy and the golden rule.
Between exclusion and inclusion.
Between the tares and the wheat.
Between the elite clergy and the priesthood of all believers.
Between distortions of God’s character and God’s character of love.
Between the church militant and the church triumphant.
Jesus Himself is our peace and He has come to stand in all of our gaps. Even now, Jesus is bringing the dawn and no one will be able to hold it back.
I looked for someone among you who could build walls
or stand in front of me by the gaps in the walls
to defend the land and keep it from being destroyed.
But I couldn’t find anyone.
I am willing to stand with Jesus in the gap, are you?