The rejection of these distinctive intrigues me in three ways…
1. The reason the SDA Church has existed for as long as it has is because it is distinctive and unique. This builds a sense of community and separation from those who are not within the “walls” of the mainstream. Progressive Adventism seeks to disrupt those very doctrines that create the walls of separation and hence maintain the community. Unfortunately, if those who are “progressive” want to see the end result of this strategy, all they need to do is look at the Catholic Church since the 1960’s. After the Vatican II council removed several of the practices that made Catholics very unique from their protestant brethren, the Catholic Church began to lose her identity among the youth and eventually a large majority of the Church, especially in America. The loss of distinctiveness turns a community from themselves, to the world, creating little CIA agents: the members look, and dress, talk, act, and think like everyone else.Aside from the comments about the Roman Catholic Churches modernization (which I would say are some of the most positive aspects that the Roman Catholic Church has done short of ending the persecution of so called heretics) I would like to focus on the first part of his statement.
I would say that the reason for the continuation of a denomination is not simply because they are distinctive. Every denomination has something distinctive and unique. Whether it was a particular founder who is highly respected or who claims prophetic ability or something doctrinally different from the other churches such as the Baptists who sought to get back to submersion in water over sprinkling. From that unique idea other Baptist distinctives emerged and now there are several Baptist denominations.
There is a community found in people building walls of separation, but that is often not what is best for the community or the surrounding society. What we often think today of racism is the product of building those walls of separation, keeping in those who are similar and excluding those who differ. The Jewish nation at the time of Christ were very good at building those walls. Not simply based upon race but based upon beliefs. You were part of the chosen nation because you were a Jew even though your nationality could have been anything. You were only a good Jew if you believed what you were supposed to believe and followed the rules you were supposed to follow.
Jesus Christ came and tore down those walls. Today many Christians are seeking to rebuild them, because then we have a "community". But I can't accept the idea that the Christian community is to be built behind the walls we build around ourselves.
Perhaps that is why Progressive Adventism is no longer simply about reinterpretation of SDA distinctives but about changing the way the Christian church interacts with society (you can't do one without the other). It is a movement like the "emergent" church which seeks to change Christianity from the bottom up, from the local church to the denomination. No doubt a difficult task when the Pastors are paid from the denomination down which is perhaps why the tension is so great. Why so few Adventist churches try anything innovative.
In the Western world the Christian Church is in an identity crisis and I don't think doctrinal distinctives will help our problems. Understanding God as best we can, a rational and relational Christianity that spends time thinking about our beliefs and how those beliefs effect us and those around us, that is the only cure for Christianity in decline. Our understanding will not come from a community behind walls. In my view Christianity has been in decline because Christians have misunderstood God and made Him out to be an angry God who saves us only because Jesus died for us. I don't see any real need to preserve a church or denomination that makes God out the fool or worse a God who declares cruelty love and injustice justice. So we are left with rebuilding the name of Christianity and God from the abuses of those who have gone before us. Progressive Adventists are simply working within their faith tradition. I sincerely hope that other denominations have begun their reforms also I tend to think that some have.
In many ways we are in a battle between the fundamentalism found in traditions versus the rational and inquisitive pursuit of God. One side has many walls and the other is slowly tearing down the walls and on the outside there are billions of hurting people...in fact inside those walls are numerous hurting people also. My denomination is a tool to build the Christian Church someday I won't need it anymore.