What Others Have Said About the One Project

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a global family and with the rise of Social Media our ‘ties that bind’ are ever closer. Anyone today can post on Facebook or Twitter and expect a range of opinions from all over the world in real time. Likewise, the perspectives on The ONE Project are rich and varied with commentators from all over the world weighing in. It is difficult to sort out every nuance of every perspective out there but most fall into several broad categories: The 1st Person Attendee Reporting, Professional Publications, Private off-the record conversations in person and online, Books, Independent Ministry Symposia[i], The ONE Project Ministry[ii] itself through interviews and their own media, several other ministry seminars such as at ASI and GYC[iii]. A range of perspectives are mentioned in this article.

A Private Conversation

A pastor wrote to me in a private message, while requesting anonymity, of his experience at a Gathering in 2014,

“To get straight to the point I wouldn’t recommend the one project to my church members and I tell my colleagues who ask that they need to see for themselves. That being said the One Project is relatively new and each ministry has its growing pains hence why I haven’t publicly shared my concerns. Let them work out the kinks and I will visit another time to see if my concerns have been addressed.

To me the entire tenor of the meetings had an air of making fun of  adventist doctrines. Its subtle but it’s there, almost like a disdain for the pillars of our faith. Even the small group discussion lead by table “coaches’’ seem to steer people away from our pillars. I know the One Project promotes Jesus only but have they ever answered what that means? Can Jesus be understood without the very doctrines He inspired that tell us about the Character of God? Read this quote by EGW that seems to be addressing this “Jesus only” crowd.

The Third Angel’s Message—The present truth, the special message given to our world, even the third angel’s message, comprehends a vast field, containing heavenly treasures. No one can be excusable who says, “I will no longer have anything to do with these special messages; I will preach Christ.” No one can preach Christ, and present the truth as it is in Jesus, unless he presents the truths that are to come before the people at the present time, when such important developments are taking place.—Manuscript 33, 1897. {VSS 325.2}”

He plans to attend another Gathering with a friend soon.

First Person Attendee Reporting

Jules Johnson writing about the importance of ‘why’ and how our focus on the ‘how’ and ‘what,’ has contributed to the declining membership in the North American Division says,

“‘How and what are valid and important. This movement, the One project, isn’t an attempt to do away with them. Rather, it is an attempt to recenter the church and its members—a reminder of who the birthday party is for. It is a call to be people who live Jesus. As Eddie Hypolite said in Seattle, “People don’t listen to what we say, they listen to who we are.”’[iv]

A Gathering facilitator at The ONE Project, Caleb Henry writing about the careful training he received in order to facilitate the ‘Recalibrate’ sessions says,

“[F]acilitators were encouraged to change the conversation points away from conservative/liberal labelings, to a discussion of whether the person thought an issue was central or peripheral to their Christianity. There would still be different opinions, but it would be harder to label someone a “peripherist” or “too central” if they didn’t agree with you on a specific topic, and thought that topic less crucial. This philosophy enabled the discussions to be much more open, as people at my table spent much more time in discussion about a person’s background and opinion than in argument. At the end of the last One Project in Chicago a young woman remarked how much our table had seemed to grow into a “church family” who enjoyed talking even during the breaks when most people were walking around.”

Professional Publications

Marcos Torres, a pastor and writer, wrote in a well-publicized piece on Spectrum Magazine and on his own website, the impressions he and his co-writer had of the Gathering.:

“So what was the result of the One Project? Although we cannot speak for everyone we can say this: when we left the One Project we were more proud to be Adventists then when we arrived. The entire program was un-apologetically Adventist. One would not confuse the One Project gathering for a Baptist or non-denominational gathering. It was clearly an Adventist gathering – one that did not shy away from Adventist history, Adventist doctrines, or the writings of Ellen White. It was, in our humble opinion, “full-on Adventist.”

Nevertheless, there were certain elements that caused us to wonder and sympathize with the critics. At times the temptation to speculate, read between the lines, and take what we had heard to unfounded conclusions was there. Therefore, after the event we put our minds together and wrestled with some of these concepts. While we cannot say that we have had all of our questions answered the rest of this article represents the conclusions we have come to thus far.”[v]

Torres continued to think about the questions he still had outstanding and thought of writing a defense, an answer to the critics of The ONE Project. He wrote to ministry leaders and their replies floored him.  He announced that he was not going to defend The ONE Project anymore! His conclusion was “We should not be defending The ONE Project. It’s about Jesus.”[vi]

Highlighting an essay from a book released at one of the Gatherings, Chair of the Board of Adventist Today, Chuck Scriven wrote:

“In her essay One Project board member Lisa Clark Diller, from the history faculty of Southern Adventist University, writes that Adventists “stand in a tradition whose founding moment was a confession that Jesus was true and faithful,” even though the founders themselves “were broken and confused.”  This point, One Project leaders declare, is crucial for Adventism.  Taken seriously, it could inject honest humanity as well as driving hope into the story that shapes the church’s identity.”[vii]

Then managing editor of Spectrum Magazine, Jared Wright, wrote of GYC and The ONE Project, highlighting the ‘sectarian contrasts’ between the two ministries.

“While both GYC and The One Project emphasize Jesus-centric music and preaching stocked with references to Scripture and Ellen White’s writings, the two are a study in sectarian contrasts…

At one gathering, attendees can expect contemporary worship music with percussion and electric instruments led by hipster-types in casual dress, and at the other, hymns played on grand pianos led by clean-cut men and women in suits and dresses… One gathering emphasizes community, social justice, peacemaking, and Christian spirituality, and the other places its emphasis on soul-winning, truth, evangelism, and defending the faith.

Both are inevitable outgrowths of Adventism, and both the GYC’s brand of Adventist Christianity and The One Project’s brand of Adventist Christianity are vitally important to the future of the Seventh-day Adventist Church because there are wide swaths of the denomination who find meaning and refuge in both interpretations of Adventism.[viii]

On a conservative online magazine outlet, Advindicate, Janet L. Neumann writes of the ‘emergent truth rather than present truth that she heard at a Gathering,

“Instead of the Seventh-day Adventist “Present Truth” I expected from the One Project’s advertising, I heard an emergent truth:

  • a nebulous truth that focuses on “conversation” and “dialogue”
  • a disillusionment with an established church structure
  • a desire to deconstruct traditional worship
  • a “narrative” (scriptures) being interpreted by “current culture”
  • a diminishing of church evangelism, at times even mockery
  • an urgency to dip into other “streams” and “streams that flow both ways”
  • a searching beyond our own denomination

The underlying message was an erosion of the church rather than its affirmation, stating uncertainty, instigating mockery, negation of study, recalibration (implying the church is broken). Especially defamatory was De Oliviera’s description of God’s remnant church as a “fixed lifeless religion,” diminishing respect and planting disdain.”[ix]

Conservative Symposium speaker, the late Pastor Rick Howard critiquing an ecclesiology paper by one of the ministry’s founders, Pastor Alex Bryan, wrote:

“Rather, this reality speaks to each point: the Seventh-day Adventist church is one that believes that all of its doctrine is the very essence of Jesus; He is the defense of its doctrines; He is inherent in them all. Jesus cannot, in truth, be preached separate from the doctrines that define Him; conversely nor can the doctrines, in truth, be preached separate from Jesus.

The denial of this reality seems to undergird the premise of The One Project and ultimately diminishes the distinctive beliefs that are the natural outgrowth of those doctrines.”[x]

Retired Associate Director of the Ellen White Estate at the General Conference, Cindy Tutsch, speaking to some of the vitriol surrounding the ministry and responding the retired Editor of the Review, Pastor William Johnson’s own piece on the ONE Project, added some of her critiques of the things she ‘missed’ at the Gathering.

“Any positive references to:
*The three angels’ messages of Revelation 14
*The concept of a remnant raised up by Christ for a specific purpose in time
*Creation in seven literal contiguous 24 hour periods, an act of God which precedes predation.
*Ellen White’s book, The Great Controversy
*The pre-Advent judgment
*Public evangelism, such as the satellite series hosted by various well-known Adventist evangelists
*A Christ whose overwhelming grace inspires holiness in lifestyle and affects our choices in dress, food and drink, entertainment, and sexuality
*The prophetic portions of Daniel and Revelation

Even though for me there was more “missing” from the One project than what was a blessing, you have not heard or read of me vilifying it or advocating that it be banned from existence for what I see as serious omissions. Why? Because it is really important to me not to demonize or threaten those who may have convictions or emphasis different from my own. Jesus may be using some of those presenters’ words to reach people who I cannot.”

Pastor William Johnson, who spoke at the 2016 Gathering that I attended, wrote regarding the vicious personal attacks against the founders of the Ministry.

“…The false allegations made in this initial attack continue to circulate. In recent years, as conspiracy theories have taken root, the allegations have grown more strident, more extreme. The One project has been linked to Satan: I saw a graphic that portrays a serpent labeled “The One Project” swallowing the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Opponents have shouted out “You’re a witch!” to leaders as they drive away from gatherings.  In one city, two young men donned sackcloth and ashes and sat outside the venue of the TOP gathering.

It gets worse. Even the children of the organizers have been targeted and vilified on Facebook. That is despicable.

Could this be happening among Seventh-day Adventists? I am mad at such lies, such shameful behavior, and mad that no one is speaking out.

He continues by mentioning an investigation into The ONE Project Ministry by the Biblical Research Institute (BRI) at the General Conference. [Side note: I spoke with the founders regarding the investigation].

He goes on to talk about the impact of Independent ministries in the Church on this issue:

“There’s a sickness in my beloved church. We’ve permitted extreme views to take control, views that play on fear, that weave conspiracy scenarios around End-time events and unsettle the hearts of the saints, that are light-years away from the sane, thoughtful teachings about the End that we find in Scripture and in Ellen White’s writings. Some of these wild views circulate widely by means of books, websites, and DVDs prepared by independent ministries. Overall, I strongly support independent ministries but only so long as they do not make their living by preying on trusting members’ fears.”

Conclusion:

At the heart of many of the praises and critiques, there is expressed a deep concern for the vision, mission, message and direction of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

A Google search easily topped over a million results for The ONE Project with each link representing a unique view or a thought. That the impact of the Ministry is widespread speaks to the dedication of the many people along with the Board and the founders who volunteer their time at the Ministry.

Is it possible to have an honest conversation about our Church in our day and age? In the age of the quick soundbite and tweet, can we engage collectively in deep thought about the foundations of our faith and our role in this world? Can we ask the hard questions without sending someone metaphorically to hell for expressing a different view? Can we resolve theological conflicts without resorting to personal attacks online and off?

We have had many conversations in history: the aftermath of 1844, 1863, 1888, 1901, 1903, 1909, 1919, 1957, 1980, 2015… But I think there is one conversation that we all long to have. It’s the one with Jesus face to face. To hasten the day for that conversation is the aim of this series.

The Series Author: Adrian Zahid

Sources & Citations:

[i] Secrets Unsealed: Emerging Spirituality. Accessed March 7, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcSOIoFJTW0

[ii] The ONE Project Website: https://the1project.org/about/faq

[iii] Markovic, Johan. Emergent Church Seminar.

https://gycrapid.securelytransact.com/resources/item/928

[iv] Johnson, Jules, “Who’s afraid of ‘the One project’? Accessed March 7, 2017 on Spectrum Magazine. http://spectrummagazine.org/article/jules-johnson/2012/02/27/whos-afraid-one-project

[v] Tan, Nathaniel & Marcos Torres, “The ONE Project: Danger or a Blessing” Accessed March 7, 2017. http://www.pomopastor.com/2014/08/the-one-project-danger-or-blessing.html

[vi] Torres, Marcos, “Why I will No Longer Defend The ONE Project”. Accessed March 7, 2017. http://www.pomopastor.com/2016/09/why-i-will-no-longer-defend-one-project.html

[vii]Scriven, Chuck, “Jesus…full Stop…All…Full Stop”. Accessed March, 7, 2017. http://spectrummagazine.org/article/charles-scriven/2014/02/14/jesusfull-stopallfull-stop

[viii] Wright, Jared, “ONE Project VS GYC or ONE Project AND GYC”. Accessed March 7, 2017. http://spectrummagazine.org/article/2015/02/11/one-project-vs-gyc-or-one-project-and-gyc

[ix] Neumann, Janet L. “ONE Project: Emergent or Present Truth”. Accessed March 7, 2017. http://advindicate.com/articles/2014/3/4/one-project-present-or-emergent-truth

[x] Howard, Rick, “The ONE Project’s Ecclesiological Contribution Analyzed.” Accessed March 7, 2017. http://advindicate.com/articles/2015/5/11/the-one-projects-ecclesiological-contribution-analyzed

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.