“Where did you grow up?” implored Laura Alipoon in a rhetorical response to a severe criticism she had heard about Adventism’s “exclusiveness.” Although she did not make this question the centerpiece of her presentation, it made two important points. These are that (1) Adventism is diverse and that (2) we all have tendency to think that the form of it that we know best is the only one there is.
This is not true. A lifelong Seventh-day Adventist, Alipoon grew up in Southern California where she still lives. This has made a difference, a positive one in my view.
Alipoon asked this question and did many other things in her July 1 Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School (RBLSS) commentary on Chapter 2 in Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio by William G. Johnsson. She is the Chair of the Department of Radiation Technology in the Loma Linda University School of Allied Health Professions in which there are fourteen undergraduate and graduate programs. An Australian from Adelaide, Johnsson was editor of the Adventist Review for many years. Before that he served at Spicer Adventist University and Andrews University. RBLSS meets in Loma Linda, California.
The title of this Chapter is “The Chosen: Exclusive or Inclusive?” After fully summarizing it, Alipoon described some of her experiences as an Elder in a congregation to which she previously belonged and in her travels and professional interactions with Adventists and others. These experiences were diverse!
Describing it as a “microcosm” of global Adventism, she highlighted the diversity of Loma Linda University. Sixty-one percent of its students are from groups that are minorities in the United States. Forty percent of them are women. They come from ninety different nations and sixty different faiths. In addition to English, they speak sixty-nine different languages. Despite these differences, or perhaps because of them, LLU typically makes good on its attempts “To Make Man Whole” and “To continuing the healing and teaching ministry of Jesus.”
Challenging the idea that Southern California Adventism is “liberal,” she described it as “diverse.” On this, as in other matters, she was precisely right. Some of Adventism’s least traditional members are active in the area around Loma Linda University; however, so are some of its most. These theological differences are eclipsed by the region’s racially and culturally diverse congregations which serve a steady stream of newcomers from all parts of the world.
A recent Pew Foundation’s report confirms Alipoon’s description. With 1/3 white, 1/3 black and 1/3 other, Adventism is the most racially diverse Christian denomination in the United States. I think that this is partly because end-time intensity makes current differences seem less important.
She was not shy about the shortcomings of LLU and Adventism in matters of diversity. Her summation was that “LLU is ahead of most other Seventh-day Adventist institutions but behind society in general.” Her recommendation was that we not complain but change. “What is LLU? What is Adventism? I am! You are!”
Among other things, the discussion subsequent to her presentation focused upon the relationship between LLU and the denomination as we move into the future, particularly as the differences among some Adventists around the world are becoming more pronounced and less charitable.
RBLSS is grateful to Adventist Forum for making Doctor Alipoon’s discussion available to a wider audience. It also expresses gratitude to Alan Alipoon for making the video.
WATCH: Laura Alipoon on Chapter 2 in "Where Are We Headed?" by William G. Johnsson
Dr. David Larson is Professor of Religion at Loma Linda University.
Image Credit: Video Still
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