The Journey Home is a program on the independent Catholic network, EWTN, featuring stories of converts to Catholicism. It is hosted by Marcus Grodi, a former Presbyterian minister, who is the director of the Coming Home Network, an independent Catholic ministry to support converts, particularly clergy. I was one of the first CHN members; it grew out of an informal network of converts who had connections with the Franciscan University of Steubenville. I was never on the program, but Marcus invited me to expand an article I wrote for the newsletter for his book, Journeys Home.
She said her family was liberal, and thus they “were protected in our home from the more dark doctrines of Seventh-day Adventism.” Marcus Grodi is a very gracious and genial host, and that caused him to raise an eyebrow. She explained she was referring to Adventist teachings on the role of Catholicism in the last days.
She claimed Adventist teachings on eschatology came from the visions of Ellen White. In fact, they were derived from Scripture independently from Ellen White’s visions. They had been worked out by Joseph Bates before she had much influence.
Marcus said at one point, “It sounds like Adventists don’t look forward to the second coming.” “Right,” she responded. What? The key point of Adventism is in fact its joyful expectation of the second coming!
She said that Adventists don’t eat pork or shellfish because of Leviticus—and then added, as an additional point, that they also have a health message. That’s getting the cart before the horse. Adventists have a health message, and it is because of the health message that they see that the Levitical laws may have had a practical side to them (see the very good chapter on this point in Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine). Marcus suggested that this makes it sound as if Adventists pick and choose what they want from the Old Testament—take tithing, Sabbath, diet, but not the rest. Well, the New Testament does affirm that some of the Old Testament laws have relevance to Christians and some do not; all Christians acknowledge this, though they differ in identifying those things that remain relevant.
“It all comes down to Ellen White, the prophetess. They claim to be Biblical based … but they see it through the lens of Ellen White.” That wasn’t her position, but it has been a perspective adopted by some Adventists.
“Hiram Edson quote, had a vision.” He never claimed that. He had an insight, based on the Scriptures they had been studying.
Millerites weren’t Sabbatarian—that was “Ellen White’s slant.” No, she was one of those who came to see that the Sabbath was still binding from study of Scripture.
Adventists have an educational system that is “slanted to indoctrinate children into what they believe.” Can’t that be said about the Catholic educational system? Or the Lutheran? Isn’t that why any church establishes schools?
Marcus asked “Is it true you have to go to their universities?” “Yes,” she quickly replied. Perhaps she just didn’t hear the question. Adventists don’t have to go to Adventist schools at any level (though once upon a time Catholics had to go to Catholic schools). For some reason Marcus said, of Adventist colleges, “I don’t want to name them.” Why not?
“A lot of Adventists are just cultural Adventists. They haven’t really been out in the world to have any of what they believe challenged. They just accept it as true.” Few Adventists, if any, live in Adventist communities, and even those are challenged by non-Adventists and fellow Adventists.
What made her decide to leave? Ultimately, it seems to come down to this: “I saw some hypocrisy through the years.” Guess what? She’ll find it in Catholicism, too!
She said, “I got involved in the pro-life movement, and I was told I was a rebel, because the SDA church is, at is core, pro-choice.” She seems genuinely confused on this point (despite being head of Adventists for Life at one point), because she then says Adventists “are on the fence,” and even that “most Adventists are pro-life.” So which is it?
The core of her frustration seems to come from the fact that she was invited to be on a committee that drafted abortion guidelines for the church, and, under pressure from some institutions, the final document was wishy-washy. That says more about a church’s bureaucracy than its core commitments, I think. She said Adventist hospitals don’t have to follow the guidelines, and so do abortions. She may be surprised when she learns that Catholic hospitals and colleges don’t always follow Catholic guidelines, either. Still, I grieve with her regarding this experience, and that her passion and compassion for the unborn ran into the brick wall of denominational politics and institutional inertia.
She suggested that Adventists believe that as long as you go to church on Saturday, nothing else matters. I’ve never met Adventists who believed that.
Following her disillusionment resulting from her committee experience, she and her husband came to the conclusion, “This is just so wrong, we have to leave.” They started visiting other churches through her husband’s travels.
Looking back at Adventism, she expresses surprise that Adventists see the church as quickly falling into apostasy. “Somehow in that one generation they got it all messed up.” It wasn’t just one generation, but Paul saw the spirit of antichrist at work in his day, and confronted many false teachers.
She said Adventists are Trinitarian. Marcus responded that the “Trinity isn’t Biblical,” and wondered what they based it on. Marcus must have misspoken. Surely he was taught the Biblical basis for the Trinity as a Presbyterian!
She muddled things a bit when she said Adventists teach that Michael the archangel is Jesus, comparing Adventists to Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Big difference. These latter denominations believe that Jesus had a beginning, and thus is not eternal. Adventists understand that angel comes from the word for messenger, and that it is the eternally preexistent Son of God who is the commander of the heavenly hosts. Again, see QOD.
At one point Marcus said he had a former guest on the program who was an Adventist, became a Catholic, and eventually went back. I wasn’t on the program (but was in the book), but it seemed pretty clear he was alluding to me. He was gracious about it. He suggested I was “Discouraged by what he found in the church.” “He saw all the flaws in Adventism.” Why did I go back? He thinks it had more to do with fellowship, and the pull of friends and family still mourning for me. Certainly those things were all pulls, though there were doctrinal issues as well. But I thank Marcus for his continued graciousness and kindness.