GYC Studies 2013 Report

It’s easy to think of social justice–otherwise termed social mercy and Christian service this past weekend–as simply a convenient, warm fuzzy-dispensing app or add-on to the OS of the Christian life.

But service is paradigmatic.  It is, arguably, the OS. Service is the mindset with which Christians are duty-bound to interact with this spiritually and physically suffering world. Demonstrating love and mercy for those around us by not only preaching the gospel but acting out the gospel is the way that we show that we love God. While we are not saved by works, we are saved for a life of good works.

Studies 1

“Let Your Heart Be Broken” was the weekend’s theme song.

GYC’s commitment to service has been encapsulated in its “Spirit of GYC” for years: “An enthusiasm for service through care for the needy, service to the community, promotion of human rights, and stewardship of the environment.”  The theme, too, was a natural segue from Pastor Kameron DeVasher’s appeal to be active in service in one of his evening messages at GYC 2011.

The event, held February 1-3 at Camp Au Sable in Grayling, MI, attracted a small group of young adults committed to studying this all-important dimension of Biblical Christianity.  The weekend began with a presentation on hermeneutics by Pastor Justin Kim, and continued on to a symposium featuring short presentations on theological, historical, and practical aspects of the topic, and concluded with Pastor DeVasher’s messages on the example of Christ and exigency of Adventists being concerned with social justice.

Attendees themselves were able to engage in studying social justice by submitting book reviews, Bible-based reflections, and artistic pieces prior to the conference. They also gathered for small-group studies on passages of Scripture relevant to the theme on Sabbath morning.

An attendee poses a question at the FAQ session following the short presentation symposium on Sabbath afternoon.

An attendee poses a question at the Q&A session on Sabbath afternoon.

On Saturday night, Michigan-based Adventist missions/athletic organization, Team Revolution, ran a collection drive for various Adventist outreach organizations, raising over $1,000 and collecting several boxes of clothing and other supplies. This effort gave attendees an opportunity to immediately practice the principles of service. (You can read Team Revolution Event Coordinator Judy’s report on the collection drive here!)

One major, albeit unintended, focus of the weekend was the connection between social justice and character.  Several presenters’ conclusions converged on the character-shaping value of sacrificing oneself through acts of service.  For Adventists, the reality of the pre-advent judgment assigns character development vis-à-vis service an even greater value, as noted by symposium presenter Amy Sheppard. The imbrication of presenters’ conclusions, moreover, demonstrates the beauty and resulting unity of studying the Bible from a shared hermeneutical perspective.

The weekend's presenters included Israel Ramos, Justin Kim, Amy Sheppard, and Valmy Karemera (L-R).

The weekend’s presenters included Israel Ramos, Justin Kim, Valmy Karemera, and Amy Sheppard (L-R).

The aim of GYC Studies is to lead Adventist young adults to critically examine and redefine issues and topics through the uniquely Adventist sola-tota-prima scriptura hermeneutic.  This initial gathering marks a groundbreaking effort by young people, and continues the spirit of GYC itself as a Bible-based movement.

As GYC co-founder Israel Ramos once noted, “You are making history…You see, it has been thought to be impossible that young people in North America would gather together to study the word of God like we have done today…But we have made history.”  When young people continue to study the Bible, that history continues to be made.

Audio recordings from the conference will be available shortly in the Resources section of the GYC website.

  • The danger in talking about social justice is – if you aren’t blatantly for it you are branded as against justice. That is the power of the position.

    There has not been enough critical reflection on it. Some sure pursuing it in a way that promotes a utopian collectivism. This we should carefully avoid.

    The term itself is not Biblical, although justice is very much a Biblical term. In fact, in political usage, social justice kills off God and elevates the role of the state. Thus it easily becomes tied to diminished God and acceleration of state power.

    My central concern with modern utopian paganism is that you radically redefine yourself / you are divine- and if you are divine then you have up be just. Thus it becomes a moral imperative to promote social justice.

    Now, justice is something we should be about individually. Micah 6:8 for instance.
    But we are now in an age when some are undercutting the gospel while promoting justices: wealth justice – forced state redistribution, reproductive justice – supporting abortion, racial justice – the promotion of affirmative action, gender justice – the abolition of creational male/female roles, sexual justice – the celebration of homosexuality and all other gender variants (eight of them), environmental justice – the mindless promotion of greenpeace causes. None of this is the justice of the Bible. We must resist the temptation to become Seventh-day Activists.

    Biblical justice is s lot less “sexy” that what we hear today. It quite often manifests itself as ministering to the Poor in spirit, and the people of God oppressed by their enemies.
    I have to be painfully honest here. God does not look favorably on all the poor.
    Not the lazy poor.
    Not the disobedient poor.
    Only the humble poor.

    So I applaud my friends in Michigan for taking an honest look at this popular subject. It is my prayer that the Lord will help us navigate as a church around the:

    1- logical fallacies
    2- divergent historical positions
    3- vague definitions.

    -Activist fallacy. Something must be done. This is something .
    -Inactivist fallacy- the church should do nothing.

    Neither of these should satisfy us.

    God’s command on every life is that you love God and your neighbor. The Great commission and great commandment connect on this outworking of love. It is my belief that Activist fallacies have not wrestled with the great commission. There is no record in Scripture of making disciples through social service projects or activism.
    Those who succeed in this world have thought mostly about the next. We seek a city who’s Designer and builder is God. The New Jerusalem will perfectly reflect justice.

    Thanks for being willing to discuss this important topic.


  • Great Michel for that wonderful report. It is heartening that the Adventist Church is taking steps to get our young people interested in Social Justice.
    You mentioned that the OS God ordained for us meant service. Very well put. I just want to add an extra dimension to it. When Jesus came to serve humanity – he became like us. He also asked us to do likewise. Just doing a collection drive, talking about this under unjust systems or distracting ourselves a bit for ‘them’ unfortunately will not do. God is looking for our Youth to get out of there comfort zone and get into the ‘zone’ where the victims of the unjust system live. Hope some of the youth in the conference understood that and will do the same.

    What Gerry Wangoner the previous commenter is sharing is very much a ‘popular view’ in the US very rarely shared by other Adventists around the world. In fact most of us actively advocate with the State to understand that it is its responsibility to feed the poor. With 50% of our children malnourished in my country (India) – I cannot wish that ordinary citizens (christians or non-christians) would lead a helping hand – it then becomes the responsibility of the State to take it up.
    Gerry, my brother – When a person is hungry or broken – one does not ask if he is humble or lazy – one just ensures he gets food and support. I think this is what has been done by Christ, has been ordained by Christ when he said us to love our neighbor and this is what has been done by the missionaries who converted by grand parents!

    Regards SP