Dear Brother and Sister:
asked me to reply to your letter of December 1996 in which you expressed
concern over violence that erupted toward two men, Livingstone Kul and Jonathan Gray, in Papua New Guinea, and you expressed the hope that some disciplinary
action might be taken toward the church officials.
I had not heard of the
incident until I read your letter, so I made contact with the South Pacific
Division officers in Australia to discover what took place. They had not heard
either. Isnít it strange how stories circulate the globe, and create criticism
and anger, while the people where the incidents are said to have happened
sometimes know nothing of it.
In this case, there is some
truth to the report, and some error. We now have a report from our leaders in Papua New Guinea. It appears that the trouble began when a group of
disloyal independent Adventists held a camp meeting in a province of Papua New Guinea, and, without any authority from the Church, ordained
two of their number to the gospel ministry. This was done by a man from the
African country of Zimbabwe who has no authority to ordain. These independents
had built their church alongside the Adventist church, and then proceeded to
brand the Adventist church as ďBabylon,Ē and the leaders of our Church as corrupt.
It is true that a fight broke
out and two men, Jonathan Gray and Livingston Kul
were beaten. But it was not the officials of the Church who did this. It was
ex-Adventists who beat these two men. You see, in Papua New Guinea, most of the people are uneducated, superstitious
village people, not far removed from heathenism. In their culture, if someone
accuses another to the point where it is hurtful, he gets a beating for it.
Our church leaders have
encouraged our Church members to leave off these old customs, and to ignore the
taunts of the independent group. And apparently our members have accepted the
counsel. But the ex-Adventists were not inclined to let it go unpunished. These
former Adventists were very jealous for the Church to which they used to
belong. They are not prepared to hear it criticized and abused the way the
independents do it, so it was they, the ex-Adventists, who dealt out what they
consider to be just punishment. In fact, they went even further and burnt down
the church which the independents had built.
We do not condone such
conduct, nor do the Papua New Guinea Union officers. But we have no authority
to discipline ex-Adventists. Now that you have a clearer picture of what
happened, Iím sure you will understand some of the difficulties our leaders
face in trying to shepherd the Church along the pathway of life.
Our prayers ascend with yours
for peace and progress in the work of God.
Your friend in Christ,
Athal H Tolhurst