OUT OF ADVENTISM: A Theologian’s Journey. By Jerry Gladson. Foreword by Edwin Zachrison. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2017. Xx + 306 pages.
People’s experiences of religion are not monolithic. For some participation in a religious community can be very positive and life affirming. They can also be destructive spiritually, emotionally, and physically. For some a particular community can be supportive, while that same community can be spiritually abusive to others. In other words, we need to take seriously the testimony of those who have been abused, while recognizing that not everyone in a particular community has had the same experience.
This book is the testimony, the story, of a person who was deeply involved in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Jerry Gladson was a theological educator, an Old Testament scholar and theologian, who taught at one of the Adventist’s colleges. He was an ordained minister as well. At one point, early in his career, he was a rising star, but in time he ran afoul of the leadership, some of whom he had counted as friends, and of the church’s theology. After several decades of service, Gladson was forced out of the church, but not before his own family suffered from exclusion and abuse. Among the casualties was his marriage and the faith of his children. Why did he run afoul of the church’s leadership? In part it had to do with structures that sought to control the lives of its people to such an extent that freedom to think and challenge authority was not allowed. The boundaries in which one could live were narrowly defined. When you colored outside the lines, you became a problem to either be corrected or evicted. When Gladson proved not to be correctable, he was evicted.