Saturday, December 17, 2011

Former Adventist Survey Summary

Former Adventist Survey Summary 
November 2011 
By Sandy Snelling Whetmore

Summary of Results
Over two hundred former Adventists participated in an anonymous online survey. Respondents were amazingly honest, open, and clear about their opinions and experiences.

Characteristics of the Respondents:

More than two thirds (68%) of those who took the survey had been members of the Seventh-day Adventist church for over twenty years. This would seem to imply that their knowledge of the doctrines, culture, and organizational system was quite extensive.

“The primary reason I left the Adventist church,” according to an overwhelming 86% of the respondents, was, “Doctrinal differences: disagreement over what the church teaches.” A smaller group (5.5%) reported leaving over, “Hurt feelings/anger with another person or group.” The remaining respondents (8%) said they, “Just didn‟t care anymore.”

Female respondents (56%) outnumbered males (44%). Over 80% were between the ages of 30 and 60 years of age. Most (71%) were married. There did not appear to be any clear political affiliation or conviction which included a predominant group, although 41% described themselves as “conservatives.”

Most participants (83%) were former members of the North American Division, while 6% were from the Southern Asia-Pacific Division and 9% from the South Pacific Division. However, several were not sure in which division they reside (see comments to Question #25).

Participants reported that 74% of them became members of the church when they were 13 years old or younger. Only 13% joined the church when they were older than twenty.

Probably related to the age at which they joined the church, 46% reported that, “I was too young to really make an informed decision about church membership.” Another 15% agreed that, “I probably didn‟t really understand all the aspects of becoming a Seventh-day Adventist when I joined the church.” Also, 22% said, “At the time, I thought I understood the doctrines, but it turned out there was a lot more to it that nobody told me about until after I joined the church.”

Because they were only able to choose one of the offered Adventist education options, there was some confusion over how best to respond to this question. However, it is interesting to note that only 12% of those answering the question had never attended an SDA school of any kind.

The educational level of the group of respondents was clearly above average: over 87% had attended college. Participants included 25% with a bachelors degree, 14% with a masters degree, and 6.5% with a doctoral degree.

Most of the respondents left the church as adults: 26% in their twenties, 24% in their thirties, and 24% in their forties.

Only 10% reported that one of their parents had been a member, but was now a former Adventist. Some of the respondents said that their parents were paid employees of the SDA church (15%), a pastor (8%), or a teacher (9%).

Asked about their level of participation in their local church six to twelve months prior to leaving, over half (52%) reported they, “Attended church regularly,” and 40% said they, “Regularly paid tithes or made other financial contributions.” This should be balanced with the report that 20%, “Rarely attended church,” and 11%, “Rarely contributed any financial gifts.”

Participants included a group of 30% who, “Were involved in a leadership position,” in their local church, some (4.3%) who, “Were involved in a leadership position,” in their conference or union, and others (7%) who were church employees when they left the church.

71% of those taking the survey said their decision to leave the Adventist church was influenced by intensive Bible study. Other influencing factors included, “Online information site or blog,” (42%), “A book I read (besides the Bible),” (33%), “A conversation with a friend or family member,” (32%), and “Studying with others,” (26%).

Over half (52.5%) confirmed that their name is still included on the books as a member of the Seventh-day Adventist church. Respondents‟ comments indicated frustration with trying to have their name removed and a reported great reluctance by the church to remove names from membership lists (see comments under question #9).

A few respondents (6%) reported that, “The church voted me out as part of „cleaning up our records,‟ and I was fine with that.” 53% just stopped attending. However, 35% wrote a letter asking for their membership to be removed.

Over 61% said that when they left the church their family and friends, “Were fearful for my salvation.” Other reactions included: “They tried to get me to change my mind,” (45%), “They felt betrayed,” (29%), “They really didn‟t care,” (28%), “They were shocked,” (28%), “They were embarrassed,” (23%) and “They „shunned‟ me,” (24%).

Many of the participants describe their “current religious beliefs” as “active Christian” (68%.) The largest portion of those attend, “A nondenominational Christian church,” (30%.) There did not seem to be any one religious organization which included more than 5% of the respondents. Another 45% reported they currently attend, “No church.” Seven per cent described themselves as atheists and 12% as agnostics.

Former Adventists appear evenly divided on their views regarding church membership. 40% “Do not believe being a member of a local congregation or denomination is necessary.” 27% are currently members of a church. 23% “Do not want to be a member of any church ever again.” 23% “Have not yet found a church where I wish to become a member.”

When reporting on their level of participation in the church they currently attend, only 40% say they, “Attend church regularly.” Another 43% attend church rarely or not at all.

Respondents described their initial emotions related to leaving the Adventist church in many ways: “Relief” (71%), “Joy” (41%), “Sadness” (40%), “Frustration” (25), “Anger” (22%), “Guilt” (20%), and “Fear” (20%).

However, participants described their current emotions related to not being associated with the Adventist church as: “Relief” (70%), “Joy” (63%), “Sadness” (14%), “Frustration” (7%), “Anger” (4%) “Fear” (3%), and “Guilt” (3%).

Comment Sections
The question which generated the most comments, #57, was about jewelry and adornment. 161 respondents expressed an opinion. Most of those comments, though, were statements that the topic was irrelevant. Many people took time to mention that, “The Bible says nothing that leads me to believe that there is anything wrong with wearing jewelry or adornment.”

The other three questions which generated a large number of comments were #59, “Music in church,” (156 comments); #63 “The role and writings of Ellen White,” (157 comments); and #65, “What to consider when choosing a church,” (153 comments).

Comments under the question about, “Cultural inclusiveness in church,” reflected views including apathy, general frustration with a lack of acceptance for those with different political views or sexual orientation, and disgust over separate conferences for racial groups.

Doctrinal Disagreement
The doctrines with which former Adventists disagreed the most were: 
#45 “The gift of prophecy:” 80% strongly disagreed.
#51 “The investigative judgment:” 75% strongly disagreed. 

#47 “The Sabbath:” 68% strongly disagreed.
#40 “The remnant and its mission:” 67% strongly disagreed.
#46 “The law of God:” 61% strongly disagreed.
#27 “Overall fundamental beliefs:” 59% strongly disagreed.
#56 “Concluding
doctrinal statement: fundamental beliefs:” 59% strongly disagreed. 
#35 “The great controversy:” 55% strongly disagreed.

Note: Comments provided by respondents have not been included in this summary. You may view those in a similar document entitled, “Full Report.”