Guest post: Former Adventist Survey done in 2011
Former Adventist Survey done in 2011
[This is a guest post by Sandy Snelling Whetmore]
During the summer of 2011, a closed Facebook group of former Adventists began thinking about the idea of a survey. New technology had allowed us to find others who had experienced similar journeys out of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and we had lots of questions for each other. We carried on long online discussions about our shared experiences, memories, doctrinal beliefs, and questions. Some of those threads went on for several days with new-found friends asking for clarification or objecting to statements they found inaccurate. The group was a source of encouragement, discovery, and acceptance.
Several of us also participated in other similar groups where some of the same topics kept coming up. At one point, some of us landed on the idea of compiling specific questions that we thought would be helpful to explore in a formal survey. We saw this questionnaire as an opportunity to discover what we as a group might have in common and find ways to support others. We began to list possible questions and collaborate on the wording.
The budding project coincided with the beginnings of my doctoral research. Since I’d determined that I would be using Survey Monkey to collect data for that study and had access to the service, I thought that some practice using the technology would be helpful. So I volunteered to head the project: keeping track of ideas, formatting the questions and responses, entering the text into the template, collecting the data, and writing a summary of the results.
One question that nearly everyone in the group wanted to include was the most basic one: why did you leave the Adventist church? Time after time, as new friends joined our online group we heard the same story, “I’m not mad at anybody: they’re just wrong.” We kept hearing from the church leadership that former members left because they were angry. But that just didn’t seem to be true of any of us. Consequently, we designed that question in such a way that participants were asked to choose “the primary reason I left.” And none of us were surprised that 86% of the 270 participants chose, “Doctrinal differences: disagreement over what the church teaches.” (8% reported, “I just didn’t care anymore,” and 6% did choose, “Hurt feelings/anger with another person or group.”)
We posted the link November 6, 2011, in several former Adventist Facebook groups and asked those who chose to support the project to share it with others who might be interested. Our survey included three sections: questions about membership, demographics, and doctrines—where we asked participants to rate their level of agreement with each of the 28 fundamental beliefs and comment as they wished. Those details were enlightening. We shared the results in a .pdf file with those who asked to see the findings.
When the Eight-Day Freedom project came to my attention, I was curious about what questions this team had asked participants and whether their findings were similar to those of our 2011 responses. As I answered some familiar questions, I noted many insightful new ones. Yet the basic conclusions of both surveys seem to be consistent.
I found an email address for Tom Arcaro and attached the summary of our research with a short explanation. After an interesting conversation, he asked me to share some of that background here. We’ve speculated that there will be some differences over the intervening 12 years. Much has happened in the world and much has happened in Adventism. But members continue to leave the Seventh-day Adventist church and many of us are looking forward to discovering what motivates them to brave the challenge.
If there are questions or responses to the post, I’ve been able to resurrect the old email address as a contact for those interested. (FormerAdventistSurvey@gmail.com)
Here is a pdf of the 256 page analysis and discussion of the data.