The Seventh-day Adventist world church leadership suspended the release of its highly anticipated dramatic web series, "The Record Keeper."
The announcement came Friday afternoon via the world church's news service, Adventist News Network.
Here are a few questions you may be asking yourself and our attempt to answer them:
What was "The Record Keeper"?
"The Record Keeper" was an upcoming 11-part dramatic series based on the "The Great Controversy" by Ellen G. White.
The series followed the struggle of two angels caught in heaven's civil war. The series also followed the story of another angel tasked with keeping a record of events, while not trying to get involved.
The show's look was steampunk-based. Steampunk is a bit of an aesthetic style —a futuristic science fiction version of the Victorian Era.
The series won some awards and has been screened at a few places in the United States, but hasn't been officially released. The release date had been pushed back several times.
Who was making "The Record Keeper"?
"The Record Keeper" was a project by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. It was both commissioned and sponsored by the General Conference, according to Spectrum Magazine.
The series was written by Jason Satterlund, Garrett Caldwell, and Rajeev Sigamoney. They also served as producers for the show, with Satterlund directing.
Jason Satterlund is an Adventist filmmaker with Big Puddle Films. Garrett Caldwell is the public relations director for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Rajeev Sigamoney is an Assistant Professor of Film and Television Production at Pacific Union College.
Wait, wasn't the show saved by an online petition?
A few months ago, "The Record Keeper" was believed to be at risk of being shut down. However, Adventist college students began an online campaign to "Save The Record Keeper."
Williams Costa, Jr., the communications director for the General Conference, subsequently assured fans on "The Record Keeper" Facebook page.
"The General Conference is not considering stepping away from The Record Keeper project," Costa wrote. "The challenges that we currently face have less to do with production than with marketing – what should be the release strategy for a product designed with a specific demographic in mind."
Why was it cancelled?
Initially, it would seem the project had been at risk because leaders couldn't figure out how to market the series, as Williams Costa, Jr. said.
However, the current reason given for it's suspension is more along the lines of leaders' expectations and Biblical truth.
The Adventist Church says that the Biblical Research Institute did an analysis of the series and found some "problematic and theologically inaccurate matters."
The Biblical Research Institute says "The Record Keeper" misrepresented Biblical truths, according to Adventist News Network.
The Church hasn't released the Biblical Research Institute's analysis of the series.
Update (4/18/14): Adventist News Network has updated its article to include a link to the Biblical Research Institute's list of objections. You can read it here.
"Church leaders were looking for a much stronger portrayal of the love of God, the creation of a perfect world, the Plan of Salvation and the final renewal of heaven and earth as recorded in the Bible," ANN reported.
However, the series had been "vetted through many committees and [had been] approved for production," according to Dave Gemmell, Associate Director of the NAD Ministerial Department.
How did the General Conference —with such heavy involvement— not notice any of these "problematic and theologically inaccurate matters" sooner?
Questions remain about why these issues weren't resolved at the writing stage rather than just before being released.
Why does this matter?
Here's why the suspension of "The Record Keeper" is so important.
For a while now, many young, creative Adventists —particularly in the North American Division— have felt that their Church didn't care too much about creative visual mediums such film and television.
Media ministries based in North America such as Amazing Facts (independent), 3ABN (independent), and Hope Channel (church-owned) are largely perceived to be targeted to an older generation. Additionally, the Adventist Church's media center in California was recently closed down.
Many young, creative professionals are often disappointed by the quality of work put out by the Adventist Church in North America.
When Adventist students in North America graduate from college with degrees in film, animation, graphic design, or other visual fields, the last place many of these students dream of working is in the church.
This is because many of them —whether right or wrong— perceive their church to be outdated or unsupportive in these areas. Not very encouraging for someone wanting to make great work.
"The Record Keeper" changed many of these students' minds. This series provided a tiny glimpse of hope that their Church was willing to invest in a medium and format that is relevant to our generation.
For a moment, "The Record Keeper" cast doubt on the idea that nothing "cool" comes from the Church. For a moment, "The Record Keeper" showed students that the Adventist Church was willing to try new things.
Here's the main problem:
For many, the trust is gone.
Suspending the series, rather than fixing and releasing it, further cements the idea in many young Adventists that working for the Church isn't worth it. That if they work for the Church, there's a good chance all their hard work will be for nothing or that their ideas won't encouraged.
This is sad.
The Church needs young people not just for their skills or intuition, but because a Church without young people leading out is a dead Church.
Sorry, the article looked too long, so I skipped to the bottom. What's the short version?
The Adventist Church made a highly anticipated series based on The Great Controversy. However, the series won't be released anymore.
Many people are bummed out about it. The General Conference's reputation among young creative Adventists took a hit.
Wow, bummer. This is really negative.
Hmmm, you're right. Let's try thinking positively... let's see... um...
- The General Conference could sponsor another cool project and try all over again
- There's always the chance that the show could have been received poorly or "cheesy" among non-Adventists and its a good thing it wasn't released (even though it was really popular among Adventists).
- At least the South American Division is consistently coming out with cool stuff. We could learn from them —scratch that— we NEED to learn from them.
- I believe God is ultimately in control. I KNOW He will guide you and me and the world church leadership —even if we can't see it from our current point of view.
More articles about The Record Keeper:
- The 13 theological problems with "The Record Keeper" by the Biblical Research Institute
- Exclusive: "The Record Keeper" director talks about why the series was cancelled
- The Record Keeper's release suspended by Adventist Church leadership
- "The Record Keeper" will continue, announces General Conference
- Coming Soon: Adventist Church's steampunk miniseries to begin production this Monday