An interview with Kurtley Knight – part 1

Just this past Spring, Pastor Kurtley Knight resigned his pastoral position for doctrinal reasons. We pray that Adventist pastors at the crossroads are encouraged by his story of stepping out on faith to follow Christ and share the Gospel.  This is Part 1. Read Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

Tell us about your background in Adventism.

I was born and raised in the [Adventist] church. While my upbringing wasn’t the strictest Adventist upbringing, it was still fairly disciplined (as my parents came from a Caribbean background) in regards to church. Growing up I hardly ever missed going to church on Sabbath. If we didn’t, we “observed” it at home with no TV, games, or anything like that. We had family worship most evenings.

After my parents divorced in 1989, my mother moved my two brothers and I down to Huntsville, AL. She wanted us to get a good Adventist upbringing at Oakwood University (then College). I attended Oakwood Academy in high school and the university for my collegiate years. It was during those 15+ years that I truly got sucked into the Adventist bubble where everything revolved around being Adventists (friendships, activities, education, etc.).

When did you start to question the doctrines? What were some of your first questions?

Interestingly enough, my first questions arose in my theology classes at Oakwood. Two professors in particular were notorious for their “Christ-centered” approach to the Scriptures. In taking their classes, I discovered their reputations were well-deserved. In class they emphasized Jesus like I had never heard before or since from an Adventist pastor/teacher.

Their perspective on the centrality of Jesus was refreshing. Their hatred for Adventist proof-texting was enlightening. To their credit, they really opened my eyes to the centrality of Jesus.

Still, in my mind there remained a sort of disconnect. If I’m truly saved by grace through faith why then must I keep the Law to be saved? Specifically, why is the Sabbath so important if salvation is found in Jesus alone? Furthermore, if salvation is by grace through faith then why is the ethos of our culture driven by works?

 

This last question really bothered me for some time. I correctly reasoned that if Adventist doctrines were centered in Jesus and grace then the latter should be evident in Adventist culture. By that I mean, the ethos of the culture should be one of grace. Looking around however that’s not what I saw or heard. All I saw were people desperately “trying harder” but to no avail. I witnessed and experienced the burden of guilt. The emphasis was always on what one has to do and the precious Sabbath that must be hallowed. How can we be about grace if our repeated focus is always on works? Calling this a contradiction is being kind.

So for me it started as a theological or doctrinal question about law and grace but went much deeper. The “smoke” for me was the ethos of the culture. The smoke of legalism betrayed that indeed there was fire. God used this emphasis to propel me on my 8-9 year journey out of Adventism.

Did you ever browse any of the ex-SDA websites?

I remember seeing some of the websites back in the late 2000’s (perhaps as late as 2008). The only one I vividly remember visiting was Ex-Adventist outreach. By that time, I had placed my theological questions on a shelf and had accessed the site by accident. I just didn’t understand why a site was necessary in the first place. It just seemed strange. Ex-Adventist Outreach? For what?

Although I was not a conservative hardliner I still believed in the Sabbath. Who would leave that?

I don’t remember the other sites I visited back then but there were a few. In reading former Adventist comments I thought the people were angry, bitter, and vengeful. Not really because they wrote angry things but because that was the presupposition I had in my head. People that leave Adventism only left because they were hurt not because of doctrine, I thought. Therefore, they are angry, bitter, and vengeful people. This was what I was told. Now that I’m on the other side I see this for what it truly is—another lie.

What was the catalyst that compelled you to quit your pastoral job?

For the answer to this and other questions read Part 2.

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What questions do you have for Kurtley? Ask him in the comments.

 

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32 thoughts on “An interview with Kurtley Knight – part 1

  1. Kurtley, I’ve known you for a long time, and I am very interested in hearing the rest of your story. God lead you as you continue on your path for truth.

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  2. Hey brotha, I can see what you’re saying in regards to our over emphasis on the law but don’t you think the new generation of pastors has a responsibility to fix that? And do you really believe there is no law in regards to our relationship with Jesus? Why does it have to be either or? Why not both and? I grew up in the Adventist church/schools and I don’t feel I’m being saved by the law. Every law that I keep only adds to my relationship with Jesus. Tithe, Sabbath, Health, Honor Parents, Worship, no adultery, etc. I’m not being saved by them I’m being strengthened. Breaking the law is what caused me to need Grace, now that I have Grace I’m not deliberately going to break the same law that got me in this mess. But even if I do…Grace covers! So I’m always at peace and never in fear because I AM SAVED! And I am in Love!

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    • Joshua,

      Thank you for the testimony of your experience. I can hear your sincerity and I deeply appreciate it.

      I wanted to address the major question you asked in your comment. Namely, why isn’t the Law a strengthening of our relationship in Jesus. You ask, “Why not both and? Great question.

      I would encourage you to prayerfully read Romans chapters 7 through 8:3. Paul gives the answer here. Blessings

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      • Thank you man for your response. I always and still do have a lot of respect for you since our times together at the Oaks. Praying as you are on this journey. I do see it differently from my reading of the text. I see a distinction made between Law of God vs. Law of Sin. I’m going to re-study and continue to seek His will. Blessings.

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      • Joshua,
        I would suggest reading all of Romans to get an understanding of being saved by grace and to see what Paul says about the law.

        2 Peter 3:15-16 NIV says, Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

        Romans chapter 2 and 3 has some great insight about the law.

        Romans 2:13 states, For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

        Roman 3:28-31 says, For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

        Romans also mentions the we should be careful in passing judgement on others, whether it be individuals or a entire denomination.

        Romans 2:1 NIV states, You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

        I just suggest that you read the entire book so that you get a full understanding of what Paul is writing in Roman. Pray and ask God for insight and wisdom as you study His word.

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  3. Brother Kurtley, I applaud your journey and courage. This may be answered later, but now what? Where do you now go? What are your plans to further and deepen your experience?

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  4. Well , I wish you all the best in your journey for truth. I am still a Seventh-day Adventist Christian and in my journey in this faith and my exposure to other faiths I have seen time and time again that people just do whatever they want to do and say whatever they want to say when it suits them. From the pastor all the way down to the newest member of the church. It is difficult for me to see the point in leaving if those outside of my faith do the same thing. I was having a conversation two weeks ago about us many of us focusing on the negatives of our faith but well that may be to long for this so I will leave that alone… For me, if I did leave I would have to leave the God concept completely, because nothing else I have witnessed personally makes any sense to me. I could be wrong but those are my thoughts

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  5. Hello! I grew up in the Adventist church as well. Grew up in Zimbabwean culture (very much like Caribbean culture). Parents were divorced at age twelve. Attended Oakwood. The whole nine. before I continue I would like to add that I have been so far away from Adventism at certain points in my life and my faith and belief in Jesus Christ and the Gospel are what brought me back to Adventist. Through my experiences, I realized that the Bible is a love story. From front cover to back. The Law is in place not to save me but to show me just how much God loves me. Abiding by these laws enriches and strengthens my relationship with Him. While yes the Adventist church leans more on the side of legalism, the standards upon which it was founded are in my opinion beautiful and pure. I applaud your search and will keep you in my prayers as God leads you back to Jesus.

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  6. I have always appreciated your journey and thoughtful steps. I knew from the frequent meditative trips to Still Waters that a traditional Adventist pastor was not where you were headed. I would like to chat when time permits. Blessings and continued discernment.

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  7. So you left the church because there are people not living as they should. How is that doctrinal error? The scriptures do not tell us to be legalistic but some people are that way. We are under grace but having Jesus in us reproducing His character will result in “WORKS”. I agree that there are many who focus on works and judge themselves and others according to them but that is not what Adventism teaches. Several people try very hard to be Christian which results most times in failure and guilt. But that also is not one of the Adventist teachings. Maybe what God was showing you was your failure as a pastor. And the failures of many before you . To believe that God has revealed to you the truth for your own benefit is folly. What of the members you claim to be so connected to? What of the beloved of God that you leave behind instead of guiding in the correct direction? Many examples in the scriptures show God leading His people into the fire, into the heathen lands to make a difference. He does not wish us to avoid the fire. But to become fireproof. Which of the teachings go against scriptures?

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    • Ton… my name is TON also and I have been reading both articles and have been saying to myself the EXACT SAME THINGS you just stated to Brother/Brotha Kurtley Knight. I was coming here to convey almost word for word the very thing you have just conveyed to him. I have not read one iota or mention of “Adventist Doctrine” that this Brother/Brotha Kurtley Knight has found to be Scripturally unfounded. All the way to the End(Revelations)… GOD’S people are referred to as those who Keep HIS Commandments. GOD ONLY wrote 10 with HIS FINGER. I suspect that Brotha/Brother Kurtley Knight does not have an issue with Commandments 5 thru 10. For certain as they apply in respect to being shown towards him. No One on this Earth can Argue with Commandments 5 thru 10. ALL Religions(even Satanist and Atheist)claim to live according to these principles. What I am then left to assume is that this Brotha/Brother Kurtley Knight is struggling with the first 4 Commandments and not just the 4th. He would venture to say that he has begun romancing the ideas and notions of praising, worshiping, or just paying homage to other gods all together. This is usually the TRUTH of any one that claims to leave the Adventist Church for what ever reason. The Adventist Church has the Whole TRUTH. Individual members and Pastors may not… but the “Adventist Doctrine” is wholly scriptural. The 4th Commandment is the only Commandment uttered in Genesis at creation and it dumbfounds Me that it is the only Commandment that people openly debate. JESUS CHRIST kept and attended or held Synagogue(Church Service)on Saturday/SABBATH… and so did every other Apostle, Disciple, and Biblical GOD Believer/CHRIST follower. If CHRIST were here on Earth now going around what day of the week would he be keeping as SABBATH or attending or holding Church Services and if you were following him around too then on what day would you be following him into Service? Brotha/Brother Kurtley Knight I suspect had been feeling his own consciousness/conscience being seared with a hot iron and has left the Adventist Church in search of refuge to live out the lifestyle that he truly wants to live and has sought to blame Adventism for it… like many others have and will continue to do. Brotha/Brother Ton… I invite you and Brotha/Brother Kurtley Knight to give me a call and let’s vibe some time like only Us Brothas, that are truly wanting to live a GODLY lifestyle, can do. My cell number is… 225-300-7071. Antonio Delance Hills is my actual name and I am FaceBook accessible as well. GOD/JAH BLESS and ONE LOVE.

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  8. Love you Kurt – you pondered the question “why is the Sabbath so important…” didn’t God make it important by resting, blessing and sanctifying it at creation? i think if we do away with what he did on the seventh day of creation we have to do away with the other six days of creation also.

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  9. I am always baffled at why Adventist who come to a “crossroads” only option is to leave the church.

    There clear Biblical evidence that God has a specific purpose for the Adventist Church. The has always been and will always be sinners in Zion.

    I’m sorry Bro Knight – as wicked and as low as Ahab stooped – Elijah was not led to leave.

    People, Members, Teachers, and Preachers who are only adventist in name and who have consequently tainted the view and understanding of what constitutes being a Seventh-day Adventist should in no way, shape form or fashion be a measuring stick for anything.

    Every Christian faith “claims” to be “Christ-centered” being a Christian is generic.

    The ethos of our church NOT driven by works.

    The ethos of our church is “Christ” “.” (as in period)

    The Pharisees added 400+ laws into the mix yet Jesus himself never counseled anyone to leave –

    He showed by precept and example that what they were doing was not according to God’s plan but He didn’t stop there, He then went on to not only live but taught others to live according to God’s plan WITHIN the organization.

    BTJM

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  10. I suspect Kurtley Knight is interested in going in to the Evangelical arena and has come to the conclusion that there are no Mega Adventist Churches and that there is no major wealth or media fame in Adventist Evangelism. In other words… this Brother/Brotha has become disillusioned and disenfranchised with Adventism because he wants to GET PAID IN FULL and this can’t be done as an Adventist Minister/Pastor. Jimmy Swaggart and Family, Joel Olsteen and Wife, TD Jakes, Creflo Dollar, and every other Mogul Ministry teach/preach the soothing Ministry of Grace and Prosperity to those congregations having itching ears and that will donate Large Dollars to keep hearing it.

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  11. I feel sorry for SDAs who fall for the traps of satan, like this ex-pastor! They KNOW the Ten Commandments are a continuum that covers one aspect of our walk with Christ! The law is considered ROYAL for 2 reasons: the author of them is royalty ( Jesus wrote them
    personally ) & the purpose for which they were written, to show us what GOD CONSIDERS the definition of what sin to be. Now that I know, & realize I can’t measure up to this definition, Christ LOVINGLY continues His grace toward me! Notice I said CONTINUES… Grace has always been a part of Christ ministry to mankind, but it’s only at a certain time in our walk, do we actually UNDERSTAND & APPRECIATE His grace! Every drug dealer is under God ‘s Grace, but it’s the repentant dealer who UNDERSTANDS & EXCEPTS ITS PURPOSE! Killing the HEART of the 10 Commandments … The 4th… is a treasonous act by someone who claims to accept Christ as the creator of the universe … Who is the rightful owner of it , who died to save the people on it…& the returning conqueror to claim it! I feel sorry for ex- Adventists on judgement day as they try to spew this treasonous philosophy about the nullification of the WHOLE law , at the Creator of the universe & the guy – Christ- who ALSO wrote the darn thing ! Good luck on that!!!!!

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  12. I have a million and one questions… Why didn’t you seek wise counsel when you started doubting? Why did you step in the pulpit week after week proclaiming a gospel you yourself didn’t believe? It’s okay (as a pastor) to have questions, but my issue is, you have peoples lives literally in your hand!

    I don’t get it! I’ve read all four parts of this interview and all I see Is you speaking against this church that I’ve been in for ALL of my life. I don’t pray curses upon you, I pray just the opposite. I pray that God continue to bless you. You yourself sound bitter sir.. I have no words left to say.. You’ve been at my church a few times, and I was so encouraged to see someone who was younger so into The Lord.. Now to find out that everything I’ve heard from you were lies… I feel hurt, betrayed, all of the above. May God have mercy on you…

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  13. Kurtley, God bless you on your journey my brother! God is not ONLY in the SDA church! If we believe that God is omniscient and that His knowledge is far beyond our puny ability to know it all, how can ANYONE say they have ALL the truth! That thinking limits God and will hinder anyone from ever having a true knowledge of Who He actually is and what He wants for us. God is not limited by 28(29, or whatever the number is now) beliefs or by denominationalism. Those who limit YHWH as such, will never understand why you are seeking more knowledge. Let YHWH speak to you and live by every word that proceeds from His mouth, and not by any word that comes from those who would oppose you. Blessings.

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  14. In looking at the support and criticisms which you are receiving, I feel both a sense of nostalgia and sense of deja vu. Having begun the same journey 35 years ago from the Adventist ministry, I can tell you that it will never end, and that you will be stretched in more ways, including spiritually than you ever thought possible.

    Some of the processes that I am sure you are going through as you establish and anchor your new personal and public identity will definitely come under some intense traumatic pressure, just remember that the same is also true for those who have always known you and have made a relationship with an identity that is now declared to be false or discarded… Yes, it will be very traumatic for them also, –especially if they liked and have had strong emotional attachments to the person they thought they knew.  

    Remember not to isolate yourself for that gives Satan much room to throw his fiery darts at you, but forgiving others who needlessly hurt you, keep reaching out to others in love and humility, both in the receiving and in the pointing unto Jesus. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ guard your heart and mind.

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    • Michael W. Pursley,

      As you’ve noted I’ve received tons of remarks. Although I’ve deeply appreciated every supportive comment I believe yours is the wisest. Your words read on the page as powerful, experienced. empathetic, and Spirit lead. Please know that I receive your counsel with humility and deep appreciation. Thank you.

      Kurtley

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  15. I will say, I think this is ridiculous. I guess, I see Adventism and my walk differently. I am a Christan first and an adventist second. With that being said, I have a personal walk with Christ. I can’t worry about what laws others are keeping and breaking. I can’t judge because it is not my job. My job is to follow Christ. My question is simple why does crossroads mean leaving the church and not changing your sermon. You as a pastor have. The pulpit to preach the truth. Meaning if you know that people re misinform use the pulpit to inform. I agree our works don’t save us, our faith/ relationship with God does. Their is nothing our sinful souls can do to be saved only are faith. That could have been your message not, leave people misinformed.

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  16. My heart is heavy but my love for you remains the same. I’m not surprised when the standards were
    lowered and the culture change of Adventism announced, psuedo worship took off and liberal I in the pulpit began and your charisma got trapped. The foundation of our faith has been worldlified and there is a deep search for solid ground. Because of this weakness Satan is taking pot shots at every child of God. The child like Spirit you had is being puppited by Satan, Jesus died for you called you to preach The Third Angels Message and when you as Paul are through persecuting Christ thinou are persrcuting the Christian

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  17. But Brother Kurtley,

    Why should we look to Paul for answers! Has Jesus come in vain? Did he not declare Himself to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Was He not introduced by John as the Light of the world…the One who gives light to every man? Why ignore the Son to walk by candlelight? Jesus declares “I am the bread of life. He comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” Jn 6:35. Again Jesus declares ”
    For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40 NIV

    The writer to the Hebrews sets Jesus as the standard and the last voice on God’s will.
    ” In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,
    2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
    3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”
    Heb 1:1-3 NIV

    I am a Sabbath keeper because Jesus declared himself to be the “Lord also of the Sabbath” Lk 6:5, and “as His custom was, went to the Synagogue on the Sabbath Day and read the scriptures” Lk 4:16.

    I worship with Adventists because they uphold Jesus’ position on the law as He declared:

    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
    18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
    19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
    20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
    21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’
    22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
    Matt 5:17-22 NIV

    How might our righteousness surpass that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law? What must we do to do the work God requires? Jesus answers: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:25 NIV. In that answer is the full gospel of righteousness by Faith. The dialectic tension between law and grace is as old creation, therefore God has called you and me to inform and remind all men that to believe in His Son Jesus who has kept and met the demands of the law on our behalf, is to have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,

    I have spoken as a good old Adventist layman of 64 years who loves the Lord, and who knows also that the Lord loves us more than we ever knew. This is the gospel that I share with coworkers on my job with the government, I don;t understand why it would not be worthy of the pulpit.

    Finally, little candles like Paul, James, Martin Luther, Jones and Waggoner, and many others have wrestled with the age old question of law and grace, but It is only after taking a serious look at Jesus that I am able to understand what these little candles are saying. Aren’t you glad that Jesus, the Light of the world, is the answer? The Adventist church needs you more than ever to proclaim this gospel, despite the age old ethos.

    Pardon my lengthy comment, but what do you think?

    Much love from your brother,

    Gilbert

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  18. I am a current Seventh-day Adventist Pastor. I respect your personal decision to have left the Church as a paid employee and representative. It takes more honesty and courage to step down for doctrinal reasons that for immoral ones. May you continue to be led in your spiritual journey and path. The Adventist Church, nor any church, can save us. Only Jesus can! Blessings!

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  19. Hi Pastor Knight!
    I’ve been trying to reach out to you bro! Please give you info, so that we may stay connected!
    God is awesome, to know Christ and Him crucified!
    Much love to you and your family 🙂

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