11260 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, Tierrasanta
Pastor: Gary McCary
Born: Needles, CA
Formation: La Sierra University, Riverside, CA; Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI
Years Ordained: 33
San Diego Reader: What is your favorite subject on which to preach?
Pastor Gary McCary: I would preach about how to respect one’s neighbor. When Jesus said, “Love your neighbor,” I think he was saying, “Respect your neighbor.” We don’t always feel warm and fuzzy toward our neighbors, but we must respect them. That’s the most important thing that Jesus taught — how to treat others.
SDR: What is your main concern as a member of the clergy?
PM: I’m concerned that, when it comes to religion, people tend to be satisfied letting others do their thinking for them. I try to shake people up and shake up their whole world view. I try to get them to ask, “Why do I believe what I believe?” My feeling is that a person’s faith ought to be reasonable — and appeal to the reason of others.
SDR: Why Seventh-Day Adventists?
PM: I was born and raised a Seventh-Day Adventist. I believe that the fundamental doctrines of Adventism have the best scriptural support of any denomination. For example, Seventh-Day Adventists don’t believe in hell or the immortality of the soul. The whole reason that the doctrine of hell was embraced by the early Christian church is because they believed that the soul is immortal. So they had to do something with that soul when it died. If it was good, it went to heaven; and if it was bad, it had to go somewhere else. So they created this massive doctrine of hell which the early church embellished over the next 500 or 600 years with eternal torture, fire, and damnation.
SDR: What is the mission of your church?
PM: We want to present a picture of God that is loving and reasonable, and we want to flesh out Jesus’ teaching of loving one’s neighbor as oneself and put that teaching into practice by helping others any way we can.
SDR: Where was the strangest place you found God?
PM: Game four of the 1984 National League Championship Series at San Diego Stadium, as it was called at the time, between the Padres and the Cubs. Steve Garvey hit a homerun at the bottom of the ninth inning to win the game for the Padres. I actually had an out-of-body experience. The Cubs fans who lost did not — but I was absolutely in heaven, as happy as I’ve ever been. It was the most incredible, emotional experience; I was lost in time and space, with a wave of emotion which carried me through it all.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PM: I believe when you die, you’re dead. I don’t believe you’re still alive, anywhere. I don’t believe the spirit continues to exist apart from the body. If you talk to any Jewish scholar, there’s nothing in the Hebrew Bible — the Old Testament — that would suggest that the spirit continues to exist…. In order for a soul to live, you have to have both the dust of the ground — flesh — and spirit, or breath. So if you take either one out of the equation, you don’t have a living soul. When you die, therefore, you’re dead and your soul goes into a dormant state — until the resurrection of the dead.