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Former Head of National Council of Churches Speaks at Andrews Seminary Symposium—Part I

On Thursday, February 2, Dr. Michael Kinnamon spoke at the annual Seminary Scholarship Symposium at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. Dr. Kinnamon, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School, is an ordained minister, educator and ecumenical leader of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The Christian Church comes out of a tradition related to the Christian Connection, the movement from which James White and Joseph Bates came when they founded Seventh-day Adventism.

The decision to have Dr. Kinnamon speak was contested by a website launched by the same anonymous person who opposed the decision to have T.D. Jakes speak at the 2011 Pastoral Evangelism and Leadership Conference at Oakwood University. The site now urges Adventists to oppose Kinnamon’s invitation to the seminary because he is not a church member and he is a proponent of ecumenism. 

In response to this opposition, seminary dean Denis Fortin made a statement at the January 31 seminary chapel service which emphasized that the decision was made in consultation with university administrators and that it is a scholarly symposium in which varying perspectives are presented and then discussed critically.

Before the evening lecture, Dr. Kinnamon spoke at an earlier assembly about the importance of love for fellow followers of Christ and the need to be convinced of the truth of God from the Bible with integrity and to protect the integrity of those with whom we disagree. The text for the talk was Romans 14-15, Paul’s vision of reconciled community which challenges airs of superiority and disrespect for opposing factions. Kinnamon stated that “the ecumenical movement’s aim is to make visible the unity which is our gift in Jesus Christ. Not a unity which we create, but a unity which is a gift to us in Jesus Christ.” In regard to Adventist fears of ecumenism, he said that he does not want us to lose our distinctives, but that Adventism has things to offer that other Christian churches have let atrophy and need to relearn. He made it clear that he does not want us to give up our convictions. Speaking of the Sabbath, he said,

Heaven’s no, we don’t want you to give up the Sabbath. We need to learn from you about the Sabbath.


At the end of this morning assembly, Denis Fortin gave Dr. Kinnamon an Andrews Study Bible which will provide him with the Adventist perspective.

To hopefully allay some Adventist concerns about the seminary a 2003 article by Dean Fortin considers ecumenicalism and the role of the papacy. He brings attention to the significance of the fact that in Orthodox, Anglican or Protestant dialogues there is not talk of abolishing the papacy as a condition for unity. He concludes: “the teachings of Scripture should serve as the only infallible and reliable guide to doctrinal and theological developments in ecclesiology.”

While another article will be posted after the evening discussion, I would like to close with the goal of interfaith dialogue. In this setting there is not a blurring of the lines of what it means to be a member of a particular faith tradition, but to find ways to respect each other and shared community service. At a discussion between Adventists and Presbyterians in 2010, the participants hoped “to reach a clearer understanding of each other, removing false stereotypes and misconceptions” and “explore areas of possible cooperation, but without any intention for eventual institutional unity.”

Stay tuned for another article following tonight’s lecture: “The Ecumenical Movement and Why You Should Be Involved.”

A recent theology graduate of Walla Walla University, Landon Schnabel is studying at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

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