A website, “Keep Not Silent,” run annonymously, has been recently attacking the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary at Andrews University over its choice of speaker for an academic symposium. He was until recently the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, is not Adventist and will be talking about the ecumenical movement. The folks behind this new outrage were connected to the successful earlier effort to get T. D. Jakes disinvited from Oakwood University. Now using many of the same arguments they combine scary music, images, quotes and Adventist Church president Ted Wilson to warn against this “darkness.”
I don’t want to give too much oxygen to this small group, but they have been successful recently and are clearly drawning strength from the words of church leadership. This is the General Conference’s mess—from La Sierra to Oakwood to Andrews—our church leaders are inflaming the fringes of Adventism against our institutions. What a destructive way to lead a faith community!
Intelligently responding to these attacks, Seminary dean Denis Fortin, read the following on Tuesday, for Seminary Assembly:
For the last eight years, the Seminary has held a Scholarship Symposium during which professors and students present the results of their research on a broad range of topics. This Symposium also includes an invitation to a guest speaker who presents a topic of interest to the community. The plenary lecture is given by the guest speaker and a Seminary professor responds to it, followed by questions from the audience.
This year, after consultation with university administrators, the invitation was given to Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches. Interestingly, this speaking engagement is one of Kinnamon’s last in his current role as he is returning to teaching.
As a General Conference institution, Andrews University, and the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in particular, is well aware of the responsibility and influence we have with our students, and with the broader Adventist world. We are honored to serve our church as theological thought leaders, and guard carefully the hard-earned trust of our world church and its leadership.
The Seminary Scholarship Symposium is done within an academic context with academic value. Kinnamon will speak at the plenary session on Thursday evening, Feb. 2, about current trends in the ecumenical movement in America and the voice Adventism could have in the Christian world. Then Nicholas Miller, associate professor of church history and director of the International Religious Liberty Institute, will provide our students with a response on behalf of the Seminary.
Our invitation to Michael Kinnamon is also intended to reach out to the wider Michiana community in hopes of attracting local people to Andrews for this lecture and symposium. Kinnamon is very well known and respected in broad circles of Christianity. He is also very active and influential in American politics and religious life. He is known as a spokesperson on various social issues and is passionate about Christianity and religious freedom.
This invitation and lecture should not be perceived or crafted as an attempt at rewriting our historical Adventist faith. We believe in the Three Angels’ Messages and the other tenets of our faith. We continue to promote religious liberty and the freedom of conscience. This is not a first step to join the NCC or any other such organizations and we are not promoting ecumenism. People should not exploit this event to create fear in the hearts of other Adventists.
We are no longer a small, unknown denomination. Seventh-day Adventists have more influence than we think. In some parts of the world, Seventh-day Adventists have been appointed or elected to parliaments; some have been prime ministers. One of our former Seminary students is now Governor General of Jamaica. It’s vital for our students to learn how to dialog and relate to others despite having a differing theology. The ability to understand other viewpoints, including differing religious views, is an essential part of a good education. We hope this academic lecture will help our community get acquainted with a different understanding of Christianity, and help us be able to relate to others once our students are pastors, chaplains and teachers in their communities. We won’t agree with everything Kinnamon will say, but we will listen to him with a respectful yet critical mind.
The Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary is a safe place where various ideas can be discussed, examined and critiqued, and in the end, we learn something from it all that will affirm our faith and our walk with our heavenly Father. This is our vision of a great Seminary education.
Spectrum will have someone at the symposium who will be writing about the presentations for the blog.