One Whole Humanity
Third International Bible Conference focuses on
Mark A. Kellner, news editor, reporting from Jerusalem, Israel, with Adventist World staff
DELEGATES GATHER: Some of the more than 300 Seventh-day Adventist scholars, theologians, educators, and administrators who gathered in Jerusalem, Israel, for the church’s Third International Bible Conference in June 2012.10-day international Bible conference brought 304 Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders to key locations in Israel during the month of June 2012. But these Holy Land travelers brought home far more than photographs and souvenirs: they returned with an expanded understanding of the land of Jesus and the nature of humankind.
“Committed to a biblical worldview, more than 300 Adventist theologians and administrators from around the world gathered together to explore biblical, theological, historical, missiological, and scientific perspectives on anthropology, to foster fellowship and unity among theologians and among theologians and administrators, and to be better equipped to serve the Lord and His church,” a consensus statement, approved by delegates, read. “Through the study, discussion, and fellowship this conference provided, it was hoped that participants would experience a renewed sense of belonging and be stimulated to make further valuable contributions to the world church through their teaching and ministry.”
Delegates said they “also proclaim that the Adventist understanding of human nature and its denial of anthropological dualism is deeply rooted in and nurtured by biblical anthropology,” according to the statement, the full text of which is available online at http://bit.ly/MkxpBQ.
Earlier, on June 11, delegates gathered in northern Israel to begin a period of theological discussion and study tours in a land many were seeing for the first time.
“The hope we have is what makes this conference so special,” said Ted N. C. Wilson, General Conference president, in brief remarks during an outdoor plenary session on the shores of the Galilee, known in Hebrew as the Kinneret.
BRI director Artur Stele, also a general vice president of the world church, opened the conference with a plenary address. “Exploring the nature of anthropological dualism should be our work,” Stele asserted, adding that a proper understanding of the nature of humananity “touches on the relationship between a man and a woman” and on “the relationship of humans to modern technology.”
Stele added, “We need to explore the significance of biblical anthropology and how it impacts all of our doctrines.” Adventists are called to address the “challenge of world religions that are basically dualistic” in their view of humans, he reminded the delegates.
Morning devotionals beside the lake were also featured in the Galilee portion of the event. Euro-Asia Division president Guillermo Biaggi and South Pacific Division president Barry Oliver called delegates to personal connection with the Lord who once walked the shores of Galilee. Oliver reminded delegates that God, in the person of Jesus, “has been one with us and [has been] one of us. Experiencing His presence is dependent on seeking His Person, and that can only be done through the Lord Jesus Christ.”
BROTHERS IN CHRIST: General Conference President Ted Wilson greets Raji Qumsiyah, a Seventh-day Adventist shopkeeper, on Manger Square in old Bethlehem.Speaking to a June 16, 2012, congregation of more than 300 Seventh-day Adventist educators, theologians, and administrators, Wilson called on educators “to lead a positive revolution on your campuses—a revolution back to the Bible with an historicist position and with an historical-biblical approach.”
His message (see sermon text athttp://bit.ly/L2ERQj) also stressed the importance of the Adventist understanding of the sanctuary service, which, he said, holds the ultimate answer to the two distortions of Christian belief, legalism and “cheap grace.”
Delegates to the 10-day conference strongly affirmed the president’s challenge.
“I believe that his call is timely,” said Leslie Pollard, president of Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama. “On campuses everywhere we have an opportunity to make an impact on young lives. Oakwood University accepts this challenge.”
Said Frank Hasel, Theology Department dean at Schloss Bogenhofen Seminary in Austria, “Ted Wilson’s message was not aiming at political correctness but had the heartbeat of a person who deeply cares for the spiritual health of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. As a theologian, teacher, and dean I was encouraged to be a person who . . . will foster a deeper love for the Bible, igniting a positive spiritual revolution that receives its power from the living Word of God.”
According to Ellen G. White Estate associate director Cindy Tutsch, Wilson’s sermon struck a responsive chord: “I appreciated Ted Wilson’s challenge to look to the Scriptures to find authoritative answers to questions of cosmology,” she said. “His emphasis on the sanctuary as the key to unlocking a deeper understanding of Jesus, including the relationship of the sanctuary to other Christ-centered doctrines, needs wider proclamation!”
Gilbert Wari, West-Central Africa Division president and board chair of Babcock University, pointed to the historical continuity of Wilson’s message with classic Adventist statements: “This sermon, based on the teaching of the sanctuary, has reminded me and repositioned the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its mission to the world as understood and preached by the Adventist pioneers.”
After the morning worship with conference delegates, Wilson and his wife, Nancy, ventured across Jerusalem to connect with another special audience: hundreds of Adventists from around Israel anxious to meet the world church leader.
“It is a privilege to be here in this wonderful city,” Wilson said to hundreds of Adventists who came from all over Israel to the worship service. The congregation featured Israelis, Ethiopians, Russians, Moldovans, Filipinos, and others, a veritable United Nations-class gathering of believers.
Fresh from addressing theologians and scholars on the need for a Bible-based “revolution” in Adventist education, Wilson assured the congregation that while he was here to attend the conference, “I wanted to meet you, too.”
The Sabbath morning worship followed the pattern of many Adventist services around the world, with the added flavor of songs in Hebrew and announcements and preaching translated into Russian, spoken by many in the congregation. Both Wilson and Julio Mendez, Jr., secretary-treasurer of the Israel Field, relied on Oleg Elkine to render their English into Russian, although Wilson, who spent two years as president of the Euro-Asia Division, offered more than a few sentences in Russian as well.
Representing the world’s 17 million Seventh-day Adventists, Wilson met June 18, with Israel’s deputy foreign minister, the Honorable Danny Ayalon. The session included an appreciation for the more than 300 Adventist theologians, scholars, and administrators visiting Israel for the Bible conference.
“We have known about the Seventh-day Adventists for a long time, and there is no doubt, I think, by anyone, that we share a common heritage and belief, and also a common destiny,” said Ayalon, who served for four and a half years as Israel’s ambassador to the United States.