June 7, 2017:      An international gathering of Union Conference officers and Bible scholars will focus on unity, denominational authority and structure, and liberty of conscience June 15 to 17 in London, England. “Unity 2017” is “a special opportunity for prayerful contemplation of … topics [that] have dominated the conversations throughout the church,” states the announcement of the meeting. “It has been a complex conversation, beginning with the work of TOSC [The Ordination Study Committee] and continuing with the current conversations about unity.”

“What would our pioneers have done in this situation?” the announcement asks, referring to the Sabbath Conferences of 1848 which had a formative role in the creation of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination and the discussions about reorganizing the denomination in the early 20th century which resulted in the creation of the Union Conferences. “Can we come together in a spirit of collegiality and discovery that will allow our hearts and minds to be open to God’s leadership and the Spirit’s prompting? … We seek His will and a greater understanding of how we might serve His church and advance its mission.”

Study papers to be presented at the meeting include “History of Authority in the Adventist Church” by the noted Adventist historian, Dr. George Knight; “Issues in Church Policy” by Pastor Lowell Cooper, retired vice president of the General Conference (GC); “Ellen White’s Relationship to and View of GC Authority and Her Understanding of Unions” by Dr. Radisa Antic, professor of systematic theology at Newbold College; “Early 20th-century Restructuring of the Church and Implications for the Church Today” by Dr. Barry Oliver, retired president of the South Pacific Division.

Also among the presentations will be “Ellen White and Her Understanding of Unity/Disunity” by Dr. Wendy Jackson, professor of theology at Avondale College; “What is Jesus Saying in John 17?” by Dr. Jan Barna, professor of biblical theology at Newbold College; “Liberty of Conscience and Freedom” by Dr. Olive Hemmings, professor of religion at Washington Adventist University; and “Justice and Equality: Is God Interested?” by Dr. Russell Seay, assistant professor of theology at Oakwood University. Seay will also present a study paper entitled “Toward a Theology of Unity.”

Hosted by ten union conferences from Europe, North America and the South Pacific, all union conference officers around the world have been invited to attend. It is an attempt to deal with the crisis that has been created by the effort of some GC leaders to force all union conferences to prohibit women from ordination to the gospel ministry despite the working policy that assigns approval of ordinations to the union conferences and voted actions by constituency delegates in a number of union conferences.

Adventist Today has made arrangements to provide access to transcripts of all the presentations during the conference for our readers. Our executive editor, Dr. Loren Seibold is traveling to London to be present at the meeting and will write daily summary reports. Sources have told Adventist Today that the Adventist Review will not cover the meeting.

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