11 September 2019   |   “Adventist Church for the 21st Century: Reexamining Church Identity, Unity and Authority” is the theme for the 2019 Keough Conference, September 20 and 21 at Washington Adventist University (WAU).

The keynote speakers are Dr. Jiri Moskala, dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, and Pastor Ray Tetz, director of communication and community engagement for the Pacific Union Conference. Other panelists include Pastor Alexander Barrientos, from the Potomac Conference; Dr. Ramone Griffith, from the Allegheny East Conference; Pastor Lowell Cooper, retired vice president of the General Conference; Dr. Olive Hemmings, religion professor at WAU; Dr. Marissa Leslie, a physician with Adventist Health Care at Shady Grove Hospital; Pastor Charles Sandefur, former president of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency; as well as several young adults and student leaders.

“Our presenters and panelists will address the following questions,” Dr. Mikhail Kulakov, coordinator for the event, told Adventist Today. “What in your view should the Adventist Church look like in the 21st century? How in practical terms should authority and church governance be understood and exercised in our denomination? How in your view should our denomination’s organization be shaped to respond more effectively and equitably to the needs and the challenges of the time? What viable, functional model of church governance do you propose? What shape should it take? Which model of church governance in your view can insure the unity of the denomination as well as the protection and free exercise of individual and communal conscience, especially at times when entire unions or divisions may find themselves in disagreement with policy statements affirmed by a higher body, for example on such issues as women’s ordination? How would you propose to address conscientious minority dissent and issues of diversity and inclusiveness? What actionable proposals and effective mechanisms of conflict resolution and shared governance would you suggest? In your proposed model of church organization what will be the status and the degree of authority of the local congregation, local/regional conference, unions and divisions? What reforms in the nature of their relationship and status can you propose? What role should the General Conference assume? How would you articulate, in practical terms, the most essential steps necessary at this time in our denominational history for strengthening church unity, protecting its rich diversity and humbly seeking together to understand the nature of authority given to us by Christ ‘to build up and not tear down’ (2 Cor 10:8; 13:10)?”

“We believe that our Adventist faith community has the creative potential, theological and intellectual resources and rich diversity to address these challenges and develop together fresh and viable models of church governance which will inspire and stimulate necessary, healthy changes and greater vitality for our denomination,” Kulakov stated. “For a number of years we have been focusing on maintaining the academic rigor of the Keough Lectureship in exploring a wide spectrum of theological, ethical and social issues. However, we are currently working on transforming the lectureship into a broadly engaging event that would have greater appeal to younger and more diverse audiences. We would like to hold wider discussions of contemporary issues that would attract people from all corners of our faith.”

The public presentations will be live-streamed on the Internet to make the Conference a national event that is available to the broader community. “We pray that the Conference this year will serve as an effective platform to bring together people of different views and age groups for a healthy and generous conversation on these important issues,” Kulakov concluded.

On Friday, September 20, the conference will convene all day, from 9:30 am to 5 pm with a lunch break in the middle of the day, and again in the evening from 7 to 8:45 pm. It will meet in Bingham Hall in the Peters Music Center on campus. It will be live-streamed through the WAU Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WashingtonAdventistUniversity/

On Sabbath, September 21, it will meet in Sligo Church on campus starting at 10 am and continuing in the afternoon from 1:30 to 3 pm. It will be live-streamed through the church’s Web TV:  http://www.sligochurch.org/webtv

Additional information can be obtained from Kulakov via email: mkulakov@wau.edu