After several years of informal talks, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Seventh-day Adventist Church held their first formal dialogue in late-October in Chicago.
Last summer, the 219th General Assembly (2010) voted to enter into an official dialogue with the Seventh-day Adventist Church and to invite other churches from the Reformed tradition to take part. The Chicago gathering was the first meeting of the dialogue.
The Christian Reformed Church (CRC) sent an observer to the meeting.
Representing the PC(USA) were the Rev. Carlos Malave, the Rev. David Cortes, the Rev. Sheldon Sorge, and former Auburn Theological Seminary President Barbara Wheeler. The Seventh-day Adventist delegation consisted of: the Rev. Halvard Thomsen, the Rev. Denis Fortin, the Rev. William Johnsson, the Rev. Ekkehart Mueller, and the Rev. Theresa Reeve. The observer from the CRC was the Rev. Bruce Adema.
“The meeting was characterized by friendliness and respect,” said Malave, associate for ecumenical relations in the Office of the General Assembly. “with candid sharing and cordial exchanges.”
Dialogue participants began by sharing their personal spiritual journeys into the particular faith communion to which they belong. They also discussed the chief issues that their churches are facing today: pressing discipleship and theological issues, and also institutional issues within each denomination.
A major portion of the dialogue was spent in comparing and contrasting the respective methods of studying the Bible, with reference to specific texts.
The dialogue clarified the goals for future conversations. Some of them are:
- to reach a clearer understanding of each other, removing false stereotypes and misconceptions;
- to explore areas of possible cooperation, but without any intention for eventual institutional unity;
- to better understand each other’s traditional values with the intention of incorporating appropriate ones into each church’s ethos; and
- to explore ways to approach the Lord’s Table together.
Theological topics for future discussion include the law, atonement, prophecy, Sabbath, social justice, religious liberty, worship and communion, education and screening of clergy, and ways to maintain unity within each denomination.
A second round of the dialogue will convene in the Washington, DC area in 2011, when the Seventh-day Adventist Church will function as host.
Information for this story furnished by the Rev. Carlos Malave.