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Adventists reaffirm mission focus; saving relationships with Christ

Adventists reaffirm mission focus; saving relationships with Christ

Seventh-day Adventist world church leaders affirmed two weeks ago that evangelistic and outreach efforts among adherents of world religions are to bring people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, and not to simply enhance their current spiritual experience

April 20, 2009 | Mark A. Kellner/News Editor, Adventist World

Seventh-day Adventist world church leaders affirmed two weeks ago that evangelistic and outreach efforts among adherents of world religions are to bring people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, and not to simply enhance their current spiritual experience.

The world church's Executive Committee tentatively approved a statement concerning church working policy during the 2009 Spring Meeting, one of two yearly business meetings held by the church.

"God is constantly engaged in saving whomever He can," Jan Paulsen, president for the Adventist world church, said when introducing the! draft document to the leaders of the world church's regions.

The document will be formally voted on during the Annual Council of the world church's Executive Committee in October 2009.

The new emphasis is in response to a current trend that "encourages acceptance of all world religions as valid expressions of the human spirit and discourages efforts to persuade people from one religion to another," the statement said.

The "Roadmap" document encourages Adventists to give the Bible primacy as the guide to Christian faith and practice. The holy writings of other world religions can be used to build bridges supported by common truths, but "the nurture and spiritual growth of new believers must be accomplished on the basis of the Bible and its exclusive authority."

The document also called for "openness and identity" in mission, stating, "We are to carry out our mission openly, not concealing our name and purpose unless they cre! ate formidable barriers."

The document's writers su! ggested only a limited role for intermediary steps in bringing people to Christ.

"In some situations, Adventist mission may include the formation of transitional groups (usually termed Special Affinity Groups) that lead people from a non-Christian religion into the Seventh-day Adventist Church," the document notes. However, such groups must operate with a deliberate timeline "to lead the people into membership."

Moreover, "[Any] ministry or group that is formed with the intention of representing the Seventh-day Adventist Church in any part of the world will endeavor to promote both the theological and organizational unity of the Church," the document says.

And, church leaders are advised to remember outreach to all people in their planning: "in the allocation of human and financial resources, the needs of the mission to followers of other religions should be included as part of strategic mission planning," the document advises.

Se! veral delegates expressed appreciation for the clarification and focus the document provides. "It fills a great need in the church and we in the Trans-European Division will take it very seriously," said Bertil Wiklander, president.

The document "avoids the pitfalls of universalism and exclusivism," said Ganoune Diop, director of the church's Global Mission Study Centers, and an expert on Islam.

Gerry Karst, general vice president for the world church, noted that the document would have been helpful in resolving tensions faced by the church in various world regions.

"I just wish we had this document years ago," Karst said.

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