Delegates of the Seventh-day Adventist Church met with leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at the Presbyterian Church’s national headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky August 22 to 24 to affirm common beliefs and dispel stereotypes.
The meeting marked the second conversation between the two denominations. Last November, Presbyterian delegates joined Adventists at Adventist world church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland after pitching the idea of a conversation with Adventist church leaders.
This time, delegates discussed the church’s respective understandings of the law and the gospel, referring to the writings of both Ellen G. White, an early Adventist church founder, and John Calvin, a French theologian and lawyer whose writings during the Protestant Reformation crystallized Presbyterian doctrine.
“The Adventist church has a responsibility to clear up misconceptions other Christian denominations might have of us, and meetings such as this one give us an opportunity to do so,” said Angel Rodriguez, director of the world church’s Biblical Research Institute.
Adventist and Presbyterian delegates affirmed the authority of scripture and agreed the law should guide Christian living. They also discovered a common emphasis on individual conscience in religious matters.
However, Rodriguez said the meeting was “just a conversation” and that no attempt was made to unify doctrine. “There was a clear effort on both parties to recognize and understand each other’s fundamental differences.”
William G. Johnsson, assistant to Adventist world church president Jan Paulsen for Interfaith Relations, chaired the Adventist delegation and commended the “cordiality” of the meetings, despite the discussion of several potentially controversial subjects, such as the Sabbath.
Johnsson said Presbyterians have long championed unity among Christian denominations and that while Adventists choose not to join ecumenical movements, they do advocate cooperation with other faiths, especially on issues such as religious liberty and disaster relief. Those topics already head the proposed agenda for a third conversation between Adventists and Presbyterians yet to be announced, Johnsson said.