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Later this month, on the weekend of September 20th to the 21st, this year’s 2019 Washington Adventist University (WAU) Keough Conference will be held. This Fall Conferences’s theme is The Adventist Church for the 21st Century: Re-examining Church Unity and Authority

Mikhail M. Kulakov, D. Phil, coordinates the annual Keough Conference

Dr. Jiri Moskala, the Dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, has agreed to be this year’s keynote speaker. Other key presenters and panelists include Lowel Cooper, former vice-president of the General Conference , Ray Tetz, Pacific Union Conference Director of Communication and Community Engagement, Olive Hemmings, WAU Religion professor, Charles Wesley Knight, Oakwood University professor, Dr. Marissa Leslie, MD, Adventist Health Care – Shady Grove Hospital,  Charles Sandefur, former president of ADRA International, as well as several other distinguished denominational leaders and youth and student leaders.   

For a number of years the Conference has 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, holding wider discussions of contemporary issues that would attract people from all corners of our faith. Since the Conference addresses the topic of The Adventist Church for the 21st Century: Re-examining Church Unity and Authority.

Each of our presenters will address some of the following questions:

  • What in your view should the Adventist Church look like in the 21st century? 
  • How in practical terms should the authority and church governance be understood and exercised in our denominational polity? 
  • How in your view should our denominational 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 can you propose? What shape should it take? 
  • Which model of church governance (procedural or policy modifications) in your view can insure the unity of the denomination as well as the protection and free exercise of individual and communal conscience (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 in your model?  

Thus, 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 community has the creative potential, theological and intellectual resources and rich diversity to address the above issues and challenges and develop together fresh and viable models of church governance and organization which will inspire and stimulate necessary healthy changes and greater vitality of our denomination.  We pray that the Conference this year will serve as an effective platform to bring together people of different views and age groups for healthy and generous conversation on these important issues.