Seminary Scholarship Symposium

Categories: Ecumenism

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Date: January 26, 2012

The Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary welcomes Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, as the keynote speaker for the annual Seminary Scholarship Symposium. The symposium is held at the Seminary on the campus of Andrews University and runs from Jan. 31–Feb. 3, 2012. The symposium is free and open to the public.

Kinnamon is a prominent religious leader in the United States. He is a clergyman in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and a well-known ecumenical leader and educator, as well as the Allen and Dottie Miller Professor of Mission, Peace, and Ecumenical Studies at Eden Theological Seminary in Lexington, Ky. Previously, he served as the general secretary of the Consultation on Church Union and executive secretary of the World Council of Church’s Commission on Faith and Order. Kinnamon earned his PhD from the University of Chicago Divinity School.

A prominent member of the Ecumenical Movement, Kinnamon firmly believes in the need for unity in the church and works hard to build that unity. “The church is where the Spirit is,” he says. “Look for that when we sit around these tables. Trust that the Spirit has claimed these others. Getting to know one another builds that trust. This is how we deal with ongoing conflicts—not as a political caucus, but as sisters and brothers.”

Denis Fortin, dean of the Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, says, “Seventh-day Adventists have historically had some thoughtful and serious reservations about the apparent goals of the ecumenical movement. Kinnamon will speak about ecumenism in the United States and share his thoughts on how Adventists can be more involved among other Christian groups.”

Nicholas Miller, associate professor of church history and director of the International Religious Liberty Institute, will give a response to Kinnamon’s address.

“As in other years, the Seminary Scholarship Symposium seeks to provide a good exercise for our professors and students in an appropriate academic setting and offers opportunity for dialogue about various points of view,” says Fortin.

The Seminary Scholarship Symposium begins Tuesday, Jan. 31, with a 10:30 a.m. Recognition Assembly in the Seminary Chapel. This assembly will celebrate selected publications of Seminary faculty in 2011, as well as present the names of those receiving the Augsburger Excellence in Teaching Award and the Horn Excellence in Research Award.

On Thursday, Feb. 2, Kinnamon will present at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Immediately following, Miller will give a response. Both presentations will take place in the Seminary Chapel. Prior to the 7 p.m. address on Thursday there will be a reception and poster session in the Seminary Commons from 6–7 p.m. The symposium will conclude on Friday, Feb. 3, with two scholarly paper presentations and another poster session. Friday’s presentations begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 1 p.m.

Briefing about Michael Kinnamon’s visit from Denis Fortin, dean of the Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
(Adapted from what was read at Seminary Assembly, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012)

For the last eight years, the Seminary has held a Scholarship Symposium during which professors and students present the results of their research on a broad range of topics. This Symposium also includes an invitation to a guest speaker who presents a topic of interest to the community. The plenary lecture is given by the guest speaker and a Seminary professor responds to it, followed by questions from the audience.

This year, after consultation with university administrators, the invitation was given to Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches. Interestingly, this speaking engagement is one of Kinnamon’s last in his current role as he is returning to teaching.

As a General Conference institution, Andrews University, and the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in particular, is well aware of the responsibility and influence we have with our students, and with the broader Adventist world. We are honored to serve our church as theological thought leaders, and guard carefully the hard-earned trust of our world church and its leadership.

The Seminary Scholarship Symposium is done within an academic context with academic value. Kinnamon will speak at the plenary session on Thursday evening, Feb. 2, about current trends in the ecumenical movement in America and the voice Adventism could have in the Christian world. Then Nicholas Miller, associate professor of church history and director of the International Religious Liberty Institute, will provide our students with a response on behalf of the Seminary.

Our invitation to Michael Kinnamon is also intended to reach out to the wider Michiana community in hopes of attracting local people to Andrews for this lecture and symposium. Kinnamon is very well known and respected in broad circles of Christianity. He is also very active and influential in American politics and religious life. He is known as a spokesperson on various social issues and is passionate about Christianity and religious freedom.

This invitation and lecture should not be perceived or crafted as an attempt at rewriting our historical Adventist faith. We believe in the Three Angels’ Messages and the other tenets of our faith. We continue to promote religious liberty and the freedom of conscience. This is not a first step to join the NCC or any other such organizations and we are not promoting ecumenism. People should not exploit this event to create fear in the hearts of other Adventists.

We are no longer a small, unknown denomination. Seventh-day Adventists have more influence than we think. In some parts of the world, Seventh-day Adventists have been appointed or elected to parliaments; some have been prime ministers. One of our former Seminary students is now Governor General of Jamaica. It’s vital for our students to learn how to dialog and relate to others despite having a differing theology. The ability to understand other viewpoints, including differing religious views, is an essential part of a good education. We hope this academic lecture will help our community get acquainted with a different understanding of Christianity, and help us be able to relate to others once our students are pastors, chaplains and teachers in their communities. We won’t agree with everything Kinnamon will say, but we will listen to him with a respectful yet critical mind.

The Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary is a safe place where various ideas can be discussed, examined and critiqued, and in the end, we learn something from it all that will affirm our faith and our walk with our heavenly Father. This is our vision of a great Seminary education.