'Who's Who' at the Session
Seventh-day Adventists welcome high-profile guests
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed welcomes Adventists to the city for the 2010 General Conference Session, Friday, June 25. Several dignitaries are visiting the church's 10-day spiritual gathering and business meeting. [photo: Gerry Chudleigh]
In addition to the thousands of Adventists attending the General Conference Session in Atlanta, several high-profile guests are present, representing various entities, political organizations, and faith groups.
On Friday, June 25, Kasim Reed, mayor of Atlanta, welcomed the Seventh-day Adventist Church to the city during the evening meeting. Reed, who was inaugurated mayor of Atlanta in January, thanked the Seventh-day Adventist Church for its work in the community.
"I applaud the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its dynamic membership for its commitment to educate their fellow men and women." Reed continued, "Yours is truly a stellar example of Christian compassion and a model of service that others within the religious and secular community would do well to follow."
Reed said he appreciated how many Adventists seemed to live what they believe. "Seventh-day Adventists demonstrate to all that it's simply not enough to believe the words of the Bible, but that one has to act on its timeless wisdom to make our society as good and as decent as we know that it could be."
The Adventist Church has been building a relationship with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) during the past several years, and James Hill, external relations director for the Washington, D.C.-based organization, visited Session. Hill, previously a participant in the Global Conference on Health and Lifestyle organized by the church's Health Ministries Department in July 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland, works to link the western hemisphere's largest health organization with other faith groups and health entities to battle such diseases as tuberculosis and cholera, and to stem the spreading AIDS epidemic.
Also attending Session are representatives from the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China (TSPM). The TSPM, officially combined with the China Christian Council, forms the umbrella organization under which all Protestants in the People's Republic of China are officially recognized. During his historic 2009 visit to China, General Conference president Jan Paulsen and a delegation from the world headquarters were hosted by representatives of the TSPM.
Many of Seventh-day Adventism's first generation came from Methodist and Wesleyan faiths, and the Adventist Church's organizational structure has many similarities with Methodist polity. George Freeman, secretary-general of the World Methodist Council, is another special guest attending Session. The World Methodist Council connects more than 70 million Methodists worldwide, and Freeman is in Atlanta on their behalf.
As this issue went to press, Neville Callam, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance since 2007, had been scheduled to bring greetings to the session delegates from the 47-million-member organization representing more than 200 Baptist faiths, not including the Southern Baptist Convention in the United States. Along with core biblical doctrines, such as the priesthood of all believers and the principle of sola scriptura, Baptists share with Adventists a long history of advocating for the separation of church and state.
John Graz, director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty at the GC, says it's significant to have protocol guests attend the Session. "Most of these leaders already have had contact with us, but they don't know what we represent. It's really a great opportunity for them to see what it means to be an Adventist."
Graz also believes that developing relationships with other leaders will have many benefits. "These people are leaders that talk with heads of states and other religious leaders. They talk about what they see, they talk about the way we welcome them, and what impression they have of us. It means that every time you have somebody saying something about the Adventists, they may say something too."