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QOD Conference Report (Oct.24-27) 

by A. Leroy Moore 

The idea of holding a 50th Anniversary Questions on Doctrine conference emerged two years ago in discussions between as Julius Nam, who had recently completed his doctoral dissertation on QOD, and Michael Campbell, who was still working on a dissertation which involved this issue. Since I had published my book, Questions on Doctrine Revisited shortly before Julius took his doctoral orals, he contacted me to see what I thought of the idea. I was delighted with it. Of course, all three of us realized that such a meeting could spark intensified conflict. But we also believed it was time for such a conference and went to work preparing a proposal to present to representatives from the Biblical Research Department, Andrews University, and Loma Linda, where Mike directed the Ellen G. White Research Department and where Julius, then a professor at PUC, would soon be called as a professor in the Religion Department.

Julius and Mike did the contact work in preparing for a mid-April, 2006 meeting at LLU with Angel Rodriquez, BRI chairman, and representatives from LLU and Andrews. John McVay missed the meeting because of a plane delay, but did affirm our unanimous decision to approach the General Conference for their support and Jerry Moon, Chairman of Church History at Andrews University, with a request that his department join Julius and Michael in organizing it. Though at the General Conference there were fears that it would set off "wild fires," BRI, Andrews, and LLU responded to the proposal as an idea whose time had come and agreed that we should attempt in this way to put the conflict of the past behind us. Though the General Conference did not feel free to sponsor it financially, in addition to Andrews and LLU, Oakwood College decided to help sponsor it.

Our purpose was to bring representatives from key lay groups that had been actively involved in the conflict together with those of our various educational institutions so as to permit each view to be clearly expressed. It was not our purpose to seek unanimity on any issue, but to encourage representatives of all sides to listen to each other, as well as to share their concerns. Our hope was that each would be responded to courteously and thoughtfully.

It was not without some fear that the meetings proceeded with very earnest instructions that there be no clapping or other manifestations of approval or disapproval to various speakers during their papers. However, following each, whatever the view presented, there was a hearty clap of appreciation. Not only did we sense the presence of the Holy Spirit, but it seems the Lord had so prepared the hearts of participants that the initial emphasis on the necessity for a dignified, scholarly discussion was hardly needed. Indeed, the contrast between past experience and the serene and Spirit led discussions, which virtually all felt were long over-due, was vividly high lighted by the confession of one person involved in organizing and administrating the conference that he had carefully instructed the sound people to immediately cut the mikes in case of open conflict.

Besides keynote presentations by Herbert E. Douglass, George R. Knight, and Angel Manuel Rodriguez, 24 papers 25 to 30 minutes in length were presented and each segment of three to five was followed by a panel of those presenters who responded to written questions. The first two keynote speakers reflected different orientations; but there was an amazing underlying harmony of understanding, indicating a broad area of agreement related to conflicting views. More important was the unity of spirit evident as these views were openly presented. Dr. Rodriguezís message on Sabbath morning, after all presentations were completed, was a beautiful call to unity in worship to which every participant could and did heartily respond. It was based not on the doctrines of the nature of Christ and atonement, which were the primary issues, but was a call to contemplate the actual incarnation as Christ humbled Himself before the entire universe in providing atonement for a fallen race.

A measure of the Spiritís presence during the conference was His blessing in the foot washing in preparation for the communion service. Before and during that service a number of participants who had been involved in conflict, each earnestly defending a vital point of truth, met together in confession and repentance. Thus, the Lordís supper proved to be one of the most moving I have experienced. All I talked to felt the conference was both timely and a success.

Since our conflict began as a result of discussions with Evangelicals and was more or less public and since they would not only be interested but would no doubt be reporting their opinions of it, we felt best to include representatives from them. As a result we heard from Kenneth Samples who, as his protege, took the mantle from Walter Martin, and from Donald Dayton, a recently retired professor who had a friendly relationship with Andrews and some of our men. This proved to provide an excellent balance, as the backgrounds and perspectives of the two were very different, Dayton coming from an Arminian background and Samples from a more Calvinist orientation. It was good for them to listen, as well as speak, as participants freely expressed their varied convictions in a spirit of good will and humility. According to Sampleís testimony, this overall view of our different concerns left them with respect not merely for those with whom they agreed more closely but for those furthest removed from there own, also differing, positions.

Yet, as blessed as our conference was, the real impact remains to be seen. I was blessed by each presenter and identified in important respects with all, as each freely expressed his in some ways markedly different concerns. But that is exactly what we wanted. Thanks to the hard work of the numerous individuals involved in organizing it and an atmosphere testifying to the Spiritís presence, there was a beautiful spirit of seeking unity of persons even where there were significant differences in perspective.

I found the degree of unity in concept, despite significant differences, to be significant. But more important was the respect and appreciation received by each person and each view. We will never achieve unity of theology until we are united in heart and have as great a concern for the unity for which Christ prayed as we do for purity of truth that, in the same prayer He declared is to sanctify His people (Jn 17:11-23). Both are very important. Indeed, a focus on unity without equal focus on truth can only result in a compromise which violates truth and the conscience and, at best, can only result in temporary, superficial unity and one not directed or approved by the Holy Spirit. But neither can the Spirit bless a focus on truth without corresponding determination to seek unity. He alone can lead us individually and corporately into all truth.

Unfortunately the Spirit has long been delayed in fulfilling His commission to lead us into a unity in truth that will prepare us to proclaim the loud cry of the latter rain. He must wait for us to adopt His methods and permit Him to give us the loving spirit and attitudes toward those with whom we differ. I believe we are on the threshold of that break-through.

Yet, the battle for unity in truth is far from won. The real test came not in the conference, but remains before us, as we each return to those who trust us individually and have been inclined to distrust all others. Without mutual trust there can be no meaningful fellowship. Yet trust must be earned and can be developed only in fellowship.

The challenge is to begin by trusting the Holy Spirit so as to obey the instructions of the Bible and spirit of prophecy in relating in love to each other and, while sharing concepts together, making no effort to enforce our own perspectives but, rather, praying earnestly for an openness to each other, even as we make ever greater commitments to Godís Word as our only authority for belief and behavior.

Meantime, we must be neither surprised nor unduly distressed if there is an immediate flare up of conflict in some areas. Indeed, those who report the meetings may well find themselves in conflict within their own group, which may see a positive report without a decision favoring their concerns as evidence of compromise. We must pray one for another, as it is almost certain that some of our participants will both undergo serious internal tension as they seek to comprehend the meaning of our meeting. This may be intensified by sincere parties in their own segment of Adventism who fear compromise and may even perceive our meeting as a means of hood winking. It is impossible that the conflict of half a century cease as the result of one long week-end of meetings. Indeed, if it appears that certain participants are sharpening their theological swords and axes let us not return blow for blow, but intensify our prayers for them and recognize that they may be in a very difficult position.

Finally, I would like to say that there must be no compromise of convictions on any side. Seeking unity without compromising is not only essential to the integrity of each one, but also to our corporate integrity Ė as well as to the fulness of truth itself. I personally believe that each defends vital principles that must not be compromised. I am also certain that when these principles are expanded and placed in balance, we will find each to be an important part of a dynamic unity of truth which, when fully rounded out, will go to the world like wild fire, resulting in the final harvest of souls which will permit the judgment to close and Christ to return. May we persevere in a focus upon truth and unity that will permit God to hasten that day.

A retrospective report written November 4, 2007

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