The 2014 Spectrum/Adventist Forum Conference will take place October 3-5 at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina. Entitled The Great Adventist Stories, it will highlight different perspectives on the original and ongoing story of The Great Controversy, the relatively recent trauma of The Great Disappointment and our communal longing for The Great Advent Hope. These shared Adventist stories are all grounded in the stories of the Bible which find common ground with Jewish and Islamic traditions. Beyond that, the Bible stories themselves dig deep into the common spiritual depths of justice, humility, faith, hope and love which feed every major religion and inspire philosophers from every tradition.
And yet, while these stories bind our communities together and unite us in our shared humanity, the global Adventist community contains approximately 18 million different perspectives on these stories. This presents both a challenge and a promise. The challenge is how to maintain unity amidst this great diversity. The promise is that we each have a unique story to help one another see things in a new way and thus motivate our ongoing spiritual growth.
The other night I asked my 9 and 7-year-old sons whether they would rather be a part of a church where everyone believed the same things or where everyone believed different things. One chose a uniform church preferring the simplicity of unanimous agreement, ease of shared practices and peaceful lack of controversy. The other chose a diverse church in which his unique story would be valued and where other’s ideas could stretch his own. It was evident to both that neither extreme would be healthy or sustainable.
The Adventist church leadership’s efforts to maintain worldwide uniformity against women’s ordination, proposed changes introducing conservative interpretation into fundamental belief number six, and statements excluding LGBTQ members all have in common a push toward a more uniform and exclusive single story of Adventism. While some view these controversial issues as battles in the bigger war over whether the Adventist church will be remain conservative or become liberal, the question many of us find more interesting is this: Which direction should the Adventist church move along the continuum from an exclusive church with a uniform single story to an inclusive church with a diversity of shared stories?
With this conference, we hope to emphasize the importance of moving toward the diversity exemplified by four different gospels, multiple biblical authors, a variety of personalities and spiritual perspectives, and multiple stories in our Adventist community. We hope attendees will appreciate the reality of/need for/benefit in multiple stories as told by the many diverse presenters. Beyond that, with planned times for discussion and interactive elements, we warmly invite attendees from every perspective to get actively involved in sharing stories.
Some of you may want to get involved right away. As a lead up to the conference, we will be featuring stories of growing up Adventist on the Spectrum blog. These stories will come from both the Spectrum archives and new contributors. If you would like to share your story or know someone who has an interesting story, please send a note to brentonreading(at)gmail(dot)com expressing your interest.
In closing, I would like to share the perspective of a friend who attended the prior 2013 Spectrum/Adventist Forum Conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Christian identity and interfaith relations. Prior to the conference, his experience with Spectrum had been limited to discussions on the blog which left him with a single negative story of Spectrum “as the last voice of freedom *against* a hostile, controlling, exclusive church organization.” Negativity was what he and his friends expected at the conference. But, that was not their experience. Instead, as he tells it, “I think there is another story about Spectrum as being an open and welcoming space for outsiders — as evidenced by this conference. That is a positive narrative that should be promoted. I, for one, had never heard that before and found it to be more representative of my experience.”
Will you join us in San Diego this year to share your story and help us once again create an open and welcoming space for all?
Find more information about the conference and register here.
Brenton Reading is helping to organize this year's conference. He is a pediatric interventional radiologist practicing at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.
Image: Last year's conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Brenton Reading is the one standing.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6093