Loma Linda, California, United States …. [Gary Krause/ANN]

Directors of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Global Mission religious study centers and other mission experts met Dec. 3 to 5 in Loma Linda, California, United States, to share reports and discuss future directions for Adventist relations with other religions.

The religious study centers explore ways of building bridges to the Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist communities, as well as to those who profess no faith. “The purpose of the centers is to provide resources, plans and ideas for more effectively reaching out to adherents of other world religions,” says Mike Ryan, a vice president for the world church and director of Global Mission. “As a global community of faith, it’s important that we understand the culture and thought patterns of other world religions so that we operate from a basis of understanding rather than misunderstanding.”

Reports were given by Scott Griswold, director of the Buddhist study center near Bangkok, Thailand; Gerald Whitehouse, director of the Global Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations, temporarily based in California; Richard Elofer, director of the Worldwide Jewish-Adventist Friendship Center in Jerusalem, Israel; and James Coffin, senior pastor of the Markham Woods Adventist Church and director of the secular/postmodern study center in Orlando, Florida, United States. Coffin previewed the soon-to-be-launched www.secularpostmodem.org Web site, which will include articles, book reviews, case studies and other resources related to reaching out to secular/postmodern people, particularly in urban areas.

According to Elofer, who is also president of the Adventist Church in Israel, there are now 15 Adventist churches, 30 congregations and 72 small groups worshipping throughout Israel every week, as well as a congregation in the West Bank. In the past six years, the number of members has grown from 304 to more than 1,100. During his report Elofer stressed the need to find ways to build the level of “conversation” between the Adventist Church and Jewish leaders.

Griswold, based in Thailand, shared many of the resources he has developed for reaching out to Buddhist peoples. He commented that in certain countries Buddhism is closely linked with people’s national identity, and that they see accepting Christianity as denying their nationality. Jon Dybdahl, a missiologist and president of Walla Walla College, said, “Christians should be the defenders of the best things in people’s cultures.”

Those attending the meetings also discussed the agenda for the 2005 Global Mission Issues Committee, a group that meets annually to explore theological issues that impact the way the Adventist Church works across different cultures. One of the main items to be discussed will be the way the church allocates resources for mission.

For more information about Global Mission and its religious study centers visit www.global-mission.org.

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