Adventist Review Promotes "Loving Babylon" Conference

Adventist Review – North American Division Edition

June 2002 – pg. 44
News Notes

Re: Church, a group of Seventh-day Adventists fully committed to the best of Seventh-day Adventism, is holding its annual gathering in New York City. Under the theme of "Loving Babylon," the conference will meet August 28-31, 2002. Featured speakers include George Knight and Jon Paulien

"Loving Babylon":

Loving Babylon"-the first-ever gathering of the re:church network-challenged both conference attendees and the church as a whole to take on the adventure of mission to big cities. The three-day conference (August 28-31) was held at the Church of the Advent Hope, New York City, and involved 60 registered participants from across the United States, 15 volunteers from the local church, and 10 speakers.

One of the organizers of the conference, Ryan Bell, took time out to speak to Adventist Review intern Nathan Brown.

NB: Why did the Church of the Advent Hope take this conference on?

RB: It's important to us that the re:church network connect local congregations. To us, it was important not to have this in an abstract location such as a conference room in a hotel or a big ballroom somewhere. The re:church network needs to be incarnated in the city and in the local congregation. We are really about empowering leaders who are leaders in congregations, so we wanted to have it in a church.

How does re:church relate to the broader and institutional church?

Two things come to mind. We want to agitate from the margins, to agitate the institutions a little bit, to have a voice to say "We see something different." Not to disparage what's been, but to say "We want to be faithful to our history and our future, and we feel that the organization many times is stuck a little bit, and we want to lovingly nurture that along."

The other thing is that we don't want to be stuck just doing that; we also want to engage in innovative ministry. It would be easy to get preoccupied with the problems of the denomination and try to change something that can't be changed. We don't want to get stuck there while we could be making friends and doing ministry and really carrying on our mission. So we do want to be a prophetic voice, but we also want to be a network of innovative people who are creating the future, shaping the emerging church.

What are your dreams for the Adventist Church?

To be honest with you, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about that. The reason I am a pastor is that I think the locus of influence for God's kingdom is the local congregation-and that, of course, necessitates someone who has to think about overseeing local congregations. But that's not me right now; my calling is to make my congregation as significant an influence in my community for God and His kingdom as possible. I don't think much about what Elder Schneider has to deal with at the North American Division and what Elder Paulsen has to deal with at the General Conference-and I really don't envy them.

However, one vision I have for the denomination is that we would come back to the focus on the local church-in reality, not just in rhetoric. That our denominational structure would focus again on empowering local laypeople, local pastors, entrusting them with leadership and authority, turning them loose, giving permission for different styles of ministry.

There are positive examples-to the denomination's credit. Sometimes at a conference it can sound a little dissident, and sometimes we do feel a little upset, but we also want to say "Way to go" when there's something to celebrate. My conference has begun to entrust many things to my congregation. But it takes time. Institutions move slowly. Sometimes it feels like trying to turn the Titanic with a toothpick.

Summarize what "Loving Babylon" is about.