1st BUC Religious Liberty Weekend
8th November 2018
2-4 November 2018 saw the first national Religious Liberty weekend which was held at the De Vere Conference, Staverton, Northamptonshire. With increasing legislative consultations, European law directives and cases of religious infringement toward practicing beliefs, the time was right to provide a platform to discuss and engage with matters affecting the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
With over 200 delegates from across the British Union Conference (BUC), Pastor Ian Sweeney who serves as the BUC Religious Liberty director under his remit as Union President, began the meetings with Friday evening's keynote address on the topic 'America: Lamb or Dragon'. In this presentation Sweeney looked at the role America will play in restrictions to religious liberty. Recognising the emphasis the church can play in focusing solely on America, Sweeney pointed out that religious liberty is not about what's happening around the world, but what's happening in our local community and what we are saying or doing to lift up the principles of Christ.
The continuum of this theme was taken up by Newbold Lecturer Dr Radisa Antic, who spoke on the 'Sources of Authority in Christian Churches'. He provided an introduction on the hermeneutical principles upon which we should interpret scripture in particular the prophetic writings and a historic development of the religious and political role the Christian church has played through the centuries.
Dr Brighton Kavaloh has worked extensively albeit during retirement to liaise with key personnel within the government and various civil and socioreligious organisations to provide clarification and information surrounding proposed legislation affecting freedom of worship and statutory laws in English faith schools. Dr Kavaloh was able to share his research and his correspondence with key individuals highlighting the potential impact on the church today and potential challenges that it will face in the future.
Hyland House School Headteacher Gina Abbequaye, amplified the points raised by Dr Kavaloh in a practical way through her presentation on 'British Values and the Future of Our Children'. Gina highlighted potential challenges to Christian education within Britain in light of changing values that can impinge upon future legislation and the impact it can have on the curriculum and how faith schools have to operate.
To provide a forum for members to seek counsel and legal advice, Sabbath afternoon saw the launch of Adventist Solicitors UK under the directorship of Chucks Golding, which aims to provide a professional place for further collaboration amongst religious liberty directors, pastors and church members. Chucks also chaired a debate on how we can better promote religious liberty within our local churches.
The quality of presentations by the speakers revealed the extensive research and awareness of current legislation within British law. This included the call for Adventists to participate in consultations that call upon individuals to express how impending laws would affect their religious freedom.
Throughout the weekend there were intermittent times for prayer on issues discussed, worship through devotions and singspiration.
The Q&A session at the end raised a number of questions including the role of the Spirit of Prophecy for today, consultation procedures, the need for all pastors to be regularly briefed on current religious liberty issues to provide moral and spiritual support, and the Union's response to the GC Compliance directive.
In all the weekend proved to be very informative and educational. With the first of its kind similar events on religious liberty are earmarked for the Conferences and missions.