In Germany, Symposium Discusses European Adventism

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Friedensau Adventist University hosts Third International Symposium on its campus.

Is there such thing as “European Adventism”? How is it like? What are some of its contributions to Adventism in general? These were some of the questions discussed at the “Contours of European Adventism” Symposium, recently hosted by the Institute of Adventist Studies at Friedensau Adventist University, Germany.

From April 23-26, 2018, symposium participants listened to 21 presentations by several Adventist scholars from several European and non-European countries. Presentations were historical, theological, empirical, or sociological, dealing with issues faced by past and present generations of Adventists in Europe.

Past and Present

In the past, how to make Adventism relevant to the European context did matter for pioneers, several of the presenters said. But that was just one problem. When Adventism started taking roots in Europe, early converts faced imprisonment, beatings, and persecutions because of their faith. As a religious minority, were they to embrace the laws and sanctions of the government, or stand firm and clash with authorities? Several did stand firm, and as a result, they became martyrs. Others who died became unsung heroes because no one kept records.

Today, it was said, issues are both similar and different. “In fact, while Adventism faces secularism, postmodernism, and atheism, there are still sanctions in some European contexts that affect religious freedom,” one of the presenters explained. He suggested needs-oriented evangelism, conscious contextualization, and dialogues as solutions to these issues. At the same time, one of the papers presented stated that the recent influx of immigrants seems to be helping to check the continual decline of Adventism in Europe.

In Search of European Adventism

How does the past shape the present? This was a question asked time and again during the event. In fact, the question was the center of reflections of the keynote and closing addresses by Denis Fortin, professor of Historical Theology at Andrews University, United States, and Rolf J. Pöhler, professor of Systematic Theology at Friedensau. From different perspectives, both stressed the contributions of European Adventists to the global church.

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