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New York Rally Builds a Bridge for Freedom and Religious Liberty


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By Janice Da Silva 

Leaders from the General Conference, North American Division, Atlantic Union Conference, Northeastern Conference and Greater New York Conference convened to emphasize religious liberty during an Aug. 26-27 rally in New York City.
Photo by Rohan Wellington

Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) leaders from the Seventh-day Adventist Church came together for a rally in New York on August 26-27, 2016.  Experts in the religious liberty field dispersed across a dozen New York City churches to speak on the theme of "Building a Bridge for Freedom and Religious Liberty." In each borough, local congregations heard a message proclaiming the gift of religious freedom and explaining the vital role the church plays in public affairs.

Event speakers included world church leaders Ganoune Diop, PARL director for the General Conference (GC), and Orlan Johnson, PARL director for the North American Division. The New York rally culminated with a Sabbath afternoon area-wide event held at the Goshen Temple of Seventh-day Adventists in Brooklyn, New York.

"The Northeastern and Greater New York conferences partnered together to organize this phenomenal city wide Religious Liberty rally," says Melissa Reid, North American Religious Liberty Association (NARLA) director and associate PARL director for NAD, who attended and presented at the event. "It was quite an undertaking, and enthusiastically supported by local church members."

Special honored guests from the community included the Honorable Una S.T. Clarke who was presented with a special freedom medal. Pastor Robert Hall of the Bronx Household of Faith was also recognized for his 20-year battle with the City of New York, fighting for religious organizations to have access to meet in public schools. G. Earl Knight, president of the Atlantic Union Conference, Daniel Honore, president of the Northeastern Conference and Henry Beras, president of the Greater New York Conference were also in attendance.

 The Honorable Una S.T. Clarke is recognized for her service in the  
 community by James Richmond.
 Photo by Rohan Wellington

The rally featured a line up of experts helping members better understand what religious liberty means for the church today. Nicholas Miller, professor of Church History at Andrews University Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Mich., and director of the International Religious Liberty Institute, opened with a presentation explaining the relationship between religious freedom and civil rights. Miller’s presentation emphasized religious freedom as the first freedom, and highlighted the church’s response to current social justice issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement and LGBT rights.

In his presentation, Lincoln Steed, editor of Liberty Magazine, clarified and reemphasized the church’s belief in the strong separation of church and state and the free exercise of religion. Reid facilitated a panel discussion covering very practical ways church members and leaders are engaging in the work of protecting religious liberty through partnership and coalition building. Panelists included Greg Hamilton, president of the Northwest Religious Liberty Association, and two guests from the Southern Union Conference, PARL director Amireh Al-Haddad and PARL associate director Kevin James.

Religious liberty leaders meet for a city-wide afternoon rally at the Goshen Temple church in Brooklyn, New York. 
Photo by Rohan Wellington

Lawrence Brown of the Northeastern Conference, along with Claude Morgan of the Greater New York Conference, honored local church religious liberty leaders with a special liberty pin. Abner De los Santos, general vice president of the GC gave the final charge challenging members to enjoy, to protect, and to proclaim our religious freedom through love for others. Following the service, attendees were able to personally meet the team of leaders at a special reception event sponsored by NARLA.

The 2016 New York rally served as a precursor to an ongoing collaborative effort to revamp the strategic religious liberty agenda of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in New York. This coordinated effort will continue with a future search conference in November 2016, engaging stakeholders across the city and state. The objective is to create a systematic presence for the church to engage thought leaders and policy makers on vitally important religious liberty values of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

—For more information or to learn how you can be involved, please contact author Janice Da Silva, coordinatior of the joint effort. 

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