Seventh Day Baptists, who date back to 1650, meet in Kansas
The writer, who lives in Little Rock, Ark., is a former member of the Worldwide Church of God who attends a Seventh Day Baptist congregation. Her husband, Bill, also a former WCG member, is a Seventh Day Baptist minister.
By Cindy Burks
LINDSBORG, Kan.--Imagine choosing a week-long vacation with 500 of your closest denominational friends at a small college campus baking in the August heat of Kansas.
That's what happened for the annual conference of American and Canadian congregations of Seventh Day Baptists Aug. 5-11 in Lindsborg.
The theme of this year's conference was "Try God."
Lindsborg is the perfect tourist town, of Swedish heritage and charm. Many of the Seventh Day Baptists who attended the general conference said they were happy with these arrangements.
By the Sabbath of Aug. 11, the last day of the conference, more than 700 SDBs had arrived, including 300 delegates representing 50 congregations (of about 75 in the United States and Canada).
The president of the conference, Clayton Pinder of Salem, W.Va., was quoted in the Salina, Kan., Journal: "This is a time for us to be together . . . where members from each church vote on certain issues" and "to help the churches coordinate and help train pastors."
Dr. Pete May, a lifelong member from Arcadia, Calif., was quoted in the same newspaper as saying the principle of Sabbath worship puts the "human spirit in rhythm with God."
"The difference is we believe in the Sabbath," Mr. Pinder said. "Many feel like the day doesn't make a difference. But you can't pick and choose which laws of God you're going to follow."
American Seventh Day Baptists began in Newport, R.I., in 1671, with roots reaching back to about 1650 in England. Issues of that day involved "soul liberty": freedom to live life by Scripture and not merely teachings of a church.
This love of freedom lives on for many SDBs. It found ample expression on the floor during business sessions here.
The Seventh Day Baptist general conference is organized to do the work of its member churches. Business sessions are time-consuming, and floor debate can be heated.
Yet, after the sessions, everyone remained friends--to the surprise of no one except newcomers.
Jeanne Yurke of Plainfield, N.J., commented, "We're connected, we're related, and we retain a relationship despite differences of opinion."
Workshops and priorities
Workshop topics included prayer, church finances, missions, apologetics, caring for elderly parents, and time management. Dr. Paul Ackerman of Wichita, Kan., of the Institute for Creation Research (www.icr.org), Naylor, Mo., presented scientific evidence for creation at one of the sessions.
Gospel evangelism is high on the list of priorities of SDBs and is a focus of national and international committees. Delegates encouraged each other to find new ways of sharing the gospel.
The message stressed by SDBs is the "saving love of Jesus Christ."
Finding new ways to spread this message is not always easy, as Pastor Ron Elston of Naylor, Mo., reminded attendees.
This year conference delegates passed a statement on stem-cell research that showed the antiabortion concerns of most, if not all, SDBs.
Many young people
Many youths attended the conference. A coffee house with an "open mike" was a popular activity. An SDB band, Stained Glass, entertained conference guests. Those who attended preconference camps for youths and young adults gave presentations as well.
This conference was a time of growth in several ways. Relationships were strengthened, and many saw their faith grow. Some came closer to understanding that God is a personal God who gives each believer this confidence: "Safe am I in the hollow of His hand."
Believers returned home renewed and strengthened for another year of service to God.
For a church whose U.S. membership totals just 5,000, this is no small accomplishment.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God