Sabbath dialogue draws 483 in Jamaica, reports CGI

KINGSTON, Jamaica--The Jamaican members of the Church of God International (CGI) moved into the Passover and Unleavened Bread season "with a high hand," said pastor Ian Boyne. The brethren, he reported, savored the excitement of seeing 483 people turn up to hear the first dialogue of a two-part series about the Sabbath.

Participating in the second of a series of doctrinal discussions with members of non­Church of God groups, the CGI teamed up with Seventh-day Adventists in debating two Evangelical theologians trained at the University of Sheffield (England) and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill., the weekend of March 27-28.

Representing the CGI were Ian Boyne, pastor of the Kingston and Ocho Rios CGI congregations, while the Adventists were represented by its national communications director, Meremoth Weir, and the New Testament professor at the SDA-run Northern Caribbean University, Martin Hannah.

The Evangelical theologians were biblical-studies specialist Clinton Chisholm, director of training, Institute for Leadership Development; and Anthony Oliver, academic dean of the graduate school of the Jamaica Theological Seminar, which has a close working relationship with Trinity Evangelical School in Illinois.

On the second day of the dialogue, which lasted for six hours over two evenings, 414 people turned up, stunning local CGI members accustomed to seeing a much lower attendance at second-in-the-series lectures.

From the thunderous applause, it seemed the CGI presentation was the most welcome and appreciated. The caliber of the dialogue was high, with technical points of Hebrew and Greek as well as exegetical matters coming up for discussion.

Two main books used in the Sabbath-Sunday controversy were liberally used in the debate: Samuele Bacchiocchi's latest work, The Sabbath Under Crossfire, and Dale Ratzlaff's Sabbath in Crisis. (Dr. Bacchiocchi and Mr. Ratzlaff are a champion and critic of the Sabbath, respectively.)

"I pointed to weaknesses in Ratzlaff's work and quoted from Evangelical sources to cast doubt on the anti-Sabbatarian arguments," Mr. Boyne, the CGI pastor, told The Journal.

At the sessions, which took place at a charismatic church's hall, Fellowship Tabernacle, CGI members, targeting the expected large number of Sabbatarians, distributed hundreds of pamphlets advertising a CGI-sponsored follow-up lecture, "Should You Keep the Feast Days?"

"The strategy was to do such an impressive job on the weekend that the Sabbatarians, principally Adventists, would come back to hear the CGI arguments for the holy days," said Mr. Boyne. "The strategy worked."

A record 53 new people turned up at the PCJ Auditorium in Kingston the Sabbath of April 10 to hear the lecture, given before a record 187 in attendance.

The previous record for Sabbath attendance was 157, made when Bronson James from the Tyler, Texas, CGI headquarters visited last Pentecost.

"The CGI in Jamaica keeps shattering its own records," noted Mr. Boyne.

Also, the CGI pastor appeared on talk shows to promote the weekend dialogue as well as a well-orchestrated anti-Easter campaign.

Church leaders appeared on morning television shows and late-night radio and wrote newspaper articles showing the origins of Easter and calling attention to the biblical feast days. In addition, two prominent ads were taken out publicizing the Feast lecture.

"The church received a number of cards from visitors asking for personal contact following the Feast," concluded Mr. Boyne.

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