As most of our workers are probably aware, action was taken at the last Autumn Council to call a Bible conference. This conference is to be held in Takoma Park, September 1-13, 1952. According to the action of the Autumn Council, the personnel of the conference will consist of the following individuals:
"The members of the General Conference Committee who will be in attendance at the 1952 Biennial Council, and others who may be invited to the council. "From North America:
"a. Two Bible teachers from each senior college, to be chosen by their respective boards.
"b. One Bible teacher from each junior college, to be chosen by their respective boards.
"c. One to as many evangelists from each union conference as there are local conferences in the union, to be appointed by the respective union committees.
"d. The editors of our leading periodicals.
"e. The book editors of our leading publishing houses.
"f. Representatives from the Theological Seminary.
"From overseas divisions: a minimum of three in addition to the president of the field."
There are several reasons for the holding of this conference. Let me state them in what I believe is their relative order:
1. It is now thirty-four years since such a conference was held. In that period of time a whole new generation has come on the scene of action, new leaders in administrative posts and new Bible teachers in our schools, as well as new workers throughout the world field. As truly as recurring revival meetings in our churches help to refresh and intensify the spiritual life of even the most devout, and as workers' meetings in our conferences help to improve the service of even the most ardent laborer, just so truly, I believe, can a Bible conference help to increase and intensify the preaching efficiency of even the most successful minister.
A very great power resides in the truths of God distinctive for these last days. There is a new lift for our hearts and minds and spirits that can come from studying together the doctrines that have made us a people and that justify our continued existence. It is one of the prime purposes of this conference to provide that heavenly lift for heart and soul as we reaffirm those truths that have most certainly been believed among us through all our history. I confidently believe that the very large and representative group at the conference will be able to take back to their fellow workers in all parts of the world something that will aid tremendously in carrying out our ambitious plan to double our member ship. We must never forget that in seeking to increase membership we are not searching for additions to a social club. We are searching for men and women who will give a responsive ear and heart to great and saving truths that God has commissioned us to preach. Our success in this heavenly undertaking will be in ratio to our understanding of those truths and our flaming conviction that they are indeed the truth of God.
2. This leads us naturally into the second great reason for holding the Bible conference. The very fact that we believe our message is timed for the last days implies that we believe it grows more timely as the years pass by. All of us realize this in part, but only in part. How easy it is for us to present our doctrines, yes, even the prophecies, in exactly the same setting and with the same illustrative material that we did ten, twenty, or even more years ago! But the world moves and how rapidly! That applies equally to the political, the social, the economic, and the religious world.
Certainly a people who believe that their message for men will have its maximum meaning in earth's last hour ought to reexamine their doctrinal presentations from time to time to make sure that they are setting forth the truth in a way that most fully explains the meaning of the times and most effectively challenges the attention and response of the multitudes. The question that should ever concern us is not whether we have a great and true message but whether we are presenting that message in its true greatness.
We can leave to others the holding of theological conferences where every man does or sets forth that which is right in his own eyes, and where the distinguishing symbol of the meeting is a question mark. Such conferences are held in abundance and explain the weakness of Protestantism. This Advent Movement was not built on question marks, nor will question marks provide a solid footing for the great company of men and women whom we hope to have stand with us in the final hour when all the world is falling apart. We have great verities to preach. The purpose of this Bible conference is to help us all to see how we can present those timeless truths most effectively in these changing times.
3. A third reason should also be mentioned. We speak of our message as light light for these darkened times. The figure is apt and Scriptural. But no matter how bright the light and how wide the circle it covers, there is always a twilight area beyond. This is inevitable. We see through a glass darkly; we know only in part. The path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Here is at once the reminder that our understanding is presently limited, and here is the assurance that we may see further ahead as we journey along the road to the kingdom. We can at one and the same time affirm that we walk in the light and thus have a heavenly message for men while admitting that there are truths of God that as yet can be but dimly discerned.
The trouble sometimes has been that a brother has mistaken the sparks of his own kindling for new light. But instead of lighting up for us further vistas of truth, the sparks only blinded or bemused those who focused on them. Genuine new light will never cast a shadow on the light we already have. The purpose of our Bible conference is not to cast shadows over the present great areas of truth, nor to explore curiously some dim areas to the distant right or left. But, keeping in step as a company bound for heaven, we shall seek to go forward. If, for example, some unfulfilled prophecy heretofore but dimly discerned on the horizon, and thus differently described in its details, can now be seen more clearly, then we shall rejoice, thank God for the enlarged light, and go forth from the conference with one more point to add to our preaching. But we shall best see further areas of truth by intensely exploring and promoting the truths we already have.
That is why we believe that the safe and Scriptural way to advance the message of this movement is by giving first and major attention at this conference to the great truths that have made us a people, and by keeping the searchlight of those truths ever focused forward toward the New Jerusalem. Those who address us will tell us what the searchlight reveals to them of greater depth and distance to the message we have been proclaiming for well over a century.
May God grant that as one result of this conference we shall see the future more clearly than ever before. But let us never forget that the worth of our message and of this conference must not be measured by our ability to know all things and to see the end from the beginning even the holy prophets had to search diligently, and often foresaw but dimly the very prophecies they penned. No, our message has adequate meaning in terms of the great light God has already given us, and this conference will have adequate meaning and value for us if it but brings to our hearts a new vision of the greatness of our message and of its increasing timeliness.
We are coming up to one of the most important meetings in our history. Let us all call upon God to make it a great mile stone in our journey toward the kingdom.