TEN FRATERNAL delegates from nine denominations participated in a "Quiet Saturdays" dialogue at the 165th annual session of the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference, held at the College of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas. On Tuesday afternoon, Au gust 9, a panel, made up of Seventh Day Baptist ministers, discussed the Biblical foundations for the Bible Sabbath and the fact that commitment and obedience to God's laws has spiritual benefits or derivatives that reach across the board into the Christian life. They stressed that Seventh Day Baptists oppose "blue laws" dealing with either Saturday or Sunday because they do not believe that religion or a day of rest can be legislated. But participants indicated that they do believe the seventh-day Sabbath experience has great meaning in modern society. The "ecological Sabbath" could be viewed as a kind of stewardship of our gifts from the Lord, the panel said.
The panel concluded that the Sabbath frees us to be what God wants us to be. It is a concept adaptable to every society and culture, and its principle is eternal. One of the panel members pointed out that it is not legalistic to be what God wants us to be, but that we can take advantage of God's guidelines to live life more abundantly and in harmony with Him and His will.
This session was followed by a discussion between the fraternal delegates and the members of the Seventh Day Baptist executive committee. There seemed to be clear agreement that legislating "blue laws" was not the answer and that it also would be very difficult for the concept of a day of rest to be accepted by the American public. Only some momentous event such as an even more severe energy crisis than any we have yet experienced could throw the United States back into the keeping of a day of rest, they felt.
One of the non-Sabbatarian ministers expressed his appreciation for the dialogue, stating, "You have forced me to do a lot of reading and studying on this issue that I would not otherwise have done. You have a very proper under standing of the value of a day of worship. It is certainly imperative that God's people set aside a day for worship."
There seemed to be a consensus among those participating in the discussion that it would be impossible at this time to have a two-day holiday when all business activities would be closed down, although they agreed that some momentous crisis might result in a new emphasis in this direction.
The "Quiet Saturday" discussion at the Baptist Conference grew out of a running dialogue that Harold Lindsell, the editor of Christianity Today, initiated in his November 5,1976, issue by asking his readers to "Consider the Case for Quiet Saturdays."
Just before Christianity Today moved its main editorial offices from Washing ton, D.C., to Carol Stream, Illinois, Dr. Lindsell invited the editors of THE MINISTRY to spend a morning with him at his office. We were very impressed with the general friendliness and receptivity of the Christianity Today staff and their willingness to take time to show us around and answer our questions, even though they were in the throes of moving. In the course of our conversation with Dr. Lindsell we asked him what the outcome was, to date, of his advocacy of the "Quiet Saturday" issue. "Oh," he said, "the Seventh Day Baptists are very happy with me, the Lord's Day Alliance is annoyed with me, and you Adventists—I'm not sure where you stand!"
He still felt that if Saturday could be a day on which all businesses were shut down for energy purposes the nation would be immeasurably helped. Sunday, he explained, was ingrained as far as business closing is concerned, and he could see no likelihood of that changing. But he felt that there needed to be an additional day and that this holiday should involve a two-day block of time.
In response to the alternate suggestion made in our January, 1977, issue that Monday be designated instead, since it had no religious connotation, Lindsell responded that Sunday and Monday would be all right from his point of view but that Adventists would run into a problem if businesses were closed on Sunday and Monday and they couldn't shop on Saturday. So he asked, "Why not do that which is most convenient to Adventists and Jews by closing on Saturday, but make it clear that this is not being done for specific religious purposes?"
He told us that he has a hard time conceiving of Sunday laws coming into existence in the way that Adventist eschatology sees it happening, especially in the light of the current climate. But he did state that he recognizes that the climate could change overnight, and he could easily be proved wrong.
The dialogue that Dr. Lindsell initiated last year is still continuing, and interest has been expressed from church leaders from many denominations concerning the concept of a "Quiet Saturday."
Dr. K. D. Hurley, executive secretary of the Seventh Day Baptists, took the initiative following the appearance of the "Quiet Saturday" suggestion in the November 5 issue of Christianity Today by inviting the representatives of interested denominations to participate in a discussion of this issue at the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference scheduled August 7-13.
In his letter to denominational leaders, Hurley stated, "Transcending the differences concerning the appropriate day for worship are ecological and sociological considerations, as Dr. Lindsell points out. People need to consider seriously the implications of dwindling natural resources and the dissipation of human resources. They should be given the chance to assess anew the claims of the Sabbath as God's gift to man of a day of rest. At issue is not the proper day for worship but whether America will accept, in her need, God's gift."
The fraternal delegates present for the dialogue on "Quiet Saturdays" at the Seventh Day Baptist Conference did not, of course, all agree on the need of keeping the seventh-day Sabbath, but they did feel that the opportunity to participate and carefully consider this issue had been a worthwhile one. The spirit manifested by all participants in the discussion seemed to be one of genuine good will, and I personally was greatly blessed by the opportunity to associate with ministers of other faiths and to share our point of view with them.
A new vitality and spirit of dynamic growth is evident among the Sabbatarian group. They reported ongoing work in Australia, Brazil, Great Britain, Burma, Canada, Germany, Ghana, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Korea, Malawi, Mexico, Mozambique, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines, Rhodesia, South Africa, and the United States. The national churches and conferences are becoming mission-minded in their own right, sending their own workers to preach and teach in nations beyond their borders. The largest membership is in India.
One major objective of this General Conference session was the reorganization of the Seventh Day Baptist denomination, reminiscent of the kind of organization that took place in our own church in the early 1900's. They currently have eight commissions or head quarters for various aspects of their work scattered around the United States and are now attempting to consolidate these into a central organization.