A non-Adventist reader of MINISTRY recently wrote us this letter: "We appreciated having the local Seventh-day Adventist clergyman in our area ministerial association until he moved. We have missed his successor being with us. After all, we are a motley crew—Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, Assembly of God, Christian Church, UCC, Presbyterians, Baptists of all sorts, a Polish National Catholic priest, United and Free Methodists, Lutherans (Missouri Synod, ALC, UCV), Evangelical Covenant, and Salvation Army. Our association is a real gathering of men and ladies who, despite their theological differences, are concerned for their fellow men and women and the religious health of people. Can't you drop the local Adventist pastor a line and encourage him to please join us? We miss him!"
We happily complied and hope that soon the Adventist pastor in that area will be taking advantage of the obvious fellowship in that group, as well as contributing his gifts to it. But we began to wonder, "Why do so many of our pas tors fail to participate actively in their local ministerial alliance?"
Part of the reason, no doubt, is the fact that the Adventist Church is a very close-knit family. Adventist pastors have a tremendous built-in system of support through the conference structure and its departments. Materials, supplies, and specific tools for his work come to him. Workers' meetings provide times for fellowship, recreation, instruction, and inspiration. It's easy in such a situation to feel that all our needs are cared for by our own church.
Also, many Adventist pastors may feel that the multitude of responsibilities they face keeps them sufficiently busy just caring for their own congregation. Perhaps we have developed, even unconsciously, such an introspective preoccupation with our own concerns that we have become apathetic to the concerns of our ministerial colleagues and those of our community at large. Perhaps we have felt that the local ministerial group (especially if it is not as open and responsive as the example above) has little to contribute to our ministry. We hope to convince you that such is not the case, that your local ministerial group has much to offer you and that you can bring much to it in return.
Since 1975, MINISTRY has enlarged its scope from a professional journal beamed solely at the clergy of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to one that goes bimonthly to nearly a quarter mil lion clergy of all denominational back grounds. The large response we have received (several thousand letters, most of which express positive appreciation) leads us to believe that MINISTRY is being widely read by its expanded audience. In a wholesome spirit of Christian inquiry many write, asking questions or dis agreeing with a position the journal has taken, and presenting an alternative viewpoint. Corresponding with these readers requires a great amount of time—more time, in fact, than we some times have in the press of other duties. If there are Adventist clergy, retired or active, who would be willing to share in this type of correspondence, please let us know. Address your offers to the editors at the General Conference.
In urging on you the advantages of a personal acquaintance with your non-SDA counterparts in your community, we are but echoing counsel given us by Ellen White years ago. "Our ministers should seek to come near to the ministers of other denominations. Pray for and with these men, for whom Christ is interceding. A solemn responsibility is theirs."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 78.
How many fellow pastors in your area do you know personally? How many of them do you count as friends? How many have you prayed with? If there is sometimes a less than enthusiastic response when we attend a gathering of the ministerial alliance, could it be that our own aloofness and reticence have contributed to a lack of fellowship?
Perhaps some have felt hesitant to unite with the local ministerial fellow ship or to make overtures to their col leagues in the community for fear of being rebuffed. It is true that there are basic issues on which Adventists differ with many other Christians, yet this is the day of openness in dialogue and of willingness to accept others for what they are. As pointed out by the writer of the letter quoted earlier, there is much diversity of practice and theology among the typical ministerial alliance. The Adventist pastor who comes into such a group with a sincere desire to fellowship and cooperate by receiving and sharing strengths will doubtlessly find a ready acceptance.
Ellen White further counsels: "When our laborers enter a new field, they should seek to become acquainted with the pastors of the several churches in the place. Much has been lost by neglecting to do this. If our ministers show them selves friendly and sociable, and do not act as if they were ashamed of the mes sage they bear, it will have an excellent effect. . . . Our laborers should be very careful not to give the impression that they are wolves stealing in to get the sheep, but should let the ministers understand their position and the object of their mission to call the attention of the people to the truths of God's Word. There are many of these which are dear to all people. Here is common ground." —Review and Herald, June 13, 1912.
MINISTRY'S expanded circulation has opened lines of communication by which we may provide helpful material to clergy of all faiths, call attention to the truths of God's Word, and also benefit ourselves from the free interchange of ideas. At the beginning of the project to expand MINISTRY'S outreach, one of the stated reasons was to make it possible for clergy of all faiths to look over our shoulders as we spoke to concerns of both Adventist Church professionals and the Christian church at large. We ex pressed the feeling that if our non-Adventist friends found anything we are saying and doing that would benefit their ministry, we would feel rewarded. Apparently a great many have found MINISTRY to be of value to them.
One example is our offer some months ago to provide help for smoking preachers who wanted to overcome this unhealthful, expensive habit. A number responded. Milo Sawvel, director of the international Five-Day Plan to Stop Smoking, sent letters to our pastors in the areas from where requests for help had come. One pastor in Massachusetts turned Mile's letter over to the health educator in his church. This lady, in turn, contacted the minister who had requested help. What was the result? Not only did he attend the next session of the stop-smoking clinic, but he also requested trained speakers and counselors to go to his church and give a similar program. Seventeen people took the course in what turned out to be one of the best Five-Day Plans the Adventists had ever put on in that area! The health educator in this experience stated the results beautifully: "We just praise the Lord," she wrote, "for the way He used MINISTRY to reach all those people." It is reports such as this that gladden our hearts as editors as we see some of our objectives being reached in helping others. Our prayer is that the ministry of MINISTRY will continue on an even broader scale.
What the journal is doing on a national level with the printed page you can do in a personal (and probably even more effective) way in your own community. Your involvement with the clergy in your area can be a means of mutual benefit as you demonstrate your interest in them and in their programs for the people. Another part of our outreach is the seminar program under the direction of W. B. Quigley. The present plan of conducting one-day professional growth seminars for ministers of all faiths is one of the finest opportunities for interdenominational fellowship. Here is an occasion in which the Adventist pastor can come close to his non-SDA counterparts and share together in the stimulating benefits of the seminar. It could also be the beginning of a rich and enduring friendship.
Some pastors who are getting involved in this way are finding that they and MINISTRY make an ideal team. One re ported that at a recent ministerial fellowship meeting, twenty of the twenty-two present were already receiving MINISTRY and had words of appreciation to speak for it. The other two asked to be put on the mailing list when the program was explained to them. (We are still able to include names of active non-Adventist ministers who want to receive the journal on a bimonthly schedule. Send such names to us for processing.) The same pastor expects a number of these men to attend the MINISTRY professional growth seminar with him when it comes to his area. The key is a personal relationship that has been developed by a demonstration of genuine interest and willingness to listen, as well as to speak.
As Seventh-day Adventist ministers, we firmly believe that our worldwide church, with its 3,065,837 members and 20,167 churches in 190 countries and is land groups, with a chain of 4,854 educational and medical institutions belting the globe, is a movement born of Bible prophecy. In fact, we believe that this movement of destiny is a continuation One hundred ninety-five clergy listen attentively during the P.R.E.A.C.H. Professional Growth Seminar held January 15 at Orlando, Florida. and amplification of the sixteenth century Reformation, with its central theme of sola scriptura. Biblical doctrines that in the past have been lost, overlooked, or rejected must be restored. The importance of this concept is found in Hosea 4:6: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shall be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children." God does not arbitrarily reject or forget His people. God's rejection or forgetting is the automatic result of our ignoring those God-given principles that, if fol lowed, guarantee life and happiness. Just as a rejection of Louis Pasteur's discovery of bacteria would automatically plunge earth back into the dark ages of plague and disease, so with spiritual truth. Truth is an ever-advancing line of light.
This is the point we wish to emphasize. No person and no church has a monopoly on truth. Truth is never static and certainly is not the sole possession of any one group. Adventists, although believing their movement to be a fulfillment of prophecy, have never felt that they were the sole depository of spiritual truth. As editors, we have already learned much from our non-Adventist friends. If for no other reason, we believe the P.R.E.A.C.H. project (Project for Reaching Every Active Clergyman at Home) is worth our church's large investment. The exchange of theological and methodological thought has been a blessing to us. At times, we have been forced to examine our own positions more carefully. This has been good, and will continue. In some cases, although we cannot agree with certain interpretations of Scripture, through this closer examination, we have come to understand more fully why others believe as they do. In fact, we have found, in certain instances, we misunderstood the reasons why some have taken a particular theological position. This, in our thinking, is a healthy experience for us. We anticipate more of the same as other doctrinal issues are brought into focus. We solicit the prayers of our readers for a deeper understanding not only of the will and ways of God but of one another. Surely, of all people, we who claim to live by the Book should be leaders in the searching of the Scriptures for additional light. Of all people, we should be patiently listening to what others claim to have found as truth. There is no exclusiveness in the Holy Spirit's leading of people.
It is our conviction, in the light of these mutual benefits, that the P.R.E.A.C.H. project should be continued indefinitely. We would like to hear from you and have your assessment of the project. If you feel that this type of outreach is beneficial both to our non- Adventist friends and to ourselves, let us hear from you. If you think not, let us hear from you, too. Your response will help us in our future planning. J.R.S., B.R.H.