Adventist Law Practitioners Discuss Religious Liberty Issues

Third convention drew lawyers, law professionals, and law students in the Philippines.

Edward Rodriguez, Southern Asia-Pacific Division, and Adventist Review
<strong>Adventist Law Practitioners Discuss Religious Liberty Issues</strong>
The 3rd Adventist Lawyers and Church Leaders Convention took place January 12-15, 2023, at the Life Hope Impact Center in Silang, Cavite, Philippines. [Photo: Southern Asia-Pacific Division Communication Department]

The Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department recently held the 3rd Adventist Lawyers and Church Leaders Convention in Silang, Cavite, Philippines, January 12-15.

Organized in collaboration with the Adventist Lawyers Association, the convention at the Life Hope Impact Center had the theme of “Summoned.” Presenters shared compelling stories of religious liberty in their respective territories, made plans for religious liberty initiatives, and organized platforms to educate delegates on the importance of practicing religious liberty principles.

“We are all here because every one of us has been called for a reason and a purpose, and regardless of our profession, we all participate in the church-wide mission to proclaim Jesus’ imminent return,” SSD president Roger Caderma said. “Your presence here is encouraging, knowing that in legal practice, we have individuals who stand on the side of law and the side of God.”

General Conference general counsel Karnik Doukmetzian attended the event. In his plenary address, Doukmetzian discussed the numerous legal difficulties affecting the global church and how these scenarios can be contextualized and referred to when encountering comparable cases in a delegate’s particular field of work.

“This generation has witnessed a massive paradigm shift in our membership…. While these changes are taking place in a world where our churches exist, we must remember that we are not above the law,” he said. 

According to Doukmetzian, the church has faced many challenges in the past. These legal issues include discrimination advancements in social legislation, congregationalism, policy application, sexual abuse, disaster preparedness, religious liberty concerns, judicial challenges, and Adventist branding and identity. “While these challenges persist in this generation, the church remains unwavering in its pursuit of ecclesiastical and legal means to remedy them,” Doukmetzian said.

On Saturday (Sabbath) morning, the assembled lawyers discussed how they had witnessed God at work in their lives and careers. Attorney Fritz Tagalugin shared that, due to his reserved personality, he didn’t actively participate in church activities or ministries during his formative teenage years. Tagalugin said that God inspired him to become more outspoken and actively involved in the church’s mission activities by allowing him to pursue his chosen career path. Tagalugin spoke recently as part of an evangelistic series organized by the Adventist Lawyers of the Philippines Association during the height of the pandemic. This online effort was a powerful method of evangelism, since it allowed people to hear the message from the comfort of their own homes.

“No matter what career path we have chosen, the Lord has entrusted us with the important responsibility of spreading the gospel,” Tagalugin said. “We should participate and allow God to use us as His instruments to reach out to individuals within our spheres of influence.”

Many invited guests from the city government received an overview of the various church programs that are helping to further the city’s humanitarian goals. The SSD Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department is leading these efforts to establish a lasting relationship and interfaith dialogues. It seeks to introduce the Adventist Church to the surrounding community and discuss the many ways in which it can collaborate with the state to improve governance and provide comprehensive social services.

Kevin Anarna, the current mayor of Silang, Cavite, attended the event and gave a brief talk about how his upbringing in the Adventist faith influenced his career as a public servant.

At the conference’s Sabbath morning worship service, Doukmetzian gave some insightful remarks about the delegates’ careers as lawyers based on the biblical story of Naaman. He encouraged the delegates never to underestimate what their little voice of faith could do. “The life story of an individual can be impacted by a life of few words,” Doukmetzian said. “And while we share how the Lord worked in our lives, it is also crucial that we place our confidence in Him who empowers us.”

The original version of this story was posted on the Southern Asia-Pacific Division news site.

Edward Rodriguez, Southern Asia-Pacific Division, and Adventist Review