Adventist Theologians Discuss Encountering Religious Pluralism in Asia

Special event in the Philippines adds to annual forum of the Asian Theological Society.

Petronio M. Genebago, Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, and Adventist Review
Adventist Theologians Discuss Encountering Religious Pluralism in Asia

The AIIAS Asian Theological Society (AATS) held a recent special Sabbath celebration and the annual regional forum of Seventh-day Adventist theologians, two important activities for Adventist theology researchers and professors in the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) church region.

According to its stated mission, AATS exists to foster a healthy dialogue among members on issues relevant to biblical, theological, historical, and missiological studies in the Asian context. The society is based at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in Silang, Cavite, the Philippines.

Asian Special Sabbath

A month before the yearly forum, the society spearheaded the Asian Special Sabbath on June 9, 2018, at the AIIAS amphitheater with the theme, “Challenges and Triumphs of Mission in Asia.” SSD president Samuel Saw and vice-president Bienvenido Mergal were the guest speakers.

A group of presenters at the annual forum of the AIIAS Asian Theological Society (AATS) show certificates of appreciation for their contributions to the Adventist theological discussion across the region. [Photo: Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies]

In discussing how to better share the gospel across the region, Mergal presented the SSD’s intention of not only bringing people to Christ but also properly making them into disciples. Saw shared the challenges and triumphs of mission across the region. “One of the big challenges is how to reach the 10/40 Window,” he said, in reference to the densely populated region of the world between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator, where Christians are a minority. Saw also related the triumphs of mission across the region and in his own life.

On that special Sabbath, AATS also recognized the contributions of Stephen Guptill and Michael Campbell to the organization. In the afternoon, after hearing the challenges and triumphs of mission shared by the representatives of such organizations as 1000 Missionary Movement, Philippine Frontiers Mission, Lay Institute for Global Health Training, and Philippine Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism, AATS ratified its constitution and bylaws and elected the AATS 2018-2019 officers.

AATS Annual Forum

During its 6th Annual Forum, which was held July 13-14, 2018, at the AIIAS amphitheater, AATS focused on the theme, “Encountering Religious Pluralism in Asia.” AIIAS Seminary dean Ricardo A. González emphasized the significance of this forum in his welcome message. “Since more than half of the population of the world lives [in this region],” he said, “it is important to talk and to discuss religious pluralism and how it impacts the mission of the church in this part of the world.”

More than 125 administrators, professors, faculty, students, and lay members attended the event, coming from a variety of institutions in the SSD territory.

Adventist University of the Philippines (AUP) president Francisco Gayoba spoke about doing theology in a time of fake news and encouraged his audience to focus on their oral communication skills. “Make your presentations and preaching relevant and alive to the hearers, no matter if you come from biblical, theological, or applied disciplines,” he said.

Nineteen scholarly presentations followed, including topics such as “Religious Pluralism and Its Implications to the Authority of the Scriptures, Identity, and Mission of the Church” by Remwil R. Tornalejo; and “Adventist Response to Secularism and Pluralism” by Ermela T. Dizon. All presentations were recorded and will be kept at the AIIAS Library.

During the Sabbath worship service, Carlos Elias Mora challenged worshippers to keep the mission flame burning. He appealed to everyone, especially young people, to become missionaries for Jesus. “Mission is a permanent challenge,” he said.

Jimmy Adil, a presenter from Mountain View College in the Philippines, said he appreciated the forum. “I am speaking from my heart when I say that so far it’s one of the best forums I’ve attended and presented at,” he wrote in an email message sent to the event organizers. “I hope to stay active in AATS, especially in presentations and publications. And I hope to be with you again.”

Petronio M. Genebago, Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, and Adventist Review