Senator Kerry Backs Religious
Freedom at IRLA Dinner
n a night dedicated to recognizing and upholding religious freedom for all, keynote speaker and United States Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts rallied behind a bill designed to protect the rights of people of faith, including Sabbath-keepers, in the workplace. Kerry spoke to a room of 200 guests at the fifth annual religious liberty dinner staged in the historic Caucus Room located in the Russell Senate office building on Thursday, May 17.
"We all uphold the right to practice what we believe as a matter of religious freedom. The ability to be able to do that is a crucial part of our national identity; [it] is what we hold up to other nations and it's what we take great pride in," Kerry told the gathering.
"If this bill goes through," Kerry said, "it will be a major success for religious liberty. I think it's a hallmark of where we are as a nation--in codifying people's ability to truly and freely practice their religions."
|LET FREEDOM RING: Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Massachusetts, shown at the May 17 dinner sponsored by the International Religious Liberty Association, addressed the need for freedom of worship in his remarks. [Photo: R. Smith/ANN]
Three religious freedom outreaches sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church organized the dinner: Liberty
Magazine, the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), and the North American Religious Liberty Association (NARLA). Faith leaders from Catholic, Jewish and Protestant groups, foreign diplomats, representatives from various U.S. government departments, Adventist religious liberty activists and Adventist church leaders from around the world attended the dinner.
Senator Kerry praised the efforts of the coalition of different religions and philosophies represented in the Caucus Room. He received enthusiastic applause when he said, "That is why I support so passionately the Workplace Religious Freedom Act and have done since I introduced it in 1996. It is time for us to get [it] through the United States Congress."
"This effort is now supported by Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh and other faith organizations and writing this into law is a bit of a balancing act. That balance can be found and should be found," the 2004 Democratic party presidential candidate continued.
The annual dinner has attracted a wide range of prominent keynote speakers, including two current presidential candidates: Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, in 2006 and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., in 2005. Previous speakers at the event included Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.
Senator Kerry also took the opportunity to link his concerns about the environment with the evening's religious freedom theme. "Every faith shares a commonality, a universality of principle. All share a fundamental respect for the earth itself, of creation and what it is." He then quoted 1 Corinthians 10:26 to remind his audience that 'The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it.'
"Yes, we have dominion of it," Kerry added, "but dominion assumes responsibility. Our capacity to think gives us a greater capacity ...to make choices. God gave us responsibility to make those choices wisely and with love for our fellow human beings."
He moved on to address man's moral obligation in environmental matters, regardless of party affiliation. "It's not left or right, liberal or conservative. It's just plain common sense and it's certainly in keeping with any responsible interpretation of ...the scriptures, the Torah, [or] the Koran. [We must] do a better job of meeting our responsibilities to protect creation itself."
Following Senator Kerry's address, five champions of religious liberty received awards. Sonja Dewitt, an investigator who works at the Cambridge Human Rights Commission, an anti-discrimination agency won the A. T. Jones medal recognizing her mediatory work in cases of housing discrimination, public accommodation and employment.
Other award recipients included: Mitchell A Tyner, who recently retired from the General Counsel of the IRLA; Fred M. Blum, a partner at Bassi, Martini, Edlin & Blum, LLP; and Lavern H. Opp, a government relations representative of the Northwest Religious Liberty Association.
The Seventh-day Adventist church organized the International Religious Liberty Association in 1893. A little more than 50 years later, in 1946, the IRLA became a non-sectarian organization and counts among its board members representatives of many different faith communities. Information on the IRLA can be found at www.irla.org.
-- John Smith, Adventist News Network/AR Staff
CUC Board Names Two Interim Leaders
Dave Weigley, chair of the Columbia Union College Board of Trustees, announced Wednesday, June 27, 2007, the appointment of Gaspar Colón, Ph.D., as interim president of Columbia Union College, and Joan Francis, Ph.D., as interim vice president of academic administration. The school is located near Washington, D.C., and has more than a century of service to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“Both Dr. Colón and Dr. Francis bring tremendous skill to these positions, and they are highly respected by their colleagues at the college. I am grateful that they have graciously accepted my invitation to serve while we continue the search to fill these two significant positions on a permanent basis,” said Weigley.
Colón, director of CUC’s Center for Metropolitan Ministries and a professor of Religion at the college, previously worked as director of the Office of International Relations and director of Disaster Preparedness and Response for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) International. Colón was the convening founder of the VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) for the Northeastern United States and subsequently served as president of the umbrella organization that brought together 45 organizations including ADRA, the Red Cross, and The Salvation Army.
Francis, chair of CUC’s Department of History and Political Studies, is a former chair of the history department and associate academic dean at Atlantic Union College. She served as head of their continuing education and adult evening programs, similar to CUC’s School of Graduate and Professional Studies. Francis was also chair of the division of humanities at Northern Caribbean University, and has taught in Russia.
“I am delighted that Dr. Colón and Dr. Francis have agreed to work with the college administration and Board of Trustees at this important moment. They bring to this work tremendous enthusiasm and wisdom, and both are highly admired by faculty, staff, alumni, and students. These appointments will ensure a strong transition to new leadership here at CUC,” said departing CUC president, Randal Wisbey.
Colón is a graduate of Atlantic Union College (AUC) where he received bachelor’s degrees in Theology and German. He earned a master’s degree in Divinity from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, a master’s in Public Health from Loma Linda University School of Public Health, and a doctor of philosophy degree in Religious Education from New York University.
Francis earned all her degrees in History; a bachelor’s from AUC, a master’s from Andrews, and her doctorate of arts from Carnegie Mellon University.
The vacancies were created this spring when Wisbey accepted the invitation of La Sierra University in Riverside, California, to become its new president, and when Robert Young, Ph.D., the college’s vice president of academic administration, accepted the position of senior vice president of academic administration at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee.
--Mark A. Kellner/AR
NCU Students Win Second Microsoft
Regional Contest, Advance to Seoul Finals
Charged with finding real world solutions to real world problems, students from Seventh-day Adventist-owned Northern Caribbean University (NCU) rose to the challenge for the second time in two years. The group surpassed 4,000 other registrants in the region’s Microsoft Corp. “Imagine Cup” technology competition for students.
Under the theme of “Imagine a world where technology enables a better education for all,” the NCU team designed a software program to close the gaps in distance education.
|WINNING TEAM: For the second time in three years, computer science students from Northern Caribbean University won their regional Microsoft Imagine Cup competition, earning a trip to the finals in Seoul, Korea. [Photo: K. Clarke/NCU]
Called C.A.D.I., for Computer Aided Distance Instruction, the software “fosters a centralized learning environment that brings together teachers, students and resources. It highly enhances distance education and dissolves language barriers,“ says Kenrie Hylton, chair of the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at NCU and the team’s advisor.
Hylton adds that the project was developed with NCU in mind—the Adventist church’ s largest institution of higher education. NCU has students studying at its main campus in Mandeville, Manchester, Jamaica, from several satellite campuses and through distance education.
Hylton says while he doesn’t believe in ‘praying to win,’ he does believe studying in a Christian environment played an important role in the group’s success.
“More than anything else a personal relationship with God is a factor for this team,” Hylton says. “Throughout the whole competition we could see God leading us.”
“The Lord helped us to do our best and the students got very good feedback,” he continues. “The software they developed is really innovative and something that is worthy of actually taking home the [top] prize in Korea.”
The team is made up of all graduating seniors: Conroy Smith, Ayson Baxter, Damian Mitchell and Imran Allie. They advance to the finals in Seoul, South Korea on August 5 to 10.
NCU students also won the regional Imagine Cup competition on their first go around in 2005. There, the students will present their entries to a panel of judges from academia and the technology industry, according to a Microsoft statement. Finalists will be selected, and a worldwide winner from each category will be announced. Prizes for Imagine Cup 2007 will total more than $170,000 (U.S.) across nine entry categories.
Northern Caribbean University is a multi-disciplinary Seventh-day Adventist educational institution with an enrollment of more than 4,500 students. Formerly known as West Indies College, it was upgraded to university status in 1999. Founded in 1975, Microsoft Corp. is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses. More information on the competition can be found at www.imaginecup.com.
— Adventist News Network/AR Staff
"Proclaiming God's Grace" is Next GC Session Theme
When members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church's General Conference (GC) Session Theme Committee reviewed past GC Session themes — “We Have This Hope,” “Now is the Time,” “Almost Home,” and “Transformed in Christ” — they noticed not one mentioned grace.
"We said to ourselves, 'as a denomination, we believe in grace; why shouldn't it be our theme?'" says Pastor Gerry Karst, general vice president of the Adventist world church and chair of the committee. So, when Adventist delegates from across the globe gather in Atlanta, Georgia for the church's 59th GC Session in 2010, it will be under the theme “Proclaiming God's Grace.”
But is a GC theme anything more than a formality? Karst admits that traditionally, the answer to that question would have been "no." However, during the last GC Session in St. Louis, Missouri in 2005, he says the theme became "more of a force driving many of the devotions, worships and presentation topics."
For 2010, Karst expects that trend to continue. He says each speaker, worship director and even music coordinator will aim to "amplify" various aspects of grace. “Proclaiming God's Grace,” Karst explains will "give the delegates something around which to rally. [The theme] will give the session spiritual direction and help presenters focus on a very important element of [Adventist] belief."
Tens of thousands of Seventh-day Adventist believers are expected to converge on Atlanta for a 10-day festival of Adventist faith, beliefs and grace at the quinquennial business session.
— Elizabeth Lechleitner/ANN/AR Staff
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