"Standing Together For Truth"
On November 7-8, 2008, the Urshan Graduate School of Theology (UGST) hosted the seventh annual symposium. Though it is primarily an academic conference, this year’s event addressed many topics applicable to a number of practical ministry contexts. It included presentations by creative ministers, as well as some of the greatest academic minds in the Apostolic Pentecostal movement. The following are some of the highlights.
Thoughts from a First Timer
I was hesitant to sign up for the Symposium because I didn’t feel qualified. Though not completely unfamiliar with UGST—I took a J-Term in June, 2006—I still had a sinking feeling that it would be too Bible scholarly for me. I was afraid that everyone would be communicating in exegetical hermeneutical theologico-speak and that I would be left behind, coughing in their Holy Ghost-filled academic dust. My fears were soon allayed when I felt welcomed and began to see my lack of knowledge in some areas not as intimidating, but rather as an opportunity to learn. And I found myself in a community of people not only willing to share, but eager to gain from one another.
This pre-Symposium split session was absolutely electrifying. Moderated by Roy Fisher, it consisted of several attendees presenting synopses of their papers and then opening up the table for discussion. There were a plethora of topics presented and the only regret is that there wasn’t more time to discuss each at length. What was fascinating is that the room was full of academic authorities on the Word of God as well as respected men and women of God; yet, despite their solidarity on the weightiest matters, they ardently, but always respectfully, disagreed. Aside from offering lively discussion, this session offered proof that disagreement does not have to equal divisiveness.
Holiness and Culture
UGST President David Bernard gave an excellent presentation on holiness in the 21st century. While many denominations which began with a similar approach to holiness have regressed over the years, the Apostolic Pentecostal movement has typically remained steadfast in this area. Does this mean that we are out of date or that we need to change to be relevant to our times? Some things in the Bible reflect a particular cultural context, but holiness is a biblical principle that does not change. Bernard did a wonderful job of illustrating why holiness remains relevant in any culture.
Standing Together for Truth
The Symposium was held in conjunction with the Apostolic Leadership Summit, a meeting of Oneness leaders from several different Apostolic organizations. While many of their meetings were closed to general attendees, we were greatly blessed by the ministry of some of these leaders in the plenary sessions as well as their accessibility during a panel discussion. Rev. Martin, Bishop Moore, and Bishop Johnson all preached well-crafted and highly anointed sermons about Jesus and the unity of His people. These services culminated in a moving communion service. Diverse Apostolic-Pentecostal (AP) leaders joining together in such an expression of unity brought to light the historic nature of the Symposium beyond the academics.
Counseling and Ministry
There was also a dedicated track for professional counselors (although anyone was welcome to attend). Brent Coltharp chaired these sessions. Although the Church is sometimes not willing or equipped to help those experiencing personality and emotional disorders, they still need Jesus and the ministry of His body. Likewise, those going through grief need ministers who understand both the nature and the issues surrounding this multi-faceted journey.
Emergent or Emerging?
There was a lot of discussion on the Emergent Church. Nathaniel Binion ('03) gave a presentation detailing definitions and distinctions between the Emerging Church and the Emergent Church. He also described proper responses from the AP movement to the Emergent Church, coining the phrase and discouraging the idea of “Pentecostal McCarthyism.” A following session looked at the challenges presented to the Church by emerging communication technologies, and how to form community and minister in such a context.
And Finally, Brethren . . .
The Symposium has something to offer anyone who is looking to learn more about the Word of God, its history and context, and its application to our present lives. If you’re craving the community of like-minded people who love God, who love learning, who love open, honest discussion and who value unity and service, the Symposium is the place to find it. UGST Symposium 2009 is slated to be held October 29-30. Will you mark your calendars with us?
-Reprinted from an article by Josh Remington ('05) and Chantell Smith originally published at www.ninetyandnine.com
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