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Seminary professors travel the world to present scholarly research and participate in conferences. They also publish many articles, author books and hold seminars on a variety of topics. Check back often to see some of their most recent accomplishments.
The PhD in religion program is pleased to announce the oral doctoral dissertation defense of Jolive Chaves titled "A Study of the Nones in Brazil and USA in Light of Secularization Theory, With Missiological Implications."
The defense will be held on Monday, March 15, 2021, at 2 p.m. via Zoom by personal invitation only.
Three Australian women graduated with PhDs from Andrews University Seminary earlier this month. What made this event historic was that they all graduated on the same day (May 1).
Wendy Jackson (Avondale College) and Katrina Blue (originally from Melbourne) both received their doctorates in systemic theology and Edyta Jankiewicz (originally from Adelaide) received her doctorate in religious education.
Two other factors conspired to make this a truly Australian event. Two of the seven departments in the seminary are chaired by Australians, which has never happened before. Interestingly, these are the two departments that the three women did their PhD studies under.
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A new Ellen G. White Research Center opened at Bogenhofen Seminary in Austria on the 101st anniversary of the death of the cofounder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The new research center is the 20th worldwide and the first for the German-speaking countries of Central Europe: Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Germany.
It aims to help a new generation in Europe gain a greater appreciation for White and her ministry, church leaders said.
The opening of the new research center coincided with the first Gift of Prophecy symposium in the Adventist Church’s Inter-European-Division, whose territory includes the German-speaking countries of Europe. For three days, nine scholars from the White Estate, the Biblical Research Institute, Andrews University and Bogenhofen Seminary shared their research and insights into the theology, ministry, and life of White at Bogenhofen Seminary.
From Gothic cathedrals to the temples, synagogues, chapels and mosques of modern times, do the sacred spaces of the world’s faith traditions still hold meaning in an ever increasing secular world? Is there tolerance for religious clothing or does it too often evoke derision and misunderstanding? Scholars and theologians from around the country and overseas–including Roy Gane, professor of Hebrew Bible and ancient near Eastern langauges in the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary on the campus of Andrews University–will discuss these topics at a two-day conference Nov. 3 & 4 at University of Southern California (Los Angeles).
The “Sacred Space, Sacred Thread” conference is hosted by the John A. Widtsoe Foundation and USC’s Office of Religious Life (Full list of sponsors below). Attendance is free but conference-goers are encouraged to register at Eventbrite.com. For conference information and updates go to www.widtsoefoundation.org/sacred-space-sacred-thread.
During the first day’s proceedings, the keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Margaret Barker, a prolific author and British theologian, who has spoken and written widely about the connection between early Jewish temples and modern Christianity as well as Hellenistic and synagogue cultures. Prof. Roy Gane will discuss “Theology Enshrined in the Israelite Sanctuary” during the Friday, Nov. 4 session from 9:00-10:30 a.m. He will discuss the layout, architecture and furnishings of the Israelite sanctuary and the deeper religious meanings. Prof. Gane is Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Languages at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary on the campus of Andrews University.
Throughout the two-day colloquium, presenters from more than a dozen faith traditions will share their perspectives about the physical and conceptual aspects of sacred spaces and sacred clothing, concluding with a final session about the “constructive tensions” that occur in sacred spaces and sacred clothing.
To maximize audience participation and presenter involvement, the colloquium is designed to elicit dialogue between panels of speakers as well as conference-goers. Proceedings will be carried real-time to points around the globe through live streaming capabilities.
“The historic threads of many faith traditions will be brought together to help the scholars and audience understand the mosaic that religious life creates in the community,” said Dr. Larry Eastland, Chairman & President of the John A. Widtsoe Foundation. “Taken together, they are a force for good, compassion and support not just to their members, but to the community as a whole. We invite people from all religious traditions and academic perspectives to join us.”
Dr. Varun Soni, Dean of Religious Life at USC, said, “It's a great honor to host this conference on sacred space and sacred clothing at the University of Southern California. There's no better place to bring together scholars and religious leaders to discuss our shared and aspirational beliefs and practices than the city of Los Angeles, the most religiously diverse city in the world. "
In conjunction with Dr. Barker’s visit, she will share a 13-panel exhibit on the history of sacred clothing and its relationship to Biblical references, colors, customs, and temple worship. The exhibit will be displayed Oct. 8-22 at the Los Angeles Temple Visitors’ Center, and the Fishbowl on the USC campus Oct. 24-Nov. 1.
Other conference sponsors include the Academy for Temple Studies, Our Savior Parish USC Caruso Catholic Center, California Missionary Baptist State Convention, Los Angeles Greek Orthodox Community and the Los Angeles Institutes of Religion.
Nicholas Miller, professor of church history at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary on the campus of Andrews University, attended the 18th annual “Meeting of Experts,” which is hosted by the Andrews International Religious Liberty Institute. During the meeting, which was held over three days in August of this year at Harvard Divinity School, attendees presented papers and discussed the issue of religious restriction. Despite a trend over the past few decades of advocating religious tolerance, many places across the globe still restrict religious practice.
Progress has been stymied by this paradox. In a statement written by the meeting’s attendees, the authors state, “In sum, a major shift in the debate about freedom of religion or belief may well be occurring in its intellectual heartlands. Until recently, religious freedom norms were widely accepted; debate was about their details, about how they should be applied in different contexts, and about how they could be more effectively extended and implemented. Now their very legitimacy is being challenged, whether explicitly or implicitly.”
Miller’s role in the meeting was to compile a document that provided an overview of everyone’s presentations.
“I was the main respondent at the end that summarized, synthesized and responded to all the presentations made in trying to help facilitate with the group a way forward based on the three days of meetings,” explained Miller.
In his document, he identified two themes of those who presented, “the philosophical and ideological challenges to the idea of international religious freedom,” and “the practical and political challenges to the realization of international religious freedom.”
The IRLA’s secretary-general Ganoune Diop, who is also director of public affairs and religious liberty for the Seventh-day Adventist church, described some of the reasons behind why countries are reluctant to maintain these standards of religious freedom. Getting to the root of the problem means analyzing the critiques that these countries launch against tenets of religious liberty in the first place.
A common critique is of the idea of “individual rights,” which tends to be associated with religious freedom and, according to Diop, “doesn’t sit well with cultures based on a more communal and community-based approach to rights.” Depending on the society, religious freedom can be seen as liberal permissiveness, a slippery slope that descends to widespread moral decay.
Yet another worry is that the dominant religion of a country, especially ones with major historical significance, will be undermined by advocating freedom of religion.
Diop continues, “Examples of this are some forms of Islam in many Middle Eastern countries, or Orthodoxy in some Eastern European countries.” Some countries simply worry that these ideals serve western imperialism more than anything.
Also causing problems for religious freedom is postmodernism’s influence. The worldview’s emphasis on scepticism of universal norms means that the many societies, notably western ones, lack interest in religious freedom, dismissing it as having little importance in today’s world. Secularism has also lent a hand to decreasing interest, as has a waning trust in government’s ability to uphold our freedoms.
“It’s little wonder that many people dismiss international institutions and laws–even those that purport to promote universal human rights–as futile, at best, or as a political tool of repression, at worst,” Diop commented.
Miller’s document summarizes the steps needed to overcome the issue.
“We need to explain why a community of rights, freedoms and values, allowing for diverse moral frameworks to co-exist, is superior to a system where one moral framework is imposed by the state,” he says. “We have to point out why religious freedom is foundational to all other freedoms, in that it acknowledges a zone or realm of transcendence that is not subject to the state, and thus beyond its control, and that this serves as the basis for all other rights.”
The Meeting of Experts will meet next year at Princeton University in New Jersey.
“These meetings are immensely valuable,” states Miller, “in that they bring focus and attention to important religious freedom concerns.”
Andrews University Alumnus Ray McAllister became the first Adventist to win the prestigious Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award at the ninth annual awards event during the 2016 convention in early July. The award comes from the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and includes the highest possible cash prize totaling $20,000. In addition to being a fully licensed massage therapist, McAllister is an adjunct teacher for the University’s School of Distance Education & International Partnerships.
The Jacob Bolotin Award is a cash award program to recognize individuals and organizations working in the field of blindness that have made outstanding contributions toward achieving the full integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality.
“It is my prayer that this award will give me the recognition I need to negotiate with scholars around the world so I can have access to the text materials I need,” says McAllister.
Jacob Bolotin, for whom the award is named, was a blind physician who lived and practiced in Chicago from 1912 until his death in 1924. The NFB prides itself as being “the only organization that believes in the full capacity of blind people, and has the power, influence, diversity and determination to help transform [their] dreams into reality.”
This accomplishment is known in many circles as the Nobel Peace Prize of Blindness. McAllister, along with Sarah Blake LaRose, professional Braille transcriber, professor of Hebrew and alumna of Anderson University (Indiana) and Matthew Yeater, current president of the NFB in Michiana, comprise the Semitic Scholars.
The Semitic Scholars are a group of three blind academics who created a Braille code for ancient biblical languages so that source documents of religious texts can be studied independently by blind students in their original context—a task that was previously impossible.
In 2010, after becoming the first totally blind person to earn a PhD with a concentration in Old Testament, which he earned from the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary on the campus of Andrews University, McAllister began this project by utilizing his resources which included computer-code-style files which used letters, numbers and punctuation to represent Greek and Hebrew symbols. McAllister utilized a computer that would convert these symbols into Braille letters and show them on a Braille display, which is a device using something similar to magnetic pins that pop up in the shape of Braille words. However, McAllister needed something that would appear more like Braille Greek and Hebrew, just with extra symbols.
McAllister developed coding for the symbols not already established in Braille. Hebrew has accents which help one know when to pause while reading and which can be used to inform readers how to chant or sing the text, but these symbols were not previously charted in Braille Hebrew.
“Since chanting is a task a blind person can enjoy, I felt the need to prepare Hebrew Bibles in Braille with all these symbols,” explains McAllister. “Once I developed these symbols, I needed to have them peer reviewed.”
In 2007, LaRose developed a Braille table for Biblical Greek and Hebrew with all its technical markings. Through guidance from LaRose, McAllister completed a system that could be used to prepare texts that the blind could use. Using this system and Microsoft Word’s “search and replace” function along with the Aleppo Hebrew Bible, McAllister translated the text into Braille.
“I converted that entire Hebrew Bible, accents and all, into Braille, and, yes, I have chanted Hebrew from it fluidly,” says McAllister. “I also converted many other Hebrew documents, Semitic inscriptions, and many Greek documents into Braille.”
In 2014, McAllister collaborated with Duxbury Systems, a company that produces software to convert documents of various languages into Braille. Through Duxbury, McAllister began working with Yeater. Yeater had been working with Duxbury to set up a system for converting biblical language documents containing many languages, including English, into Braille.
Through working with other key individuals, Duxbury is able to convert many ancient texts without using the “search and replace” function.
“It’s definitely a lot easier relying on Duxbury to do most of the translation into Braille,” says McAllister. “My dreams for the future of this project are simple: I wish to have more texts in more ancient languages in Braille format. Besides this, I have no idea how God will lead. I only know that he has led thus far, and what is to come will only be even more of an adventure.”