Under the theme of “Religious Liberty: Last-days Outreach,” religious liberty leaders and experts met at the Andrews University—a higher education institution of the Seventh-day Adventist Church—to inaugurate the new International Religious Liberty Institute.
The June 26 and 27 conference brought together promoters and activists to launch the new institute that will bring “a new focus to these vital issues and provide a working location to better enhance the religious liberty program,” said newly-elected institute director attorney Nicholas Miller.
“Through this conference we hope to make a statement that we are even more committed to issues of freedom of conscience than ever before,” Miller continued. “Adventists have long been known as faithful defenders of religious liberty, and by basing this new institute at Andrews University we believe we can further strengthen our commitment to the fundamental God-given rights to freedom of belief. By combining academic studies with practical involvement in the field of religious freedom and human rights we hope to make an even greater difference.” A certificate program in church-state studies is planned.
Visiting scholar Dr. Derek Davis in his keynote address spoke of the importance of guarding the separation of church and state, and analyzed the current situation of religion in politics and issues of civil religion. He also commended the Adventist Church for its ongoing commitment to promoting and defending religious freedom for all. Davis is director of the J M Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies, Baylor University, and editor of the prestigious Journal of Church and State.
Former United States ambassador for International Religious Freedom, Robert A. Seiple, added his enthusiastic words of encouragement and identified those present with the title of his presentation: “Ambassadors of Hope.” He looked forward to an institute where “truth is passionately pursued on behalf of the most vulnerable—the persecuted.” Seiple, once head of World Vision, now chairs the board of the Institute for Global Engagement.
Also attending the conference were international visitors and leaders including Dr. Corwin Smidt from Calvin College, Dr. John Graz and associates from the Adventist world church’s department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty, along with scholars from Andrews University.