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Highlights from Evangelical Theological Society 2010

Atlanta, Georgia
Image: Brett Weinstein / Wikimedia Commons

The 62nd Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society convened November 17-19, 2010, at the Atlanta Hilton in Atlanta, GA. The conference, attended by over 2600 persons from around the globe, had “Justification by Faith” as its major concern. N.T.. Wright, from the University of St. Andrews, and Bishop of Durham in the U.K. spoke on “Justification Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” at the plenary session on the morning of the 19th. From the morning of the 17th through the 19th, every hour from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. were filled with parallel sessions which included Study Group programs on Bioethics, Global Christianity, Christian Ethics, Spiritual Formation, and “Other Voices of Biblical Interpretation,” to name a few. Affiliated Societies, as the Near Eastern Archaeological Society, the Adventist Theological Society, and the Evangelical Philosophical Society were also present and held their sessions. In one way or another, justification by faith was dealt with in one way of another: how it appears in the New Testament, in the preaching of St. Paul, in the preaching of the early Church Fathers, its contrast to the “theology” of other religions, justification’s appearance in the Prophets, the Synoptic Gospels, 17th century preaching, and how it relates to the practice of pastoral care, just to name a few. Since I am part of the “Other Voices of Biblical Interpretation”, my focus was on “The Nickels Mine Massacre (2006) and the Amish Understanding of the Atonement and Discipleship.” I, naturally, touched on justification as it is part and parcel of the Cross of Christ, and how it effects the extension of forgiveness. Forgiveness was my principle theme as I drew from the forgiveness extended by the parents of the slain and injured children of the Nickels Mine Amish School to their killer’s family. I spent a year reading in Menno Simons’ works (16th century) and the works of Mennonite and Amish writers into the late 19th and 20th centuries to be thoroughly knowledgeable of Anabaptist theology touching upon the atonement, justification by faith, and forgiveness. It was interesting to me that the “forgiveness” motif appeared in other sessions of the ETS meeting in Atlanta. I attended a session on Spiritual Formation led by John Auxier from Talbot School of Theology in which forgiveness was the major concern. He raised the incident of the Nickels Mine Massacre in his talk and referred also to Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower in which the Jewish author related his experience at the bedside of a dying Nazi soldier. I, too, in my presentation, made reference to Wiesenthal.

That was not the only session where forgiveness and justification was more than hinted at as interrelated with each other. Needless to say I found this ETS meeting exhilarating, not only because of the program[s] but also because of the mix of the people present, old friends and new, and the variety of Christian experience. There were others with the Assemblies of God besides me. There were men from Central Bible College in Springfield, MO, and Southwestern Assemblies of God University at Waxahachie, TX. But to mingle with the Mennonites, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, Baptists of different affiliations, Adventists, Anglicans, Brethren in Christ, Lutherans, and whoever else has always been helpful to me. I am somewhat a “High Church Pentecostal.” What is most interesting to me is the extent to which the Holy Spirit affects the entire spectrum of the Christian experience irrespective of denominational membership. For myself, I was with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for many years as a minister before crossing over to the Assemblies of God. My baccalaureate was gained from Texas Christian University. My Seminary training was at Duke Divinity School. My doctorate came from O.R.U. I have preached in predominantly African-American Churches, Baptist and AME, and a Church of the Brethren. On the Walton side are Adventists; on mother’s side are Brethren and Mennonites. I serve “a Kingdom without Borders,” to borrow a phrase from writer Miriam Adeney.

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Category: In Depth

About the Author: Woodrow E. Walton, D.Min. (Oral Roberts University School of Theology and Missions), B.A. (Texas Christian University), B.D. [M.Div.] (Duke Divinity School), M.A. (University of Oklahoma), is a retired Seminary Dean and Professor of biblical, theological and historical studies. An ordained Assemblies of God minister, he and his wife live in Fort Worth, Texas. Walton retains membership with the Evangelical Theological Society, American Association of Christian Counselors, American Society of Church History, American Academy of Political Science, and The International Society of Frontier Missiology.

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