Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Columbia Union Hosts ‘Sola Scriptura’ Leadership Summit

Story by V. Michelle Bernard / Feature photo by Stephen Lee

Last weekend some 170 students, local, conference, health care, education and union leaders attended the Columbia Union Conference 2019 Leadership Summit, held in Columbia, Md. Attendees discussed and dissected the role of sola scriptura in guiding the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s development and organization; local church life; and their personal lives.

“Our church was founded on the principles of the Bible, and they are and should be what guides our mission, ministry and actions,” said Columbia Union President Dave Weigley. “The impetus for our actions must continue to be sola scriptura. Therefore, we must uphold the primacy of God’s Holy Word, and neither add to it nor misinterpret its message.”

U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black (pictured left) shared how his mother, the daughter of a South Carolinian sharecropper and a domestic worker struggling to raise her children in inner city Baltimore, used the Word of God to “inoculate her children” from the tough environment around them.

Paid by his mother to memorize Scripture verses, Black dug into the Bible, and at age 10, learned 1 Peter 1:18–19. These verses helped him realize that “the value of anything should be based on the price that someone is willing to pay,” he said. “When it dawned on me that God sent His Son for Barry Black, no one could make me feel inferior anymore. Something different happened in my heart because that Word, it penetrates. I started looking for that Man in Scripture,” he adds.

Black discussed how he now consumes a steady diet of Scripture throughout the day: the Psalms for breakfast; a Proverb at lunch; and a Gospel passage in the evening. He charged the attendees to pray James 1:5 and Luke 11:13 each day, saying it would transform them as it has him.

Throughout the weekend, speakers challenged attendees to think about Scripture in different ways and from different angles. Pardon Mwansa (right), vice chancellor of Rasungu University in Zambia, added that the Church believes in present truth. “What we don’t know is much more than we do know,” later adding that the church needs the Holy Spirit more than anything else, noting the challenge of cultural differences across the world church. “We don’t have the ability to distinguish sometimes. But the Holy Spirit can handle our differences. I really trust that.”

Washington Adventist University professor Bogdan Scur reminded attendees that the “local church has to give primacy to the Word of God,” he said. “There cannot be a healthy church without a biblical exegesis (critical interpretation of the text) at the heart of it.”

Attendee Peter Simpson, Hispanic Ministries coordinator for the Ohio Conference who oversees 27 congregations, said this topic is fundamental for our churches, as he sees the meaning of Scripture losing value in [the eyes of] the congregations [and culture.]

Part of the reason Scripture isn’t seen as relevant as it has been in the past is the growth in interest of science over faith. But attendee John Sackett (pictured below), chief operating officer for Adventist HealthCare (Md.) and a member of Chesapeake Conference’s Spencerville church in Silver Spring, Md., thinks this topic is a good opportunity to build faith around.

“There are some questions; there’s ambiguity. God doesn’t give us all the answers, and so we have to search them,” he said, sharing he has cystic fibrosis, a disease that took his sister at age 34. “Just recently they discovered essentially a cure,” he said, adding that he asks God “Why He didn’t send that information earlier? You know, why did we have to suffer so much? ... But the truth is that God wants a relationship—a relationship that surpasses having a full knowledge of everything.”

Speakers challenged and encouraged summit attendees throughout the weekend to ask the Holy Spirit to guide them in their personal studies. Cheryl Chavers, a member of Allegheny East Conference’s Calvary church in Newport News, Va., said, “It really provided a wonderful view in terms of how to view the Word of God in a different way that I’ve never experienced before.”

In a Q&A panel at the close of the event, attendee Chuck Sandefur, retired pastor and former ADRA president, added, “Too much of the time we see Scripture as a puzzle we need to solve. … [It] isn’t something we’re trying to solve, but opens us up to the potential of God’s life inside us. It shows us how we should live.”

Videos of most of the lectures will soon be available at

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