Oneness in Christ: Avondale academic guides thinking about worldwide Church unity

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An Avondale academic’s doctoral research has helped her prepare verbal and visual resources providing biblical instruction about Christian unity for Seventh-day Adventists this quarter.

Dr Wendy Jackson not only wrote helps for teachers of the Church’s Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide but also scripts for a complimentary video series. The theme? “Oneness in Christ.”

Appearing in this week’s video (week 9 of the 13-week series), Dr Jackson speaks about unity’s most convincing proof. Her point: unity is a witness to the nature and character of God and His transforming power.

With unity the subject of much conversation in the Adventist Church, stemming from debate about ordaining women and preserving the authority of church organisation, Dr Jackson wrote with care, focusing on Christ as the centre of unity. “If we’re connected with Christ, our relationships will be strengthened as we act harmoniously towards a singular goal. That’s what unity looks like.” [pullquote]

She suggests while organisation is important for the Church and can help bring unity, it is not the basis of unity. The basis is the individual.

Content in a 2015 doctoral thesis, which compared Restoration Movement leader Alexander Campbell’s back-to-Acts model of unity with Church pioneer Ellen White’s union-with-Christ model, provided a point of reference. The research showed Church unity is not about uniformity but union with Christ and not about knowing but practicing truth as found in Jesus. The implication: it is not about difference in doctrine but about how you deal with that difference.

“Unity is about how you live your faith,” says Dr Jackson, a lecturer in the seminary at Avondale College of Higher Education. “It’s relational. You can’t begin by legislating unity. It has to begin with transformed lives on an individual basis.”

Dr Jackson used relationship as one of the criteria to help choose which 12 of her colleagues would present the video series. She describes the presenters, including Avondale College Council chair Pastor Glenn Townend, president Professor Ray Roennfeldt and Avondale Seminary head Dr Kayle de Waal, as “people of peace” who “who exude their faith”. 

The presenters share a key idea and close with a personal call to action. Footage of students—the videos are shot on location—not only illustrates the idea but also life on campus.

The videos, produced by Church in the South Pacific’s Discipleship Ministries and Adventist Media, appear on the Church in Australia’s resource homepage.

The helps, called “The Lesson in Brief” and the “Learning Cycle”, appear at the end of each lesson in the teacher’s edition of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide.

Members of the more than 78,000 Seventh-day Adventist churches worldwide began using the guide and the videos this past month (October). They will continue using the resources until the end of the quarter.

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