It was an audacious idea! I was not sure if he realized just how bold it was at the time, but when Pastor Mansfield Edwards, president of the Ontario Conference, first shared his idea with me in autumn 2017 of having an earth day summit, it seemed as if it was just another good idea to him. Now, a year later and just a few months away from one of the largest creationist event ever held in Ontario, if not in Canada, I wanted to find out just what people can expect on April 21, 2019—one day before Earth Day is celebrated. I decided to sit with him and ask him.
Peat: Pastor Edwards, when we hear of a summit we usually think of a meeting of government leaders. Please tell us what you mean by holding an Earth Day summit?
Edwards: Yes, we usually think of that as the meaning of a summit but it also refers to a gathering of the brightest minds to inspire others and to challenge commonly-held beliefs that are not necessarily true. So, on April 21, 2019, we are bringing together some of the brightest scientific minds that we have in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ontario, Canada and the United States to address the questions raised by evolution and to show how belief in God as creator can solidly rest on scientific evidence.
Peat: Many questions come to mind, but maybe an obvious one is, why do this? Surely, the theory of evolution is so commonly accepted that this could be seen as a waste of time?
Edwards: I am convinced that the theory—and it is just a theory—is accepted because Christians have not readily met science with science. I am also concerned that since many of our young people--in the crucial stages of their intellectual development--attend public schools and universities where they are being bombarded with evolution by atheist teachers and professors. In the absence of opportunities of hearing or seeing contrary scientific evidence that speaks of a creator God the influence of those professors can often be profound. They are faced with a tension between science and their faith. Barna Research reveals that 50% of Adventist youth 18-29 years interpret their church to be anti-science. This gives the church two responsibilities:
1. To help our youth with a clearer understanding of faith and science so they can reconcile the two worldviews. That is, science in the light of scripture.
2. To help our community grasp the basis for our faith
One of the objectives of this summit is to give our young people in high school and universities an opportunity to hear from Adventists scientists as well as scientists from other Christian denominations.
Peat: So, is this event only for students?
Edwards: Not at all! In addition to our objective of strengthening the faith of Adventist students on non-Adventist tertiary campuses, we strongly believe that it can be evangelistic. We will use it to reach out to the general public with the Creationist message because many have simply bought into the theory of evolution in the absence of a credible alternative. This is why we want every Seventh-day Adventist in the Greater Toronto and surrounding towns and cities to tell at least one person about the summit and do their very best to get them to attend. In fact, when people from the community turn up having seen adverts they will find it well-attended because Adventists will have brought their friends with them.
Peat: For it to be evangelistic, are you saying that even non-scientific minds will find it interesting and useful?
Edwards: I could not have said it any better myself! It will be very inclusive. I am not only pleased by the number of Adventist scientists we have in our province and our country but I am so impressed by their ability to take some seemingly difficult concepts and make them so simple that even young children can understand. We anticipate making a major impact on society influencing and understanding of God’s Holy Word.
Peat: But why Earth Day?
Edwards: Earth Day is the perfect time because it’s right on everyone’s calendar. Every year on the civic calendar God has provided us with an opportunity to emphasize the importance of the earth and of its origin. Since its early days in the 1970s, Earth Day has helped to raise people’s awareness of environmental concern. In December, we heard much about the United Nations’ warning about global warming, so we expect Earth Day 2019 to spark even more interest than usual. We will use the summit to also consider stewardship strategies to include re-cycling and sensitivity to climate change. We plan to be relevant. I am convinced that Adventist should be among the leading promotors of Earth Day and stewardship of God’s creation.
Peat: So, what is to be expected when we arrive at the Orion Ballroom at the International Centre?
Edwards: Among the various activities in the Orion Ballroom, there will also be many stations where experts in their fields will expose visitors to the marvels of God’s creation from a scientific perspective. Adults and children alike will at one time or another experience wide-eyed or jaw-dropping moments as they visit stations relating to Physics, Archeology, Marine Biology, Immunology, Toxicology, ADRA, Organic Planting, Urban Planning, Creation Health, Trees & Forestry, Neurology, Burman University, Children, Ornithology, Epidemiology, Recycling, Zoology, Audiology, Gravity, Equator, Creation Science, Pesticides, the Death of Honey Bees, and more.
The subject experts will gladly provide scientifically based answer to questions and some will even have hands-on activities.
Peat: It sounds like we should plan to spend the entire day because there will be so much to see, do and learn.
Edwards: That would be a good idea. Let me say this, even though I am part of the planning my excitement is getting stronger as we get closer to April 21 because of all I am hearing from the scientists and what they plan to share.
Peat: Pastor Edwards, thank you for sharing this with me.