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Columbia Union Leaders Confer Religious Liberty Award

Story by Visitor Staff
Published 10/3/13

Rob Vandeman, executive secretary for the Columbia Union, presents the Adrian Westney Religious Liberty award to J. Brent Walker executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee.
Last week at the Columbia Union Conference’s annual religious freedom Sabbath, held this year at Potomac Conference’s Sligo church in Takoma Park, Md., union leaders recognized a member of the Baptist Church for his contributions toward religious liberty. Rob Vandeman, executive secretary for the union, presented J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee, with the Adrian Westney Religious Liberty Award. The award, which is presented annually, was presented to Walker in “recognition of Baptist leadership in the advocacy of religious freedom in the United States of America,” said Walter E. Carson, the union’s vice president and general counsel. Walker, an ordained minister and attorney, preached during the second service.
The rest of the day also featured religious liberty themes from a biblical perspective. Orlan Johnson, director of the North American Division’s (NAD) Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) office, and John Graz, PARL director for the General Conference, spoke during Sabbath School. Carson preached during the first service. In the afternoon, a panel discussed various aspects of religious liberty—both domestic and international. Panelists included Knox Thames of the U.S. International Commission on Religious Liberty; Melissa Reid, associate editor of the church’s Liberty magazine; Rob Boston, director of Communications for Americans United; and, Mitchell Tyner, a retired General Conference attorney, who specialized in church-state matters.
Karla Bucklew, the New England Youth Ensemble and Washington Adventist University’s Columbia Collegiate Chorale blessed the gathering with music throughout the day.
According to Carson, the union sponsors such events not only to educate members about religious liberty but also to remind them that “Bible-based freedoms that will not, according to Prophesy, always be ours; it also serves to balance the often conflicting news accounts regarding religious freedom.”

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