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Josue "Josh" Pierre and Orlan Johnson talk about the upcoming SDA Attorneys Conference and Retreat.
By Kimberly Luste Maran
For Josue “Josh” Pierre and Orlan Johnson, reviving the SDA Attorneys Conference and Retreat is a must. An annual event in the early 1980s, the joint General Conference (GC) and North American Division (NAD) conference/retreat was no longer occurring by the late 80s. Now these two attorneys are working together to bring it back, starting this fall.
The conference/retreat will be held Oct. 20-23, 2016, in Henderson, Nevada, at the Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort and Spa.
Both Johnson and Pierre have corresponding reasons for wanting to hold the event.
|The 2016 SDA Attorneys Conference and Retreat will be held in Henderson, Nevada, on Oct. 20-23.
Johnson, NAD Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director, is looking forward to “The opportunity to meet more people who have a similar backgrounds to me but probably very different stories than mine. Just hearing those experiences is much encouragement.” He hopes that the networking opportunities will help others take who they meet and what they learn and “pass it on to others.”
Pierre, an associate general counsel for the GC, believes the conference/retreat will “provide a forum for those of us who are Adventists to come together and to look at developments of the law, the directions of the law; and also forge connections and discuss issues such as religious liberty, discrimination, new laws that may impact or have a direct conflict with our faith, or may impact the way the church institutions are able to govern and operate.”
And while the event promises to be a time for attorneys across North America to network and compare experiences, they will also be able to attend seminars that will earn them continuing legal education (CLE) credits. Pierre explains that CLE requirements differ between states — some states such as California and Virginia require a certain amount for each reporting period. Other states, including Maryland and Massachusetts, recommend CLE but do not require it. “The Pacific Union PARL chapter is a quite active; they tend to do CLE on a more regular basis,” says Pierre. “But for this [event] we're trying to bring in all of the North American Division Adventist attorneys.”
The conference will afford attorneys an opportunity to learn what’s like to be member of the Judiciary. “We have arranged to have the highest ranking Adventist judge in the Federal Bench, Judge James E. Graves, Jr., as our keynote speaker,” says Pierre. And one of CLE sessions will feature a panel of Adventist judges.
“It’s important for us attorneys to convene,” says Johnson. “Especially for those who may not necessarily work for the Church but who are in the profession and are active members of their local church, applying their gifts as an attorney to the local church. The retreat provides a place where we can share information and best practices that the attorneys can then also pass on as they serve.”
The tagline in PARL, according to both attorneys, is to “make friends before we need friends.” The convention/retreat is a way to find out “who are our friends engaged in the practice of law who we may be able to call upon if we want clarification on issues, people who might be able to be impactful in their concentric circles, wherever they are across the country and the division,” Johnson says, explaining that GC president Ted N. C. Wilson asked a few years ago if the Church had a list of Adventist lawyers who work in key positions, in government service, around the world.
“We found that you probably have dozens of people who are in key positions all over the world who are Adventists, but when you don’t create enough forums to meet those people, you just don’t even know who you have that could be helpful in some way,” says Johnson.
He adds, “We’re trying to get the message all the way down to the local church . . . not only is this something attorneys who are employed by the church should attend, it’s completely open to all Adventist attorneys.”
After the seminars, addresses, special worship services, and meals conclude the coordinators hope attendees “have a better understanding of the value and importance the legal profession may have on the work of the Church.” Pierre also says that he wants the people to “be better acquainted with current events and current laws that may have significant impact on the operations and mission of the church.”
He says, “I hope that we are able to forge stronger bonds and connections between the legal community, Adventist legal community. I think we may play a very vital role based on our understanding of prophecy, and I think there would be some value in forging those connections now.”
Johnson adds, “Sometimes you’ll be thinking, Wow, I’m struggling with this from an Adventist standpoint, and then you realize there’s probably 500 other Adventists who have the same issue, and you can give one of them a call. These types of relationships are important now, and will become even more important in the future.”
More information is available on Facebook; and registration is now open.