LDS / Evangelical Dialog at Mariners Church, Irvine

This amazing dialog took place on Sunday evening, May, 20, 2007 at Mariners Church in Irvine.

During the dedication of the LDS Newport Beach Temple in 2005, Pastor Bob Brogger at Mariners Church called our Temple Committee and said that they had decided to offer to let us use the parking lot at Mariners for the non-Sunday days of the scheduled V.I.P. and public tours. It was beautiful to watch the thousands of cars being parked there, and hundreds of busses taking people from Mariners to the Temple for the tours.

Mariners Church also accepted an invitation extended to them to come and take special tours of their own, and three groups consisting of approximately 75 Evangelicals from that church came and walked through the Temple.

As a way of saying thanks for the parking, and to build bridges of understanding with them, Latter-day Saints in Orange County accepted their invitation to attend the dialog in May. Total attendance of the meeting, held in the Mariners Main Worship Center, was 1800, about equally divided between Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints. This was the largest attendance at a Millet / Johnson Dialog ever, and may have been the second-largest gathering of Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints, after the Evening of Friendship with Ravi Zacharias in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in 2004.

Before the dialog, about three hundred Latter-day Saints took guided tours of the beautiful Mariners Church complex.

The dialog began with a welcome to those attending by Pastor Chris Lagerlof, who worked with Rylie Dennis, daughter of Pastor Bucky Dennis in arranging the event.

The presenters were introduced by Dr. Craig Hazen, Director of Biola University’s Department of Christian Apologetics. To say that Dr. Hazen is instrumental in shaping all the interactions between Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints would be an understatement. He has been taking groups of students for years to meet with BYU students and work to understand each other better. He helped arrange and spoke at the meeting in the Tabernacle. He has helped arrange dialogs between groups of Philosophy students from Biola and BYU, including presentations at Biola by LDS Philosopher Blake Ostler and singer/composer Kenneth Cope.

The Evangelical presenter was Pastor Greg Johnson, head of an Evangelical group in Utah known as Standing Together. They are the organization that called press conferences protesting the protesters at LDS General Conferences for the last several years. Pastor Johnson was central in arranging the meeting in the Tabernacle, and spoke there.

Presenting from the Latter-day Saint perspective was Dr. Robert Millet, Professor of Ancient Scriptures at BYU and recently the Church’s manager of Interfaith and Outreach, who is author of the recent book “A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints“, published by Evangelical publisher Eerdmans. Excerpts from some of his speeches and writings are prominent on this blog.

After showing a brief movie describing howe they met, became friends, and began presenting these dialogs ten years and 49 dialogs ago, Pastor Johnson and Dr. Millet modeled what it means to speak with each other with appreciation and friendship, even when you are talking about things about which you disagree.

Love & Thanks,
Steve St.Clair

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