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Spectrum asks Lowell Cooper about the collapse of the recent talks with Atlantic Union College, his duties as General Conference vice president and what he does to relax.
Question: As Loma Linda University’s board chairman, you managed the meetings in which Loma Linda University and Atlantic Union College agreed to a merger. What significance does AUC bring to LLU? What does LLU get out of the deal?
Answer: The Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center Board and the Loma Linda University Board discussed the possibility of some relationship with Atlantic Union College. There was no agreement to merge.
Perhaps the media misread and thus miscommunicated regarding the discussions about the possibility of affiliation for a period of time during which the implications of merger could be explored. At its last meeting, the LLUAHSC Board chose not to proceed with an affiliation arrangement with Atlantic Union College. Thus merger is no longer a topic for exploration.
Question: Will Loma Linda University be interested in striking similar arrangements with other colleges in the United States or elsewhere?
Answer: Loma Linda University has a variety of relationships, but not one of mergers, with other educational institutions abroad. When and if other proposals for a closer relationship with another institution emerges, each will be addressed on its own merits. LLU is not on a path of initiating discussions about affiliations or mergers.
Question: What has been your greatest challenge as the board chair of LLU?
Answer: The toughest challenge has been to ensure that the Board chair and the trustees have a sufficient understanding of the complexities surrounding the operation of an academic health sciences center.
Far-reaching decisions need to be made at virtually every board meeting. It is extremely important that the chair facilitates a close working relationship between trustees and administration. I have a great deal of confidence both in the administration at Loma Linda and in the trustees.
I’ve read extensively regarding the operation of health care and health education institutions and attend, at least once per year, a professionally-organized seminar for persons involved in governance responsibilities.
Question: You recently made a presentation at LLU about N.T. Wright’s book. How has that book made a difference in the way that you understand Adventism?
Answer: I’ve read several books authored by N. T. Wright. He is highly respected internationally as a leading New Testament scholar. His recent book, Surprised By Hope, is one that I shall refer to often.
Here is an author whose writing is faithful to the biblical text while addressing dimensions of mission in the present age.
Wright’s exposition on death and resurrection very closely aligns with Seventh-day Adventist beliefs. I find that he has given a very fresh and challenging expression to the mission of life of every Christian believer. In spite of his outstanding credentials as a scholar, he is able to write and speak the language of laity.
Question: As one who was significantly involved in the work to address the organizational issues of the church, how do you see the church changing in the next five years?
Answer: A series of actions by the General Conference Executive Committee in 2007 broadened the range of organizational models available to constituencies at local conferences and unions.
Organizational structure must be responsive to the mission challenge of the Church, to effectiveness and efficiency within a geopolitical setting, and to Seventh-day Adventist beliefs, ethos, and identity.
I expect that the Church will continue to grow rapidly in some areas of the world, less so in other areas. There is a greater degree of flexibility in structural design available today as compared with earlier. This provides an opportunity for constituencies to review and modify their structures.
Such changes will not take place as a mandate from the General Conference. Instead, they will come as a result of more local initiatives to ensure effectiveness and efficiency in mission while preserving linkage to and identity with the global Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Question: General Conference general vice presidents play a significant role in the institutional lives of church organizations. How are they chosen? And how are their portfolios established? How did you become chair of LLU, for instance?
Answer: In most instances, General Conference vice presidents are first chosen during a General Conference session. Consultation takes place between the General Conference president and the Nominating Committee. While many factors may play a role in the selection process, a candidate’s experience and track record will have considerable influence in a decision.
Initially I was elected to this role by the General Conference Executive Committee at a meeting between General Conference sessions. An opening occurred and the General Conference President (Elder Robert Folkenberg at the time) discussed my name with a group of senior church leaders. He then presented a recommendation to the Annual Council Nominating Committee for my election as a general vice president.
Several of the general vice presidents (there are nine of us) have assignments as chairs of various General Conference institutional boards. I was asked by the General Conference president to serve as an advisor on the boards at Loma Linda. Dr Calvin Rock was board chair at the time. When Dr Rock retired in 2000, General Conference President Jan Paulsen recommended that the Loma Linda boards elect me as chair.
Governance documents for the Loma Linda boards indicate that the chair shall be from among the trustees (5) from the General Conference. It is the practice for the boards to receive a recommendation from the General Conference president prior to electing a chair.
Serving as chair of the Loma Linda boards is only one of my assignments. There are several others - very different but also equally enjoyable.
Question: What do you see as the most significant challenge to the Adventist Church?
Answer: To bring attention to God, not to itself.
Question: What do you do to relax and refresh your mind and soul?
Answer: My work requires extensive travel. Thus I find it difficult to maintain a rhythm and pattern to refilling the mind and spirit with energy.
I work at keeping a regular reading and exercise program. When weather and time allows, my wife and I do some cycling. I grew up on a farm in Canada and thus enjoy machinery—and fixing things. Though the occasions are very limited due to distance, I derive a lot of pleasure from helping my son and son-in-law with fix-it or make-it projects around their homes and property. But they have to vie for my attention to be diverted from three wonderful and exciting grandchildren.