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1. New director of the North American Division's Office of Volunteer Ministries, plans a barrage of marketing and recruiting at all North American Adventist colleges.
2. Southern Ghana Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church plans to construct 40 churches in rural areas.
3. The biannual Avondale College of Higher Education Offering raised $144,000, which is giving Music and Greer Halls on the Lake Macquarie campus a much needed facelift.
Work of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee moved ahead this week with the issuing of two draft documents and announcement of plans for the coming months. The 64-page paper “Toward a Theology of Ordination” reviews Biblical texts and Ellen G. White statements about ordination with the intention of being an introductory document for the committee’s discussion. Secondly, a 700-word consensus statement on the theology of ordination gives a glimpse of what the committee intends to produce as a summary of its work.
Accompanying the draft documents was the announcement from the steering committee that it has decided, “in order to be as transparent and open as possible to select a working group of ten people who are not members of the steering committee and have been participating in the writing of the consensus statement, to review all the recommendations we have received from the TOSC members and Division Biblical Research Committees.” However, the names of the ten have not yet been released.
The group of ten is to include five people who support women’s ordination and five people who do not support it. Geoffrey Mbwana, the vice-chair of the TOSC, will chair the working group. And their work will begin immediately. They are set to meet at Andrews University May 21 and 22. Their first task will be to review recommendations from TOSC members regarding the two draft documents, and to come up with a second version of the consensus statement.
In June, the steering committee will review the work of the reading group, and prepare for the July meeting of the entire 100-plus member committee. “Our hope and prayer is that we will reach a consensus when we all meet in July this year,” TOSC Chair Artur Stele wrote in his message to the members of the TOSC.
The consensus statement as drafted uses gender inclusive language to leave open the question of the ordination of women to the ministry and not to support or oppose it, according to a note at the top of the document.
It describes the gospel ministry as “a special calling from God who in His grace chooses individuals and equips them with gifts in order to lead and nurture His people. . . . The quality of the life of such individuals evidences the fact that the Lord has called them to gospel ministry, and the church acknowledges this calling through the rite of ordination. Therefore, ordination is an act of commissioning that acknowledges God’s call, sets the individual apart, and appoints the person to serve the church in a special capacity.”
—Bonnie Dwyer is the editor of Spectrum.
Emphasizing the importance of denominational policies to the boards of Seventh-day Adventist colleges and universities, the General Conference has issued a proposed new policy on board independence.
The 5-page discussion draft was distributed in April to the presidents of senior colleges and universities plus General Conference officers, education department directors and associate directors, division presidents, and the office of General Counsel.
In the memo accompanying the document, GC Vice President Lowell Cooper said, “this is a matter that has received some preliminary discussion by the General Conference and division presidents, members of the international Board of Education/International board of Ministerial and Theological Education and members of the Adventist Accrediting Agency.”
In response to questions about the document, Cooper added, “This subject has gained fairly widespread attention in recent years. Both the Association of Governing Boards and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Accrediting Association have put out statements on this topic. Similar issues are being talked about in other countries as well and the focus is not just confined to private or not-for-profit institutions. Further, Church and institution leaders worldwide want to accurately describe SDA institutional operations when working with governments for the granting of charters, etc. to establish universities recognized by the government.”
In addition to this broad interest in the topic, there is a more specific significance to the proposal, because this is a major issue in the La Sierra University accreditation discussions with both the Adventist Accrediting Agency and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, as well as the lawsuit by three former La Sierra University administrators.
One of the key provisions in the WASC document, to which Cooper referred, focuses on an institution’s relationship with “related entities.” It says, “The underlying principle is that the governing board must be able to make decisions in the best interests of the educational entity or . . . it is responsible for the ‘quality, integrity, and financial sustainability of the institution and for ensuring that the institution’s mission is being achieved.’ Governing boards are accountable to the institution’s constituents and to the public. In carrying out this charge, the board must be free from influence or control by persons who have competing or multiple interests and divided loyalties. . . . A general principle of governance is that an educational institution’s board and administration should preserve their independence from donors, elected officials, and external parties, such as ‘related entities’. . .”
In the General Conference’s proposed policy, there is also a section on “related entities.” It reads, “Boards of trustees govern their institutions as part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and thus carry very significant responsibility for knowing and assuring that institutional strategies/policies/practices are consistent with established denominational policy and mission purposes. A board is not free to disregard established denominational policy by claiming that the organization setting denominational policy is an external party (i.e. not the formal constituency or membership) and therefore limited in its ability to influence the operations of the institution.”
Another one of WASC concerns is independence of an institution’s board chair. Their statement reads:
Concerns can arise when the board chair is responsible to a related entity, such as a religious institution, or serves as chair of more than one educational institution. The board chair has a special leadership role, for example, in setting agendas, making appointments, and leading discussions, and therefore can wield more influence than other board members. Whatever loyalties the board chair may have to other entities, the board chair must act in the best interests of the educational institution when acting as board chair. The board chair should not have extensive authority to act alone but should ordinarily act with the advance approval and consent of the board and should respect limits on the chair’s authority as set forth in the bylaws or comparable organizing documents. Finally, a serious potential conflict exists if one person serves simultaneously as board chair of two institutions of higher education, which may be competing for students, faculty, and/or resources; therefore this practice is discouraged and will be subject to careful scrutiny by teams.
The General Conference Proposed Policy views this issue differently. It says:
The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes, with certain limitations, that a trustee may serve simultaneously on more than one board. General Conference policy outlines the following framework for persons serving on multiple boards: “Because of the common objectives embraced by the various organizational units and institutions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, membership held concurrently on more than one denominational committee or board does not of itself constitute a conflict of interest provided that all the other requirements of the policy are met. However, an officer, trustee, or director serving on an organization’s board is expected to act in the best interest of that organization and its role in denominational structure.
Pacific Union Conference President Ricardo Graham currently chairs the boards of both La Sierra University and Pacific Union College. This is an issue that was being addressed in the revisions being made to LSU’s bylaws.
The comment period for the General Conference document runs until May 31. Comments have been solicited from:
Since, in the North American Division, the unions operate the colleges, it might be noteworthy that union officers and education directors have not been directly invited to respond to the document. However, when Cooper was asked if the policy is being considered to fulfill a need by the General Conference to exert some control of union-operated institutions, his answer was an unqualified NO.
Cooper said he was not sure where in its final form the proposed policy will be placed—whether it would become part of the church’s Working Policy, or its accreditation guidelines, or suggested to institutions as something to incorporate into their bylaws. It is supposed to be considered for a vote by the Annual Council in October.
—Bonnie Dwyer is the editor of Spectrum.
BuzzFeed, the voracious chroncile of what's interesting to some people online, recently turned its attention to Adventist culture. On May 3, BuzzFeed Fellow Ashley Perez compiled a list of "31 Signs You Grew Up Seventh-day Adventist". Thus far, it has 39 comments and over 140,000 total views.
Do you agree with the list? What did BuzzFeed miss?
This week's films explore the wonderfully strange world of experimental film and performance art. Both can be hard for most viewers to access and like poetry, can seem quite confusing. However, both forms can be powerful and provocative methods with which to explore an issue. The films span from elegant and minimalistic to performances that might leave you frustrated and scratching your head. I've also included my recent piece Mother Godde, which was created as part of an installation art piece for an art show in downtown Los Angeles last month.
1. 'Balance' by Tobias Hutzler
2. 'I am' by Katie Brillhart
3. Tanner Hill Performance by "Tim Hinck and Tim Banks"
4. 'Mother Godde' by Leslie Foster
1. Oakwood University won the $50,000 Tier I prize from Home Depot. They will build an outdoor pavilion, equipped with outdoor kitchen appliances, grills and fireplaces.
2. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) will address the 134 graduates of Southwestern Adventist University on Sunday.
3. Adventist Health System/West, and its affiliated hospital White Memorial Medical Center have agreed to pay the United States and the State of California $14.1 million to settle claims that it violated the False Claims Act, the Justice Department announced today.