Banner image: Click for Adventist Forum Conference 2017 Registration

Frisson Spotlight (1.3) Do you read the Review?

This is part three of the conversation with Timothy Puko. See below for the first two posts. ______________________________________________Hello Puko, Greetings from San Diego. I'm down at a GC-sponsored mini-conference for (read with He-man voice) the Global Internet Evangelism Network. Thus far it's consisted of a bunch of hackneyed Mac vs. PC jokes. (Anyone for a little pirates vs. ninjas?)
I bring this up because of your great comments:

"Being a professed Christian in a Christian group doesn't give you a free pass from accountability."

"If you want a constituent-based organization, then
respect the fact that your constituents need to be well informed."

This
evening I sat right next to the communication head of a union on which
Spectrum reported. He looked visibly bothered when I mentioned the
journal. I asked him if he knew of anything interesting going on. After
a couple of silent seconds, he turned to me and said: I focus on good
news. . . .  I just looked back at him, realizing: "so is that what
leadership thinks - either with us or against us."  In the future, it
would be great to change this false dichotomy. Perhaps members can be
involved in the life of the church beyond just paying dues for good
news.  I'm not sure that the Adventist 4th estate should be
antagonistic - but on the other hand, Judith Miller shows what can
happen if things become too tight. While I think that
Spectrum, and your report does a fine job of hard-hitting while being
fair-minded, I sense that the average member is still uncomfortable
with knowing too much about their religion. Have you pondered these mix
of responsibilities? How do you articulate being a supportive fellow Adventist and maintain a journalistic approach? The
reality is that there are not many places for honest conversations
about the beliefs, governance, and culture of Adventism. Perhaps in one
or two college classes, but other than that, not much. Even the most
powerful executive committee doesn't get much time to think creatively.
Along with that, I'm curious how a Columbia University trained
journalist reads the Adventist Review and the other church news. I
can't think of a single college-graduate friend of mine who actually
pays any attention to the church papers. Perhaps that's part of the
general move online for news or perhaps its the propaganda feel of the
writing. Often it just doesn't feel honest - and I read almost all of
it - I have a sick fascination with the rags like I enjoy VH1. Do you
read the Review? Back atcha,

Alexander

Frisson Spotlight (1.2) The church is not some sunshine-and-lollipops organization

This is part two of the conversation with Timothy Puko. See below for the first post. ______________________________________________

Yo Alexander,

Thank you for suggesting this. As a writer, there are few things I love more than talking about my own work, so this is really a great way for me to start my vacation.

Just so everyone knows, I don't work for Spectrum full time. I never went to an Adventist school and got started at Spectrum because Bonnie Dwyer let me write a column about how disconnected I felt once I lived in an Adventist community for the first time. That was last summer when I was finishing up as a volunteer at Newbold College.

This winter, I think it was late January, she asked me to take on the Costa Rica project. She said there were a lot of accusations floating around and that she needed someone to sort through them. The first thing I said was that this project would be difficult unless we had actual documents to work with; that otherwise it would just be one group of people versus another group of people. Sadly, that's what the story became.

I never gathered all the evidence. I still get e-mails from people. There was just too much of it, which I alluded to in the story. Without being able to go to Costa Rica, without knowing Spanish or being able to work constantly with a translator, I was really limited in what I could do.

tremendous crisis in Central America. Even if everything that theInter-American Division president says is true, that means you havelarge community of dissidents who are very confused, whose spiritualhealth is endangered because of a misunderstanding. They feel totallyabandoned by the church. Dr. Rasi\'s suggestion that the GC needs tostep in, just as a mediator, is very astute. There are earnest peoplequestioning the church, and they need some earnest response from theGC just to understand that the church does care about them.I don\'t know what the GC is doing. I can tell you that the protestersI talked to feel like it\'s not much. And I can tell you that the GCdidn\'t share any solutions with me, other than continued reliance onthe "democratic," constituent-based system. (Read: This is the IAD\'sproblem.) Maybe Jan Paulsen calls Israel Leito about Costa Rica everyday, but I wasn\'t told about it. The only person I was really allowedto speak with at the GC, the communications director, usually said hedidn\'t know the answer when I asked him questions specifically relatedto Costa Rica. While challenging him on various statements, I did notthink to ask who actually did know. I e-mailed him that questionlater, but he did not respond.Israel Leito, the IAD president, was much more forthcoming. Heanswered every question I asked. He took every phone call I made andeven gave me his mobile phone number.  I give him a lot of credit forhis accessibility and for his grace. He was patient with me and gaveme all the time I needed.It wasn\'t difficult to get him to speak on the record. It was a littleawkward at first: he asked not to be recorded and to see my questionsfirst. I said I didn\'t even have the equipment to record him if Iwanted to and that my personal policy is not to show my questions",1]
);

//-->That doesn't mean that I think the piece turned out poorly, or that I regret taking on the project. It was a story that absolutely needed to be told and I think we did the best we could with what we had. It's these facts that pushed the focus of the story toward the GC. These are serious allegations. People are really upset. There is atremendous crisis in Central America. Even if everything that the Inter-American Division president says is true, that means you have a large community of dissidents who are very confused, whose spiritual health is endangered because of a misunderstanding. They feel totally abandoned by the church. Dr. Rasi's suggestion that the GC needs to step in, just as a mediator, is very astute. There are earnest people questioning the church, and they need some earnest response from the GC just to understand that the church does care about them.

I don't know what the GC is doing. I can tell you that the protesters I talked to feel like it's not much. And I can tell you that the GC didn't share any solutions with me, other than continued reliance on the "democratic," constituent-based system. (Read: This is the IAD's problem.) Maybe Jan Paulsen calls Israel Leito about Costa Rica every day, but I wasn't told about it. The only person I was really allowed to speak with at the GC, the communications director, usually said he didn't know the answer when I asked him questions specifically relatedto Costa Rica. While challenging him on various statements, I did not think to ask who actually did know. I e-mailed him that question later, but he did not respond.

Israel Leito, the IAD president, was much more forthcoming. He answered every question I asked. He took every phone call I made and even gave me his mobile phone number.  I give him a lot of credit for his accessibility and for his grace. He was patient with me and gave me all the time I needed.

if I wanted to give someone time to find old documents). I generalizedabout what the interview would cover and he accepted that and gave meas much time as I needed.One thing I will say, however, is that he was almost too nice. Maybeit makes me a bad Christian, but when people are immediately reallynice to me, I distrust them. I refuse to be a sucker. Sometimes Iwould show or tell sources about Leito\'s various answers and theywould call them spin. I couldn\'t discount that explanation. One time Iexplained something back to Leito, just to make sure I understood it,and he replied, "Ooooo, Tim, you are just so perceptive." My thoughtwas, "OK, Leito, you\'re laying it on pretty thick now.  Watchyourself." In the interest of professionalism, I didn\'t say that, butI was always careful to mind the amount of influence Leito\'s goodnature had on my impressions of the situation.The ex-pats were also very easy to talk to. Of course, they have amessage they\'re desperate for people to hear, so I wouldn\'t expectanything else from them. I was just grateful, as I was with Leito,that they took so much time out of their lives to meet with me andexplain, from their perspective, what was happening.As cordial as both sides were with me, they do not like each other,especially Leito and Scarone. This was not the first time Leito hasquestioned Scarone\'s ethics. He did so a few months before ourconversation in a widely-seen letter he sent to the MichiganConference president, Scarone\'s boss. Scarone made a trip to CostaRica, I think it was last year, and it was pretty controversial. Myunderstanding is that it was after that when some of the country\'schurches tried to switch their conference/division affiliation. Ithink a lot of Leito\'s animosity toward Scarone is connected to that",1]
);

//-->It wasn't difficult to get him to speak on the record. It was a little awkward at first: he asked not to be recorded and to see my questions first. I said I didn't even have the equipment to record him if I wanted to and that my personal policy is not to show my questions ahead of time, unless I have a specific reason to do so (for instance, if I wanted to give someone time to find old documents). I generalized about what the interview would cover and he accepted that and gave me as much time as I needed.

One thing I will say, however, is that he was almost too nice. Maybe it makes me a bad Christian, but when people are immediately really nice to me, I distrust them. I refuse to be a sucker. Sometimes I would show or tell sources about Leito's various answers and they would call them spin. I couldn't discount that explanation. One time I explained something back to Leito, just to make sure I understood it, and he replied, "Ooooo, Tim, you are just so perceptive." My thought was, "OK, Leito, you're laying it on pretty thick now.  Watch yourself." In the interest of professionalism, I didn't say that, but I was always careful to mind the amount of influence Leito's good nature had on my impressions of the situation.

The ex-pats were also very easy to talk to. Of course, they have a message they're desperate for people to hear, so I wouldn't expect anything else from them. I was just grateful, as I was with Leito, that they took so much time out of their lives to meet with me and explain, from their perspective, what was happening.

As cordial as both sides were with me, they do not like each other, especially Leito and Scarone. This was not the first time Leito has questioned Scarone's ethics. He did so a few months before our conversation in a widely-seen letter he sent to the Michigan Conference president, Scarone's boss. Scarone made a trip to CostaAs for mentioning Rasi\'s comments to Leito, well, Rasi was the lastperson I talked to for the story. It was just a matter of time--and,well, we were out of space, too.Yesterday I read an article in GQ about the soldier who first reportedthe Abu Ghraib abuses. In a chain of command one first goes to one\'sdirect superiors with any complaints. But in this instance, one of thesoldier\'s superiors was in some of the photographs abusing prisoners.Obviously, in a situation like that, one has to go beyond one\'s directsuperiors.This is what the Costa Ricans are claiming. Many say Leito isinvolved, at least by benign neglect--though some will say by fullcomplicity. So how can the GC expect the protesters to go to Leito forhelp? The GC\'s Rajmund Dabrowski did not like this question (but hedidn\'t like a lot of my questions).The company line was, the Adventist church is, democratic, " amember/constituent-based organization." OK, fine. If you keep callingthe church a democracy, then answer my questions. If you don\'t know,find out and get back to me. If we are a democracy, and if thefounders of American democracy are right, than investigativejournalism from sources outside of church employment is absolutelyvital to our organization. If you want a constituent-basedorganization, then respect the fact that your constituents need to bewell informed.That\'s what always pushes me forward in my work. I believe that peopleneed to know. There are few exceptions to that rule, and nothing inthis case proved exceptional. Would I like to have shown moredocument-based facts to my readers? Absolutely, but I could only showwhat I had. People need to understand that the church is not somesunshine-and-lollipops organization where everyone is happy all thetime. People make mistakes. People screw up. We need to find theseflaws and fess up to them, if only so we can repair them and grow as a",1]
);

//-->Rica, I think it was last year, and it was pretty controversial. My understanding is that it was after that when some of the country's churches tried to switch their conference/division affiliation. I think a lot of Leito's animosity toward Scarone is connected to that trip.

As for mentioning Rasi's comments to Leito, well, Rasi was the last person I talked to for the story. It was just a matter of time--and, well, we were out of space, too.

Yesterday I read an article in GQ about the soldier who first reported the Abu Ghraib abuses. In a chain of command one first goes to one's direct superiors with any complaints. But in this instance, one of the soldier's superiors was in some of the photographs abusing prisoners. Obviously, in a situation like that, one has to go beyond one's direct superiors.

This is what the Costa Ricans are claiming. Many say Leito is involved, at least by benign neglect--though some will say by full complicity. So how can the GC expect the protesters to go to Leito for help? The GC's Rajmund Dabrowski did not like this question (but he didn't like a lot of my questions).

The company line was, the Adventist church is, democratic, " a member/constituent-based organization." OK, fine. If you keep calling the church a democracy, then answer my questions. If you don't know, find out and get back to me. If we are a democracy, and if the founders of American democracy are right, than investigative journalism from sources outside of church employment is absolutely vital to our organization. If you want a constituent-based organization, then respect the fact that your constituents need to be well informed.

That's what always pushes me forward in my work. I believe that people need to know. There are few exceptions to that rule, and nothing in this case proved exceptional. Would I like to have shown more document-based facts to my readers? Absolutely, but I could only show what I had. People need to understand that the church is not some sunshine-and-lollipops organization where everyone is happy all the time. People make mistakes. People screw up. We need to find these flaws and fess up to them, if only so we can repair them and grow as agive you a free pass from accountability. (This is something Adventistgroups must really grow to understand.) My hope for this story is thatit brings us closer to understanding who or what should be heldaccountable. Even in the unlikely case that it\'s all just ahistorically big misunderstanding, let\'s just figure that out so wecan move on. Social justice is really important to people and itshould be important to the church.What\'s next?Puko",1]
);

//-->community. Being a professed Christian in a Christian group doesn't give you a free pass from accountability. (This is something Adventist groups must really grow to understand.) My hope for this story is that it brings us closer to understanding who or what should be held accountable. Even in the unlikely case that it's all just a historically big misunderstanding, let's just figure that out so we can move on. Social justice is really important to people and it should be important to the church.

What's next?Puko

Introducing Frisson Spotlight (1.1) Timothy Puko

Occasionally the Spectrum Blog will post a series of email exchanges with an interesting Adventist. We call these exciting multi-day conversations: Frisson Spotlight.This weekend, we are chatting with Timothy Puko, the investigative reporter who wrote the article on the Costa Rica situation in the current issue of the journal. Feel free to join the conversation, propose questions, and post comments below.Timothy Puko majored in journalism as an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and as a graduate student at Columbia University in New York. He went to public schools in suburban Pittsburgh and currently is a reporter for the Press of Atlantic City (NJ). ______________________________________________Greetings Timothy,

Welcome to the Spectrum Blog. And thanks for taking time during your vacation this week to share your Sevy journalist secrets.
Kudos on your investigative report, "On Becoming a Conference: The Costa Rican Story," in the current (Vol. 34:3)
Spectrum.  
I'd like to start out our discussion by talking about your experience
researching and writing that piece and then maybe we can move into a
discussion about the role of journalism in the
Seventh-day Adventist church.

First a couple of quick questions: How did you get involved in the
Costa Rican story? How long did it take you to gather the evidence and write it? What was the most interesting
aspect of the investigation to you?

I really appreciated the tone of your reporting - it's easy when
encountering this level of buck-passing and maleficence to sound
cynical or to see behind every stonewall a conspiracy. In the stories I
investigated on the corruption in the Lake Region Conference and the
strange 3ABN/Hope Ten Commandments Day fiasco, it became apparent that
dull
incompetence and me-and-my-sycophants-first greed turned out to explain
a lot. Beyond the problems in Costa Rica, your report
seems to finally hinge on the question: Who has oversight - the
division or the general conference?  Did you get the impression that
the GC and the division were thinking
about solutions or merely pushing away questions?

How did the conversations with Inter-American Division President Leito
go? Was it difficult to get him to speak on the record and directly
answer questions? What about the ex-pats?
I really enjoyed the way that you structured the ending, the circle
tightens and we are left with the leadership either not reading the
evidence or dismissing the concerns of the membership. It's like ending
a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story with all the characters saying that its
the other guy's job to investigate. Someone should tell Dabrowski that
telling the demos, to go through
'proper" channels which are supposed to correct themselves (?) is not
called democracy, but bureaucracy. Frankly, it's a little Kafkaesque. We've got laity calling for the GC to investigate the
division for ethics violations, the GC saying "we haven't even looked
at the evidence, but let the division investigate itself" and the
division ignoring the evidence and dismissing the laity as unethical. Here I
wish that you had parsed out why Leito would dismiss Scarone when
Humberto Rasi, a semi-retired GC official, supports his call for GC
oversight. I would hope that Leito realizes that calling Scarone
"unethical" needs some kind of support especially when Scarone has 418
pages of evidence on Costa Rica and the cooperation of Rasi. Any thoughts on why Leito responded that way?
Now that the experience is over, what are your thoughts on the role
of the investigative journalist in Adventism? And what decisions did
you make to both tell the story and affect the people involved? Best, Alexander

Losing Our American Soul


Take a break and enjoy this vintage clip of Jim Wallis on The Daily Show.

One of the worst aspects of recent American Christianity has been its privatistic core.

  • Gettin' saved
  • Born again
  • Righteousness by faith
  • Personal relationship with God

Strangely, it's all about my individual problems.

The disaster is that this language completely misses the actual example
of Jesus who changed the world not only through his passion, but through his actions toward the social
situation of his time.

The reality is that humanity needs both personal and
community change. 

Nothing could be more clear to believers after
living through the last five years of Katrina, 9/11, and Iraq. These
disasters reveal serious problems in the social fabric of this world -
now ripped apart by decades of me-first racism clothed in
anti-government rhetoric, get-rich-quick-at-any-cost globalization, and buzz-off-world-and-half-of-America unilateralism.  

"Gotta get myself saved" is causing us to lose our
souls.

It's time for a new, balanced understanding of American faith - one
that draws upon the traditions of social action for the common
good. Just saying a quick prayer of acceptance will not change the
world - but turning that faith into action will. Faith is a community
experience and the future of humanity rests not just on what we believe,
but will be determined by how we actually live and vote.

How can we change the basic definitions of our faith so that we follow the
living example of Jesus? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Adventist Education Rank Potluck

By Alexander Carpenter

With crisp Berkeley breezes buffeting me as I dodge the now Ipod smokin' kids on Telegraph Ave - I've realized that it's time for a back-to-school special edition of the Spectrum Potluck. (It's the new patented term of a round up.)

This week we're going to check how Sevy schools did on the (let's face it, dubious) US News and World Report College Popularity Contest.

You go alma mater! The only nationally ranked Adventist school, Andrews University, moved from the fourth tier to the third tier in the nation. It now can hang out with the 248 member in-crowd of "American universities (162 public, 86 private) that offer a wide range of undergraduate majors as well as master’s and doctoral degrees; some emphasize research." I guess. . .if you call apologetics research? According to Andrews University Relations: "Andrews also ranks as the 14th most diverse campus out of all 248 National Universities. Last year its ranking was sixteenth. Andrews is also the National University with the sixth highest percentage of international students, with 12% of the student population coming from outside the United States."

While not exactly the Harvard of the Adventist system, perhaps it is the Wheaton.

Now onto the regional rankings.

With 2,390 students and an endowment of $21,131,589 (a million more than AU!) - Southern Adventist University ranks 29th in the South.

It beat such schools  as Kentucky Christian University (49) and last place Oakwood College (53). Granted, Oakwood has about 1751 students and about fifteen million less.

In the Mid-West, Union College, with an endowment of 1.5 million (excuse me, hello alumni?), comes in at 46 out of 52.

And Walla Walla College ranks 41 in the West-Masters degree category. It has 1670 students.

Atlantic Union College makes the fourth tier. It lists 478 students and an 1.4 million endowment. And yes, it does offer cooking classes.

Endowed at fifteen million, and fifteen hundred students,  Pacific Union College ranks 14th in the West.

And Southwestern ranks in the third tier for BA schools in the West. So I
assume that PUC is in the first tier - come on US News, give me some quick
context.

Wait, could one reason: as ol' Andrews (third tier National) is to Northwestern (14th rank National) so Southwestern and La Sierra (third tier BA West) are to PUC (14th rank BA West)?

Thus, PUC ranks comparatively best; OMG - analogies are truth! Why did you get rid of them, SAT?

Tired of asking what colleges can do for you? The brilliant Washington Monthly asks what colleges are doing for the country? Check out the do-gooder rankings here.

Some venture capitalist Adventist should fund a study based on the Washington Monthly matrices to rank which Adventist schools are best for the church and the community.

While I wait for Spectrum's phone to ring - I'm going to practice my analogies.

Art: Adventist Artist Elfred Lee

By Sharon
Fujimoto-Johnson

 

The current
issue of College and University Dialogue features an interview with
Adventist artist Elfred Lee
. Born in
Seoul, Korea, to missionary parents, Lee became
interested in art while, as a child, he and his family spent three years in
Japanese prison camps in the Philippines. Today he is a well-known illustrator and painter
who teaches at the SDA University of Montemorelos, in México.
 

Lee is
interviewed by Humberto M. Rasi, director of the General Conference Education
Department and editor of College and University Dialogue. The journal
is an international publication on faith, thought, and action, published by the
Committee on Adventist Ministry to College and University Students (AMiCUS) in
cooperation with the 13 world divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist
Church.Elfred Lee on the Web
Web Site: Elfred Lee

Art Gallery: Elfred Lee Religious
Art

Article: Elfred
Lee Unveils Noah's Ark Painting

Shop: Elfred
Lee Artwork on Christcenteredmall.com
Is there an artist you'd like to see featured on the Spectrum blog? Let us know.

True Religion Is This

If the name "Seventh-day Adventism" doesn't stand for peace and social justice, I don't know what does.

The promise of peace in Sabbath and the coming of Godly justice - by
putting their beliefs into action some in our faith community work on the cutting
edge of prophetic Christianity.

Check out these fine Adventist-run organizations.

Oregon Center for Christian Values

Adventist Peace Fellowship

Adventist Peace & Justice Fellowship (UK)

Adventist Women 4 Peace

If you know of others, let us know below.

Preparation Day Round Up

Law student locus standi notes that Pathfinders looks like military training.

Adventist Pulpit writes on Be-Bop Jazz Preaching. Sounds good to me!

Monte Sahlin channels E. E. Cleveland and points out the Spiritual Foundation of Social Justice.

And finally, Johnny ponders the Most Important Adventist Doctrine Poll over at Adventist Pulpit.

Sidebar image: Click for webcast event page

Sidebar image: Click for Adventist Forum Conference 2017 Registration

Sidebar image: Click for God of Sense by Sigve Tonstad

Current Issue

Not yet a subscriber? Subscribe today!

Support Spectrum

Thank you for making your generous gift. Your donation will help independent Adventist journalism expand across the globe.

DONATE NOW!

Newsletter

Ads

Organizations

Connect with Spectrum