In a news analysis piece for the Adventist Review, General Conference treasurer Robert Lemon wrote that the painful ultimatum facing Mt. Vernon Academy, the oldest boarding academy in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, "should serve as a wake-up call on the future of these schools in the U.S."
Mt. Vernon Academy in Ohio, which has suffered a long bout of financial trouble compounded by mismanagement, must raise $3 million by March 10 or begin taking steps to cease operations, the Ohio Conference decided.
Elder Lemon wrote that the world has undergone significant changes since Ellen White instructed denominational leaders in 1893 that there should "be located, school buildings in Ohio which would give character to the work." The church must adapt, accordingly, Lemon said.
Lemon advanced two theses in his article, first, that "Adventist education is worth it." He wrote,
It hurts deeply every time I hear about an Adventist boarding academy closing or finding itself in serious financial trouble. Adventist schools are not perfect, and no amount of Christian influence can save all our children. After all, Christ in a perfect world lost Adam and Eve and one third of His angels because He valued freedom of choice so much.
But when it comes to the only thing that really matters—our eternal destiny and that of our children and those we love—the worst Adventist school is better than the best the world has to offer.
Lemon called himself a "proud product of our Adventist education system," saying that in his day (the 1960's), Adventist boarding academies had enrollments from 200 to 400 students, in many cases. Put into perspective, Mt. Vernon Academy currently has just over 80 students. "U.S. boarding academies are fading away," Lemon said, despite the fact that Adventist schools are experiencing dramatic growth worldwide.
Lemon's second these was that the U.S. Postal Service, in its adaptation to new realities, can serve as an example of organizational restructuring to accomodate changing times.
Boarding academies are owned and operated by conferences, and this is important for the sense of ownership and commitment of the conference constituency to the school. But changing U.S. demographics have left fewer Adventists in rural areas who require boarding academies. Would it not be better to look at having two or three conferences operate and support a boarding academy, leaving one or two strong boarding academies per union?
Read the rest of Lemon's commentary at the Adventist Review online: