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La Sierra University Biology Faculty and Trustee Statement Affirmed by Church Leaders

In an announcement that first appeared on the website of the Adventist Review, two peaceseeking statements were released Wednesday, October 5, 2011, concerning the teaching of creation at La Sierra University.

The first statement, titled a “Joint Proposal of individual La Sierra University Faculty and Trustees” reflected conversations that have taken place over the summer between members of the Biology department faculty and the North American Division Office of Education.

“In our dialogue, we found a solution to be the teaching of Creation as a faith conviction, rather than as science. Creation is not a scientific construct. It is a faith construct. The conviction of Divine Creation lies beyond the purview of the methods of empirical science, and cannot be subjected to them. Nevertheless, faith and science can and should constructively interact,” the statement said as introduction to two core principles of (1) “affirmation and incorporation of the  Biblical concept of creation, including the Seventh-day Adventist understanding of Genesis 1 and 2, as a faith position at the classroom level, when questions of origins are discussed. and (2) “Continued teaching and research in the various disciplines of the modern sciences according to the most up-to-date and rigorous standards of the published science, to which we contribute as practicing scientists and active faculty, including the data which highlight the strengths and weaknesses of various models.”

There was also a suggestion that LSU and the NAD Office of Education host a summit of scientists, biblical scholars, and theologians in order to freely discuss together the difficult issues.

It closed by emphasizing that the joint proposal was the result of individuals working together, and expressing the hope the comments and suggestion would be helpful in the steps recommended by both the Adventist Accrediting Association and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. “As members of this faith-based, academic community which we love and serve, we do not presume to speak on behalf of our University, or the Board of Trustees.” It is signed by six of the seven Biology faculty and four of the 22 trustees.

“The North American Division has received and reviewed the ‘Joint Proposal of individual La Sierra University Faculty and Trustees,” states the NAD response document. “The officers of the division are very supportive of the dialog that has taken place with the LSU biology faculty and several trustees and we would encourage a stronger commencement of discussion regarding the concepts contained in the Joint Proposal. We are in general agreement with your core principles,” it says. However, there are no signatures to the statement.

In the Adventist Review article, Larry Blackmer, vice-president for education for the North American Division is quoted. “We’re pleased to see the dialogue move to a new and constructive level. When you’re trying to build a bridge, you pay special honor to those who help engineer the foundations and the architecture that will support future traffic, and we consider this development one that has considerable positive potential.”

It remains to be seen how the two accrediting agencies will view this individually-initiated dialog. 

Biology faculty member Lee Greer said that the Biology Department faculty felt that the members of the Adventist Accrediting Association did not understand them, based on the AAA reports of the meeting between the faculty and a group of four from AAA during last year’s site visit. “Basically we took steps to make sure that they did understand us. And there were breakthroughs.”

Members of LSU’s administration and board of trustees are scheduled to meet with a team from WASC later this month to review how the university has addressed WASC’s concerns about institutional autonomy. 

Joint Proposal of Individual La Sierra University Faculty and Trustees_05oct2011

North American Division Response to Joint Proposal

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