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Top Ten Adventist Stories in 2011

For the official Seventh-day Adventist church organization, 2011 was a year marked by major realignments in the world field and grand plans for the future contrasted by struggles with employees and divisions.

10. Process, timetable unveiled for review of theology of ordination—The Biblical Research Institute at the world church headquarters will coordinate the process of studying ordination with corresponding Biblical research committees in each of the church’s 13 world divisions, church President Ted N. C. Wilson announced in October. While some divisions have very active Biblical Research Committees, other divisions will have to create such committees to be part of the process. Each division is asked to request their Biblical research committee to study the theology of ordination and its implications for church practices in that region during 2012 and report in 2013 to their year end meetings. From December 2013 to June 2014, the General Conference Theology of Ordination Study Committee will analyze the materials received from the divisions and prepare a combined report that will go to the General Conference Executive Committee for possible placement on the 2015 General Conference Session Agenda.

9. Mission to the Cities Voted—Top leadership of the Church endorsed a plan to evangelize the world’s cities, beginning in 2013 with New York City. The vote came as a practical response to world church President Ted N. C. Wilson’s call to prioritize outreach to large urban centers, where half of the world’s population now lives. Historically, rural areas have responded to the Adventist Church’s message of hope more than cities, said world church Secretary G. T. Ng. “We are a church of islands and villages,” he told more than 300 delegates at world church headquarters on October 9 for Annual Council business meetings.” Wilson called for a comprehensive approach to urban evangelism.

8. ADRA cuts headquarters staff—In February, Rudi Maier the president of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency announced the agency would cut 20 percent of its headquarters staff and adjust its management structure, citing gradual decline in revenues as the reason for the cut. Earlier in the month the agency also replaced two of its vice presidents—Vice President for Programs Mark Webster and Vice President for Finance Gideon Mutero—with Ken Flemmer and Robyn Mordeno. Later Board level reviews of the organization’s finances showed strong contribution numbers; however, the employee cuts that had already been made were left in place.

7. Samuel Korantang-Pipim cancels speaking appointments and resigns—In May, Michigan Conference president Jay Gallimore  announced the resignation of Samuel Korantang Pipim who had served as the director of public campus ministries for the Michigan conference. He had also helped to found Generation of Youth for Christ (GYC), led the opposition to the ordination of women for years, and wrote a number of books supporting conservative readings of the Bible. In his resignation letter, Pipim said that it was with great sorrow and shame that during his overseas travel he had a moral fall with a young woman and yielded to a “temptation of the moment.” His resignation received huge attention in Africa and the United States.

6. Three La Sierra University Employees File Suit—In July, the law firm of McCuneWright LLP, representing La Sierra University employees Dr. Jeffry Kaatz, Dr. Jim Beach, and Dr. Gary Bradley, announced that a lawsuit had been filed in the Superior Court of California over the coerced resignations of the employees. Named as defendants were Ricardo Graham, Daniel R. Jackson, Larry Blackmer, the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and La Sierra University. The suit grew out of the dispute between La Sierra University and the Adventist Accrediting Association over how biology is taught at La Sierra.

5. Atlantic Union College Closes—The Church’s oldest educational institution, Atlantic Union College, announced in July it would have to lay off its entire staff of 97 full-time employees, because of an inability to secure state approval for the partnership proposal with Washington Adventist University in Maryland. Students at AUC were advised to enroll instead at Washington Adventist University. Leaders of both institutions had been working to secure permission from Massachusetts’ education authorities to operate AUC as a satellite campus of WAU following the loss of its accreditation from a regional accrediting agency effective July 31. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges cited financial reasons in its decision.

4. Inter-American Seminary Achieves Full Accreditation—The Association of Theological Schools granted the Inter-American Adventist Theological Seminary full accreditation status this summer, giving the Church in the region its own fully accredited institution offering graduate degrees in theology and religion. The institution, operated with a distributed campus, offers degrees taught in English, Spanish and French to active Adventist ministers in 10 countries throughout the church in Inter-America. It offers a Master of Arts in Pastoral Theology, a Master of Arts in Religion, and a Doctor of Ministry.

3. Realignment of administrative structures affecting the Middle East and other territories—Major restructuring of the church’soperations in the Middle East was voted in October with responsibilities for the area moving from the church’s Trans-European and Euro-Africa divisions to church headquarters. The newly formed Greater Middle East Union Mission is home to 21 countries and more than 500 million people, but it has only 2,900 Adventists worshipping in 70 churches and companies. Other areas were also affected by the voted changes. Under the new organization, South Sudan becomes part of the church’s East-Central Africa Division and the church’s Southern-Asia Pacific Division will oversee the Pakistan Union. Culturally, Pakistan can better be served by the division that also serves Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, leaders said. The church’s Euro-Asia Division will absorb Afghanistan. The world church headquarters will directly oversee the Israel Field and the new Greater Middle East Union Mission. That union mission will also include the Trans-Mediterranean territories. However, South Cyprus will remain in the Trans-European Division.

Changes were also voted for Guam-Micronesia Mission, an administrative region comprising islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It will now report to the denomination’s North American Division rather than the Southern Asia-Pacific Division.

2. Defeated Policy Variance Request Seen as Blow to Women in Leadership—A request to allow commissioned ministers in the North American and Trans-European divisions to serve as conference presidents sparked a lengthy debate  during the world church’s Annual Council. In the end, the controversial measure was defeated by a written ballot vote of 167 to 117. The 50-vote margin defeating the NAD proposal also effectively ended the TED request, which would have permitted commissioned ministers to head church unions as well as conferences.

1. North American and Trans European Divisions Reaffirm Their Votes Supporting Commissioned Ministers—In a carefully balanced pair of actions, church leaders in North America voted October 31 to fully participate in the world church’s recently launched study of the theology of ordination while also reaffirming the division’s unique policy of allowing ordained or commissioned ministers to serve as presidents of local conferences and missions. The latter action, voted by nearly a 3 to 1 margin, broadens the opportunities for commissioned leaders to be elected to the top position in any of the 58 conferences that make up the 1.1-million member church region. The pair of votes came three weeks after the defeat of a similar action by the church’s Executive Committee at its Annual Council. The model constitution document addressed by the GC states that conference leadership can only be held by an ordained pastor; the NAD policy, while valid within its territory, places the region at variance with the constitutional template. In November the leaders of the Trans European Division also reaffirmed their previous votes granting administrative unions permission to manage the matter of parity between ordained and commissioned ministers within existing policy and previously voted guidelines.

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