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The Current provides a quick survey of news and media relevant to the Adventist conversation.

Watch Spectrum Executive Editor Alexander Carpenter Discuss Church Polarization

Our executive editor, Alexander Carpenter, recently joined the hosts of the podcast Seeking What They Sought for an episode of their series on polarization within Adventism. “Polarized is a series that explores the divide,” the hosts say of the series. “Our goal is to see if we can find common ground despite our differences, both on the ‘right’ and ‘left.'”

Watch Alexander discuss the history of Spectrum, his background with the organization, and how Spectrum‘s work both supports creating community through conversation and challenging the status quo.

Alex Aamodt |

Two Adventist Theology Graduate Schools in Top 20% 

Two Seventh-day Adventist graduate theological schools rank highly in terms of enrollment, according to 2023-2024 data published by the Association of Theological Schools. This information is collected “from all members of ATS for use in accrediting and to provide the data resources supporting applied research undertaken by ATS.”

This last school year, the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University reported 624 full-time equivalent (FTE) students. While this is a dip from pre-COVID-19 levels—745 FTE in 2018—the seminary currently ranks as the fourteenth-largest in North America, with more students than 95% of the 259 schools accredited by the ATS.

Similarly, the Inter-American Adventist Theological Seminary (SETAI), owned by the Inter-American Division, shows that it currently has 590 FTE students, up from 301 in 2020. This makes it the sixteenth-highest enrolled theological seminary accredited by the North America-based ATS. Headquartered at Antillean University in Puerto Rico, SETAI mainly serves pastoral and administrative denominational workers in the Caribbean and Central America.

On the low end of the enrollment data in the ATS report, 10 and 12 FTE students attend the La Sierra University HMS Richards Divinity School and the School of Theology at Oakwood University, respectively. 

This year, the tuition and fees for the MDiv program at Andrews University were $12,115 and $14,832 at La Sierra University. No student costs are listed for the other two Adventist schools. However, previous ATS reports show MDiv tuition and fees of $10,491 at Oakwood in 2018 and $8,400 at the Inter-American Adventist Theological Seminary in 2015. 

Nate Miller |

Christon Arthur Named La Sierra University President

Today, the La Sierra University Board of Trustees selected Christon Arthur as the Southern California-based institution’s next president.

Christon Arthur has been provost of Andrews University since 2016. An educator for more than three decades, he has taught at all levels of the Seventh-day Adventist educational system. He has a BA in theology from University of the Southern Caribbean and graduate degrees in Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Administration from Andrews University. Arthur has completed postgraduate studies at Harvard University’s Institute for Management and Leadership in Education. He is married to Carmelita and they have one adult son, Christon Arthur Jr.

Alexander Carpenter |

Coming Out Ministries Rebrands, Expands Reps and Focus

The Adventist-run organization that purports to help people overcome homosexuality has rebranded. Coming Out Ministries is now Coming Together Ministries, according to a two-hour live program on 3ABN. It featured a man who has talked publicly about “struggling with his homosexuality” and his fiancé, a woman who shared that she has previously struggled with “fornication.” They shared how spending time at a GYC conference helped to ignite their “courtship-focused” relationship. They, along with a woman are the new, young face of the organization. Identified as associate speaker, a woman who worked as a pastry chef shared a testimony which mixed together a very conservative upbringing, several former lesbian relationships, and mental health struggles.

In the video, 3ABN founder and former president Danny Shelton and his fourth wife, Yvonne Lewis-Shelton, welcomed six guests invited to speak to “those struggling with sexuality, identity, or brokenness” and to discuss Coming Together’s “new direction.” The org’s senior speaker, introduced as “our dear Michael Carducci,” sat next to Ron Kelly, senior pastor of the Berrien Springs Village Church and chairman of Coming Together Ministries. 3ABN’s current president, Greg Morikone, has recently been added to the General Conference Executive Committee.

In addition to the name change, and new org representatives, the focus of the ministry welcomes chances to present on homosexuality, pornography, and sex addiction, with an expanded focus on the “sin of abortion.”

Spectrum Staff |

Oregon Conference Loses Two Outreach Ministries Leaders

The Oregon Conference announced that Tim Taylor and Rob Zama, leaders of the conference’s Outreach Ministries, are departing to work outside the conference.

Taylor serves as Outreach Ministries director and Zama as associate director and conference field evangelist. The duo co-created the Irresistible Identity evangelistic series that connected the teachings of Jesus with personal identity and purpose.

Taylor has accepted the role of technology and innovation director with Child Impact International, a nonprofit located on the campus of Southern Adventist University. Zama will serve as media evangelist for Hope Channel Canada, a move that he says will allow him to be closer to family. Zama will depart in the coming weeks, while Taylor will remain until July 1, the conference said.

Jared Wright |

Walla Walla University Chooses Alex Bryan as Next President

Alex Bryan will be the 24th president of Walla Walla University, according to an announcement published today. Bryan is succeeding John McVay, who has served as the university’s president since 2006.

McVay announced his retirement in January of this year, and a 13-member search committee worked with the firm Faith Search Partners to choose his replacement.

Bryan is well-known in the WWU community. From 2009 to 2018, he served as senior pastor of the Walla Walla University Church, excluding a year spent as president of Kettering College in 2013–2014. In 2018, he joined Adventist Health and most recently served as senior vice president and chief mission and philanthropy officer for the health system.

It is not the first time that Bryan has been targeted to be president of WWU. In 2012, when John McVay decided to step down and return to a teaching role, a university search committee recommended Bryan to the Board of Trustees, but the board chose not to approve the recommendation. McVay later returned as president.

Bryan received a bachelor’s in history and religion from Southern College (now Southern Adventist University) and holds a master’s of divinity degree from Andrews University, a master’s in bioethics from Albany Medical College, and a doctor of ministry from George Fox University.

Long a sought-after speaker, Bryan is a cofounder of the One project. He is the author of The Green Cord Dream, and just a few months ago, he released Medicine as Prophecy: A Brief Theology of Adventist Healthcare. He has also served as adjunct professor teaching theology, business, communication, and honors studies at multiple Adventist universities.

Alex Aamodt |

Union College is Now Officially Union Adventist University

As of the start of May, Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, is Union Adventist University. The domain now points to Union’s board of trustees voted the change in October, 2023, to reflect the school’s expanding graduate-level offerings.

Union shared the results of a survey given to alumni, employees and students regarding the proposed change, and provided a thorough accounting of the rationale for the new identity after the board finalized the decision.

The institution operated under the same name since 1891, and the rebranding represented both the need to adapt to the times and the desire to honor Union College’s long legacy.

The school’s official adoption of Union Adventist University roughly coincides with another important change: in March, Union announced that Yamileth (Yami) Bazan will serve as the school’s 30th president, beginning July 1.

Jared Wright |

Ukraine: Conscientious Objectors Sentenced as Religious Freedom, War Mobilization Clash

Two Ukrainian conscientious objectors who refused the country’s mandatory mobilization during the war with Russia have been sentenced to three-year jail terms, according to a report in the Eurasia Review. Serhy Stadnitsky, a Protestant, and the other man, an unnamed Jehovah’s Witness, have appealed their convictions on religious grounds.

If convicted, the two would join Seventh-day Adventist conscientious objector Dmytro Zelinsky who is serving a three-year sentence while waiting for his appeal to be heard by the Ukrainian Supreme Court on June 13.

The Ukrainian constitution and the United Nations Human Rights Committee call for non-military alternatives for those who object to military service on religious bases, but Ukraine’s Defense Ministry has argued that during wartime, the limited alternative services provided during peacetime do not exist.

Since the start of the war with Russia, Ukraine has handed conscientious objectors five jail terms, eleven suspended sentences, and three acquittals, which prosecutors have sought to overturn. Seven cases are still being heard.

Eurasia Review

Union College (Adventist University) Avoids Damage from EF-3 Tornado

The powerful EF-3 tornado that touched down in northeast Lincoln, Nebraska on Friday, April 26, did not affect Union College, a university spokesperson said. ABC affiliate KLKN-TV reported that the tornado, with sustained winds from 135-165 mph, impacted Lincoln, Waverly and Omaha, damaging homes and businesses.

The tornado primarily impacted the Waverly community about 11 miles northeast of Union College (Union Adventist University). Union students and staff sheltered in place for an hour waiting for sirens to stop, according to Scott Cushman, Union’s director of digital communication. But even hail that accompanied the tornado missed the university.

“We have a text message alert system that is not optional for students and employees,” Cushman said in an email. “We just had a drill two weeks ago, so everyone knows what to do.”

Cushman said he was at home when he received the “take shelter” alert before the meteorologist on TV gave the instructions and sirens began.

Just one month ago, Union sent students and employees with its International Rescue and Relief Program to the Hot Springs Village in Arkansas when the retirement community there sustained heavy damage from an EF-2 tornado. The team from Union assisted in “covering windows and roofs and removing debris and fallen trees.”

Friday’s stronger EF-3 tornado also impacted Elkhorn, west of Omaha, and Iowa communities, but did not overwhelm local resources. Consequently Union did not deploy its disaster response team this time.

Jared Wright |

Newbury Park Adventist Academy Band Loses $25,000 to Instrument Theft

Newbury Park Adventist Academy’s spring music tour ended on a sour note in the parking lot of La Quinta Inn near San Diego, California.

“With the students back on the bus and ready to head home, chaperones had to break the news: Someone stole about 30 instruments from their rental, including a baritone saxophone, flutes, trumpets, French horns and clarinets,” NBC San Diego reported.

“It was simply a matter of getting through the padlock and being really stealthy,”  said Newbury Park principal Joel Albritton.

The tour’s last stop was the Tierrasanta Seventh-day Adventist Church in San Diego. An employee at Denny’s next door said she can’t go more than a couple months without finding out someone’s property in the area got broken into. She was especially upset that, this time, high-schoolers were the target.

“Albritton said the students didn’t sulk for long. ‘Within minutes there were posts on Instagram and there was a flier that had already gone out,’ he said. ‘They knew that something could be done to get us ready for spring concert.’

“Spring concert is coming up on May 9. Albritton said there may be no band if they don’t get their instruments back, but even if all they have are their voices, there will always be a show. Staff are still working to count their losses. Once they do, they’ll consider starting an online fundraiser.”

NBC San Diego

Pam Dietrich |

Korean Supreme Court Rules University Must Accommodate Sabbath Observance

South Korea’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Seventh-day Adventist Jin Im, who asked the president of Chonnam National University make an exception to the school’s policy of randomly assigning interview times and groups in order to accommodate Im’s Sabbath observance. 

The North Asia-Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists reports that Im applied to Chonnam’s law school in October 2020, passing the document screening phase. However, she was randomly assigned a Saturday morning interview, which Im said conflicted with her religious practice. She asked be rescheduled for the last time slot on Saturday after sundown, but the university declined. Im did not attend, and was not admitted. She sued the university for violating her religious practice.

Im initially lost her case, but an appellate court overturned the lower court’s decision, stating, “The defendant, being the president of a national university and exercising public authority, must consider ways to allow the plaintiff [Im] to participate in the interview by her conscience without compromising the fairness and equity of the student selection process. The refusal to accommodate the plaintiff’s request violates the principle of minimal infringement and is unlawful due to the misuse of discretion.”

The Korean high court upheld the appellate court, marking the first time in the country a Seventh-day Adventist’s petition for academic rescheduling has been accommodated. In April and June 2010 and 2023, the Constitutional Court of South Korea ruled against Seventh-day Adventists’ requests to change exam schedules that fell on Saturdays. 

A Supreme Court spokesperson said “This is the first decision by either the Constitutional Court or the Supreme Court to explicitly acknowledge a Seventh-day Adventist’s request for a change in the test schedule. It clarifies the obligations of administrative authorities to prevent Seventh-day Adventists and other minorities from facing undue discrimination due to their religious beliefs.”

Northern Asia-Pacific Division

Adventist Healthcare Announces CEO Terry Forde Is Leaving to Head Health First

In an April 22 news release, Adventist Healthcare announced that after 13 years leading the Gaithersburg, Maryland-based not-for profit health care system, President and CEO Terry Forde will leave in August to become president and CEO of Health First in Florida.

Adventist Healthcare President and CEO Terry Forde will leave after 13 years heading the not-for-profit system.

Adventist Healthcare board chair Emmanuel Asiedu called Forde a “tireless advocate” for the organization’s mission and said praised Forde for expanding Adventist Healthcare’s services. “We wish Terry and Health First the very best in their efforts to serve the heath needs of Florida community members,” Asiedu said.

Adventist Healthcare has served the greater Washington, D.C. area since 1907. Today it comprises six owned and managed hospitals and over 50 medical facilities.

Founded some 88 years later, Health First became a not-for-profit healthcare system when Cape Canaveral Hospital, Holmes Regional Medical Center, and Palm Bay Hospital joined forces in 1995.

Health First board chair Kent Smith described Forde as “an experienced and sympathetic leader.”

“The Space Coast welcomes Terry,” Smith said, “and looks forward to his guidance to further Health First’s legacy of providing exceptional quality and compassionate care.”

According to Florida Today, Smith will continue serving as Health First interim CEO until Forde takes over in August.

“I am so glad to have been part of an organization dedicated to being the best choice for both patients and team members,” Forde said, “and look forward to joining Health First to promote vibrant wellbeing in Florida.”

Adventist Healthcare News

Jared Wright |

Southern California Conference Cancels Summer Camp Citing Facility, Staffing Needs

The Southern California Conference has canceled its 2024 summer camp program, stating that camp facilities—the playing field, sports courts, restrooms, and cabins—”require attention.” The conference also indicated that recent leadership changes in the conference youth department set back camp readiness in programming and staffing.

SCC holds summer camp at Camp Cedar Falls in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles. After assessing the camp facilities, conference leaders determined they could not “run an excellent and safe camp for our children.”

Camp Cedar Falls "Cabins" from the camp website

The conference has experienced high turnover in the youth department (which oversees summer camp operations), previously split into senior youth and young adult ministries and youth ministries.

After Camp Cedar Falls was closed a year and a quarter because of the 2020 pandemic, the camp reopened its weekend family camp in 2021 under interim youth ministries director Kevin Morris. Salvador Garcia became youth ministries director in December, 2022, but only remained in the position until November 2023, according to his LinkedIn page. He was not replaced.

In May 2022, Iki Taimi left the role of SCC senior youth and young adult ministries director to join La Sierra University Church as lead pastor. One year later, Geoffrey Sewell, a former physician, moved from Hawaii to Southern California to serve as director of youth and senior youth/young adult ministries.

SCC anticipates reopening summer camp in 2025, and for parents who had planned on sending their children to camp this year, the conference recommends vacation Bible school programs at local churches and the international Pathfinder camporee in Gillette, Wyoming in August.

Southern California Conference

Jared Wright |

Oregon Conference Financial Fallout Continues: Camp Meeting Canceled

Oregon Conference’s 2024 camp meeting is the latest casualty of financial readjustments dating back to October, 2023, when the conference announced 20 percent staff cuts.

On April 19, the Oregon Conference executive committee disclosed plans to suspend this year’s English and Spanish camp meetings, stating that holding the events “would have required the conference to borrow approximately $380,000.”

In March, Oregon Conference president Dan Linrud survived a no confidence vote stemming from the conference’s budget shortfall that required dramatic belt-tightening measures. Historically low church attendance and inflation were blamed for the conference’s inability to meet its budget. The conference has offered pastors early retirement buyouts.

Now, with camp meeting suspended, Linrud says preliminary talks have begun to provide “regional convocations” to fill the summer programming gap. “More prayer and conversation will need to take place in this regard,” the conference said.

Oregon Conference

Lake Union Hopes $1M in Scholarships will Help Andrews Students Pursue Teaching, Pastoring

Citing looming teacher and pastor shortages, the Lake Union has pledged $1 million in new scholarships to help Andrews University students train for those vocations. Union president Ken Denslow named money as a key factor for those considering church work. “As educators move or retire, we notice it is increasingly difficult to fill these roles,” he told the Lake Union Herald. “There are young people who would be open to the call of being educators and pastors, but cost gets in the way.”

The Lake Union anticipates “dozens” of K-12 teaching vacancies next school year. And while the union projects few pastoral openings, across the North American Division, the number is high—as many as 2,000 positions may need to be filled.

The Lake Union looks to recruit from Andrews University within its territory when positions open, but rising tuition costs may cause prospective students to reconsider. Union vice president for multicultural ministries Carmelo Mercado sees challenges and opportunities for immigrant families in particular. “Many of our youth are interested in serving the church,” Mercado said, “but as first-generation students they don’t have the resources to attend our universities.” He called the union’s promised scholarships “a blessing to them.”

The Lake Union said a steering committee of union, conference, and university leaders will establish criteria for apportioning scholarship money.

Lake Union Herald

Jared Wright |

Teen Vogue Takes On Conversion Therapy, Coming Out Ministries

In an article for Teen Vogue, Andrews University alum Eliel Cruz raised concerns about a change ministry relocating to Berrien Springs, Michigan.

Recently, an ex-gay group called Coming Out Ministries bought a building across from my alma mater, Andrews University, a Seventh-day Adventist University, intending to “work closely” with the university on LGBTQ issues “from a redemptive perspective.” Groups like Changed Movement and Coming Out Ministries see LGBTQ young people’s identities as “confusion” instead of who they are intrinsically. Their ideology stems from a theological understanding of sexuality that does not take into account science or the world as it exists around them. Anti-LGBTQ theology fuels conversion therapy, and it’s not only flawed but also inherently harmful and violent.

Cruz noted the ways organizations like Coming Out work to evade laws that ban conversion therapy, observing that many “have reemerged, using religious language to promote change therapies.”

In a report by the Trevor Project, researchers found at least 1,320 conversion therapy practitioners in almost all 50 states, including states with active conversion therapy bans for minors. Almost half of those counselors are unlicensed, and most are attached to some sort of religious ministry. While couching their language and pretending to be there to help LGBTQ people, the danger of these groups and practitioners cannot be understated.

Teen Vogue

John McLarty’s Michiana Adventist Forum Topic: “A Clergyman’s Journey to Late-life Happiness”

The Michiana Adventist Forum meets this Saturday, April 20, at 3:30 P.M. at the Berrien Springs Courthouse (1839 County Courthouse) at 313 N. Cass St., Berrien Springs, Michigan.

Retired pastor John McClarty will be the speaker. His title: “From Reformer to Contemplative: A Clergyman’s Journey to Late-life Happiness.”

McLarty wrote about the event on his Facebook page, saying,

“It seems to me that a young person thinking of a career as a pastor ought to have fire in their bones and a dream of making ‘a better church and a better world.’ But at some point in our lives, it ought to become clear that the capacity of people to change is small but our capacity for affection and admiration is large. As we age, devoting more of our energy to the cultivation of our own affection and admiration for the cosmos is wise.

“There comes a time when our convictions (opinions, notions, ideas) about how society and the church should be structured become irrelevant to the actual course of the future. People young enough to be our children or grandchildren will be making the decisions. It’s smart to leave it to them.”

McLarty served for 40 years as an Adventist pastor. He says that he began with a young zealot’s dreams of saving the world and fixing the church, full of theological and philosophical conviction and angst. He devoted his life to the church, and characterizes the institution as being uncommonly good to him.

Since retiring three years ago, he has focused on cultivating spiritual and religious practices compatible with his current station in life as a self-described “retired, institutionally-irrelevant old man.”

McLarty’s presentation will describe his current spiritual practice and some of the insights and convictions that have grown from that practice.

Adventist Voices Podcast: Kyle Portbury Discusses “The Hopeful” Film (Part 2)

This is the second part of Alexander Carpenter’s interview with Kyle Portbury, director of The Hopeful, about why he chose to tell this early Adventist story for a wider public.

Portbury is an Emmy® Award-winning, 3-time Australian Directors Guild nominated writer/director who has taught at Southwestern Adventist University. He worked with Hope Channel International’s (HCI) cinema branch, Hope Studios, to produce this 90-min drama about the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

If you missed part one of this conversation, watch it here or listen to the podcast here.

Jared Wright |

Australian Union Appoints Lyndelle Peterson Ministerial Secretary

Pastor Lyndelle Peterson

The Australian Union has announced that Lyndelle Peterson has been appointed to serve as ministerial secretary.

In February, then ministerial secretary Brendan Pratt accepted a call to serve as director of the General Conference Global Mission Center for Secular and Post-Christian Mission, where he serves half time. Pratt remains with the Australian Union as ministerial associate secretary, working with pastors and elders to connect within post-Christian culture.

Peterson is the first woman to serve as the union’s ministerial secretary. She has served the past three years as associate ministerial secretary and Sabbath school and stewardship director for the Australia Union. She is married to a pastor (Adrian Peterson) and they have two daughters.

The Adventist Record reported in 2021 that “Peterson [was] the first woman Seventh-day Adventist pastor to be employed to work across all areas of the Ministerial Association, including ministry development, resourcing, and working with conference Ministerial leaders to develop and implement strategies to support and inspire pastors around Australia.”

“I am honored and excited to be able to serve in the Ministerial Association,” Peterson told the Record at that time, “and I’m looking forward to working with the team of Ministerial secretaries across Australia.” She noted that women made up 10 percent of the pastoral workforce. “Being able to have representation in these types of conversations is a good step forward,” she said.

Union President Terry Johnson said, “God has a plan for each of our lives and it’s wonderful to see how God has directed the ministerial pathway for Pastor Lyndelle Peterson.”

Johnson added, “From internship to senior pastor of the Chatswood church in Sydney, departmental roles at the conference and union where she has excelled including as the associate Ministerial secretary where she’s learned and gained experience in the requirements necessary to lead across our nine conferences with the excellent ministerial team leaders that we are blessed with.

Nicu Dumbrava, the Australian Union Personal Ministries director and pastor at the Hughesdale Seventh-day Adventist Church in Melbourne, Victoria, will now also serve as director of Sabbath school and stewardship along with personal ministries.

Adventist Record

Jared Wright |

“Two Beats to the Sky” (National Poetry Month)

Up wind and against the tide 
the egret stalked his reflection in the marsh
deliberate and grave.
From the highway straight as a ruler
he was an S-curve floating white over gold,
clouds clotting the grasses around his legs.
I hoped to see him lift off, those wide wings
heavier than air, white finger-feathers
trailing, two beats and into the sky.
When spirit gleams of an instant
unrepeatable, we turn with all 
that is in us,
eager for the dawn, 
lifting the clouds with a tug 
and a snap like rolling up a map.
But he remained earth-bound, as did I —
then to my eye the day’s full sum 
was granted me in a flash.

Barry Casey taught religion, philosophy, ethics, and communications for 37 years at universities in Maryland and Washington, DC. He is now retired and writing in Burtonsville, Maryland. More of the author’s writing can be found on his blog, Dante’s Woods.