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

Andrews University’s Envision Magazine Wins National Award

The magazine, which is produced entirely by students, won a 2023 Pacemaker Award from the Associated College Press. “This award recognizes the top student produced publication in the country and only three were given this year,” the university’s Department of Visual Art, Communication, and Design wrote on Facebook.

The winning issue also features a cover story written by Isabella Koh, an Andrews graduate who we were fortunate to have on the Spectrum team last year as a managing digital editor. Congratulations to Isabella and all of the other current and former students for the win!

Alex Aamodt |

The Two Biggest Trends in American Religion: Nons and Nones

An American political scientist, statistician, and Baptist pastor, Ryan Burge contributed research for The Great Dechurching book James Coffin just reviewed for Spectrum. This morning I saw a provocative graph by Burge, who teaches at Eastern Illinois University. His presentation of General Social Survey data suggests that the most important change in U.S. Christianity is the shift away from denominations since the 1970s.

Both the rise of nondenominational churches as well as the growth of religiously unaffiliated Americans has reshaped spiritual identity. In this video Burge tells the story about how he went viral in 2019 for noting that the “nones” represent a group as large as evangelicals or Catholics in America. How has this affected Adventism in its birth country?

Alexander Carpenter |

Adventist Physicist Delivers Lecture on AI at Andrews University

In the autumn, Andrews University physics alum, Dewey Murdick, returned to campus to deliver a talk on artificial intelligence for a lecture series on science and society. Murdick holds a PhD in engineering physics from the University of Virginia and is the executive director at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology. 

He advises the 38-member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Network of Experts on AI and the National Network for Critical Technology Assessment. Formerly, he worked as the director of Science Analytics at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, where he oversaw metric creation, data science and machine learning programs. He has also held important positions within the Department of Homeland Security, including chief analytics officer and deputy chief scientist. “The presentation provides insights into how individuals can take personal ownership of AI and exercise agency to positively shape our rapidly evolving world”—AU.

Alexander Carpenter |

Local TV Station Covers Mounting Calls for Change at Oakwood University

On the same day that Spectrum published our second story on the Concerned Oakwoodites’ call for change, the org leaders—representing about 1,700 members—were interviewed by a Huntsville, Alabama, television station. “They have demanded action on financial challenges they believe the university is facing but have seen little movement or no progress. Now, their requests are turning into very sharp rhetoric and calling for President Dr. Leslie Pollard to resign. ‘What we’re ultimately hoping for is not just a change in who’s in the president’s office, but a change in how Oakwood operates, culturally, and as a system,’ Concerned Oakwoodites co-founder David Person said”—WAFF 48.

Alexander Carpenter |

Florida’s Greek Community Celebrates Epiphany Draped in AdventHealth Towels

“Florida’s largest Greek Orthodox community celebrated the Epiphany on Saturday as a 16-year-old boy dove into chilly water to retrieve a cross in an annual rite that draws thousands. John Hittos found the cross before 64 other boys after it was thrown into a bayou in Tarpon Springs, a town on the Gulf Coast 30 miles north of Tampa and known for its large Greek community. The retriever of the cross is believed to receive a year of blessings. It is one of the largest Epiphany celebrations in the country”—Associated Press. (Hat tip to Brent Stanyer.) If you see an interesting piece of Adventist-related news, send it to us.

Alexander Carpenter |

Adventist Review Publishes Obituary for Heather-Dawn Small

Writing for the Review, Marcos Paseggi gives an overview of the life and career of the GC Women’s Ministries director following her sudden death from cancer on January 2. The obituary quotes GC Vice President Audrey Andersson, who said that Small “helped shape women’s ministries over the past 18-plus years” and “leaves a legacy of service which will continue to be a positive influence on each person she has met.”

On a personal note, I remember interviewing Small for one of the first stories I ever wrote for Spectrum. I was struck by her willingness to actually speak to a Spectrum reporter—a rare occurrence among GC leaders—and her genuine passion for advancing women’s issues, including enditnow programs to counter abuse.

—From the Adventist Review: “Adventist Women’s Ministries Leader Heather-Dawn Small Dies at 66.”

Alex Aamodt |

Heather-Dawn Small, GC Women’s Ministries Director, Has Died

According to a message from the General Conference on social media, Heather-Dawn Small has died following a brief illness. She joined the GC Women’s Ministries department in 2001 and has been its director since 2005. Four days ago, the GC shared that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

Small was one of the longest-tenured GC leaders, beginning her position during the presidency of Jan Paulsen and continuing under Ted Wilson. “Our hearts go out to the family of Heather-Dawn Small. What a tragedy that she has died,” Wilson said. “The process happened so quickly that it is difficult to grasp the situation. Heather-Dawn diligently served the world church as Women’s Ministries director for many years. She was so supportive of helping women become involved in evangelism and assisting the church in outreach and community activities.”

Alex Aamodt |

Adventist Ad Directs Hopeless to Nonprofits

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America partnered with Hope Channel to buy advertising space on digital screens in New York City’s Times Square.

The 15-second, hope-themed ads direct viewers to ConnectHope.com, which provides an introductory video and a list of nonprofit community outreach organizations. The landing page also promises that representatives will be available for support via text, chat, email, or phone.

According to the Adventist Church, the ad buy is part of Connecting to Hope, a “three-month awareness campaign designed to encourage individuals to foster connections with their community, family, friends, and neighbors, as well as to cultivate spiritual connections with God.”

The Church says the campaign’s resources “serve as a lifeline to combat loneliness, encouraging people to seek support, and proactively connect with those around them.”

Andrews University Grad Creates Pop Tart Mayhem, Inspires Change

Andrews University graduate Heidi M. Ray had the biggest moment of her career Saturday as her creative team unveiled the first edible mascot in sports history, per NPR.

Ray, the senior director of brand marketing at Pop-Tarts (Kellanova), led the team that created the crowning act of the 2023 Pop-Tarts Bowl—Strawberry, the Pop-Tarts mascot, lowered into a giant toaster, re-appearing as an enormous edible Pop-Tart that was devoured by the winning team (Kansas State) following the game. The moment went immediately viral online with endless memes shared on social media.

For Adventists, the event may have inspired changes to the way they imagine the Lord’s Supper (Communion) and the words “This is my body, broken for you.” SDACaricatures on X shared this image:

The Stanford Tree, the mascot for the Stanford Band, paid tribute on X: “RIP to my dear friend and mentor, the @PopTartsBowl Mascot. “I find solace in knowing that — in being eaten — you achieved your most precious goal. This loss is bitter and sweet, sugary and tart. Just like you Leviticus 26:29”

Oakwood Pastors Conference Hits 800 Attendance Record

Over 800 participated in the Pastoral Evangelism and Leadership Council (PELC) conference, held on the Oakwood University campus in Huntsville, Alabama, on December 3-6. Held for over 40 years, it is the “largest annual gathering of pastors and church leaders in the North American Division.” Top NAD presence included Vice President for Strategy and Leadership Ivan Williams, Sr., as well as Ministerial Association associate directors Jose Cortes Jr. and Gerardo Oudri.

The opening sermon was delivered by James Doggette, Sr., pastor of Patmos Chapel in Apopka, Florida. Preaching a “conservative theology but liberal methodology,” he stated: “Seventh-day Adventists are identified by a belief system that is biblically based. Stop conflating cultural Adventist norms with theology…. “Fast, rhythmic music versus slow-moving hymns is not theological.”—Christelle Agboka/NAD.

Alexander Carpenter |

Adventist Health Continues Blue Shield of California Deal

After negotiations that included “talks fail” and “ties cut” headlines,” Adventist Health reached a new agreement with Blue Shield of California on Dec. 21. This provides its 4.8 million health plan members access to the 18 Seventh-day Adventist operated hospitals in the state with no loss of coverage.

Aliza Arjoyan, Blue Shield’s Senior Vice President of Provider Partnerships and Network Management, stated “Adventist Health has been a part of Blue Shield’s network of providers for a long time, and I look forward to continued collaboration with the hospital system.” Kerry L. Heinrich, President and CEO of Adventist Health added, “Our mission calls us to provide access to high-quality care close to home in the communities we serve, and we are excited to continue caring for Blue Shield members”—Adventist Health.

Alexander Carpenter |

Arson Destroys Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada

Beiseker Adventist Church in flames.

On Dec. 20, a fire destroyed the Beiseker Seventh-day Adventist Church in Alberta, Canada. The official cause is arson. Close to 100 Canadian churches have been burned or vandelized in the last few years, motivations include news about the Canadian Indian residential school system.

A local fire official stated, “We did have some local parishioners come through the scene to see what happened,” he said. “It’s a very tight-knit community, and they were very impacted by losing their church. It’s the centre of their community. During the Christmas season, it causes even greater grief for those affected”—Calgary Herald.

Published the day before the fire destroyed the Adventist church this PBS page provides historical context on that system. It states, “in the U.S. and all over the world, residential schools, or Indian boarding schools, forcibly fractured Indigenous cultures. The implication that these institutions were just ‘schools’ does little to paint a picture of the human rights violations and historical trauma suffered by whole communities.”

Alexander Carpenter |

Disappointed by DEI

We’ll peridocially feature letters to the editor here in The Current. This arrived on Christmas morning, from Lori Tyson.

“I know you have many individual, independent contributors which speak for themselves on their own views and opinions, but I have to say how disappointed I am to see so much ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’ stuff in what I am reading!  And NO push back from anybody?! 
I can not imagine I am the only one who sees this as the Marxism/communism that it is!

Yes, I would like to hear back from somebody, anybody regarding Spectrums take on this!
The LAST place I want to live is in a communist hell hole!”

Alexander Carpenter |

Loma Linda University Church Christmas Candlelight Concert 2023

The Loma Linda University Church Music Ministry, lead by Adriana Perera, presents its beloved annual Christmas Candlelight Concert, this year’s theme is “Let All Nations Adore Him.” It was originally performed live on December 9 and just released to the public. “Join the Sanctuary Choir, Orchestra, Brass, BellForza, Kimo Smith, and guest artist Alessandra Sorace as we celebrate our Lord Jesus’ birth and sing your favorite Christmas Carols together”—LLUC.

Alexander Carpenter |

Bake Memories This Christmas

Adventist Health, headquartered in Northern California, posted a three minute mostly silent drama with a heartwarming message. “The holidays are for making treasured memories. When you take care of you, it allows you to enjoy more special moments with those you love.”

Alexander Carpenter |

“Not His Usual Jolly Self”

Yes it is promotional fare, but in this minute and a half video Santa thanks his AdventHealth doctor and visits young patients, “giving back to the hospital that mended his heart”—AdventHealth.

A November Orlando Sentinel article profiles this iconic local Santa. “Central Floridians…may have noticed Hayes cruising around on his distinctive 2000 Harley-Davidson Road King, which is decked out with candy canes, reindeer antlers, festive lights, jingle bells and Bluetooth speakers that play Christmas carols.”

Alexander Carpenter |

Christmas Sermon Series: Manuel Arteaga on Luke 2:14

“Advent reminds us that evil is real, but it is not final,” states Manuel Arteaga, Lead Pastor of the KalÄ“o Seventh-day Adventist Church. KalÄ“o “is a vibrant Spanglish community in Southern California.”
Alexander Carpenter |

Christmas Sermon Series: Michelle Odinma on Mark 1:1-8

Michelle Odinma, Pastor of Community Life, at the Church of the Advent Hope, in NYC. She received her MDiv in 2020 from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. “With a strong background in creative arts, Michelle spends her time writing poems and songs to inspire others to seek God.”—Church of the Advent Hope.

Alexander Carpenter |