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

Andrews University Center for Adventist Research Inaugurates Rose James Endowment

The Center for Adventist Research on the Campus of Andrews University has inaugurated the Rose James Endowment to promote research in Black Adventist studies and to address racism globally.

The Center, which “seeks to promote an understanding and appreciation of the heritage and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” established the endowment during its annual Friends Event, held in person and via Zoom on February 8, 2024.

The endowment will fund research and combat racism:

“The Rose James Endowment is designed to promote research, spirituality, health, and evangelism within the black community and enhance the collaborative relationship between Andrews University and Oakwood University. The funding will be used for collection development, special projects, and research in the area of black Adventist studies to address the issues of race, ethnicity, and racism globally. To achieve these goals, a portion of this endowment will be allocated for scholarly lectures and research fellowships, including the ‘E. E. Cleveland Lecture’ and ‘C. D. Brooks Research Fellowship.’”

Participants in the program included current and former leaders from Andrews University, Oakwood University, Loma Linda University, Ministry magazine, and the East-Central Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

The endowment was presented by Kevin Burton, director of the Center for Adventist Research, Paulette Johnson, dean of libraries at Andrews, and Stanley James, CEO and medical director of Premier Health & Wellness Centre. Rose James, listed as “a Seventh-day Adventist Mother,” also provided remarks.

The Center for Adventist Research posted photos of the event on Facebook, including the image above.

Jared Wright |

Conscience and Justice Council on DEI and Andrews University

The Seventh-day Adventist Conscience and Justice Council includes almost two dozen denominational Public Affairs and Religious Liberty leaders as well as legal, history, and theological scholars across the North American Division. Several weeks ago, they held an online forum titled, “Systems of Oppression: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion and You.” It focused on “myths and truths about these systems from an institutional perspective, including the church and higher education.” One of the expert guests was Dr. Courtney Ray, a clinical neuropsychologist, Spectrum columnist, and an Andrews University Honored Alumni awardee in 2020.

Framing this discussion as coming from a biblical perspective, C&JC chairman Edward Woods III, PARL Director for the Lake Region Conference, called for “constructive challenge” as the discussion addressed the recent disruption by the new president over DEI on the Andrews University campus.

The participants drew attention to the official denominational statement, “One Humanity: A Human Relations Statement Addressing Racism, Casteism, Tribalism, and Ethnocentrism,” which states, in part, “We maintain our allegiance to the biblical principles of equality and dignity of all human beings in the face of historic and continuing attempts to use skin color, place of origin, caste, or perceived lineage as a pretext for oppressive and dominating behavior. These attempts are a denial of our shared humanity and we deplore all such aggression and prejudice as an offense to God. Still, we acknowledge that many members of our worldwide Church fail to uphold this biblical truth about the equality of all persons.

Alexander Carpenter |

Adventist Artist Leon Thomas Wins Best R&B Song Grammy

American record producer, songwriter, singer, and actor Leon G. Thomas III won Best R&B Song at yesterday’s 66th Grammy Awards for his writing on the song “Snooze” performed by SZA. It was Thomas’ second nomination and his first win.

Irish entertainment website Entertainment.ie, states that Thomas “is an active Seventh-day Adventist Christian,” something Thomas confirmed on Twitter (now X) in 2010.

The 30-year old began his performing career at age 10, playing the part of Young Simba in the Broadway production of Disney’s The Lion King. In addition to that and other stage acting roles, Thomas has numerous film, television, and music writing, producing, and performing credits to his name.

That his body of major works is all non-religious led Adventist writer and content producer Natahlia Carr (@laugh_track_nat) to playfully call Thomas a “Badventist” on X, simultaneously revealing Thomas’ Adventist affiliation to to many:

Per Wikipedia, the song Snooze for which Thomas won his Grammy “is a song by American singer-songwriter SZA from her second studio album, SOS (2022). It was sent to rhythmic contemporary and urban contemporary radio as the sixth single from the album on April 25, 2023. SZA wrote the song with producers Babyface, the Rascals (Leon Thomas III and Khristopher Riddick-Tynes), and BLK. The acoustic version features Canadian singer Justin Bieber, who stars in the official music video of the song’s original version, and was released on September 15, 2023.”

Jared Wright |

Police Evacuate Fort Myers Seventh-day Adventist Church after Reports of Armed Individual

On Saturday morning, February 3, police responded to the Fort Myers Seventh-day Adventist Church in Florida while an event was taking place, according to a statement from the Florida Conference:

Upon entering the church building, Fort Myers police announced they received a report of an armed individual in the area and instructed everyone to stay calm. The police surrounded the building and, after a 30-minute search, determined it was safe to evacuate everyone to a parking lot across from the church.

“We’re extremely grateful for the immediate response of the FMPD and the protection that surrounded the building,” said Tim Goff, Executive Secretary (COO) of Florida Conference. “We praise God that everyone is safe and the situation was managed quickly and professionally.”

According to police, officers detained two individuals in the parking lot. WINK News reported that detectives were also speaking to residents of nearby apartment complexes and no injuries were reported. —Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

Alex Aamodt |

Nancy Lecourt Finds Her Adventist Roots

Nancy Hoyt Lecourt taught English at Pacific Union College for 25 years, before becoming Academic Dean for the final 13 years of her career. Retired in 2019, she now delights in gardening, volunteering at nearby Adventist Health St. Helena, coordinating the PUC Choir Zoom Sabbath School, and rambling the trails of PUC’s c. 1,000-acre forest.

Lecourt gave this presentation at the Choir Zoom Sabbath School on February 4, 2023.

As someone who grew up in the Adventist denomination Lecourt asks how her forebears and others like them came to be part of this small, marginalized group of believers.

To answer the question, she delves into Adventist and United States history. Witness a remarkable trove of primary source documents and photographs as Lecourt finds her Seventh-day Adventist roots.

Jared Wright |

Former Adventist Review Editor, William G. Johnsson, on Theology

Alexander Carpenter |

“Never Black and White” podcast

Thandazani Mhlanga has written for Spectrum and is a pastor and educator who recently earned an MA in ancient Near Eastern civilizations at the University of Toronto. To kick off 2024, he teamed up on a new podcast with Greg Thorp (of the Okanagan Valley Thorps), a very active member of the Osoyoos Seventh-Day Adventist Church in British Columbia.

Their Never Black and White podcast “pays homage to human spirituality through meaningful dialogue. In a world of rigid dichotomies where alternative realities and non-mainstream human experiences are regarded as unconventional and, thus, infrequently discussed, hosts Thandazani Mhlanga and Greg Thorp will delve deep into humanity’s spiritual quagmire with intentionality, care and a high-endeavour for precision.” They are already four episodes in and they have addressed religious metanarratives, gender, the law of attraction, and the future of organized religion. Check out their “empowering, fresh, and inclusive perspective on all things spirituality” on Spotify here.

Alexander Carpenter |

Orlando’s WholeLife Church Report on 2023

The Spectrum team visited and reported on around a dozen Adventist churches around the North American Division in 2023. Unlike other media in Adventism which is obligated to say nice things or anonymously and carelessly attack individuals and institutions, we work hard to support a more complete and complex Adventist story. Not everyone appreciates or understands this balance, but we press on.

Last week, Ezrica Bennet shared about her visit to the WholeLife Seventh-day Adventist Church in Orlando, Florida. She writes, “As I entered the sanctuary, I was immediately greeted by someone I later found out was on the pastoral team. She initiated our conversation by saying, “I’ve never seen you before; are you new here?” I was moved by her welcome.” The church’s website makes that welcome very clear stating, “We are all genders: single, married, divorced, straight, LGBTQ+, poor, rich, dis/abled, old, and young. At WholeLife Church, we welcome every member of the community to join us in worship. We don’t care if you’re a lifelong Christian or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We want to offer you grace and peace as you begin or continue your faith journey.”

In 2023, WholeLife’s membership grew by 77 people to reach 1,270. As Ezrica reports, about half of those attend in person and another 500 watch online. This mirrors a trend we are seeing lately—growing hybridity in association and identity.

“I was instantly struck by the diversity of the congregation,” Ezrica adds. “Many churches claim to be multicultural, but WholeLife truly embodies inclusion. The foyer was filled with people of various ethnicities, including Black, White, Asian, and Hispanic individuals. There were youth, young adults, children, families, young couples, and singles—all contributing to a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere.” As she notes, the focus of the church service was on its theme of “connection” for 2024. Here is a “year in review” video on what the church did in 2023 with its theme: Follow Me.

Alexander Carpenter |

Five Loma Linda University Research Teams Earn Internal Grants

Five research teams at Loma Linda University Health received internal $75,000, 24-month awards. Supported project topics include ovarian cancer, RNA sequencing of oral brush swab specimens, bariatric surgery, cardiovascular repair, and intrauterine hypoxia.

The announcement quotes Michael Samardzija, PhD, vice president of Research Affairs that these investments go to “the most promising projects to generate data for future externally funded grants, which will help Loma Linda University Health create solutions for medical needs that are currently unmet.” Samardzija adds that LLUH “has experienced a surge in external funding over the past few years”—Ansel Oliver/LLUH.

Alexander Carpenter |

Southern Adventist University Students Question Punishments for Missing Worships

The Southern Accent recently published a story about students being barred from registering for classes due to not attending enough worship programs. “Students should feel happy and willing to go to these events, but in the end, many feel stressed and forced to make it to as many as they can, while also juggling a lot of other responsibilities,” one student told the Accent. “A hold on registering for classes should not be a consequence for not getting your credits on time. These are two unrelated events. And it causes more stress, and students lose the opportunity to get into the classes they need.” Other students thought the punishments, which also include fines, help promote the campus culture.

Debates over worship policies are an age-old topic at Adventist schools, and some members of the Spectrum team remember similar stories from their college days. Digital editor Jared Wright says he recalls skipping chapels while a student at Southern because they wouldn’t let him in without a necktie. And the perennial question always is: do harsh worship policies do more harm than good? —Southern Accent

Alex Aamodt, Raquel Mentor |

Pioneering Adventist Chaplain Herman L. Kibble Dies at 92

Kibble, who was the first Adventist to serve as a head chaplain for a US Navy carrier group, died on December 17, according to an obituary from the Adventist Review. For the first 17 years of his career, he worked as a church pastor in California. In 1969, he entered the Navy and went on to serve tours in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and Antarctica. “He received many military awards, including the Presidential Unit Citation (Navy), Vietnam Gallantry Cross (Civil Actions Medal), and the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation ribbon. While in Vietnam, he risked his life to hold prayer services with service members in the Mekong Delta. This so impressed one of the young service members that he also decided to become a Navy chaplain.”

According to his obituary, Kibble was also a mentor to Barry Black, who would rise to become a rear admiral and chaplain of the US Senate. —Adventist Review

Alex Aamodt |

Church from Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” Now an Adventist Congregation

One of the key scenes from the 2003 film Kill Bill: Volume 1 was filmed at a small church in the Mojave Desert. Soon after, According to SFGATE, Oscar Castañeda purchased the building to turn it into a Seventh-day Adventist church. But he was perplexed when people kept arriving to photograph the building.

After he learned the reason for the attention, Castañeda watched the movie’s famous wedding chapel scene filmed at the location—which ends in a bloody massacre—describing it as “very violent.” Several well-known music videos have also been filmed at the church over the years, including “Be Careful” by Cardi B. Castañeda appears in the music video as a wedding officiant, which he calls “my biggest regret” after learning more about Cardi B’s music.

Although he describes himself as a pastor, Castañeda doesn’t appear to work for the Seventh-day Adventist denomination and his congregation is not an official conference church.

From SFGATE: “The History of California’s ‘Kill Bill’ Church”

Alex Aamodt |

Celebrating Glendale Korean Adventist Church’s 50th Anniversary

Today the United States marks Korean-American Day (Jan. 13, 2024). To honor the occasion we are highlighting the Glendale Korean Seventh-day Adventist Church’s recent 50th Anniversary celebration.

The Glendale, California church celebrated its fifty years as a congregation in July, 2023. It is one of the largest Korean-speaking Adventist congregations in the United States.

After the celebrations, the church posted a highlight video with moments from the anniversary worship service.

Jared Wright |

Walla Walla University President McVay Announces Retirement

After 44 years working for the denomination, including 18 years leading the Adventist university in the Pacific Northwest, John McVay announced this academic year will be his last. At the end of this term, with about 1,350 students enrolled, McVay will pass the earlier presidential length record of 17 years. McVay stated, “To serve Walla Walla University as its president for an extended period of time has been the great honor of my career….”—WWU.

Alexander Carpenter |

AdventHealth CEO Among Modern Healthcare’s 100 Most Influential

AdventHealth President/CEO Terry Shaw has been recognized by Modern Healthcare as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare of 2023. The prestigious list honors individuals who are highly regarded by their peers and the senior editors of Modern Healthcare for their impact and leadership in the health care industry.

“The 2023 honorees on our 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare reflect the providers, insurers, technology firms, government leaders, investors and others who have made oversized contributions to the industry in the past year,” said Mary Ellen Podmolik, editor-in-chief of Modern Healthcare. “Our ranked list honors the C-suite decision-makers using their clout and influence to lead their organizations and make sweeping changes that affect patient care.”

The list features health care influencers representing a range of sectors such as providers, payers, tech companies, associations and government.

In a profile on Terry’s presence on the list, Modern Healthcare highlighted Shaw’s leadership of AdventHealth’s growth strategy and innovations in individualized care.

From AdventHealth.com.

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 |