An Educated Beginning: Annual Council Diary 2016

While an expanded LEAD Conference on Adventist Education kicked off the activities of the 2017 Annual Council, it was news of what action might be taken against the unions that have ordained women that everyone wanted to hear. The members of the General Conference and Division Officers committee gathered Thursday evening to consider a revised action document. This time the language was more pastoral with the threat of any potential punishment left undefined. The item will now be slotted into the schedule for the Annual Council business session where a very full agenda awaits the General Conference Executive Committee, including a proposal that a 29th fundamental belief be added regarding Adventist education.

Popular Adventist historian George Knight gave the first plenary address for the annual LEAD Conference. He was at his charming best as he traced the combined history of Adventist education and mission showing how they impacted each other. For the first thirty years of the church’s history, there was not much interest in mission or education, he noted. But in the 1870’s there was a shift. In 1874, John Nevins Andrews was sent as the first official missionary to a foreign land, and the first college was opened. These should be seen as one event he contended, because of the close tie between mission and education.

Adventism mirrored evangelical Protestantism, he suggested. It was the evangelist Dwight L. Moody who initiated the student volunteer mission movement and missionary colleges were established to prepare large numbers of workers to staff mission outposts.

Twenty years after Adventism opened its first college in North America, it began to establish schools around the world. By 1900, the system had been internationalized.

As in Adventist mission, so in Adventist education. In 1880, the denomination had two schools. By 1900 that number had mushroomed to 245.

“Education stands at the center of the Great Controversy,” he said. The minds and hearts of the coming generation are ground zero. If you don’t win the hearts and minds of the next generation, we’re finished.”

In another presentation, Jairyong Lee, the president of Northern Asia-Pacific Division, told of the Mongolian Dormitory College. After seventy years of no religious freedom in Mongolia, in 1990, the door for religious belief opened. A lay missionary family from the United States moved there and did their best to spread the gospel. In 1993, two young ladies were ready for baptism. Since then 2,300 have been baptized, and 70% of them are young people, university and high school students. When Lee visited Mongolia, he met with college students who were sleeping in the local Adventist church because they had no where else to stay. He suggested that the Mission look into creating a place for students. So the Mongolia Union Mission converted two floors of their office building into a dormitory. Of the 39 students who have stayed in the dormitory, five have been baptized, he said. Dorm activities include daily worships, special Bible study classes, week of prayer sessions, Sabbath programs, counselling, music and mission programs. Last month, on Sept. 2, a pastor started a vocational junior college. Fifty people have already enrolled, and many are planning to stay in our dormitory. “If you can’t establish a college immediately, consider building a dormitory,” he advised.

La Sierra University Professor Lisa Kiddo gave a presentation on the success of Adventist Education sharing the results from her studies of student performance on achievement tests. Students in Adventist schools outperformed the national average on standardized tests in all subjects, for all grade levels, she siad. The student factors leading to success included having a healthy relationship with their parents, having positive friends, taking care of their health, and having a positive spiritual outlook. Higher achievement was also associated with teachers who give students extra help and who interact with students about personal issues.

Adam Fenner of the North American Division, described the Adventist effort to create MOOC (massive open online courses). There are over 60 such courses now available, including a faith and science course, based on the conference held at St. George, Utah.

Alayne D. Thorpe, the dean for the School of Distance Education and International Partnerships at Andrews University, made one of the first presentations at an Annual Council about home schooling of Adventist children. She credited Raymond Moore, the author of Better Late than Early, based on the writings of Ellen G. White and the Bible, with helping to provide the foundation of the homeschooling movement in the United States. Since that book appeared, the Internet has spurred the 58% growth rate in the number of students being home schooled. Governmental regulations have also been loosened, all 50 states now permit homeschooling. A growing number of parents believe that it is primarily their responsibility to care for the education of their children and who share a belief that they can do it as well, if not better than, traditional education. Is collaboration possible between homeschooling and traditional Adventist education, she asked? She answered in the affirmative telling of a number of Adventist schools that have opened their doors to homeschool co-ops. Co-ops provide support for homeschooling through the use of shared facilities, shared curriculum, joint mission trips, resources for parents and students, and tutoring and homework assistance. She noted the common mission that parents who homeschool their children share with Adventist education—wanting to teach children to reflect God’s character.

The last presentation of the day was made by vice president Geoffrey G. Mbwana on the International Board of Ministerial and Theological Education. In a short power point presentation, he described the historical developments that led to the creation of the Board in 1998 and 2000, and the development of the handbook. Recently the Handbook has been revised and the particulars are to be voted upon by the Annual Council business session. He said an attempt has been made to focus on broad principles and allow the Division Boards to develop the specifics that respond adequately to the needs in their territories. One of the listed duties of the Board that has proven to be controversial within the academic community is the requirement to have theological faculty of Adventist colleges and universities endorsed by the IBMTE as part of their hiring process. The particulars of this process were not considered in this presentation.

There is more to come on Adventist education on Friday. The business sessions will commence on Sunday.

Photo Credit: Brent Hardinge / Adventist News Network

Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine.

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I have to confess to being extremely puzzled by this push for a new fundamental belief on education. When I saw some reference to this earlier today, I actually thought it was a joke.

Can anyone elaborate on the intended purpose of such a fundamental belief, and whether there is yet a proposed wording?

If I correctly understand the existing fundamental beliefs, they are essentially a “Claytons” creed (ie., the creed you have when you don’t have a creed.) They outline the key elements of Adventist theology, doctrine and lifestyle practice. I just don’t see how education fits into this, unless there is a move to redefine what education actually is. And while this may just be my suspicious mind at work, I do fear perhaps this is the agenda. To enshrine in doctrine, principles of education that are at odds with the generally understood meaning of the word.

After all, the church has a real dilemma as regards offering higher education in subject areas where church belief conflicts with mainstream theories (this is evident in the sciences as well as theology, where specific Adventist beliefs diverge from mainstream Christian thought).

Ultimately I don’t see education as being in any way related to salvation. And church leaders have done enough recently to engender significant distrust. Together, this causes me to think someone is up to no good here.


To paraphrase EGW, education, from a Christian perspective is not only to prepare good citizens for this world but, more so, for the World to come, hence the salvational dimension. In addition as all manner of ideologies, and world views continue to encroach on, and impact, our Adventist belief and lifestyle, we ought to establish clear boundaries of what constitutes Adventist Christian education. I thought this was already well spelt out in the book Education and many other documents from the GC Education department. Consequently, unless I can be persuaded otherwise, I see no need of another fundamental belief to the 28. Dr J Paulsen had the 28th added during his presidency, which I didn’t think was necessary either. We already have a big volume of our Theological beliefs. That’s more than sufficient. Our fundamental beliefs can be easily summarised in one sentence: “Love God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your fellow humans as yourself and if you love God keep His commandments (including the ten) as you prepare for Jesus’s soon coming”. That’s our message. The sum and heart of all our beliefs. Our mission is to live it and Tell it to the World! Now Ted Wilson wants one during his presidency. If Jesus does not return soon, are we going to have a new Fundamental Belief every five years? Where is that going to lead to :neutral_face:?


The SDA gospel has always included reams of “how to” instructions - from what not to eat (to get ready); what not to wear (to get ready); what not to read (to get ready); how not to spread the gospel - through females, (to get ready).

The only thing we can DO “to get ready” for Christ’s return is to accept God’s gift of grace, which doesn’t sit piggyback on a threat, as does this YEAR OF GRACE. Maybe the SDA management doesn’t understand that. If that’s true, then they don’t understand the gospel - which, lest we forget, means “good news” - not threats. If that is the case, we’re sitting in the wrong pew.


To be honest all these words…education, mission, hearts and minds…blah blah blah. Every single person in that room is thinking about one thing…WO and the recent events surrounding it.

To postpone action in ‘a year of grace’ or whatever is just a form of denial. While this issue isn’t sorted due to ridiculous discriminatory thinking, we stagnate. Apathy grows, whatever actual mission the SDA church has loses momentum and dissipates.

@tony @kennlutz


I’m pleased to learn of the emphasis on education. Let’s provide more support for it!

And let’s hope the more educated (the university’s scholars) can be better appreciated for what they have to say about WO, and that recognition will be given for the need to keep the next generation in the pews.


On another thread, Jeremy said # 29 was ALREADY coming up to be voted on [in relation to the “threat” of Unions].
So This one would be # 30.
Question – Is our Theological Focus to get ready much like the Jews of the time of Jesus? Eat, Drink, Wear, Read, Segregation of Social Classes All these Do’s and Don’ts. Having a Legal Relationship with God? So we can PROVE we are worthy to enter the kingdom?
NOT promoting a Family Relationship with Our Father, Our Brother. And enjoying the Holy Spirit.
The Commandments 1-4 is about the promoting a Relationship with Our Heavenly Family.
The Commandments 5-10 is about having a healthy Relationship with ourselves, our family, our “neighbors”, our community.
TOO MUCH the “10” are promoted as “10 RULES”. Keep them OR DIE!!! One does die. But that is because without Healthy Relationship we become very dysfunctional persons, unhealthy mentally, emotionally, relationally.
These Legalistic thinking attitudes can be promoted at and early age in Church School and in Sabbath School. Once formed, usually stay with us ALL our Adult Life. And we pass them on to our kids and others in the next generation or two [maybe 3].

to Tom [edit]-- I appreciated my Boarding Academy experience. I was immersed in Adventism [Bible and spirit of prophecy]. We had practical vocational training in our 4 hour a day “work program”. at the time a 21-bed nursing home, a productive farm [growing a lot of our Summer and Winter food, preserving it], constructing our own buildings, maintaining our vehicles, kitchens to feed everyone. I learned a lot of skills would have missed staying home, attending local High School. Would have also missed my life Vocation.

I AM CONCERNED that the GC is forcing BIBLICAL SCIENCE in our Academies and Universities.
Makes it very difficult to teach the sciences.
I AM CONCERNED that the GC is forcing NO ASKING of Questions in our Bible-Theology Classes. The not able to say, There Is More to be Known. WE have Not asked all the Questions. We have not understood ALL the Answers.

Attending Adventist Education from K to 12 is NO guarantee that one’s child will remain SDA. At Laurelbrook we have quite a number of Alumni who come back year after year who’s SDA experience is that one week-end a year. On the other hand we have a large majority who are active in their home SDA churches. A number who decided they wanted to be preachers while attending academy. A number who are serving in mission fields.
Maybe they enjoy coming back year after year because ALL are Welcome, no matter where one is on their Spiritual Journey. And THAT is OK.


While being a strong supporter for education …I still feel that such effort somehow has a fig leave function that nobody can object to - while at the same distracting from the actual lack of education within our church.

If education means (as it currently seems to be intended): indoctrination in the one and only way the GC “suggests” and don’t allow for variance and advancement in thinking (“unity”) … I certainly would struggle being an educator.


“To paraphrase EGW, education, from a Christian perspective is not only to prepare good citizens for this world but, more so, for the World to come, hence the salvational dimension.”

Are we now basing our fundamental beliefs on the writings of EGW and no longer purely on scripture? We are headed down a very slippery slope.


Knowing Ted Wilson, I fear the doctrine will most likely be an expression of opposition to education. It will be something that can be used as a cudgel against our colleges and universities. It will countenance the ignorance of those who only read the Bible and the writings of Ellen White. Instead of highlighting the importance of education, the doctrine will probably attempt to dictate what is and is not education, based upon the fundamentalist mindset of Elder Wilson.

Does anyone honestly think that all of the schools closed in the last forty years will be reopened as a result of the new doctrine? Is the new doctrine an indication of new financial priorities? I don’'t think so.


Every meeting of a General Conference council over the past 5 years has resulted in increased confusion and more dictatorial mandates. Seventh-day Adventists used to know what we believed and understood our part individually and as a collective body when it came to those beliefs. We don’t have to be told that we have to help to pay for the electricity at our church, read our Sabbath School lessons, teach our children about the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus, refrain from going to strip clubs, avoid prostitution, show compassion to the sick and poor, appreciate the beauty of nature, thank God before we eat, wash our bodies and our clothes, stay out of the stores on the Sabbath hours, etc. We know how to live as Adventists. I’m waiting for someone to make it a fundamental belief that we not eat cheese and not own bicycles because EGW wrote about it somewhere. Really! We should be concerned about how we are being coerced to nickel-and-dime our beliefs. The Church Manual already does that, and most of our pastors don’t adhere to it unless it serves their own purpose.

Maybe, just maybe, something else is in the making that the laity don’t know about, something big, and we are being primed for it. This effort to add another fundamental belief (we didn’t need the 28th one, since it was clearly implied in the 27 that existed prior), is a precursor to the addition of more stringent “doctrine” that is in the shadows sitting on a slow cooker on the back burner. BEWARE, Church! The vice is slowly being turned. We need to put a halt to it before the life is squeezed out of our Church.

Most people, except for radicals and extremists, don’t want to join a denomination that has a long list of rules and regulations, especially when there is little Biblical basis for them. That is the behavior of a cult. It was the behavior of the Pharisees. This is NOT the Gospel that Jesus asked us to spread. His was a Gospel of love, peace, compassion and simplicity.


Church School yes, boarding academy no, University yes. Tom Z

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Hasn’t it already been established that the Great Controversy is at the center of all Adventist beliefs and teachings? Basing today’s education on a 100 year old very historically inaccurate and questionable thesis is to reject all the knowledge we have learned since that time as contrary to Adventist education. Who is writing this stuff?

If students and their parents want them to be taught Adventist history and associate with fellow students whose parents sent them to SdA colleges for the same reason, maybe, just maybe, they will remain Adventists (even though the stats do not support this). But if parents and students want a well-rounded education in all the subjects and learn how to critically evaluate all sides, go to a college that is not part of a religious indoctrination program.


steve, i did bring up FB 29 on the norwegian union thread, but i meant what bonnie’s alluding to here (we aren’t always going to be staying exactly on topic, ok :wink: )…

personally, i’m all for an FB 29 on education…it’s probably long overdue…in my mind, there is a definite connection between adventist education and staying adventist, even if one decides to leave the church for a time…i think it’s quite amazing how often i think of my adventist education yrs…i attended non-adventist institutions before and since my time in adventist education, but i can’t say i recall these yrs as thoroughly as i recall andrews junior high, pioneer valley academy, south lancaster academy, AUC, PUC and andrews…mind you, college for me did come at an historic time in our church - a challenge to our sanctuary doctrine, challenges to the authority of egw , the beginnings of a serious look at sexual orientation - but aside from all this, the example and input of the many wonderful adventist teachers i’ve had have definitely had an impact that has shaped the choices i’m making today…if i had kids, they’d all be in adventist schools for at least one of their degrees…

i suspect the move behind this new FB is designed to bolster support for adventist education among rank and file church members…my impression is that support has been waning in recent yrs due to high tuition costs, as well as some of the stories people have been hearing in connection with our schools, like the racial problems that led to AUC’s closure, La Sierra’s evolution emphasis, PUC’s adam and steve, PUC’s academic freedom kerfuffle, andrews’ gay cupcake problem, etc…the people in my neck of the woods will likely see an FB 29 on education as a resolve to fight for our schools, and keep them adventist…here’s a link to our current FB’s:

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Is this a tacit admission that the language in the first bulletin was grossly inappropriate, if not unethical?

Perhaps Pastor Ted Wilson and his executive committee can pro-model how it is to repent publicly. How about if we give them a year to reflect on this? Must the SDA church need a prophet Nathan to confront our leaders for their misgivings and mental patellar reflex/knee-jerk reactions?


I fear you are right. Addition of more and more fundamental beliefs enshrined into more and more tightly defined creed serves only to exclude and judge. It ic scarcely concerned with inclusion but is intended to exclude. The change to FB#6 is an excellent example. It is intended to create uniformity not unity. If we were concerned for unity we would revert to a statement of what we really believed as a Christian community

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

As Jesus said on oaths and elaborations.
36“Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.
37“But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.

Only bad can come from enshrining clerical view of education as a closely defined doctrine. Do we really want Weimar pitched agains LSU as the epitome of Adventist education? Home schooling against formal education. Science against Adventist folklore and the supernaturalism couched as science of Sean Pitman. I fear not.


At this point, anything is better than itchy trigger fingers.


GC leadership should repent publicly. Acknowledge the missteps.
*Stacking the members of TOSC with non academics.
*Ignoring TOSC reports.
*Not making a recommendation based on TOSC.
*Strong arming fall council that the way forward must be a vote of a specifically worded proposition at GC 2015.

  • Not using the voting machines that had been brought onsite for all the votes at GC 2015—such as president, changes to wording to fundamental beliefs.
    *Using voting machines for the women’s ordination vote but allowing division strong arm tactics.
    *Not allowing a full discussion at the microphone in which all divisions could be represented.
    *Allowing too many points of order so that the discussion could not happen.
    *Not enforcing decorum in relation to Jan Paulsen’s speech.
    *Creating an ill conceived document (released last week) which implies that the NAD duly elected union officers for some unions will be removed and replaced by GC favorites.

I could go on. But, please, someone must realize that all of the actions have not brought unity and they won’t bring unity.
Some musings:
How can they consider removing duly elected union officials? We are supposed to have a representative organization with authority flowing from bottom to top. If they removed duly elected officers I think of all the people in those unions who voted for those people. Then, what about the rest of us in the US and parts of the world that appreciate democracy? We know this is wrong.

But, the issue which is causing all the trouble is women’s ordination. A lengthy study found that the Bible was inconclusive on this——it was a split decision. So for leadership to carve up the church on something in the realm of “gray area”? Unthinkable.

But, most of all this move represents God incorrectly. He is a God of persuasion who wants each to be convicted. So, a brash authoritative powerful move is against the nature of God.

The idea that all of God’s church must march lock step is a heresy.

The ineffective, unwise maneuvering by top SDA leadership will result in longterm strife at the local level. Members with varied levels of information and understanding have already become entrenched in a position. We have a split–now. Strong leadership does not mean coercive regulation. Strong leaders choose to speak words of healing and affirmation and inclusion with the understanding of varied perspectives.

So, an apology, yes…


In his book, The Fat Lady and the Kingdom, George Knight laid out the “missiological quadrilateral” that developed in early Adventism and served as a template that was replicated worldwide. This consisted of “publishing, medical, educational and conference aspects of the denomination’s work.” (p. 81).

If we are going to add a fundamental belief on Christian education because it arose at the same time as mission and should be seen as one event (quoting Knight’s presentation), perhaps the other legs of the quadrilateral will follow? Perhaps FB#30 will be on Publishing. I wonder how Spectrum and Adventist Today will survive the standards laid down there! Maybe members can once again be asked each Sabbath (as in the church of my youth) how many books and tracts they distributed this week.

Ironically, it seems like the fat lady is picking up more packages instead of dropping them. Will she ever get through the door?


Annual Council Diary 2016:

With regard to the Thursday presentation of vice president (sic) Jeffrey G. Mbwana about the Handbook of the IMBTE: "…he said an attempt has been made to focus on broad principles and allow the Division Boards to develop the specifics that respond adequately to the needs in their territories."