IBMTE Proposes Significant Changes to Religion Faculty Endorsement Requirements

When in 2000 the General Conference Executive Committee created the International Board for Ministerial and Theological Education (IBMTE), the response from one university president was to say that a sledgehammer had been created to swat a fly. The Board’s task seemed to be the weeding out of the few religion teachers who might not adhere to orthodoxy by creating an endorsement system for all. Plus, the Board inserted itself into the hiring process of Seventh-day Adventist college and university religion faculties.

The Board, with members representing all of the Adventist World Church’s thirteen divisions, then created a large, detailed handbook. Additionally IBMTE spawned similar Boards for each of the divisions. For the past fifteen years these divisional BMTEs have researched and defined the attributes of the ideal minister, envisioned as the outcome of the theological educational process, while monitoring the faculty who educate the ministers-to-be.

This year, sensing that the process is not working, the General Conference Education Department and the IBMTE initiated a rewriting of the handbook. A year-long process of meetings with university faculties is underway around the world. One of those meetings took place yesterday in Atlanta, Georgia where the deans and chairs of university religion schools and departments gathered.

Ben Schoun, assistant to the General Conference president and chair of the IBMTE, told the gathering of about three dozen people that the purpose of IBMTE is to work in cooperation with world divisions to professionally train pastors. He said the objective was to foster dynamic unity, focus on the Seventh-day Adventist message and mission, nurture cooperation between leadership and faculty and energize the spiritual life of the church. He explained that the reason for the Board was that some institutions have faculty who are not Adventist and students who are not Adventist. The Church leadership has lost confidence in some of our schools, he added, and graduates of our programs are not always being hired. Some conference presidents seem to prefer finding pastors in short-term evangelistic training programs rather than among those who have completed a full academic curriculum. Finally, he noted that external accrediting agencies that promote institutional autonomy can lead to a separation of educational institutions from the church.

With that introduction, Lisa M. Beardsley-Hardy, director of the General Conference Department of Education, moderated a discussion of proposed revisions to the IBMTE Handbook, which has been posted on the Education Department website. She began with chapter eight where the core competencies of the ideal ministerial candidate are listed, calling it the most fundamental chapter.

One of the first commenters noted the massive size of the document. Is there a way to edit it down he asked? There is no end to the list of things for a pastor to do. Are we going to be monitoring all these things a pastor does? “I’m not against the items,” he noted, “but we get lost in all the details. Pastors are not all the same. People have different abilities and spiritual gifts. Can we make a philosophical statement rather than all the particulars?”

Another commenter suggested that it would require a paradigm shift to bring the document down to size, not just rewriting a paragraph or two. Do you really want that he asked?

Dr. Beardsley-Hardy replied, “Oh, yes.” While the rewriting committee has no authority to change the bylaws, she said, they would not have initiated the conversation if not interested in making changes.

Are all of these characteristics prescriptive or descriptive was the next question. If it is meant to be prescriptive, any one of these could be a flashpoint that could be traumatic. Exerting a power dynamic into the process can be destructive of the goal, the commenter said.

Ninety minutes into the session, another commenter asked about the plan for the morning. The academics in the room were interested in discussing chapter four, which outlines the requirements and process by which religion faculty members receive an IBMTE endorsement in order to teach. By the time the question came, most of the allotted time had expired.

With that, the discussion moved to chapter four for the final thirty minutes of the meeting. Dr. Beardsley-Hardy explained that in terms of the IBMTE endorsement of faculty would be separate from hiring, a church credential that affirms the person’s calling. Ordination raises a question, she noted, because we certainly do want want women involved. However, as one commenter noted, it requires pastoral experience of all religion teachers.

The document reads, “Denominational endorsement reflects the commitment of a teacher to support Seventh-day Adventist fundamental beliefs and mission in teaching, and to abide by the voted denominational statements Pastoral Ethics, Academic and Theological Freedom and Accountability, 28 Fundamental Beliefs, Code of Ethics for Seventh-day Adventist Educators and Methods of Bible Study as they relate to teaching. This will be evidenced in the teacher’s track record of teaching and scholarship. The teacher is responsible to apply for and retain endorsement.”

More and more there is an attempt to put things under the General Conference, one of the commenters said, adding that is a dangerous thing to do. He noted our historical aversion to doing so. You need to trust people on the front lines of mission, hold them accountable, yes, but when a smaller and smaller group of people make the decisions, we go against our heritage. The rest of us are involved in mission. I would appeal to you to not to draw things so tight. The missional sense dies when it is taken away and handed to someone else to decide.

Drafters of the revised handbook were there taking notes on all that was said. The Executive Committee of the General Conference is the body that gives final approval to the IBMTE Handbook. The proposed changes will be taken to that body at its October 2016 meeting.


IBMTE Handbook, 2001 Edition - Chapter IV. by Jared Wright (Spectrum Magazine)

And this document details the proposed revisions to Chapter IV of the Handbook:

IBMTE Handbook Chapter 4 Track Changes 2015-2016 by Jared Wright (Spectrum Magazine)

Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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When I was four,my grandmother cane to visit us on the farm, which was four miles from EMC. the road was yet to be paved. farmers would ride horseback after dark. I care remenber my grandmother going from window to window to check if they were locked. she would try the doors time and again. Dad would reassure her to no avail. Seems some of that DNA got into the Genersl Conference. They built their theology on fear and it is now consuming them. Night mares that Glacier View didn’t kill honest inquiring. The bottom line is if you have the truth you don’t need a university. Tom Z


My understanding is that the SDA college/university presidents have been adamantly opposed to faculty being forced to sign statements of belief. Some years ago, Folkenberg tried his best to compel the institutions to require signing such statements, but he failed. Are we to understand that the religion faculty are now required to sign such statements?

I’ve been told that at last summer’s creation/evolution meeting in Utah, for which the GC (and a private donor) paid for some 450+ educators around the world to attend, there was a presentation that pointedly described how the science (perhaps all?) faculty of at least one Baptist university were required to sign a statement of belief regarding origins. I sincerely hope that neither the religion nor science faculty at our institutions are compelled tp sign such statements. What I am comfortable with, however, is a general statement that faculty will treat with respect the Church’s doctrines and positions. Some respectful disagreement can promote healthy discusson and should be tolerated, but the belittling and disrespect that sometimes takes place should be grounds for dismissal through a well-crafted process.

Some here have a cold name for this reality: rebellion. There is a deep-seated conviction that their interpretation is the only one that is faithful to the sacred word.


The assertion that Ellen White states in CT 431.1 that religion/theology teachers must possess “ministerial experience, (e.g., as a pastor, evangelist, chaplain, Bible instructor, literature evangelist)” is clearly erroneous. She states that the “best ministerial talent” should “be employed,” but she does not imply or suggest, as Ted Wilson’s administration urges, that the best ministerial talent in the Seventh-day Adventist Church is comprised solely of pastors, evangelists, chaplains, Bible instructors, and literature evangelists. To argue that only pastors, evangelists, chaplains, Bible instructors, and literature evangelists possess what can be characterized as “best ministerial talent” perpetuates the medieval church’s heretical dichotomy of the church membership into clergy and laity. Second, the argument disparages those Seventh-day Adventists possessing “best ministerial talent” who work in other professions. Third, there is nothing about the work experience of a pastor, evangelist, chaplain, Bible instructor, or literature evangelist that prepares a religion/theology teacher for the teaching of biblical languages, hermeneutics, First Amendment law, archaeology, business ethics and administration, and other matters of importance to religion/theology students.

Notice the rest of Ellen White’s quotation that is conveniently ignored. She stresses that students should learn from a number of religion/theology teachers, not just one. CT 432.1. Together with that point, she stresses that different and varied perspectives should be shared with students. Id. Drawing on the fact that we have four different Gospel accounts that offer different emphases, she states: “Often through unusual experiences, under special circumstances, He gives to some Bible students views of truth that others do not grasp.” CT 432.4. Granted, you want many of your religion/theology teachers to possess work experience as pastors, evangelists, chaplains, Bible instructors, and literature evangelists. But you will also want to draw on the unique experiences of hermeneutists, lawyers, historians, linguists, businesspersons, archaeologists, and others who may not have work experience in what can be described as clerical roles. To mandate that religion/theology teachers possess clerical experience, as it were, disobeys Ellen White’s counsel in CT 431.1 et seq.

Why is it so hard for GC administrators to accurately interpret a text? If they cannot accurately interpret CT 431.1 et seq., what confidence can we have in their representations that they accurately interpret Daniel 8:14? Don’t they realize that chronic, recidivist, and self-serving misinterpretations of texts ultimately undermine the credibility of the Church? What I find appalling is not that a text is misinterpreted from time to time but that no one in the GC building in Silver Spring seems to care. As long as a favored administrative purpose is furthered, misinterpretation is acceptable to them.

I would urge that instead of mandating particular work experience, such particular work experience be designated as a beneficial factor toward an applicant’s hiring and accreditation.


“Don’t they realize that chronic, recidivist, and self-serving misinterpretations of texts ultimately undermine the credibility of the Church?”

No…and they are making it harder and harder for anyone outside of the Adventist “bubble” to think that the church is anything but a cult.


An excellent suggestion that accommodates variation of views without sabotaging mission.


Neil Wilson is very much part of our present culture which is closing down free discussions all over the place. Contrary ideas are not to be tolerated because they might offend someone. In this case, they might undermine the present administration’s agenda. Like it or not, the church is part of “the world” just as much as anybody else. How goes our culture so goes the church. The PC watchmen are busy everywhere, shutting down contrary opinion, and shutting down conversations.

The former Soviet Union erased contrary opinion as the first order of business when they took over a country. All text books were altered; all statues, not in line with Soviet propaganda were torn down; books were confiscated; people were urged (compelled) to snitch on each other for breaches of approved conduct; all news media was placed under government control; and all those who couldn’t shut up were sent to Siberia (or the Lounge :grin:) . When a regime doesn’t have the hearts of its subjects, it gets compliance through mandates.


Viva patriotism (terrorism)!

Practice the Presence of God.


What we need in our desire to reform and improve the educational system of the church is a way of supporting, encouraging, and increasing great teaching that was done by such icons as the late Dr. Gottfried Oosterwal. Dr. Oosterwal, who gave his life to the global mission of the Adventist movement, passed away last week near his home in Berrien Springs, Michigan. I hope Spectrum will give him a the tribute he deserves as it did when Dr. Roy Branson, also a great educator recently died.

Dr. Oosterwalgrew up in Rotterdam during World War II, was educated in theology and anthropology at Cambridge University and earned a PhD from the University of Utrecht in 1956. He was an Adventist missionary in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and taught at Philippine Union College, an Adventist institution.

In 1968, Oosterwal joined the seminary faculty at Andrews University, the denomination’s leading academic institution. Many of us can look back through our years of education and vaguely recall the educators that influenced our learning experience. With Dr. Oosterwal it is different in that he stands out as a great iconic figure in Adventist education and Missions.We place some of these educators in the back of our mind with a label, waiting for that reminiscent moment when we can dust off the file and share the story with our peers.

Then there are some that we don’t need to label or commit to memory at all, they’re simply somebody who, through their incredible persona and instruction, affected our lives and encouraged us to be the people that we are today. These are the great educators, and I’m lucky enough to say that I’ve been privileged with many of them.
But what is a great educator? What are the qualities that make someone a great educator? Are you born one? Can you learn to become one? These are all questions that are easily debatable, but I’m not here to do that. I’m simply writing this to convey my own thoughts on what I think a great educator is, and to pay tribute to all of the great educators that I’ve had over the years.

So, what is a great educator? To me, a great educator is someone who always remembers why they chose teaching as their vocational pathway – to ultimately help people develop into great human beings. But not only that, a great educator is also someone who has a wealth of knowledge in their subject area, and has an inspiring enthusiasm to back it up. They’re passionate learners themselves and truly understand the importance of lifelong learning. Dr. Oosterwal was a great educator.

Being knowledgeable and enthusiastic is only the tip of iceberg, though. The real weight comes from how the educator understands and interacts with his or her students. It isn’t about being funny or cool or hip (although, there’s nothing wrong with being funny or cool or hip), but instead, it’s about having a genuine care for your students and taking an interest in their lives outside of the classroom. Great educators have a tremendous element of care for the people they teach; they know what makes them tick and they try their best to help them discover the joy in learning and the joy within themselves. We will miss Gottfried, may he rest in peace!


What I deduce from all this is fairly simple:

There is absolutely no mutual trust any longer between administrator and educators within our church - at least if we look at the top levels. Sad development. To sell this as some kind of “quality assurance” is secular cynicism. Do we really believe that mistrust will foster pastoral preparation?

Quite apart from the lack of trust … the whole design assumes there is one worldwide form of “pastor” in our church, no matter what culture, no matter what task, no matter what gender. Wrong assumption. We already found in the past that it has been difficult to explain to AAA how accrediting systems work in other countries… How much more difficult will it become to explain, how pastoral ministry might differ. I guess that is the reason why the manual has to be so voluminous. Again - as in certain other questions: when uniformity is mistaken for unity - you will get neither.


The Value of a Great Educator
Whether an Academic in some classroom
Or whether a Theologian in some church
Is NOT to always give pat answers. Their Value comes in inspiring Learning. Inspiring being comfortable to ask Questions. Inspiring being comfortable with Doubt. Doubt and searching to see if there might be MORE to know.
Example – Why do we not ONLY have the 1611 KJV Bible? Because there was MORE to know. Now we have multiple translations to make the Hebrew and Greek more clear. Shine MORE light on familiar and some not so familiar passages. If it wasnt for excellent teachers somewhere no one would have searched! No one would have written, no one would have published, no one would have purchased.
NOW, the person in the Pew can know as much as the person behind the pulpit.

Ellen did Not Just read the KJV!
No one has said anything about if individual instructors will have their Quarter-Semester class teaching schedules checked, or have their student Reading Lists checked for outside reading.
Will ALL books have to have Pacific Press, Review, Southern Pub on the flyleafs? Will students be encouraged to read non-SDA authors, and this be OK?
This IBMTE group sounds like One Group I would not want to be a visitor in my classroom or in my office looking at all my private teaching materials.


On another thread it was noted that all the pastors in Australia trained at the one theological school. The major one (correct if in error) here in the U.S. is Andrews where most pastors are trained. It may also be the one where many from other divisions complete their theological training.

Isn’t there a danger of inbreeding when all pastors come from the same institution? Of course, it is much easier, as this proposal suggests, to control all the professors and instruction into uniformity.

While there are many excellent theologial seminaries throughout N. America and Europe, when the majority come from the same ideology and philosophy of teaching and practice, the church misses the opportunity to have new insights and philosophical review of the needs for congregations today.

The recent passing of Dr. Oosterwahl (sp) is praised as a powerful teacher and leader who completed his training in Europe, as have many teachers are Seminary and various S.D.A. universities. Why is Andrews the favored one by conferences and students when there are so many excellent ones scattered throughout the nation?


Pretty impressive acronym, IBMTE.

But in reading further, this is nothing more than a police arm of the GC. IBMTE is to GC as the Gestapo was to Nazi Germany. What is happening to my church?

While reading the below article in New York Times, I cannot but draw conclusions what might transpire should IBMTE were to be fully implemented in our educational centers.


I’m sorry to hear of Gottfried Oosterwal’s passing. In my early years at Andrews I had the privilege of team teaching a (rather trendy, I suspect) course called “Contemporary Issues” with him and Don McAdams. Gottfried and his wife visited us here in Bloomington, Indiana for a Forum meeting, I think. He was a wise man, I think. Don Rhoads

We can always hope for unintended consequences-grave ones.


Today we received a note from someone who works in the Seventh-day Adventist World Church Headquarters whose comment was worth sharing here:

“I’m surprised that no one yet has shared the letter Willie White wrote to his wife at the end of the 1888 GC Session in Minneapolis giving a brief update of the meetings. Notice especially paragraph 2.”

W. C. White to Mary White, Nov. 3, 1888

Minneapolis, Minn. November 3, 1888.

My Dear Mary:

It is Sabbath afternoon, and they are holding social meeting after Mother’s sermon. Tomorrow is our last day here, and then we go to Battle Creek. We shall have at least two weeks of very hard labor there, and then we will decide what comes next. If we find things there as they appear, we may feel it our duty to stay a few weeks longer. Mother wishes to get out a testimony there.

We have had a remarkable Conference, and there were certain influences that had to be met at every step. There is a great call for having everything brought into perfect harmony, but the steps necessary for harmony are often overlooked. There is almost a craze for orthodoxy, a resolution was introduced into the college meeting, that no new doctrine be taught there till it had been adopted by the General Conf. Mother and I killed it dead, after a hard fight.

The missions have received much attention, and some good moves have been made. We hope to work up a good Christmas offering.

I have made myself very unpopular at this meeting, by several things that I felt I ought to do, and still more so by things I am accused of, but am not guilty. Well, I shall not cry, but will ask the Lord to let me learn good and useful lessons by it all.

And now I am called to a large and important committee meeting so I will say goodnight my dear, keep up good courage, and trust in the Lord, for he is good. Oh I am so thankful for the experience of last summer. It has strengthened me very much.

Your husband


It’s not hard. They choose not to understand, or pretend not to.

Absolutely none at all. They willfully misrepresent scripture on a regular basis to suit their needs.

For many of us that has already happened. Anyone who spends a few hours reviewing recent GC activity will realize how bad it has become.

Someone may come along and do this, but with the church fighting them tooth and nail to make sure our institutions continue to head down the wrong path, and eventually become sidelines and a laughingstock, it’s hard.

The GC knows the educators are too smart to buy their nonsense, and so has stepped back to brute force. It is sad, and it getting worse. In the Central California Conference, teachers are treated like children. They’re required, for example, to pay tithe to the CCC and the conference actually checks and harasses them if they don’t and threaten them with termination. Even if they don’t have enough money to pay both tithe and rent. Nice.

I expect that is a rhetorical question. You know.


I pick up on Andreas Bochmann’s comment, about no mutual trust.

In Australian and New Zealand in the early 80’s that was exactly the experience that ministers went through. The ministers and the parishioners were distrustful of each other, and the conference leaders and the ministers were also distrustful. This led to a mass exodus of ministers from the church, and national censuses in both countries record a decline in affiliation with the Adventist church. In no other era, including today, have the censuses shown a decline.

And now we have the brewing situation where church members and educators are distrustful of each other, and the church administrators and educators are distrustful, also.

Would it be an unreasonable proposition to suggest that the short-term future looks bleak for Adventist education. Young people will go elsewhere. Educators will go elsewhere. The only ones who will remain will be those desperately wanting to be ministers in the Adventist church, who will have been taught by opponents of women’s ordination.


Yet another reason for flight from our schools. Homogeneous thinking is the antithesis of a good education.