SID Academics, Church Members Write Open Letter to Ted Wilson

Statement from Concerned Academics in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

The Academic Qualifications of Pastors Paul Charles and Paul Ratsara 23 May 2016

Dr. Ted N.C. Wilson President of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church 12501 Old Columbia Pike Silver Spring Maryland 20904 United States of America

CC: GC Executive-Secretary (Dr. GT Ng) GC Associate Secretary (Pastor H Mooroven) GC Education Director (Dr. Lisa M. Beardsley-Hardy) SID President (Dr. Paul Ratsara) SID Executive Secretary (Dr. Solomon Maphosa) SID Education Director (Dr. Ellah Kamwendo)

As members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church working in the academic field, we, the undersigned, have been following two issues concerning the academic qualifications of some of our leaders at the SID.

The first is that of Pastor Paul Charles (Director of Communication, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty at SID). Given what has been reported in the South African public media (The New Age Newspapers of 14 and 26 April 2016) as well as in Spectrum Magazine, it has become an issue of great concern to us given that the matter fundamentally relates to the question of personal integrity and academic qualifications.

Over the years there have been many reports in South Africa of individuals who make false claims about having acquired or are in possession of doctoral degrees. Some of the more high profile cases already in the public domain include that of Johnny Molefe (who was once Principal of the Tshwane University of Technology), Mohau Peko (an ambassador of the South African government), Pallo Jordan (a top level ANC politician), Carl Niehaus (once a South African ambassador) and Daniel Mthimkulu (who was then the Chief Engineer at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa). The exposure of all the afore-mentioned individualsā€™ fraudulent claims about their academic qualifications was met with huge public and all-round condemnation by different sectors of South African society.

We are firmly convinced that fraudulent claims of being in possession of an academic qualification are not just about the claimant not having the right competencies to perform a given task. We believe that they are fundamentally about character, personal integrity and trustworthiness. Even if one could indeed perform the tasks assigned to them, the mere fact that they made a fraudulent claim automatically renders them ineligible to serve. This is even more so in the church of God where the character and integrity of the person constitute the basic requirements to serve.

We are aware of the attempts by the church structures to deal with this issue but are concerned about the apparent delay in resolving the matter which is now in the public domain. This matter is being followed with great concern by the generality of the church membership, not just in the SID territory but also world-wide. The longer this matter remains unresolved the more damage it does not only to the name, cause and leadership of the church but also to the name of God, which the church incidentally is meant to jealously guard and protect.

The second matter of concern relates to the questions that have recently been raised about the doctoral work of Dr. Paul Ratsara (SID President). Although there isnā€™t much detail in the public domain, there is enough talk within the church, linking the matter of Pastor Charles to the doctoral dissertation of Dr. Ratsara.

There is speculation that the reason the SID President is reluctant to act decisively on the matter of Pastor Paul Charles is because there might be questions about the originality of Dr. Ratsara's own PhD work.

Although Dr. Ratsara graduated from UNISA in 2014 there are some who speculate that significant portions of his thesis might have been taken from the work done by the SID Study Committee (BRC), which was chaired by Dr. Ratsara himself, or even compiled by other members of that committee. The SID church community was not privy to the actual work of the SID BRC and the final report was never shared with the rest of the church membership or made public.

What seems to lend credence to all these suspicions is that there have been reports that the PhD thesis of Dr. Ratsara cannot be found in the UNISA library and is not available online (as is common practice with every higher degree thesis).This has fuelled the speculation and concern that the matter of Paul Charles might be linked to the doctoral work of Dr Ratsara.

We would like to reiterate that both the Bible and church policy are very clear on these matters in respect of conduct that casts a shadow on the integrity of the ministry as well as on conduct that is inconsistent with the high standards of our Christian calling. We should therefore, as a church, not create an impression that we are in violation of these high standards.

It is in light of the above that we recommend and appeal for the following steps to be taken:

1. The church leadership at SID and GC resolves the matter of Pastor Paul Charles as a matter of urgency by taking steps and making decisions that clearly show that we (as a faith community) do not condone the fraudulent claims with respect to academic qualifications.

2. Pastor Paul Charles should not serve in any church leadership position given the fact that his image and character have been severely tainted and compromised in this matter. He is no longer suitable to represent the Seventh-day Adventist Church in any official capacity.

3. The questions surrounding the doctoral work of Dr. Ratsara be thoroughly investigated and the University of South Africa (UNISA) be engaged to determine if indeed the work is his (as required by the academic process) or the work of a church committee or other individuals which was then passed on as the work of the doctoral candidate in question.

We would like to make it clear that the intention of this appeal is to ensure that the image of the church and its mission be protected to the honour and glory of God.

We hope and pray that God guides and leads His church as we deal with these matters.

Dr. Willie Chinyamurindi Senior Lecturer: Department of Business Management University of Fort Hare South Africa

A/Prof. Edward Chamisa Department of Finance and Tax University of Cape Town

Mr. Clinton Plaatjes Executive IT Country Manager

Mr. Pitso Tsibolane Lecturer: Department of Information Systems University of Cape Town, South Africa

Dr. Bernhard Ficker (Retired Academic) Somerset West, South Africa

Prof. Mziwoxolo Sirayi Executive Dean: Faculty of the Arts Tshwane University of Technology Pretoria, South Africa

A/Prof. Dr. John Akokpari Department of Political Studies University of Cape Town, South Africa

Mr. Wandile Bangisi Pastoral Counsellor, Pretoria

Prof. Modimowabarwa Kanyane Department: Democracy, Governance, Service Delivery Human Sciences Research Council of SA Pretoria, South Africa

Mr. Zolani Simayi Lecturer: Department of Precilinical Studies University of Limpopo, South Africa

Dr. Misheck Ndebele School of Education University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Dr. Jeff Crocombe Acting Dean: School of Theology Pacific Adventist University Papua New Guinea (Lecturer: Helderberg College, South Africa) 2006 - 2011

Dr. Alvin Masarira, PrEng Structural Engineering Consultant Structural SIMTech Consulting (PTY) LTD Johannesburg, South Africa

Mr. Bongani Khonjwayo Researcher and HR Policy Development Specialist Durban, South Africa

Dr. Ron du Preez Retired & Part-Time Pastor-Arizona Conference, NAD & Adjunct /Online Professor: Adventist University of Africa (Kenya) Andrews University (Mich., USA) Southern Adventist University (Tenn., USA)

Dr. Fusi Madela Specialist General Surgeon Albert Luthuli Academic Hospital Durban, South Africa

Statements From SID Academics on Leaders' Qualifications 23 May 2016

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7471
3 Likes

Great letter. It shows backbone and people that are not interested in cover ups.

I am now curious, wondering what will Ted Wilson do. The only result of such scandals is usually silence from the Church and fast transfers (often true promotionsā€¦) of those implicated. But this time if TW stays quiet it certainly will have ā€œgrave consequences,ā€ since the matter is now in the public domain.

A few people who worked on the identification and exposure of this scandal did a very good job. Now letā€™s see if the Chruch leaders give serious attention to it as well. Letā€™s wait and see!

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The gods do no make mistakes but those who serve them do ~ Paraphrased from the Game of Thrones.

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I agree completely with this letter. Furthermore, I believe that the General Conference should deal with this matter. And if it does not, it would appear that it is openly agreeing with those who are making false claims regarding their educational achievement. This is a matter that concerns integrity and character and should be dealt with without delay.

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I would entreat PC and PR to turn in their resignation letter to spare the world church the trauma of investigating ā€œtrustedā€ leaders.

Iā€™ll also be earnestly praying for Pastor TW in hopes that he resolve this growing ā€œcancerā€ before it dooms his own presidency.

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Just for the record:

As has been reported elsewhere, attempts have been made to deal with this matter via the internal processes of the church - The role of the SAU in ā€œclearingā€ Paul Charles; the role of the SID and GC in ā€œprotectingā€ both Paul Charles and Paul Ratsara; the sweeping of the matter under the mat with legal pressure, silence, vilification and attempts to remove those who raised the matter from the division territory.

The bringing to the fore of the matter since April of 2015 by concerned lay members, which has culminated in this open letter is to be, applauded.

Just for the record:

I posted this letter to one of the signatories on the 23rd of May 2016. The reason why Iā€™m sharing it here is to, just for the record, demonstrate that there are those within the employ of the church who align themselves with the sentiments and substance of the open letter. There are employees within the SID office, officers of the different Unions, pastors and administrators who have been talking, praying and quietly working behind the scenes in order to seek a resolution to this matter. All their efforts are appreciated. The support of the signatories to this open letter is of inestimable value and resonates to the quotation by Edmund Burke:

ā€œThe only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.ā€

For the record:

"Dear Dr Masarira

I have become aware of the statement which was issued and signed by Adventist Academics in South Africa who are operating within the academic environment.

It is common knowledge that I have utilized the internal structures of the church to seek a solution to this matter. Unfortunately, despite the attempt between April 2014 and February 2015, the matter was not resolved.

I would like to express my support for the statement and wish to add my desire to see this matter dealt with expeditiously in order to restore the credibility of the ministry in this division as well as to allow those who have been implicated to be able to progress with their lives - professionally as well as personally.

God bless.

Dr G T du Preez, PhD
Education Director
Editor:Signs of the Times
Southern Africa Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists"

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Thank-you very much for your efforts and for the posting of this letter.

May you, too, be ā€œcounted among the righteousā€.

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The whole thing is painful.

  • For any academic who believes in the value of genuine education
  • For any church member who believes in truthfulness and integrity
  • For any journalist who wants to discover and publicize facts rather than rumors
  • For any church administrator who wants to maintain a flourishing church
  • Last but not least for those ā€œunder fireā€ / have been ā€œfound outā€

Thus it is hoped that the long, painful festering story will be dealt with in a cleansing, healing manner. Not an easy task, I concede, but a necessary one.

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Elder Du Preez,

Your unwavering stance for the truth right from the start of this whole matter until now has been exemplary. May God bless you and the many other leaders who have done all they could in their powers to speak out. Whatever the church leadership decides to do, many of us wonā€™t be bullied to silence until common sense prevails.

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Elder duPreez, itā€™s not easy to stand for the truth these days, but thank God that there are men, few though they may be, who still see value in risking all they have, to stand. your endorsement of the open letter is much appreciated and we pray that the Lordā€™s name be uplifted at the end of it all. Thank you.

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First, kudos to this group of accomplished academics who have been prepared to carefully articulate the problem and its consequences, and request action from GC level.

Beyond this, one wonders to what extent the ā€œdegree scandalā€ in the SID has impacted on the world church. Iā€™d be willing to bet that if this issue extends all the way to the top of the SID, then there is probably more than one departmental director with a dodgy degree. And what of the Unions and Conferences/Missions within the SID?

If we place any value at all on education, then weā€™d accept that when making decisions, an educated individual will make a better and more informed decision than an uneducated individual. And hereā€™s the rub: Denominational officers from the SID territory make decisions not only in their own jurisdiction - they were also delegates at the GC session in San Antonio last year - a session at which the most notable decision made, was to deny ordination to women pastors in the Adventist church, worldwide. The SID block was a major contributor to the ā€œNoā€ vote.

We need to consider the likelihood that the SID ā€œdegree scandalā€ may have influenced the vote on a major decision last year, which affects the world church. In light of this, the church ought to properly investigate the matter and remove the tainted officers, then call an extraordinary GC session to reconsider the matter of womenā€™s ordination.

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Honestly I am not expecting a lot to happen, but lets wait and see we may be surprised this time around.

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Is there anyone out there who is redemptively, compassionately and lovingly ministering to the erring, so they may confess, repent, reform and be re-instated in due course?

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Donā€™t you consider the short article about Pastor Charlesā€™s childhood written by him and published in a recent Adventist World, a General Conference response, of sorts?

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This is a tempest in a teapot and smacks of elitism.An education /degrees does not make one a better person although usually a better paid one.

EGW (our divinely inspired prophet) had little education having been an invalid from her injury for a number of years but that does not seem to have limited her ability.

What this church needs is Spirit filled leadership not those with worldly recognised degreesā€¦

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It is interresting that one of the signatories vehemently defended these people a couple of weeks ago:
Wonder what changed his mind ?

FALSE REPORTING ON ADVENTIST CHURCH!!
As a regular reading of The New Age and a tithe paying member of the Seventh Day Adventist church, I was dismayed at the incorrect allegations made in your front page article ā€œChurch degree scandalā€ (14/4).
Firstly, I will never belong to a church where a leader earns ā€œmore than R100 000 a monthā€ as the article reports since Adventists to not believe in an unbalanced prosperity gospel or a get-rich-quick scheme for its workers. There is one zero too many in this figure and the actual remuneration is more in the region of R10 000 per month plus housing and travel allowances. Church leaders do not earn ā€˜massive salariesā€™ as the report states. Their salaries are no secret and the highest ranking church official earns basically the same as the pastor at ground level. Salaries of Adventist workers are below the national average for church employees.
References to Ratsara as the ā€˜most powerful man in the division of the churchā€™ once again smacks of uninformed and opportunistic reporting since the Adventist church operates on a ā€˜representative system of governanceā€™ whereby leaders have basically no power of their own and are dependant on the authority that ordinary church members delegate to them upwards via the different councils, committees and church sessions.
While at this stage I cannot adequately comment on the allegations regarding the so-called ā€˜fake qualificationsā€™, it should be pointed out that post graduate qualifications are not a pre-requirement for holding any pastoral or administrative position or getting promoted in the Adventist church. There is thus nothing that anyone will gain by presenting fake post graduate qualifications ā€˜before being promotedā€™ as your article reports.
The church also does not have ā€˜3.5 million members world-wideā€™ as the report states. This is the membership in the Southern part of Africa, while the world-wide membership is in excess of 20 million baptised members which excludes children and youngsters.
Reading so many falsehoods in one article lets me wonder about the correctness of your reporting in other articles. Maybe you should get an Adventist reporter on your staff as a religious news reporter, or alternatively try and verify the facts before publication.
DR BERNHARD FICKER
Somerset West
Cell 082 8814982
Email: ficker@worldonline.co.za

i think this letter, addressed to ted wilson, is wholly inappropriateā€¦this is not a matter that the chief executive officer of our world church should set aside time for in his already busy schedule, at allā€¦

as i understand it, SID has a president, paul ratsara, who has already resolved the situation with pastor paul charlesā€¦and as i recall that resolution, dr. ratsara had asked paul charles to not use his unaccredited degrees in the future, which had been agreed to, and that paul charles complete a degree at an accredited institution, which i believe had also been agreed toā€¦neither of these actions convey the slightest condoning of fraudulent claims with respect to academic qualifications, which i donā€™t think could have been fairly questioned in the first place, since paul charles neither claimed degrees from accredited institutions, nor hid the fact that his degrees were from an unaccredited insitutionā€¦all of this means step 1 in the recommendations of this letter to ted wilson is superflousā€¦

i also seem to recall paul charles recusing himself from general conference employment, and this, together with SIDā€™s statement that gifted individuals without degrees have routinely been hired into the pastoral ministry of SID and encouraged to participate in its continuing education program, means step 2 in the recommendation of this letter is also superflousā€¦

but the larger question surrounding this letter is the possible precedent set by a group of unhappy academics - outside of church employment, from what i can tell - banding together to override the authority and considered action of a church division president through an appeal to our world church presidentā€¦what standing do academics outside of church employment have to complain about church matters to our world church presidentā€¦if paul charles had gathered hundreds of infants together and tossed them off seal island to the great white sharks swimming about, and had this action been condoned by SID, one could see the legitimacy of bypassing duly appointed authorityā€¦but the case of paul charlesā€™ unaccredited degrees does not rise to the level of emergency that requires intervention from sources of power outside of SIDā€¦the reality is that SIDā€™s president has acted in a thoughtful, effective way that removes the grievance occasioned by paul charlesā€™ unaccredited degrees, but this group of academics is unhappy with that actionā€¦as i see it, this is entirely their problem, not SIDā€™sā€¦and it certainly isnā€™t the general conferenceā€™s problemā€¦

as a matter of principle, which i know ted wilson has in abundance, i hope our general conference president doesnā€™t undermine the leadership of SID by having anything to do with this letterā€¦it is not for the general conference to interfere in what is purely a division matter that has already been dealt withā€¦what needs to happen here is that those who arenā€™t in charge of SID need to accept that fact and move onā€¦none of us are always going to be happy with all the decisions of our division leadersā€¦but this doesnā€™t mean we get to sidestep their decisions in order to achieve what we fail to achieve by working thoughtfully and prayerfully with themā€¦

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Ahā€¦that is probably exactly why this will be swept under the rug.

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They should never be reinstated. These men, if guilty, are liars and cheats.

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The issue is honesty.

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