The Importance of Being Endorsed

For religion teachers at Adventist colleges and universities, an official endorsement process by the General Conference is part of the plan spelled out in Handbook of the International Board for Ministerial and Theological Education (IBMTE). But many are resisting the idea, and the resistance includes the leadership of the North American Division.

Created by the General Conference during Robert Folkenberg’s administration, IBMTE ”focuses on ministry throughout its life cycle, from formation to hiring, to continuing education according to Lisa Bearsley-Hardy, director of the General Conference Department of Education.

In 2015, a Taskforce led by General Conference Vice President Ben Schoun was created to review and rewrite, where necessary, the Handbook for the Board. The draft revisions have been shared widely within the academic community and July 5 marked the end of the public comment session on the document which is due to be voted at Annual Council in October.

Maury Jackson launched a lively “Independence Weekend” conversation when he suggested that the IBMTE “scrap the whole project” of requiring regular General Conference/ Division endorsement of theology faculty upon hiring and every five years thereafter as outlined in a chapter of the Handbook.

The preface to Jackson’s concluding statement about scrapping the whole project was a quotation from Ellen G. White’s Manuscript Releases Vol. 17, “Every Person Has God-Given Talents Which Should Bear Fruit; Church Leaders Not to Exercise Control Over Others,” (pages 196-201):

…To handle men as if they were machinery, binding their freedom by methods and terms, is an offense which God will not tolerate….Some have been very ready to pronounce judgment upon the work of their fellow men, because it did not exactly represent their ideas. But has God pronounced them infallible? The spirit they have manifested in pronouncing judgment upon God’s messengers shows their fallibility and their ignorance, both of the Scriptures and of the power of God. These men {and women} are counterworking the work of God. They have felt at liberty to make decisions and laws which would bring talent under their jurisdiction. They have placed themselves in the judgment seat, to control their fellow men. But has God appointed them to do this work? He would say of them, “What doest thou here? Who sent you on this journey? Who gave you this errand to perform? Who made you a critic and judge on matters of doctrine? Who appointed you to pick and to choose the words and expressions which My servants shall use?

Jackson hit “reply all” when sending his June 29 comment to Teresa Reeves, associate dean of the Theological Seminary at Andrews University and president of the Adventist Society for Religious Studies, as well as the person chosen by the General Conference Department of Education to assist with the documents in this latest IBMTE process. So Jackson’s e-mail went to all the 350 people on the ASRS mailing list, and it struck a chord. Soon others were chiming in to support Jackson’s statement and to elaborate.

Stanley Patterson, also of Andrews University, prefaced his comment with an affirmation for any and all initiatives that promote excellence and quality in teaching. “Most of the IBMTE Handbook does that with the exception of the endorsement chapter,” he wrote. “The endorsement chapter reflects a trend that can be tracked by actions over the last 37 years in the model constitution and bylaws embedded in the GC Working Policy. The gradual process since 1980 of marking sections in bold face type that are mandatory rather than recommendations reflects a move away from relational trust and cooperation to a legislated model that assumes control as an acceptable model for compliance and unity.” He added that, "Every move that we make under control mandate is a confession that the relational trust that held our church together for the past century is no longer reliable."

In his six reasons why the church should not pursue an endorsement process, Skip Bell, Andrews University, noted that the practice would contradict biblical teaching of the nature of the church. “It is ironic that we as a church would seek to assure faithfulness in the teaching of our faculty through a means that contradicts biblical teaching regarding the church.” He noted the policy would “move us further to centralization of power in a single person or group. Where power narrows to committees or positional leaders the ministering body withdraws. Or worse, they become critical.”

Robert Johnston, retired professor of New Testament at AU Theological Seminary, evoked early Christian history comparing the endorsement process with what occurred at the “falling away” when a gradual process of ever increasing creedalism and hierarchicalism led to a ripened papacy. “This ultimately weakened Christen- dom and prepared the way for the triumph of Islam,” he said. For his last reason he suggested that the theological faculties of our universities and seminaries are the nearest thing that we have today to a prophetic voice, and that they act as a balance of power within the church. “The devil looks upon this endorsement procedure and laughs, because if it is approved and implemented he wins,” he said.

There was an occasional voice in support of IBMTE. Lester Merkil, Andrews University, wrote that there are good aspects to the committee. “Without an IBMTE committee which has a majority membership of theological educators, our field would not be properly represented in the education decisions of the church. It needs to be!” But even he said, “I think we are fairly unanimous in our understanding that a certification process is harmful. In fact, I find it hard to understand how it has remained this far in the new process.”

John Matthews asked Teresa “to present to the committee a process that is more biblical than what is presented in the current IBMTE draft.”

From Friedensau Adventist University in Germany, Stefan Hoschele wrote that his institution suggests any procedure of endorsement or other type of certification should be done in a different way, which builds on (1) trust in faculty, (2) trust in institutional boards, and (3) actual ministry (teaching, research, and ministry to the church and society). He said this related to observations previously made to the IBMTE Revision Committee that apparently had no impact on the final version. “We deplore that the suggested handbook sows seeds of distrust, and we desire to work for a church in which we can cooperate without casting doubt on each other’s true Adventist Christianity.”

Two dozen individual faculty members from several of the universities in North America joined the e-mail response conversation over the weekend. The faculty of the School of Theology at Walla Walla University sent the unanimous position of their entire faculty: "We would also like to add our voices to the many who have grave concerns about IBMTE's proposed endorsement process and resonate with many of the specific critiques that have already been offered. We hope IBMTE can be a resource and an encouragement rather than a centralized oversight committee. We love our church and wish to continue to minister in a climate of mutual respect, trust and familial charity as we have done for many decades."

This latest outcry over the control element of the endorsement process is not new. It has been voiced at various times during the life of IBMTE. Asked why the provision remains in the Handbook, Bearsley-Hardy says, “Because the Seventh-day Adventist church is losing a large part of its young people.”

Just as faculty objections to the proposed “endorsement process” were accumulating, North American Division leaders were themselves working on a proposal for an “alternative” to the process. The Division’s college presidents, although aligned with IBMTE’s goal of accountability in the teaching of religion, objected earlier to the “endorsement” provision as compromising college-board responsibility and introducing risk with respect to institutional accreditation. On Tuesday, July 5, NAD administrators and Ministerial Department leaders joined college presidents and academic deans in support of a proposal that would jettison that provision.

The group’s “alternative procedures” document begins with recognition of the church’s “obligation” to “provide guidance” with respect to ministerial training by Adventist institutions of higher education. Although some Christian colleges require all employees to sign a “faith statement,” the document says our own church has “wisely refrained” from this, out of respect both for the idea of “present truth” and for the final authority Bible. Compliance by faith statement, it suggests, would run counter to these convictions.

Still, constituents can and do influence ministerial training. One pathway for such influence is through institutional boards that include “conference and union church leaders.” Another is through the NAD Ministerial Association, which “works closely with the Schools and Departments of religion to inform and influence” curricula related to the training of ministers. Still another is through the hiring process by which local conferences effectively assess graduates of programs for ministerial training.

These pathways assume basic trust among those involved. The IBMTE’s “endorsement process” would require every religion teacher to receive (at five-year intervals) an “endorsement certificate” from a centralized authority outside of college or university structures of governance. The NAD’s “alternative procedures document” objects not only to the accreditation risk this would entail but also to the implied “lack of trust of the institutions of higher education as well as of their administrators and the conference and union leaders who serve on their boards of trustees.”

The document at the same time embraces IBMTE determination to “foster dynamic theological unity,” “promote professional excellence,” and “energize” Adventist spiritual life ““through committed faculty.” Although the “endorsement process” would be “counterproductive,” such purposes matter. The document promises collaboration with the NAD Ministerial Association on development of a “process to assure the faithfulness of the NAD religion faculty,” one “appropriate to” all North American colleges and universities, including, as is pointedly said, both Loma Linda University and Andrews University.

Under the provisions of the draft IBMTE document, proposed “alternative procedures” must receive that IBMTE approval “before they are implemented.” NAD leaders declare at the end of their proposal that the “best chance” for meeting agreed-upon goals for ministerial education will come through such “collaborative efforts” as they envision in their statement.

Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine. Charles Scriven is Board Chair of Adventist Forum, the organization that publishes Spectrum.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7547
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Oh, the irony…

I’m supposing that the GC is looking for a way to circumvent those claiming academic freedom and state/federal fair employment laws when they come into conflict with the agendas of conference administrators.

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For the purpose of “academic quality assurance” there is an accreditation process, both external and church internal (AAA).

For the purpose of “spiritual quality assurance” there is a credentialling process (there are hardly any theologians in our institutions who are NOT pastors).

What then is the endorsement hoping to gain, if not top to bottom administrative control?

In a tense situation as we currently have it in our church, it does not seem a wise move to increase the tension and give young people the impression that church is all about control and power, rather than trust and openness and inquisitive, curious minds.

EDIT: Sorry, just needed to add … Thank you @2ndOpinion for the links in your comment. Worth reading!

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For those who represent progressive policies and critical analysis and for those who emphasize change as a high prioritt, the elimination of endorsements is the only way to go. To tap into the full power of creativity and innovation ,however, these practitioners would want to combine critical inquiry with action. This process can transform employees’ understandings of both disciplinary knowledge and the particular social issues with which they are connected to. Endorsement are 100% about control,.and control, administratively, is what current policy and administration are all about.

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The quote sent by the NAD president isnt a complete thought on the subject it rather addresses one side of the issue.
We all know there are those who shouldnt be in leadership positions in the church and that includes some pastors. It doesnt take long for those who force the conference to finally deal with them are involved in dubious activities or are outright atheists. There policy was put in place for a reason even though most cant remember what it is.
In reality and infact we could determine how many did not have their certification renewed to see what the efficiency of the policy was.
Unfortunately that is not usually how less than acceptable skills and behaviour of leaders in the church is handled.
No the standard way is they promote them.

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It is interesting to see that the perceived answer to declining involvement by the young is more control. Perhaps those raised in the parochial school system are taught to live with this kind of control. If so, then those advocating it might be right, at least in that environment. But in America, and I suspect Europe as well, where freedom of thought and individualism are cultural, this may further retard our efforts to evangelize the world.

“If a man makes a mistake in his interpretation of some portion of the Scripture, shall this cause diversity and disunion? God forbid. We cannot then take a position that the unity of the church consists in viewing every text of Scripture in the very same light. The church may pass resolution upon resolution to put down all disagreement of opinions, but we cannot force the mind and will, and thus root out disagreement. These resolutions may conceal the discord, but they cannot quench it and establish perfect agreement. Nothing can perfect unity in the church but the spirit of Christlike forbearance…The great truths of the word of God are so clearly stated that none need make a mistake in understanding them. When, as individual members of the church, you love God supremely and your neighbor as yourself, there will be no need of labored efforts to be in unity, for there will be oneness in Christ as a natural result.” Ellen White, Manuscript 24, 1892.

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Who Endorses the Endorsers?
++++++++++++++++++++++
1.So who in the South African Indian Ocean Division is going to endorse Pastor Paul Charles the Communication Director. Evidence presented in Spectrum suggest he is a liar, a fraud and a conman. He has no Bachelor’s degree from Spicer and two mail order PhDs. Why is he still employed while the President resigned?

2.What moral authority do the endorsers have to endorse? The General Conference appears indifferent and appears to tolerate what goes on in SID? No wonder the Church is losing young and old. - Edgar

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Excellent question…

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When the Catholic Church was under the leadership a reactionary pope and an ultra conservative head of the Congregation for the Preservation of the Faith (read: the heir of the Inquisition), who became the next pope. It promulgated an encyclical calling for the authorization of professors at Catholic theological faculties by the Congregation. In Europe that was somewhat possible because state universities have Protestant and Catholic faculties that are separately administered. In the USA, there was a total revolt, and no one paid any attention to what the encyclical said. Everyone understood that if it were adopted it would threatened accreditation from the university accrediting boards.
Apparently ultra conservative people in all organizations come up with the same tactics. Obviously they have no strategic vision.

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The Seventh Day Adventist church is losing a large part of its young people because:

They were not raised in an era when EGW was inerrant, infallible, every uttered word, direct from a vision. The WHITE LIE destroyed EGW’s credibility and recent revelations of the role that collaborators/editors/literary assistants played in the production of the “red books”, has made her six thousand year earth age comments suspect.

The millenials would rather believe the overwhelming scientific evidence for a longer earth age.

Furthermore, they have been raised egalitarian. These young males cherish and honor their mothers, their grandmothers, their sisters and female cousins. The stigmatization that women are “inferior” is anathema to them. The young females, raised with women power figures, Madeleine Allbright, Condoleezza Rice, Hilary Clinton, find it deeply offensive to be slurred by church leaders as “less than”.

They have many gay and lesbian friends whom they honor and support. Even those from more conservative families, disagree with their parents when it comes to favoring same sex marriage.

These issues are not going to change, but will intensify as this cohort of millenials grows older, and is supplanted by an even more liberal younger demographic.

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"Losing its young people"
THIS has to be the highest idiocy of an excuse for attempting to CONTROL the Classroom.
Young People today read, think, listen, ponder.
They want to be free to ask questions in class. They expect conversation on their questions in class.
This type of CONTROL is going to make it impossible to discuss questions brought up in class.
For fear some “offended” student will head to Administration and complain.

Any one remember Southen in 1982, 1983, 1984??? A lot of great Religion teachers got sacked. Fired!
It was a disaster!!
The ONLY thing that came out of it was The Adventist Bible. The Clear Word by Jack Blanco, the only one who survived the meltdown.
The accusation by the student was — they werent quoting Ellen White frequently enough in class lectures!!

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I have an important suggestion for the delegates attending the Annual Council in October.

Any current GC administrator who supports this scheme should be voted out of their position and asked to resign from church employment. You don’t need a psychiatrist to tell you what lurks underneath this devious strategy. Nothing but crocodiles and alligators. The church has no need for “helicopter administrators.” There is only one reason why this policy is being formulated, to sack any teacher who deviates from the corporate’s marching orders. This facade speaks volumes about the quality of our administrators than our teachers.

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I generally agree, although The White Lie probably played only a small part in the decline of her credibility with most young people, who probably never read it.

I think as you note, young people have been raised to use evidence, and just as the evidence of what we see goes against women being unequal and gay people being The Worst, it goes against EGW being inerrant or even a net positive today (I think she probably was a net positive a few years ago)

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This proposal is a primary sign of fear developed out of increasing impotence. Any study past Bble readings for the Home Circle will create more questions than answers. This is not the narrow way that Christ spoke of. TZ

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ezbord,

Let’s not forget the access to information on the internet that wasn’t available not that long ago.

The ability to control information, and demonize anyone who criticizes the SDA Church/EGW, is pretty much gone. Anyone with any sort of curiosity about what they have been told, or a concern or suspicion that something isn’t right, is easy to investigate now.

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Something clearly secular : Years ago I was collecting false “teachings” - no, nothing about our basic beliefs ! Told / taught / published in Bogenhofen…Example from now :“If you withdraw water from alcohol the aether results - ad you are really intoxicated! see how you get drunk, how dangerous alcohol is !!” - Now there is no such process ever taking place in a living organism, it is a process confined to laboratories - and everybody knows the smell of traces of aether. On my protest: "we have got it from the XXX Department of the GC. " --well, ask your college kids before teaaching and publishing, their teaching material is under state endorsement, not so the Theology department.

A cluster of such nonsense I once presented to Humberto Rasi, who just before had evaluated Bogenhofen - Top school! -His answer : Well, we have to evaluate matters we have no idea of.

And - I must correct myself- it touches Theology : “We are right!” - Even if Greek translations are ridiculously wrong : “koit” means bedstead and is Greek. One NT teacher in print declared it als coming from Latin “coitus” (coeo - coire - coii - coitum). What a scholarship ! What education for ministers to be !

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It must be opposite name week at Spectrum. This article, entitled, “The importance of being endorsed” is about the horror and injustice of any church-wide theological endorsement. The article entitled, “Why I sympathize with the Brexiters” was about what a bunch of retrograde xenophobes the pro-Brexit voters were.

What’s the strategy here? If we opposite-name our articles, maybe no one will notice how radical we are? Yeah, probably too late for that.

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“Asked why the provision remains in the Handbook, Beardsley-Hardy says, ‘Because the Seventh-day Adventist church is losing a large part of its young people’”

What is implied here? That this loss is the fault of wayward religion teachers? That only an “endorsed” team of professors could stem the tide of disaffiliation among young people? It’s not clear what Beardsley-Hardy means exactly, but she appears to be drawing some connection between what young people may be taught and their choice to leave or remain in the faith. It’s the same old trope of liberal religion professors “destroying” young people’s faith. In fact, the common assumption that higher education, across the board, makes people less religious is now being challenged by research. Beardsley-Hardy would better focus her efforts on bureaucratic colleagues who have effectively locked out young adults’ voice and vote. Or how about addressing the negative perceptions that young adults have of the Adventist church, ones that find them much more likely than their Christian counterparts to see the church as anti-science, repressive and overprotective? To those of us who work with young adults on a daily basis in Adventist higher education, it is abundantly clear that the more the church tries to double-down on Adventist orthodoxy, the more it tries to shut down or control certain conversations, the more it risks losing the next generation. If Beardsley-Hardy and her colleagues want to preserve Adventism for the next generation, they would encourage a more trusting and open thinking climate, foster engagement with the challenging social issues of our day, and call for renewed efforts to create more loving and accepting schools and churches.

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This is just the first step in this “control” initiative and indicative of who General Conference administrators most fear.

First, religion professors who are scholars. They are most suspect
Next, science professors who’re scholars. They are the next suspects.
Next, psychology professors. They are already showing themselves needing control.
Next, English professors who teach fiction and drama.
Next, …… it will go on and on.

This is a purifying, stifling, anti-scholarship and creativity and academic freedom move to take control of Adventist universities, the one area–because of accreditation bodies–that Adventist administrators feel they don’t fully control.

Watch for it…

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i actually think that some kind of an endorsement certificate could be helpful to parents trying to decide which school to send their kids to…

i can recall, during my student days, an incident i’ll never forget: one of my bible professors explained to us in class that egw was wrong, because the plagues on egypt at the time of the exodus weren’t supernatural miracles, but a cascade of natural events that began with an overgrowth of red algae on the nile…i remember this particular professor angrily shouting down some students who tried to use patriarchs and prophets to make the point that those plagues were supernatural…i remember some students were greatly agitated, upset and affected to tears…and if i’m remembering right - this would have been over 30 yrs ago - one girl actually withdrew from school over this incident…

i just don’t think parents should be asked to pay the salaries of professors who subject their kids to this kind of abuse…had IBMTE certification been in place then, perhaps this professor wouldn’t have been hired, and the abuse i witnessed wouldn’t have occurred…

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