Walla Walla University President Issues Statement Against "Sinister Accusations"

(system) #1

November 20, 2014

Dear Friend,

Allow me to share a personal word about accusations now all-too-regularly offered against people associated with Walla Walla University.

I imagine you to be someone positively inclined toward the excellent, Seventh-day Adventist education offered at Walla Walla University, and positively inclined toward me. Perhaps you have been a student on the WWU campus, or know me from my time at Pacific Union College or Andrews University. If so, you know what I stand for. But, of late, you may have heard floating about some pretty sinister accusations about WWU people concerning “spiritual formation” and the “emerging church.” These accusations have been shared often enough, and in strident enough voice, that you’ve begun to worry whether or not something sinister is going on at WWU.

I will offer my straightforward assessment of the situation and then suggest some strategies for you to explore these issues for yourself (because to do them justice you will need to do just that).

The attackers—“the accusers of the brethren,” if I may call them that—offer criticisms that are low on content and high on innuendo, half-truth, and damnation by association. They offer their accusations from afar without engaging the people they accuse (see Matthew 18:15-17). Those of us who know the people being attacked, who regularly listen to them teach Sabbath School classes and preach and participate in committee meetings, simply do not recognize the extreme caricature the attackers offer. We know these people they attack to be godly and faithful Seventh-day Adventists who are working hard to draw others to truth.

To explore these matters further, I would encourage you to do the following:

  1. Read the statement, “Until Christ is Formed In You,” offered by the WWU Seventh-day Adventist Church and the statement offered by the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, “A Statement on Biblical Spirituality,” and ponder these questions: Does the biblical thought offered in these statements make sense to you? Should we flee from any commitment to Christ “being formed within” for fear that we might succumb to Eastern influences? Is there not a biblical and Adventist way to approach the devotional life and the effort to experience the sanctification offered by the Holy Spirit, one that should be embraced with joy and vigor?

  2. Read the article on a thoughtful faith by Bill Knott, editor of the Adventist Review, “Reclaiming the Library,” and reflect on these questions: Should thought leaders be condemned for citing non- Adventist authors and engaging the wider culture? Is Seventh-day Adventist thought so fragile that we dare not read anything from non-believers? Are Seventh-day Adventist beliefs not strong and robust, able to confront and convict?

  3. Read the Southern Adventist University School of Religion “Faculty Statement on the Emerging Church Movement” and think about these issues: Is the “emerging church” a simple phenomenon that can easily be defined and used as a mechanical litmus test? Or is it a more complex phenomenon that requires prayerful discernment and care?

  4. The senior pastor of the WWU Seventh-day Adventist Church has now preached week-by-week for some five years. Most of those sermons are easily accessible via the church’s archives. Let me encourage you to randomly select four or five sermons, listen to them, and then ask: Are these sermons faithful, biblical, Adventist sermons, the obvious purpose of which is to draw people toward God and truth? Or are they heretical?

  5. And, please, come to the WWU campus and experience our community of faith and discovery firsthand. Our campus ministries events and worship services are open to you. We are a highly residential campus, so we do weekends and Sabbath together. You will experience a vigorous, Seventh-day Adventist campus that offers a wide array of service and worship opportunities for our students—a campus that is bursting with active faith. Come and see for yourself!

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6447

(Elmer Cupino) #2

Can anyone give us a background of what triggered this?

(efcee) #3

I also urge anyone who is concerned to fully investigate and consider the source of each accusation prior to giving any credence to them.

(Marcelo) #4

Not sure exactly, but I know there are groups of “Adventists” such as the people who teach the 2520 prophecy is still a valid prophecy who talk about the “downfall” of the church for requiring the teaching of spiritual formation in our theological seminary, colleges and universities. They pretty much blanket that statement to say spiritual formation is evil and part of the emerging church movement, eastern philosophy and spiritualism.

There’s a video online about a former Oakwood College student who, a couple of years ago, spoke to one of these people and shared how he was taught that during the entire semester.

I suspect these accusations about WWU are about the same.

(Elaine Nelson) #5

This morning’s online Review had a lead article on the Vanatau (sp) group of Adventists accepted back after 20 years but failed to give any reason for the initial separation. Why so secretive about reasons for leaving the church wholesale?

(Reinarjoi) #6

That is the honest thing to do. In all of my investigations I have not found reason to conclude that our educational institutions have promoted heretical notions, although some of them may have given information on what is going on in the Christian world.

Johann Thorvaldsson

(Randy Givens) #7

video by a former Oakwood College student about spiritual formation


(Peter) #8

It seems to me that the worst enemies of the Adventist church are actually Adventists. No group seems to be attacking the Adventist Church more vehemently than certain groups of Adventists. I see them as more interested in opposing women’s ordination, publicizing suspicion and criticism, promoting the idea that for the first time in thousands of years at least 144,000 people will become truly perfect, condemning LGBT people, etc. than showing a Christlike spirit! This “purifying” fire from within is only destructive and does nothing to further the Third Angel’s Message to a world in need!

As I have been studying the work of Ellen White recently, I started wondering just why Ted Wilson and other Adventists under his influence are so condemning of people who read and use the writings of non-Adventists - when Ellen White herself read and “borrowed” from non-Adventist authors extensively. How inconsistent!

Those who relentlessly teach that some Adventists will eventually become truly perfect are demonstrating that they themselves are thus far from perfect, for this type of criticism is a violation of the commandment in Exodus 20:16 - “Thou shall not bear false witness”!

I have known John McVay since he taught at PUC. What a kind, dedicated, wise man. He and Walla Walla do not deserve this kind of mean-spirited, counterproductive criticism.

(Tom Loop) #9

Just caught this blog this morning, and don’t have a lot of time to say much. I am in a motel in Walla Walla as I write this. My daughter is a student of WWU.
I see it as a solid SDA institution. My daughter is a thinker not just a mere reflector of other people’s beliefs just because they say that is way we have always believed it. She tells me students are challenged to understand why they believe what they do. It makes for a much more solid grounding spiritual formation of your life. (Oops, I used that word “spiritual formation”) Hey check out this sermon by WWU pastor Alex Bryan and see for yourself


The title of the sermon is Until Christ is Formed in You. It is in written form. The message is so right on about Christ and our personal character formation. Lots of Bible text of just plain truth to develop his theme.

(Tom Loop) #10

Quickly, one follow up thing. Seems like Walter Veith has a slick hit piece on WWU, claiming there is all kinds of immortality going on. The dreaded theater
is supposedly a center promoting all kinds of decadence because some student caught trafficing in child porn was seen attending a performance of something there. Let me just guess, I’ll speculate he was a LGT adherent , in the tradition on Pipim. So Veith builds a case against WWU from what this pervert most likely told him. I,m going out on a limb saying that, but it would certainly follow the pattern I see.

Let me just say it plainly and bluntly. There seems to be a rightwing network of self proclaimed “truth” seekers in the SDA church who are peddling a lot of false propaganda. To me they are a bunch of low down witch hunters who stop at nothing.

(Marianne Faust) #11

where did you get this information from?

(jeremy) #12

i think it’s good for john to get ahead of some of the rumors circulating about walla walla…he strikes me as upfront and honest in this article, and sincerely wanting to put the right impression out there…everyone who wants to see what’s really going on is being invited to see things for themselves…this is the way to handle these sorts of things…

(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #13

One should be able to search for past articles here on this ongoing situation at WWU. Roughly (because I haven’t known all the details or remember all the ones I did know), McVay was stepping down & Alex Bryan the uni church pastor was nominated to be president. There may already have been attacks, but they increased & became focused against Bryan as someone bringing in non-Adventist beliefs. An anonymous letter to the union from that time was widely disseminated, enumerating the accusations. Bryan then left for Kettering & McVay remained as president. However, Bryan wasn’t satisfied at Kettering & was welcomed back as senior pastor at WWU church. The attacks continue & may include others, but apparently Bryan is getting his share. The attackers have done their best to rip apart a large Adventist community.

Unfortunately, Ted Wilson’s warnings against “spiritual formation” & non-member speaker/writers only help to fuel the paranoia. Ironically, this Adventist hype against certain issues was originally adopted from a non-Adventist source, http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/.

(Jared Wright) #14

Concerning questions here about what might have precipitated these remarks from President McVay: I am currently in Walla Walla, and I’ve heard several, as yet unconfirmed, suggestions that members of Adventist congregations in the area in and around Walla Walla have been sharply critical of Walla Walla University Church senior pastor Alex Bryan (recall that there was a campaign against Bryan as WWU president that ultimately succeeded in blocking his becoming president) and to some extent of McVay for participating in the One Project. There are ongoing accusations of “Spiritual Formation” conflating it with “Spiritualism”. It’s important to note that these condemnations are not coming from members of the university or the university church, but from people elsewhere in the surrounding communities.

Because I have not verified these details with President McVay (I put in an inquiry to his office, but haven’t heard back–possibly because of the Thanksgiving break), this was not included in the story. But the frequency with which I’ve heard these details from several parties suggests that this is the most probable reason for McVay’s letter.

(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #15

This is a common impression, but I don’t think we know if the board’s decision was based on other considerations. Unfortunately, the attackers probably do feel empowered in their anonymous & vicious campaign.

(Rheticus) #16

This man is a fiction producer in the ilk of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Da_Vinci_Code and makes his living pretending its not fiction and conning the gullible.

Now just watch the gullible jump to his defense…

(Tim Teichman) #17

I too am totally lost by both the initial post and the subsequent discussion. A clear statement about what this hubbub is all about would be really helpful.

(Elmer Cupino) #18


How much of this “spectacle” would you attribute to the “trickle down effect” from the GC? The “them against us” ambience initiated by the GC at the cover of being “true to the word” has done more harm than good to this church. As if we already had no excess baggage to rectify. I remember there was a year in the past where no graduate from the school of theology was hired by the SDA church. It’s a sad church of affairs, especially having graduated from the old WWC myself.

(efcee) #19

Thanks for that link!

(Sirje) #20

When members with limited exposure to people not of their immediate community come across wording they aren’t familiar with, there is automatic suspicion. When even familiar ideas are expressed in language other than “Adventese”, red flags go up and paranoia sets in. These are the same folk who are adamant that each word of the Bible comes directly from God - verbal inspiration - while denying it.