Adventist church in crisis
- Errol wrote:
>>Its Errol Nembhard,Eroll,
>>I've been in England away for a while preaching but I'm back its great to
>>know that we are going to have some great discussions online!
Welcome to the SA-SDA family, I am looking forward to some good theological debate as we used to in the good old days.
For those who do not know him, Errol is a British 'lay' evangelist who is now living in South Africa.
He recently conducted a crusade in his native country, England, and 53 souls were baptized, that's a miracle in that part of the world.
Back to business. The Adventist church in crisis
Now, I believe this will awaken Daniel's interest.
Errol if you still remember the last discussion we had was about the crisis that was ignited by the book on Inspiration written by Alden Thompson, who is an Adventist theologian. Of course there is nothing knew about his views, his views have been held by non-Adventist theologian for many years, however this was the first time and Adventist theologian has come out in public to support these views. To make things worse the book was published and distributed by an Adventist publishing house, I bought a copy of the book at the local ABC in Johannesburg. I understand the Church has since realized that they made a mistake and have decided to stop distributing this book, so you might not find it at your local ABC.
What is at stake in this crisis?
It is whether the Bible can be trusted as infallible word of God. What theologians like Alden Thompson believe is that not everything in the Bible is inspired. They believe that some parts of the Bible e.g. mathematical figures are not reliable. For example the Bible says that 600 000 men left Egypt, which will mean that about 2 million (include women and children) Israelites left Egypt for Canaan. They believe that it can not be true since it would have been an environmental disaster in the dessert, and also that there were no logistics to support such big group of people. To put it simply, they no longer believe in miracles.
They do not believe in the traditional Adventist interpretation of Bible prophecy.
The fact of the matter is that since they have buried (or so they think) the SOP, they want to bury the Bible too.
This is called the historical-critical method of studying the Bible.
The Adventist theologians are now divided into two groups, the liberals, who aspire to the views above, and the conservatives who still believe in the traditional teachings of Adventism. The division can also be viewed geographically, with the liberal west coast (Walla-Walla College, La Sierra College etc.) and the conservative East Coast (Andrews University etc.).
This crisis exploded at Walla-Walla College last year, (by the way Alden Thompson teaches at Walla-Walla College) which lead to the commission of inquiry. I will try to supply some documents on this commission latter.
Anyway what happen at Walla-Walla is that the theology department decided to change the department from theology to Biblical studies, the reason was obvious they no longer believe in teaching theology. It was also alleged that one of the theology lecturers was in fact a self confessed atheist. More importantly all theology students that came out of the college did not want to preach the gospel. And so on.
Last year our former GC president sent a strong message to such theologians to either follow the mission of the church or resign. I will try to find this sermon for you. As can be expected, they celebrated when he resigned, even today they are still celebrating. Before He resigned he had asked all Divisions to enforce a policy that all institutions in their divisions must abide by the church mission. The NAD has not implemented that recommendation and I do not think that they will ever do it.
I can go on, and on, But I guess some might be lost in the process.
Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, an African scholar, (Pastor Letseli knows him well, they were neighbors at Andrews) wrote a book called "Receiving the word" which address the above issues. This book has been heralded throughout Adventism as the best book on the subject. Koranteng-Pipim was also part of the group (Adventist Theological Studies) that wrote a book to respond to Alden Thompson's book; this book is called "Issues in Inspiration". Both of these books can be found at the local ABC. If "Receiving the word" is not available in SA, Koranteng-Pipim has promised me that he can arrange for a shipment of the books to SA at a great discount.
This book is a must to every Adventist.
Here is the link to the first chapter of "Receiving the word".
Those who are following this development will realize that the theme of the recent Sabbath School lessons is in the context of this conflict. To me, it seem like the church Administrators realized the great influence that these liberals are having, and they decided to educated the masses before they are misled.
Can you believe that one of the former GC vice president now believes in evolution? Anyway, theirs is a modified evolution or modified creation. That is, God is still the creator but He uses evolution to assist Him in creation.
Errol, I am sure you would like to add your views on this discussion. Were you able to get a copy of Koranteng-Pipim's book?
The signs of the times are everywhere!
I hope we both are well.
In this topic you have promised to give us more info, how is it going?
Can I still wait or must I call CNN and find out from them because it
seems like our overseas correspondent has run out of time and zest to
give us umgosi? Joking!
Another thing, I have read some staff on why the former president
resigned by I could not really understand the reason for him to be
forced (by whatever or whoever) to. Could youg give me more data why -
This is interesting information - please give me some more.
>>> "Mashudu Ravhengani" <Ravhenmj@...> 09/08/99 08:29PM >>>From: "Mashudu Ravhengani" <Ravhenmj@...>
>>Its Errol Nembhard,great to
>>I've been in England away for a while preaching but I'm back its
>>know that we are going to have some great discussions online!Eroll,
Welcome to the SA-SDA family, I am looking forward to some good
theological debate as we used to in the good old days.
For those who do not know him, Errol is a British 'lay' evangelist who
is now living in South Africa.
He recently conducted a crusade in his native country, England, and 53
souls were baptized, that's a miracle in that part of the world.
Back to business. The Adventist church in crisis
Now, I believe this will awaken Daniel's interest.
Errol if you still remember the last discussion we had was about the
crisis that was ignited by the book on Inspiration written by Alden
Thompson, who is an Adventist theologian. Of course there is nothing
knew about his views, his views have been held by non-Adventist
theologian for many years, however this was the first time and Adventist
theologian has come out in public to support these views. To make things
worse the book was published and distributed by an Adventist publishing
house, I bought a copy of the book at the local ABC in Johannesburg. I
understand the Church has since realized that they made a mistake and
have decided to stop distributing this book, so you might not find it at
your local ABC.
What is at stake in this crisis?
It is whether the Bible can be trusted as infallible word of God. What
theologians like Alden Thompson believe is that not everything in the
Bible is inspired. They believe that some parts of the Bible e.g.
mathematical figures are not reliable. For example the Bible says that
600 000 men left Egypt, which will mean that about 2 million (include
women and children) Israelites left Egypt for Canaan. They believe that
it can not be true since it would have been an environmental disaster in
the dessert, and also that there were no logistics to support such big
group of people. To put it simply, they no longer believe in miracles.
They do not believe in the traditional Adventist interpretation of
The fact of the matter is that since they have buried (or so they
think) the SOP, they want to bury the Bible too.
This is called the historical-critical method of studying the Bible.
The Adventist theologians are now divided into two groups, the
liberals, who aspire to the views above, and the conservatives who still
believe in the traditional teachings of Adventism. The division can also
be viewed geographically, with the liberal west coast (Walla-Walla
College, La Sierra College etc.) and the conservative East Coast
(Andrews University etc.).
This crisis exploded at Walla-Walla College last year, (by the way
Alden Thompson teaches at Walla-Walla College) which lead to the
commission of inquiry. I will try to supply some documents on this
Anyway what happen at Walla-Walla is that the theology department
decided to change the department from theology to Biblical studies, the
reason was obvious they no longer believe in teaching theology. It was
also alleged that one of the theology lecturers was in fact a self
confessed atheist. More importantly all theology students that came out
of the college did not want to preach the gospel. And so on.
Last year our former GC president sent a strong message to such
theologians to either follow the mission of the church or resign. I will
try to find this sermon for you. As can be expected, they celebrated
when he resigned, even today they are still celebrating. Before He
resigned he had asked all Divisions to enforce a policy that all
institutions in their divisions must abide by the church mission. The
NAD has not implemented that recommendation and I do not think that they
will ever do it.
I can go on, and on, But I guess some might be lost in the process.
Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, an African scholar, (Pastor Letseli knows him
well, they were neighbors at Andrews) wrote a book called "Receiving the
word" which address the above issues. This book has been heralded
throughout Adventism as the best book on the subject. Koranteng-Pipim
was also part of the group (Adventist Theological Studies) that wrote a
book to respond to Alden Thompson's book; this book is called "Issues in
Inspiration". Both of these books can be found at the local ABC. If
"Receiving the word" is not available in SA, Koranteng-Pipim has
promised me that he can arrange for a shipment of the books to SA at a
This book is a must to every Adventist.
Here is the link to the first chapter of "Receiving the word".
Those who are following this development will realize that the theme of
the recent Sabbath School lessons is in the context of this conflict. To
me, it seem like the church Administrators realized the great influence
that these liberals are having, and they decided to educated the masses
before they are misled.
Can you believe that one of the former GC vice president now believes
in evolution? Anyway, theirs is a modified evolution or modified
creation. That is, God is still the creator but He uses evolution to
assist Him in creation.
Errol, I am sure you would like to add your views on this discussion.
Were you able to get a copy of Koranteng-Pipim's book?
The signs of the times are everywhere!
--------------------------- ONElist Sponsor
Show your ONElist SPIRIT!
<a href=" http://clickme.onelist.com/ad/tshirt2 ">Click Here</a>
With a new ONElist SHIRT available through our website.
The King is even at the door!
To contribute to the discussions: send your mails to firstname.lastname@example.org
To subscribe: send a blank email email@example.com
To unsubscribe: send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org
I thought that there was no interest on this subject, I will try to
dig out something for you.
About Folkenberg, I think if he didn't resign the executive committee
was going to fire him. He made some unwise decisions and got himself
into trouble. It is good to see that the church took a strong
decision on this issue.
Let's continue to pray for one another!
--- Lungani Mfeka <MfekaL@...> wrote:
> From: "Lungani Mfeka" <MfekaL@...>
> I hope we both are well.
> In this topic you have promised to give us more info, how is it
> Can I still wait or must I call CNN and find out from them because
> seems like our overseas correspondent has run out of time and zest
> give us umgosi? Joking!
> Another thing, I have read some staff on why the former president
> resigned by I could not really understand the reason for him to be
> forced (by whatever or whoever) to. Could youg give me more data
> why -
> This is interesting information - please give me some more.
As promised. here is the
THE REPORT THE Commision of enquiry at WALLA WALLA COLLEGE - Part 1
[From WALLA WALLA COLLEGE Web Site, www.wwc.edu]
THEOLOGICAL TENSIONS AND ISSUES
The tensions affecting the theology department of Walla Walla College and their critics hinge on
differing expectations from various constituent groups. Students, parents, WWC theology teachers,
Northwest administrators, Northwest pastors and even the WWC Board of Trustees and the
church in North America are involved in discussions over basic issues facing the church that will
determine its direction in the future.
These tensions are not unlike similar battles previously held in the mainline Protestant churches
(Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, etc.). Those issues forever changed those churches,
effectively neutralizing their moral and theological witness to the world. After they endured the
struggles similar to those facing WWC and Adventism, those churches were forever altered. This
commission report presupposes a basic working knowledge on the part of its readers that will help
them understand the issues.
The WWC Theology faculty, by self description, use a "Biblical Studies" model as their
predominant current approach to religious teaching. By common definition, Biblical studies is what
some characterize as the "scientific study of scripture," an approach to the study of religion that
tends to concentrate on the text from a critical basis discussing authorship, historicity, and textual
analysis in detail, majoring in empirical evidences. Terminology used, such as "reconstructed life"
which produced literary development, folk literature, source criticism and tradition history, and the
outright challenge to faith from modern science are openly and regularly used. These matters are
standard fare in graduate programs in religion and theology. . The level of this approach at WWC
nears that of some graduate schools. The Commission found quite a strong tendency on the part of
the theology teachers to teach in this vein. Evidences for this assertion are:
1. The Biblical studies versus Theological studies as evidenced by the classroom curriculum.
2. Strong emphasis on Biblical Languages;
3. Critical textual emphasis;
4. Self-descriptive in their conversations with the commission;
5. The departmental mission statement;
6. Graduates lack of ability to articulate basics of Adventism in an easy and winning way.
7. The faculty's stated concern about the growth of fundamentalism as an uncritical ideology
Some time ago, whether by deliberate decision, or by happenstance, a decision was made to
pattern the department as a school of Biblical studies rather than as a school of Theological Studies,
the more traditional approach.
During the course of the investigation into the complaints made against the Theology department at
WWC, a recurring theme emerged. The Biblical Studies approach is causing significant difficulty to
some students, the difficulty being produced by a number of things. First, there are differences in
levels of faith maturity between the students, the teachers, the ultra-conservative wing of the church,
and the liberal constituency. Added to this is the fact that biblical literacy and faith maturity levels of
students entering college is in decline. Every single one of the theology teachers asserted that, on
average, even a basic level of biblical knowledge and understanding is increasingly limited in current
incoming college freshmen. When young people come to college from an environment that has kept
them spiritually immature, or if they come from a conservative background expecting to hear the
Bible discussed in familiar terminology, they are in for a shock in some of the classes being taught
by the WWC professors. They do not hear the words and themes familiar to them explicated. It
appears common for students to be able to enroll in religion classes that they are not equipped to
take, classes that are beyond their faith maturity levels. Very often this can be attributed to
scheduling problems. The student may need a religion class to meet a requirement so he/she will
take whatever is available and fits their schedule, often with little or no regard to curriculum content
or knowledge of course objectives. When this happens, their beliefs and faith systems are
challenged, and adverse proceedings ensue. If students become unsettled and tell their parents and
local pastors of "incidents", the rumor mill is started. Then gossip and innuendo follow, a climate of
suspicion grows, people almost automatically put the worst interpretation to the data, and a crisis
occurs in their lives, the school and church. If, on the other hand, students come to college with
their faith systems well formed, or are accustomed to dealing with new and challenging ideas, then
they find the questioning and challenge they are looking for and go away extremely appreciative of
Another factor in this equation is the general fear of pastors and administrators over traveling too far
down the road toward the use of a higher critical methodology. The use of even a modified
"Adventist" historical critical methodology makes some of our pastors and the Northwest
administrators very uneasy with regards to the future of the Adventist church. Hence the problems.
The Commission did find that one of the consequences of the approach currently used by the
theology department is inadequate emphasis and explication of basic Adventist doctrine and the
familiar landmarks. These beliefs are not denied as much as assumed. Testimony given to
Commission members was to the effect that the specific teachings of Adventism are reserved
primarily for two classes taught by Dr. Glen Greenwalt, scheduled for the senior year of theology
students. The effect of this is some ministerial students coming out of their WWC experience testify
that they are unsure of the basics of Christian and Adventist faith. They have the ability to do critical
textual analysis, but are unable to give basic sermons and Bible studies in a winning, evangelistic
way. Some refuse even to hold public meetings and are incapable of reassuring their older church
members that they still believe the basics of creationism, eschatology, revelation and inspiration. The
effect of this on non-theological students must be assumed to be similar, that they go from WWC
without having had a rigorous explanation for Adventist beliefs. As long as these conditions exist, it
will be increasingly difficult to shut down the rumor mill as well as get unqualified support for the
college among church leaders. The ultraconservative wing of the church, whose views are very
close to verbal inspiration (God said it and the prophets wrote it down), will see the methodology
currently being used as proof of apostasy in our college. They will probably respond negatively as
the results of the Commission become known. They, with many of the moderates and their
students, need to hear some voices of affirmation, they need the theology staff to conduct Adventist
faith and doctrine affirming events for both students and constituents. Once these people believe
that WWC theology staff is solidly "Adventist", then and only then can there begin to be
constructive conversations that help those people and their children to develop more sophisticated
views of scripture. The Commission recognizes the need to wean people away from a verbal
inspiration model of Bible study. The rate at which this change is made is crucial.
All of this brings up the question of what an Adventist college is supposed to be and do? The
Commission found considerable disagreement on this matter, certainly no consensus. In the case of
WWC, the College has grown way beyond its charter. Lack of consensus as to the task the
College is to perform causes a lack of common expectations, which sets up the probability of
conflict over the product produced. Is Walla Walla College to be a Bible college, an indoctrination
center, a place where workers for the cause are prepared (original charter), or is it to be a place
where the harder questions typical of liberal higher education prevail, and are allowed and explored
leading wherever they will? This is a matter of crucial concern as this last prospect opens the
possibility of seeing movement down the route taken by other former church related colleges which
has taken them entirely away from any church affiliation. The fears and dangers here are real.
Without careful and deliberate thought and strategizing, there is no evidence that educational
institutions will avoid the drift away from church structure and mission taken by so many institutions
in other faith communities. Until the College constituency, and those who lead it are in agreement as
to task, there can be no resolution or restoration of trust.
The Commission believes the WWC Board of Trustees needs greater involvement in several areas.
First, they need to be informed on the systemic challenge in Adventism over higher critical
methodologies in Biblical studies as it relates to students and the Northwest church it represents.
They need to understand the fears that arise in many hearts when we approach issues and teaching
techniques that have torn other denominations apart. The new methodologies can have an adverse
effect on faith if not handled very carefully. Some students can handle the more sophisticated
approach; some cannot. The Board needs to understand and offer guidance as to what emphasis
should prevail at WWC. Once the Board has wrestled with these challenges, and ambiguities are
clarified, then all else can be decided. When there is clarity of purpose and content at the
Constituent level, the Board level, and NPUC administrative level, then there can be better
marketing of the college and its purpose. Right now it can rightfully be asked, "Who sets the focus
of a department?" or, "Who sets the focus of the College?" It seems to the Commission such
decisions are made by default, or left up to those who lead departments. The connection to mission
is presumed. Decisions in matters of such importance should be more deliberate. With careful
attention and work, the current tensions and troubles could be turned into events of a positive
nature if mission is clarified and enunciated, and all departments obviously connected to it.
1. That the WWC Board recognize that the stated task of higher education is indistinct in
the minds of the constituency, and that the College has grown way beyond its original
charter to the point that its purpose is indistinct. It is clear that the majority of graduates
do not work in the employment of the church.
2. That deliberate efforts be made to clarify and update the school charter and bring all
operations into harmony with it.
3. That a refined and updated mission and purpose of Walla Walla College be clearly
communicated to the constituency.
A CASE FOR MATCHING TEACHING METHODOLOGY WITH
STUDENT FAITH MATURITY LEVELS
The issue of teaching methodology has all ready been discussed to some degree. The popular
instructional method employs a critical dissection of each text or group of texts to discover their
historical context and relevancy or application to current times. This type of biblical study seeks to
find correlation between traditional Christian interpretation of scripture and logical scientific theory.
This is not always possible and when faced with this not always obvious dichotomy the tendency
may often be to disbelieve or to doubt the validity of traditional interpretation. The result is that a
student may leave the class confused and angry, with a feeling that he/she has lost their faith in the
Bible and their church. Some have noted in their evaluations of these classes that questions were
raised either by the teacher or other students that were left unanswered. A few students stated that
they had gone to the teacher after class to get clarification or answers to these questions and were
not given sufficient attention or 'faith building' support when human wisdom and reason is unable to
fathom the mysteries of the past or of events yet to come. It is only fair to note that these responses
were few in number and that a majority of the students were enthusiastic about their professors and
the classes taught.
Another area of concern noted on the evaluations was the lack of information included in the
curriculum guide. This information should provide insight into the content and objectives of the class
and provide a description of the method or style of instruction to be used to achieve the objectives.
4. That the theology curriculum as expressed in the Bulletin be reviewed and updated to
contain more detailed information regarding class content and objectives to allow students
to have a better understanding of what to expect from the class.
The Theology faculty at WWC have achieved a high level of academic qualifications. For this,
WWC is fortunate. Unfortunately, however, the professor is at times addressing a class of 'biblically
illiterate' students and they aren't always aware of this until it is too late. Students come to WWC
from many diverse backgrounds. Increasingly more and more students will attend WWC having
never been to an Adventist academy. They will not have the fundamental Adventist doctrinal
education that would have been expected in years past. This can lead to a class makeup of students
at widely varying levels of spiritual maturity. Some students whose faith is well grounded will
welcome the opportunity for open discussions on controversial issues facing the Adventist church
and Christianity in general, while others will be devastated by what may appear to be near heresy
on the part of their instructor. There must be recognition that even a freshman coming from a third
generation Adventist family and a recently baptized upper-classman are often miles apart in what
they can deal with in open classroom discussion. Even though the upperclassman may be older and
wiser in many ways he/she may be more comfortable in a straight forward 'faith building' approach
while the younger more doctrinally grounded individual is better prepared to deal with probing and
open discussions on issues that he/she has always accepted as absolute.
Many times the student is not the best judge of his/her own level of spiritual maturity, therefore, it
becomes the duty of the professor to know his students either through a process of evaluation or
through close personal interaction. It is also suggested that each student before enrolling in a class
carefully read the detailed class description to understand the class objectives. If, even after these
precautionary steps are taken, the student finds him/herself uncomfortable with the class content or
discussion level they should go directly to the professor. The professor should take the time to listen
to the student and prayerfully help them work through any confusing issues. Many students have
expressed their appreciation for the willingness of the faculty to address these difficult issues and
It should be noted that the majority of the responses in the evaluations submitted have been very
positive in tone, complimentary of the experiences that were had in the classroom, and with the
interactions with the faculty in general. This is indicative of a focused effort on the part of the religion
faculty to prepare themselves and the materials presented in the class. Paying careful attention to the
assessment process to place students in the appropriate classes and progressively building a strong
foundation that can produce maximum benefit to the student and make it possible to reach the
stated goals and objectives of the department, will go a long way to reduce if not eliminate the
opportunity for any student to come away from the classroom feeling as if there is no basis for their
faith in God and in the blessed hope of His soon return.
5. That a process be developed that insures that students are happy with their choice of
classes and that they are appropriately matched with the content and objectives of the
class they plan to attend.
6. That the mentoring system that is in place be encouraged and further developed. This
should include dialogue between religion faculty and non-religion faculty advisors who will
be assisting non-theology majors in their selection of religion course requirements.
THE PURPOSE AND NATURE OF RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION AT WWC
Related to issues concerning the faith maturity levels of students and the deployment of appropriate
teaching methodologies to match these realities, the Commission also recognized the need for the
College Board to clarify or restate the purpose and nature of the School of Theology at Walla
The need for such a re-determination stems from influences that have shaped theological education
in general during the last few decades. The Commission believes the department should be vigilant
against drifting toward the extremes of the Biblical studies approach to theological education
referred to earlier in this report, something that has won a very influential place in public and many
private universities. According to the Biblical studies model of theological education, religion is not
viewed as necessarily having a determinative content nor a definitive history. A scientific interest and
critical approach is taken toward all religious study, including the Biblical text. The older view of
doctrine and the pursuit of theology as deduction from Scripture has to make way for views that
claim to be in tune with modern ways of study that are more in harmony with the scientific spirit.
The Bible is then viewed as the inspired words of men about God, rather than words inspired by
God concerning God and His relationship to man. Religious indoctrination is neither coordinated as
an inter-disciplinary task nor encouraged. This does not imply that religion scholars caught up in this
approach have given up on their church, but they do become affected by a scientifically driven,
critical mind-set that is damaging to faith. In turn, their students are equipped with an intellectual,
religious box containing an assortment of virtually independent parcels of knowledge but which they
are not necessarily taught to tie together.
The subtly undermining influence of this model, if naively courted, or intentionally deployed in the
Adventist theological education process will have far-reaching, paralyzing effects on the message
and mission of Adventism. The Church expects scholars and those they train for ministry to guard
against such a reductionism of faith. The Commission believes that the North Pacific Union
Conference constituency has the distinct expectation that the religion department of Walla Walla
College is to inculcate in all its students the beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist church based on
the authority of Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy. It is expected that students should be taught
why we believe as we do, and why our belief system can stand critical examination. During this
educational process, it is expected that students, particularly those in theological training will also
intentionally be led into ministry events in which they can give meaningful expression to their faith.
The hope is that every Seventh-day Adventist student will be a life-long believer in the doctrinal and
prophetic message, and a participant in the worldwide mission, of the Seventh-day Adventist
7. That the Walla Walla College Board oversee clarification and restatement of its
expectations of the religion department in relation to:
a. The purpose for its existence in relation to the needs and expectations of
the North Pacific Union Conference constituency, particularly with respect to
those who will enter the teaching and gospel ministries of the church;
b. The authority and instructional treatment of Scripture and the Spirit of
c. The curriculum, and how it should intentionally facilitate the instruction and
affirmation of the fundamental beliefs and mission of the Seventh-day
FACILITATION: That the faculty and administrators both nurture a process whereby
progress toward the accomplishment of items 7. a-c can be evaluated. One idea discussed
by the Commission was for the Board to set up a representative task force under the
guidance of the Board Chair and College President, perhaps consisting of one
representative from the religion department, the other members coming from the board,
two lay persons, a church pastor, and three administrators, one representing the College,
one the Union Conference, and the other a local conference. The chair person (one of the
task force members) shall be named by the college president, and board chairman.
THE LIBERAL IMAGE OF THE THEOLOGY DEPARTMENT
The Commission believes that the scholars serving in the School of Theology should be generally
perceived by the North Pacific Union constituency as fully representative of the
"liberal--conservative" spectrum that characterizes Adventism in general nowadays. Except for the
notion of collegiality and obvious scholastic ability, no established criteria aimed at ensuring
representation across this spectrum have been followed in the recruitment of theology teachers in
recent years. A perception held by many which the Commission could not refute, is that the
theology faculty (rightly or wrongly) is weighted toward the "liberal" side of the
"liberal-conservative" continuum. This could account for much of the loss of the department's
credibility in recent years. It is imperative that this image be corrected. Adventist theological
reflection will always be best served when scholars who are known to hold widely diverse positions
on matters of faith and practice hold each other accountable. Such accountability must apply not
only to theological ideas that arise at one side of the spectrum, but across the entire continuum.
Thus a more balanced articulation of our message can be achieved, polarization among the church
populace be avoided, and the credence to our mission be sustained.
8. That the "liberal" image of the Walla Walla College religion department be adjusted to
better reflect the liberal-conservative continuum:
a. That the religion faculty engage in a self-study to determine why this image
has been earned;
b. That the religion faculty critique their mission statement with a view to
aligning themselves very positively as defenders of the faith and mission of
Adventism, and proposing how this will be undertaken in the future;
c. That the department chairman be rotated on a biennial basis
9. That the board oversee a deliberate adjustment to the balance of the department to
reflect better the ideological spectrum of the Constituency. Within an appropriate period
of time the department should be at a point where the liberal-conservative continuum is
better reflected. The changes needed may include adjustments in curriculum, in focus, and
potentially, in personnel.
FACILITATION: That when filling any future vacancies in the department, deliberate
care be exercised to achieve a balance in Adventist theological perspectives. An
expanded search committee will need to be formed to implement this objective. The
members of this committee will be appointed jointly by the college president and the board
chairman, to include the Chairman of the College Personnel Committee, serving as
chairman, the Vice-president for Academic Administration, the chairman of the Theology
department, a pastor and a lay person who both are members of the Board, a conference
president, Union administrator, and Union Ministerial Association secretary.
DEEPER SCRIPTURAL STUDY
The Commission found influences of what may be a systemic problem in Adventism which
discourages deeper scrutiny of the Scriptures for fear that it may destroy faith. There is a
documentable history of tensions between academia and administration. The absence of theological
debate or discussion or disagreements is not necessarily a sign that all is well. Consider the
following from the pen of Ellen White. In the chapter, "Dangers," of the book Gospel Workers we
Men rest satisfied with the light already received from Gods word, and discourage any
further investigation of the Scriptures. They become conservative, and seek to avoid
discussion. The fact that there is no controversy or agitation among Gods people,
should not be regarded as conclusive evidence that they are holding fast to sound
doctrine. There is reason to fear that they may not be clearly discriminative between
truth and error. When no new questions are started by investigation of Scriptures,
when no difference of opinion arises which will set men to searching the Bible for
themselves, to make sure that they have the truth, there will be many now as in ancient
times, who will hold to tradition and worship they know not what. I have been shown
that many who profess to have knowledge of present truth know not what they
believe. They do not understand the evidence of their faith. The present attitude of the
church is not pleasing to God. There has come in a self-confidence that has led them
to feel no necessity for more truth and greater light.
See part 2
- Commission on the Walla Walla College Theology Department continue...
In Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 105-106, we read:
Some have feared that if in even a single point they acknowledge themselves in error,
other minds would be lead to doubt the whole theory of truth. Therefore they have felt
that investigation should not be permitted, that it would tend to dissension and
disunion. But if such is to be the result of investigation the sooner it comes the better.
If there are those whose faith in Gods word will not stand the test of an investigation
of the Scriptures, the sooner they are revealed the better; for then the way will be
opened to show them their error. We cannot hold that a position once taken, an idea
once advocated, is not, under any circumstances, to be relinquished. Those who allow
prejudice to bar the mind against the reception of truth cannot receive the divine
enlightenment. Yet, when a view of Scripture is presented, many do not ask, is it true
in harmony with Gods word? but, By whom is it advocated? and unless it comes
through the very channel that pleases them, they do not accept it.
In view of this the Commission senses a need for a deliberate strategy for educating the
constituency in significant developments in current theological issues. It is true that there are
nonnegotiable points of doctrine, but it is also true that there is room for a difference in the nuances
used to teach such doctrines. It is also true that some of the techniques used to portray our
doctrines lack clarity and refinement. Our Church would benefit from a syncretistic attitude towards
negotiable issues. More would be accomplished and unity would be achieved by synergism. We
need all our faculties and resources to accomplish our mission.
10. That there be a joint effort between Walla Walla College and church administration
toward using the resources in the Theology Department in a more widespread fashion to
educate the constituency at large with a view toward eliminating inconsistencies in the way
we support our beliefs. Ant that the whole Adventist educational structure be encouraged
to participate in a progressive building-block education enterprise which develops a clear
understanding of Seventh-day Adventist history and doctrine.
11. That administrators intentionally help mitigate the dichotomy that now exists between
the Adventist Theological Society (ATS) and the Adventist Society of Religious Studies
(ASRS) to ameliorate growing tensions between the two entities.
During its investigations, the Commission came to the conclusions that one significant issue is the
way in which the various conflicts themselves have been handled. There seems to have been a
general failure to follow good biblical conflict resolution principles. The problem surrounding the
initial concerns about the Theology Department at WWC has far reaching ramifications which
threaten the unity of Adventism. This part of the report deals specifically with those aspects of the
problem resulting from a breakdown of communication and dissemination of misinformation.
The has been some failure in communication and a reluctance to have ongoing open dialog with
WWC on the substantive issues. It is also clear that misinformation has been propagated without
verification of the facts. Additionally, there has been a failure to deal with the concerns directly and
immediately as prescribed in Matthew18. In discussions with Dr. W.G. Nelson and with Doug
Clark it was confirmed that there was no formal correspondence from NPUC to WWC delineating
specific concerns and/or corrective actions to be implemented by the School of Theology. There
was a meeting in mid May 1994, after a Board Meeting where NPUC representatives, met with
College personnel, to discuss concerns regarding the Theology Department. The NPUC
Representatives provided a talking paper for discussion. But the concerns were not adequately
followed up in subsequent meetings. It was customary, at that time, to have yearly retreats between
the Administration and WWC where some concerns were discussed but nothing specific was
recommended to WWC as corrective actions. From discussions with the NPUC Administration it
is understood that tensions were exacerbated by what they believed to be a lack of intentionality on
the part of WWC to implement corrective actions to assuage concerns. Eventually frustration and
feelings of tension developed. The perception now, is one of distrust and suspicion, which creates
an environment where rumors flourish. The Commission believes we are at the crossroads of a
golden opportunity to capitalize on our mistakes and go forward in unity. In ancient times as it is
now, God stresses open communication when he says to his people, "Come let us reason together."
We need to forgive and forget and press together, in the efficient use of resources, as we minister to
the Constituency of this Union.
12. That a procedure be formalized to allow a mutual review of significant concerns and/or
corrective actions to provide an understanding of the progress made and to enhance
The Commission urges those embroiled in this controversy in the strongest possible terms
to set aside feelings of animosity, temptations to pass on unsubstantiated stories, and
abuse of influence, to engage in persistent humble dialog in pursuit of resolution.
That those individuals involved in propagating erroneous reports be admonished to take
action towards making amends
That Administrators, at all levels, encourage the principles of Matthew 18 to be fully
utilized i.e., common commitment to believe nothing until parties involved dialogue with
DISCUSSION OF SPECIFIC ALLEGATIONS
This section of the Commission's report deals with specific allegations brought to the Commission
for investigation. Two observations are necessary right at the outset. First, because of the
reluctance of several people to testify, and because of the conflicting testimony regarding several
issues, it was not possible to be absolutely definitive in all cases. The Commission would have
benefitted had it been able to interview several individuals who were principals in some of the
incidents, but that was not possible. Second, because of the desire to keep some sensitive
testimony from the public record, only the issue and the Commission's findings are contained in this
report. The documenting testimony is included as an appendix given to the Board, then retrieved.
With these two caveats known, the available findings of the Commission are detailed below:
The Commission heard allegations that one of the theology faculty is an admitted agnostic.
The Commission finds no evidence to sustain this charge. The evidence obtained leads the
Commission to believe some students missed a fine point being made by the teacher and
then went to tell their mis-perception. The Commission exonerates the teacher entirely in
this matter, and urges the student(s) toward resolution.
Alcohol at Faculty Party:
The Commission was asked to address the allegation that at a gathering of the faculty of the English
department in the Administration Building, an alcoholic beverage was served quite openly. (It
should be noted this request is slightly outside the charter given the Commission, to investigate
matters pertaining to the Theology Department but, because of its on-going efforts all ready in
progress, the Commission accepted testimony on this matter).
The Commission finds no evidence to support the allegation. It finds ample evidence to
the contrary, so exonerates the English Department faculty entirely in this matter. It
urges those involved in spreading the misinformation to complete the process of healing
by the extension of apologies to the Department.
Theology Department Support of Homosexuality:
The Commission was asked to investigate allegations that the Theology Faculty openly supports
homosexuality as an acceptable, though alternative, lifestyle for Christians.
The Commission finds insufficient evidence to sustain this indictment against the theology
faculty. It is their plain testimony that they do not openly endorse active homosexuality.
While the question may yet need to be determined for some other departments, the
Theology departments position is in line with that of the school.
Pizza and Soda Communion:
The Commission investigated an allegation that one of the teachers conducted a communion service
in class using pizza and soda as the communion elements. This proved to be a difficult issue to
The Commission could not find sufficient evidence to sustain this allegation, so
exonerates the teacher.
The Spokane Incident:
The Commission was asked to investigate what has come to be called The Spokane Incident. This
incident was basically an adverse reaction by the Spokane Area Ministerium to a series of
presentations made by the Theology faculty at a meeting they held at South Hill Church in Spokane,
WA. The adverse reaction came in the form of an open letter written by the ministerium to Church
administrators criticizing the presentations made by the faculty, and alleging they have abandoned
The conclusion reached by the Commission on this incident is that, because of the
admitted pre-existence of suspicion, the Spokane Incident, in and of itself, does not have
any significant contribution to make to the on-going discussion. It is an unfortunate
occurrence that arose from conflicting expectations exacerbated by a climate of suspicion.
The Commission finds in the Spokane Incident no true reflection of the beliefs and tenor
of the Theology Department, nor an accurate evaluation of department personnel. The
Commission finds it to be, rather, an incident produced by widely differing expectations
followed by poor conflict management. Furthermore, the Commission finds willingness
from both sides to sit and work to resolution. It is therefore recommended that
administrators act expeditiously to bring the two sides together for purposes of resolution.
The Honors Core Seven:
The Commission was given a collection of papers written by five honors core students that were
very disturbing in that they reflected what appeared to be a progression in their experiences from
faith to agnosticism, even humanism. These papers seem to have been circulated far and wide as
evidence against the College program, the Theology Department in particular.
The Commission finds that while the papers are disturbing, they should not be seen as
characterizing the whole of the College. They had a particular context that must not be
discounted. Furthermore, if they did reflect the true opinions of a group of students, a
significant number of them have worked through those issues to active faith. Lastly, this
class was not a theology department class so is not an accurate reflection of the same.
This report is submitted without arrogance or pride of opinion. The Commission did its best to be
fair, allowing the data to speak for itself. It is a sincere hope that those who receive this report will
accept it in the same spirit.