Higher Education Commission Presents Final Report
erry Karst, a GC vice president and chair of the five-year-old Commission on Higher Education, presented the Commission's third and final report. The two preliminary reports were given in October 2003 and April 2004.
The committee's assignment included developing a global plan for higher education in fulfilling its mission in response to the needs of the church; conducting research, surveys, and evaluations regarding the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges at each Adventist college, seminary, and university; and developing strategies to strengthen the unity, integrity, and financial viability of Adventist higher education.
"It is not the intent of the General Conference to become a micro-manager of education throughout the world field," explained GC president Jan Paulsen. "We just simply are taking the initiative here as a body to say, 'How can we do this better?' "
He added, "Higher education in our church is ever-increasing in size. Apart from the pastoral ministry of our church, our ministers in education are the second largest workforce in our church, and they are caring for 1.5 million of our youth and children on an ongoing basis. So this is a huge item. . . . As a church we cannot survive without you. You are invaluable to us."
The commission's 15-page summary document recognizes the "strong and positive impact" Adventist higher education has on the church, and that it serves "a central role in preparing students for service to the church and the world." The report also pointed out that "traditional views regarding Adventist schools serving predominantly Adventist students, and offering courses and programs that primarily prepare students to serve in the Church have begun to change."
"With tuition costs rising, financial supports dwindling, student body compositions changing, and the student demand for new programs increasing, considerable strain has begun to occur within the Adventist higher education program," reads the report.
The commission found that few changes in student body composition have occurred in recent years in higher education institutions in the North American, South Pacific, Euro-Africa, and Euro-Asia divisions, but that in other world divisions many institutions that offer degree programs other than theology/religion now have more non-Adventist students. Quoting statistics regarding this ratio change, the report states that, based on 2004 student enrollment figures, "there are over 83,000 students enrolled in SDA tertiary institutions around the world, of which 68% are Adventists. Unfortunately, only about 25% of the potential Seventh-day Adventist college/university students are studying in Adventist schools." The document also refers to a current trend of some higher education institutions to hire more non-Adventist faculty members than was previously common. One reason given for this was low salaries, which "make it difficult to recruit and retain well-prepared teachers."
The document indicates that these and other factors may lead to the "secularization" of Adventist schools.
The report concluded, "Seventh-day Adventist higher education continues to play a positive and crucial role in the Church. Its future is potentially bright, yet there are complex issues the Church needs to be proactive in resolving." The report additionally makes several recommendations, including (1) requiring in-service training of teachers; (2) taking proactive steps to attract, retain, and increase the pool of qualified Adventist faculty; (3) developing additional strategies to help make students more aware of the reality of God; and (4) exploring models to more effectively carry out the mission of the church within educational contexts.
The presentation of the report was followed by more than an hour of discussion, as delegates addressed what they called the "realities" outlined in the document and ways to turn around some of the negative trends. Suggestions included emphasizing the concept that teaching is a mission and a ministry, offering financial incentives to help to recruit and retain quality faculty, and encouraging more training and orientation of board members.
Church Ministries Commission Reorganized
A reorganized commission to study how the church's ministries, services, and structures serve its mission was established by the Executive Committee at a Tuesday afternoon session.
The newly constituted commission will continue the effort begun late in the last quinquennium to analyze the ways in which the church's headquarters serves the world field. A previous commission's report was received at the Spring Council meeting last April: its recommendations will be studied but not necessarily determinative for the new group.
A key feature of nomenclature and terms of reference for the new commission indicates that it will evaluate "the necessity, efficiency, and effectiveness of current denominational structure." There was uncertainty about whether the previous commission had been charged with looking at organizational structure as well as evaluating the effectiveness of the delivery system for the church's ministries.
The commission will report back to the Executive Committee through PREXAD (President's Executive Administrative Council) and GC ADCOM (General Conference Administrative Committee).
Ninety-nine members will serve on the group, including three General Conference officers; nine vice presidents; the undersecretary, undertreasurer, and an associate secretary; six GC departmental directors; 13 division presidents; two each of division secretaries and treasurers; 13 union presidents; 13 local conference officers; 13 GC Executive Committee laypersons; 13 pastors; representatives of four institutions; and four positions as yet unassigned.
Additional advisors to the group who will have voice but not vote on the commission include GC associate secretaries and treasurers, and division secretaries and treasurers.
Strong support was expressed in floor discussion for the new commission, and only minor editorial changes to the document as proposed were recommended.
Nominating Committee Report
On Wednesday morning, delegates elected the following three individuals into ministry offices at the GC headquarters:
1. Wilmar Hirle, South American Division publishing director and Global Mission coordinator, as associate director of the GC Publishing Ministries Department;
2. Jonatan Tejel, Spanish Union Youth Ministries director, as an associate director of the GC Youth Ministries Department;
3. Robert Lang, Youth Ministries director of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, as an associate director of the GC Youth Ministries Department.
Three field secretary positions were also voted:
1. President of Adventist World Radio;
2. President of Adventist Development and Relief Agency;
3. Director of Adventist Television Network.
Delegates also voted to approve the recommended members of the International Health and Temperance Association Executive Council, Adventist Television Network Operating Board, and lay members of the Financial Planning and Budgeting Committee.
Faith and Science Council Appointed
Delegates voted to approve a recommendation to appoint a Faith and Science Council, which would replace the current forum called BRISCO (Biblical Research Institute Science Council). The new council, composed of participants from the Biblical Research Institute (BRI) and Geoscience Research Institute (GRI) councils, along with other biblical scholars and scientists, has the following five objectives: (1) work toward developing interpretations of nature that are consistent with the biblical teaching of origins, (2) explore the interrelation between the biblical understanding of creation and scientific discoveries and theories that have an impact on the topic of origins, (3) promote a better understanding of the complexity of the scientific study of origins and its challenges and contributions to the biblical doctrine of creation, (4) contribute to a better understanding of issues connected to the relationship between humans and the rest of creation, and (5) share with church leaders, teachers, pastors, and the world church materials related to faith and science issues.
The council will be chaired by GC vice president Gerry Karst. Criteria for selecting members of the committee include their academic expertise; qualifications as a professional theologian, scientist, or high-level church administrator; the internationality of the total group; and a shared common approach to the study of the Bible and science.
"We're not looking for uniformity but unity at the foundational level," said BRI director Angel Rodriguez, explaining why a "common approach to the study of the Scriptures and science" is a criterion when selecting council members.
"These two ministries will together survey the landscape with respect to issues that will impact the church, coming both from science and religious perspectives," said Paulsen. "This particular Faith and Science Council is a forum where the two [ministries] can sit down and strategize and think for the future of how a menu can be put together that in the most fulfilling way responds to the various needs that the church has."
News Editor: Sandra Blackmer E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web site: www.adventistreview.org