Paulsen Honored at Loma Linda with Festschrift, President’s Medal
Adventist, other scholars contribute essays to honor world church president
BY MARK A. KELLNER, News Editor, Adventist Review, reporting from Loma Linda, California
elebrating a life of service and 35 years of denominational leadership, scholars and health professionals joined to honor the accomplishments of Pastor Jan Paulsen, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, almost three weeks after his 75th birthday. Special presentations were made before Paulsen spoke at worship services held at Loma Linda University Church on January 23, 2010.

BOOK PRESENTATION: From left, editors  Børge Schantz and Reinder Bruinsma present a copy of Exploring the Frontiers of Faith, a Frestschrift honoring General Conference president Pastor Jan Paulsen, to Paulsen as his wife, Kari, and son, Rein Andre, look on.  [Photo: M. Kellner/AR]
Paulsen, world church president since 1999, was honored with a Festschrift, defined as “a volume of articles, essays, etc., contributed by many authors in honor of a colleague,” according to online reference Entitled, “Exploring the Frontiers of Faith,” the 463-page book was published by the German Adventist publisher, Advent-Verlag, and includes 28 essays by a range of contributors. Editors for the volume were Reinder Bruinsma and Borge Schantz, longtime colleagues and friends of Paulsen. Contributors include Adventists Bert B. Beach, John Graz, Bryan W. Ball, Wim Altink and Niels-Erik Andreasen, as well as Schantz and Bruinsma.

A notable contributor to the volume is retired University of Tübingen missiology professor Peter P.J. Beyerhaus, a Lutheran, under whom Paulsen studied when the G.C. president obtained his doctorate. Mention of this brought a great smile to Paulsen during the ceremony; who said he was “speechless” after the presentation.

Presenting the Presidential Medal to Paulsen, LLU President Dr. Richard Hart said the world church leader “is a true academic. He led two of our academic institutions, the Adventist Seminary of West Africa, which is now Babcock University, and Newbold College. We truly consider him one of our academic colleagues.”

“I appreciate this honor,” Paulsen responded after the book and the LLU medal were given to him. “Thank you very much,” Paulsen added. During the presentation, his wife, Kari, and son, Rein Andre, joined Paulsen on the platform.

Although a Festschrift, which is German for “celebration writing,” is published either for a notable achievement, a birthday or retirement, Schantz noted that the book was prepared for the first two reasons and not the latter.

Said Bruinsma, "I have personally always greatly respected Jan Paulsen and have always regarded him as one of my role models. He is the kind of leader who is honest and straight with you, while at the same time you feel safe. The book is a symbol of the deep appreciation of us, editors, authors, fellow-ministers and friends, for who Jan Paulsen is and what he has done."

For the morning message, “Lessons Learned Along the Way,” Paulsen touched on six lessons learned as part of what he said was “a testimony of my experiences.”

He said the “most valuable” lessons he learned “were when I failed. There is a certain honor in failure if you learn your lesson and move on.” Leadership, he added, can be “very fulfilling and very frustrating; it can give you inner peace or inner conflict.”

PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL: Loma Linda University president Richard Hart presents the school’s Presidential Medal to Paulsen during the worship service on January 23, 2010. [PHOTO: M. Kellner/AR]
Noting that “no one has modeled leadership better than the Master Himself,” Paulsen said it was “most fulfilling to serve, then you can look back and find purpose” in that servant-leadership.

Among the six lessons he said came from 35 years of denominational leadership, were that the leader “is not the owner of this business; God is”; also to remain “close to Scripture” through study and prayer; to “accept the reality of change”; that “people are your greatest asset” while at times being “the most complex things to work with”; and that “you don’t have to be right always,” although “if you are wrong always, you have a problem.”

The sixth lesson, which Paulsen said he was still learning, was “to respect and value vision, humility and integrity.” The value of vision he described as the “clear view where you are going; humility defines the climate in which you are going to make the journey, and integrity is the character which will describe your engagement.”

He concluded by noting John the Baptist’s words about Jesus, as recorded in John 3:30: “He [Jesus] must become greater; I must become less.”(NIV) “I pray,” Paulsen said, “that in my service, I had lifted Him up.”
Paulsen’s message was presented at two morning worship services of the Loma Linda University Church, which archived the sermon online at

Following the first service, church member Gary Thompson, who lives in Loma Linda, said he was impressed with Paulsen’s candor about the ups and downs of leadership.

Also participating in the day’s activities was Dannielle Wuchenich, an attorney and a member of the University Church. She recalled first meeting Dr. Paulsen at Newbold College.

Wuchenich compared the encounter now to "40 years ago and in a different setting," noting Paulsen was a generous teacher, and "I remember how well he handled the questions from his students."

Later in the day, Paulsen was took part in “Hope of Renewal,” a presentation of the church’s “Mind and Spirit in Dialogue” series, which this year concentrates on “Adventists and the Ecology Crisis.” He emphasized the importance of caring for creation as being a Christian responsibility.
                                        -- with additional reporting by Rajmund Dabrowski, Adventist News Network


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