In an earlier post, I expressed concern about the action of the Michigan Conference relating to LaSierra University. The denominational school (which I attended as a graduate student when it was part of Loma Linda University) has been accused of promoting evolution; the Michigan Conference Executive Committee voted that they would not offer the usual tuition subsidy to employees who sent their children there. This action came just a couple of days after Ricardo Graham, the president of the Pacific Union Conference and chairman of the LaSierra board of trustees, laid out actions the board was taking to address the issue. I raised questions about ecclesiology; it seemed that the Michigan Conference was doing an end run around the Pacific Union Conference.
Since then, I have learned that other conferences are considering similar action.
Also, the Michigan Conference asked the General Conference Session to approve the Affirmation of Creation that the GC Executive Committee had passed in 2004, and to revise the statement of Fundamental Beliefs to be very specific that Seventh-day Adventists accept a literal six-day creation and a young earth. The GC did this today; two motions were approved, the first endorsing the aforementioned Affirmation of Creation, the second beginning a process that could lead to a revision of Fundamental Belief #6.
Meanwhile, the LaSierra University board has reportedly set up a committee to discipline three board members who dared to pass on information to the North American Division and the General Conference. Now, sadly, I have to say that it is LaSierra that is acting in inappropriate ways in terms of ecclesiology. LaSierra operates under the auspices of the Pacific Union Conference, the North American Division, and the General Conference. Board members, as members of the church, have individual and corporate accountability to the church. They were acting in faithfulness to that responsibility by keeping the higher levels of the church informed of the actions of the board.
Established in 1874, Battle Creek College had undergone some challenges in its leadership. In 1881, a new president was installed who was new to the Adventist church. A greater emphasis was placed on the study of both the classics and the sciences—to the detriment of Biblical instruction.
During the summer of 1881, Ellen White wrote a testimony regarding the College to be publicly read at the Michigan Conference camp-meeting. Instead, the testimony was read at the even more public venue of the General Conference session in December of that year. Relevant portions of that testimony can be read at my earlier posted quote. (The full message can be found at Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 21-36.)
A main concern of Ellen White was the emphasis on the sciences at the expense of the Bible. She showed a special interest in maintaining a clear teaching on creation. “In God’s word alone,” she asserted, “we find an authentic account of creation” (5 Test., 25). She displayed a willingness to both publicly rebuke the leadership of the college and to warn church members of the problems at the College. “We can give,” she memorably warned, “no encouragement to parents to send their children to Battle Creek College” (5 Test., 21). She proposed that if the College was not returned to the Biblical-centered model, that the church should “sell it out to worldlings” and “establish another school” upon the “plan which God has specified” (5 Test., 25-26).
Please read the rest of Nick’s post–to which I say, “Touché.”
As for LaSierra, and its students, faculty, parents, and constituencies, I urge, listen to what the church has said at this General Conference. Creation is not a matter of interpretation–it is a fundamental component of our belief as Seventh-day Adventists. Our belief in the Sabbath and in marriage are rooted in Creation. Our Advent hope includes the proclamation to “Worship the Creator.” Affirmation of the truth of the Creation story is critical for our belief in redemption. If any teacher or institution undermines belief in it–yes, by all means, stay away.