Each year the report from NAD Education is both inspiring, and sobering. Inspiring, because some great things are happening in our schools and in the lives of our students. Sobering, because the statistics continue to demonstrate a drop in both the number of schools, and, overall enrollment. True not only in the k-12 level, but, the impact is being felt on the Collegiate level. Only one college in North America had an enrollment increase this year: Union.
A couple of slides illustrate the challenges:
Despite the down-turn, SDA education continues to be viewed as a very important part of SDA mission, and in fact, in some of the data shared yesterday regarding mission, many believe that nothing is more important than the education part of the church.
Monday's worship was given by Elder Ted Wilson, who, in making his final devotional point, presented his "driveway sealing" clothes that he has used for years for the dirty job of maintenance on his driveway. The picture doesn't do justice to how ripped and filthy the garments were.
He then took out another outfit, given to him from the church in India. It was a beautiful embroidered silk outfit. Illustrating how the righteousness of Jesus covers our sins, Elder Wilson placed the beautiful garment in front of the old one. The "new" beautiful one, as Ellen White observed, does not have "a single thread of self" in it.
Elder Honore, the President of North Eastern Conference, was the devotional speaker Friday night. An outstanding sermon on "the Rock" taken from Moses in the Wilderness journey and the experience of water from the rock.
The business sessions on Sunday and Monday have proven to be very interesting. Some of you may recall an historic meeting conducted over a year ago at Dulles Airport where administrators from all over North America convened for the purpose of reviewing NAD initiatives and to review whether the time has come to consider re-organization. I think many were unsure whether anything substantive would emerge from that meeting where the consensus was to review options, and the means by which the mission of the church could be advanced, more efficiently. The goal is to build the Kingdom with less expense and less duplication of administrative oversite. Since the Dulles Meeting, a committee comprised of pastors, lay people, and administrators have been meeting and the report was shared Monday in the form of a significant 40 page book, filled with analysis and various options which would potentially result in significant cost savings to the denomination.
A number of delegates addressed the issue from the microphone and some of those speeches were shared by those who believe that One, any modification to organizational structures would possibly harm the mission rather than enhance it, and Two, particularly from the mid-west where consolidation has happened on both union and local levels, the belief seems to be consolidation serves to embitter the constituency, and does not enhance the mission.
However, when it was time for the delegates to vote on 13 specific considerations regarding further study of re-organization, every option was supported by a majority of delegates. The vote simply means "please continue to give study to this." Some of the ideas are quite radical: a "union of churches" where the union level disappears, to consolidation of smaller conferences.
Why was there such wide support for giving further study? Because in the words of Elder Jackson, "We either become pro-active, and give study to becoming "leaner and more efficient" OR . . . given time . . . and perhaps not a lot of time, this will become a crisis that like a bomb is dropped on us." I agree. The reason is that there are very clear 'data points' - and some were presented yesterday - that illustrate the increasing decline of tithe support across the NAD. While NAD largely has gains in tithe, there is significant 'erosion' in value of those dollars in the sense of keeping pace with inflation, and, the number of members actually contributing. As the WW II generation passes away, and the baby boomers retire, the 'trend' of tithe support is not promising. A few pictures that reflect some of the realities.
On another topic: The slide below illustrates the proposed NAD 2016 Budget and it gives you a little glimpse of the areas that NAD funds.
Nominee for SAU President . . . Finally, for those of you actually reviewing this Blog, I suggested that I would pass on, if I could, the name of the individual being "nominated" to succeed Dr. Gordon Bietz at Southern, upon his retirement next Spring. The Search Committee, reporting last night in a tele-conference SAU Board meeting, resulted in the Board voting to continue to "explore" the name of Dr. John McVey presently serving as President of Walla Walla University. The next step in this process is that Dr. McVey will be invited to visit SAU and engage with various interest groups; students, staff, etc.
Today - Tuesday - we are hearing reports from Christian Record Braille, Pacific Press, both in its report and in voting its new quinquennium board, has absorbed most of the morning session.