Today, Friday, after worship which was done very well by Diane Thurber, Director of Christian Record, and wife of Elder Gary Thurber, President of the Mid-America Union, the days agenda focused on two items: the report from the NAD Committee on Education, and late in the day, for the last probably 90 minutes, discussion on the GC document, "Mission and Unity" which was voted two weeks ago at Annual Council.
The first five hours of today were spent in presenting a report of eight recommendations on K-12 education resulting from an intensive NAD study committee that has been meeting and gathering data for probably 18 months. Included in their findings was the task of identifying some sobering data points that most of us are aware of and which underscore the decline of enrollment in NAD K-12 schools. Two slides/pics I've offered that are from the committees report make the dramatic case for significant decline. The first picture represents the assembly of NAD participants as they give their individual various reports resulting from the discussion groups we were each assigned to. These groups separately focused on each of the 8 report recommendations. The second picture, below, indicates the drastic decline of enrollments in NAD K-12 students from the year 2007 to the 2012-13 school year. The graph reveals a total decline of 40% or so as measured across all grades.
These declines are so significant that it calls into question the viability of the system in the years ahead. A slide I did not offer in this post, and also taken from the report, reflects a closure of over 60 NAD schools in K-12, in the last two year report period of 2010 thru 2012; the highest number of closures in a two year period, ever recorded.
A second slide below which is difficult to read due to how it's positioned, reveals a 22% enrollment drop from around 1996 to 2012 which as best I can interpret, appears to have moved from a total of over 70,000 students around 1976, to around 50,000 total in 2012. That is despite the total membership growth in the NAD which today is around 1.2 million members - almost twice as many members than the NAD had in 1976 (511,068 according to 1976 yearbook). To restate: around 75,000 students in 1976 (perhaps that included College and University as it seems high) with a membership of just over 500,000 . . . to 50,000 students, with a membership exceeding 1 million in 2012!
Clearly, we are challenged! Another time and place I'll share more on the recommendations, but as an example of the helpful suggestions that are being discussed and in the near future, promoted throughout the NAD, is the idea of fostering better teamwork between pastor and teachers which is viewed as not only critical to the success of our schools, but recognizes that when the relationship between the two leadership entities is not characterized by mutual respect and commitment to success of the school, the result is enormous harm to the mission of education.
We live in a very challenging era for SDA Christian education, and as you'll note, this report, and our discussion DID NOT address the declines in NAD College and Universities, an equally sobering landscape in and of itself!
The final slide I share below, is of a few of the NAD Year End Meeting attendees who were lining up at the various microphones to be heard on the issue of the "Statement on Mission and Unity" from the GC. As one might surmise, there was a LOT of passion in the 'air,' as several young adults, representing the SA Presidents from various Universities, stood to air their disappointment and deep concern over the future of the Church that, in their view, is "majoring in minors" at best, and at worst, giving millennials more reasons to leave Adventism. I want to add however, that one young man from Canada, rose to address the attendees and stated that in his view, the action of the GC as reflected in the Statement is and was an appropriate reaction and that many of his peers agree that it is the two Union's which have caused the potential for disunity and not the GC!
This sentiment was expressed by a couple of other attendees who suggested this is an opportunity for humility and seeking the will of God rather than our own impassioned convictions. However, it seemed that by far, the majority of those addressing the issue were strongly verbally passionate about the perceived "injustice" of the GC statement, the potential harm it will cause the NAD, and finally, their view of the unbiblical and unsupported claims of "male headship" and "last generation" theology which was expressed as the driving ideology behind the desire to prevent females from being ordained to pastoral ministry.
A couple of interesting votes were proposed from the floor on this matter:
One, that NAD delegates would today, thru voted action, state NAD refusal to engage further in the six-month period the GC has asked for, beginning now, that desires and requires NAD leadership to approach the Columbia and Pacific Unions and ask for their compliance on ordination policy. This proposal was offered in recognition, stated again today, and representing the expressed opinion from the NAD, that the two union Executive Committees and their leadership, and possibly their constituencies, will NOT reverse their votes regardless of being approached and asked to do so. This recommendation for voted approval, was strongly resisted by NAD leadership, who made it clear that abiding by the request of the GC was their desire, no matter the predicted outcome of the two unions expected sentiments on the issue.
A second voted recommendation ended the day, and that was a motion from Dr. Randall Wisbey, President of La Sierra University, that the GC leadership be requested to recognize Sandy Roberts, the only woman in the SDA denomination serving as a Conference President, as a duly elected and fully recognized president, and that she be issued credentials to that effect and her name be placed in the SDA year book, where there is presently a "blank" beside the title President, S.E. California Conference. This action was voted by a margin of about 141 for, and perhaps 43 against?
It is my own view that the GC is unlikely to abide by this voted request as it would represent a violation of present policy which denies the authority of being a Conference or Mission President to anyone who does not hold the credential of "Ordained Minister," and even though Pacific Union has conferred that credential upon Sandy, the GC does not recognize the legitimacy of the credential. I expect that we will likely return to the "Statement" issue when we reconvene for business, Sunday morning.
A statement made late today reflected my own sentiment: it will take a miracle of God to bring a peaceful and acceptable resolution on this matter, and it is well to remind ourselves, God IS bigger than our challenges, . . . and . . his "defective" church, is the "supreme object of his love and affection."