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2015 Discussions

Date: January 24, 2015

Speaker: Dr. Karl Bailey

Position: Associate Professor of Psychology & Coordinator, Behavioral Neuroscience Program, Andrews University

Topic: “The Psychology of a Peculiar People: Studies of Adventist Sabbath-keeping and Other Distinctive Doctrines”

Venue: Chan Shun Hall

Attendance: 80


Presentation: He explored SDA uniqueness (health message, longevity, family-oriented, Sabbath-keeping) & understanding of body, mind, spirit, soul separateness & shared recent US & Brazilian surveys of college students’ views of free will, determinism, reductionism & how religiosity relates to wellbeing among WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic) SDA youth whose sense of autonomy, relatedness, & competence shapes their views of Sabbath-keeping. His survey of 347 subjects covered 47 items on the degree to which students integrated & internalized keeping Sabbath & their positive and negative feelings about this aspect of the Adventist lifestyle.



Date: February 21, 2015


Speaker: Panel of six members from Andrews University

Positions: Dr. Meredith Jones Gray, moderator, Chair, English Department; Dr. Kurt Vanderwaal, Chair, Social Work Department; Dr. Nancy Carbonell, Associate Professor, Graduate Psychology and Counseling; Dr. Jan Age Sigvartsen, Adjunct Professor, Old Testament, SDA Theological Seminary; Leanne Sigvartsen, co-author, Beyond Beliefs I; Alisa Williams, Annual Giving Coordinator, Office of Development & Spectrum on-line Spirituality Editor

Topic: “The Millennial Generation and the Adventist Church”

Venue: Chan Shun Hall

Attendance: 61

Presentation: The 95,000,000 U.S. Millennials (born 1982-2003) are a racially diverse, best-educated, most tech savvy, media involved, individualistic, tolerant generation of multi-taskers & team players. They are less religious, more in debt, more distrustful of authority, more optimistic than their Baby Boomer parents, but also more spiritual. As SDAs they question old positions, care about social causes, give generously, value authenticity, are eclectic in musical & artistic tastes, value social networks, pray & study their Bibles, support the 28 Fundamental Beliefs (especially Sabbath & Creationism), but dislike judgmentalism & mistreatment of LGBTQ’s & women (they are pro-ordination).




Date: March 28, 2015

Speaker: Dr. Brian E. Strayer
Position: Professor of History, Andrews University & author of J. N. Loughborough: The Last of the Adventist Pioneers (2014)
Topic: “When Loughborough Got It Wrong: An Examination of J. N. Loughborough’s Historical Writings”
Venue: Chan Shun Hall
Attendance: 57
Presentation: In his historical articles, pamphlets, and books [Rise & Progress (1892), Great Second Advent Movement (1905), and Last-Day Tokens 1904)], JNL’s hasty research, positive Irish bent, evangelistic intent, personal biases, and apologetic treatment of the SDA past made him misspell names, cite incorrect dates, exaggerate EGW’s role, present partial truths, ignore inconvenient facts, whitewash some pioneers’ reputations, push incorrect views (shut door, vitalism, the daily, last generation), and use “holy hyperbole” to understate the threats to the “rise and progress” of Adventism theme he wished to promote.  However, his legacy to Adventism today is staggering.



Date: April 11, 2015

Speaker: Deborah Berecz, J.D.

Position: Collaborative Lawyer & Mediator, Berrien & Kent Counties, Michigan

Topic: “Conflict as Catalyst—Is a Lawsuit the Best Option?”

Venue: Chan Shun Hall

Attendance: 44

Presentation: SDAs, who believe in the value of community, still face conflicts, which can be catalysts for growth. Only 2-5% of lawsuits filed get heard, but alternative dispute resolution methods (based on the Navajo practice of “peacemaking circles”) bring 70%-80% resolution. These include arbitration (with a private decision-maker), mediation (with a neutral mediator, less formal, interest-based, & parties decide together), and collaborative approach (trained coach helps parties decide, informal, brings deep peace). Deborah’s experience shows that collaborative methods bring better understanding, long-term resolution for all, & better results for kids in divorce disputes.



Date: August 22, 2015

Speakers: Andrews University panel of Dr. Niels-Erik Andreasen; Dr. Andrea Luxton; Dr. Alayne Thorpe; Dr. Christon Arthur; Alisa Williams; Paul Kim

Positions: University President; Provost; Dean School of Distance Learning; Dean School of Graduate Studies & Research; Annual Giving Coordinator; Professor of Film

Topic: “The San Antonio (Texas) General Conference Session: Insights from Andrews University Insiders”

Venue: Chan Shun Hall

Attendance: 95

Presentation: Panelists discussed the inadvisability of revising Church Manual at GC sessions; ordination being almost a sacrament; use of “recent” & “historical” relating to Creation; conflict between “unity” & “uniformity”; source of authority in Church; NAD individualism vs. group-think in Developing World; Tradition vs. Post-Modernism; use of social media at GC (Twitter, Periscope, Facebook); Millennials’ reaction to GC; dangers of using EGW quotes (rather than sola scriptura) in Fundamental Beliefs; the hostility to women after ordination vote; failure of electronic voting technology; culturally-based divisions in Church; perks enjoyed by leaders in 4th level Sky Boxes.


Date: September 12, 2015

Speaker: Dr. Elizabeth Johnston Taylor

Position: Professor of Nursing, Loma Linda University School of Nursing

Topic: “Prayer and Illness: Evidence-Informed Reflections”

Venue: Chan Shun Hall

Attendance: 63

Presentation: Beth provided four definitions of prayer and statistics showing that women, minorities, Protestants, older, poorer, married & conservative Americans pray most often & that 70%-90% in U.S. believe prayer improves health.  She cited numerous studies (1999-2015) on prayer for the sick, some with positive & others with equivocal results.  Prayer does seem to decrease pain perception, fatigue, inflammatory markers, anger & aggression & increase resilience & emotional wellbeing.  Recent studies show that trust-based prayer, a positive, loving image of God, support from others, gratitude, adoration, & confession bring better psychological health & less depression

Date: October 17, 2015

Speaker: Dr. David Thomas

Position: Dean, School of Theology, Walla Walla University

Topic: “From ‘Ekklesia’ to Something Else: Church Organization and How It Changes over Time”

Venue: Chan Shun Hall

Attendance: 36 [competition with GC-sponsored Ellen G. White Symposium]

Presentation: SDA Church is moving from “ekklesia” (a community of believers) to an authoritarian structure using business-like language, not “body language”. Movements follow 5 stages (entrepreneurial, growth, maturity, decline, crisis).  Change in Church is hindered by promoting loyalists, a large infrastructure, organizational entropy, funding infrastructure rather than mission, replacing volunteers with paid professionals, & rise of administrative power (policy makers replace visionaries, hierarchy replaces volunteerism, coercion replaces free will, orthodoxy replaces spectrum of thought).  As the Church becomes more of a corporation, can the Holy Spirit continue to work through it?


Date: November 14, 2015

Speakers: Dr. Ronald Osborn; Dr. Robert Johnston; Dr. James Hayward

Positions: Mellen Postdoctoral Fellow at Wellesley College; Emeritus Professor of New Testament at SDA Theological Seminary; Research Professor Emeritus of Biology at Andrews University

Topic: “Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering”

Venue: Chan Shun Hall

Attendance: 65

Presentation: 3 men discussed Ron’s book on literalism & animal suffering in light of Gen. 1:31.  How could death enter a creation that was “good”?  God’s concept of “good” may not mean “perfect,” but allow for “wildness” & the need for Christ’s redemption.  I Cor. 15 calls death an enemy, yet reproduction & death are basic to life, even in the womb (cells between fingers & toes die to produce digits).  Nearly 90% of body cells are bacteria that die all the time.  A deathless creation is a static creation (stasis) without reproduction, but God created a world with endless possibilities.  What we believe has no impact on what actually happened, so we should humbly examine new evidence.



Date: December 19, 2015

Speaker: Dr. Rebekah Liu

Position: Ordained minister in China

Topic: “A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in China.”

Venue: Whirlpool Room, Chan Shun Hall

Attendance: 40 (?)

Presentation: When the Communists took over in China in 1949 there were 200 SDA pastors, 20,000 members in 200 churches; the denomination there had several schools & medical institutions. Despite the fact that Adventist ministers were sent to labor camps, church properties were confiscated, and SDA institutions were closed, the number of SDAs increased 1000% to almost 200,000 by 1989, when religious freedoms increased somewhat. Since 2000 membership growth has been slow; without centralized leadership organization is congregational. This contributes to diversity in doctrine & praxis, with a strong emphasis on legalism; presentations on grace are regarded as heretical even today.

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