Is La Sierra University Leaving the Adventist Church? No!

For immediate Release
March 15, 2013
La Sierra University
Larry Becker
Executive Director, University Relations
lbecker@lasierra.edu

Several groups and individuals are using postings on independent websites to allege proposed changes in La Sierra University’s bylaws are an attempt to weaken or break the school’s historic ties with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. While the theories these critics present appear to be objective, they omit important information about the bylaws, the revision process, and recent actions by the university’s board, administration, and faculty.

“Let there be no mistake and let there be no question, La Sierra University intends to enter its third decade of existence as a reputable university that is clearly Seventh-day Adventist, upholding the values and principles that our church has prized since its beginnings as a movement,” says Steve Pawluk, university provost.

Some things to consider when evaluating online discussions of La Sierra’s commitment to its Adventist core include:

1. Throughout the university’s accreditation conversations and bylaws revision process, La Sierra University’s Articles and Bylaws Committee maintained the position that the university would remain distinctively Adventist. Governance concerns expressed by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), our regional accrediting body, prompted the bylaws discussion. But WASC’s concerns were focused on the University’s governance practices, not on its mission. During their two years of careful work to resolve WASC issues, committee members also ensured the bylaws remained in alignment with the University’s mission and values, developed and voted by the faculty, staff, and trustees. (http://lasierra.edu/fileadmin/documents/provost/Strategic_Plan_At-a-Glance.pdf)

2. The proposed bylaws require the Board of Trustees to ensure the mission and major policies of the university are well aligned with the goals and objectives of the Adventist Church. The board oversees the strategic plan and its progress. Adventist mission is central to the function of the board.

3. The revised bylaws make no change in the number or offices of the church leaders who serve the board on an ex officio basis. The board will continue to have among its members the Pacific Union Conference president, secretary, treasurer, vice president, director of education, and the presidents of the Southern and Southeastern California conferences and the Arizona Conference.

4. La Sierra University’s comprehensive Spiritual Master Plan (entire document available at: http://lasierra.edu/index.php?id=8122) makes the following clear statements about the university’s commitment to the church:

  • La Sierra University is committed to the Seventh-day Adventist faith and life.
  • La Sierra University embraces the biblical Sabbath as a gift of sacred time.
  • La Sierra looks to the future with eagerness, anticipating the fulfillment of the Advent hope.

“La Sierra University remains deeply committed to the Adventist philosophy of education.  Our mission of seeking truth, knowing God, and serving others is daily experienced by our students and those privileged to accompany them on their educational journey.  The university’s Spiritual Master Plan guides our work in providing invigorating classroom conversations, meaningful worship experiences, and transformative service opportunities,” says Randal Wisbey, president.

5. The university’s Faculty Senate has voted to ask the HMS Richards Divinity School to develop a new 4-unit course on Seventh-day Adventist beliefs. This course will begin during the 2013-14 school year, and will be required for all students.

Critical voices are often loud, and their accusatory tone attracts attention. Their self-assured manner suggests that they are speaking with authority. But be assured, there are other more credible voices to be heard.

Recently Lime Twig, a marketing consulting firm specializing in higher education, did some research as part of their work for La Sierra University. They spoke with students, faculty, administrators, staff, academy principals and students, alumni, and parents of current students. They found that one of La Sierra’s strengths was an “authentic Christian experience of the Adventist tradition.”

They also examined the creation-evolution controversy specifically, and found that the university has grown stronger as a result. Their conclusions on this issue are quoted in their entirety:

“Due to the biology controversy, as a community of scholars and learners, the University has taken a deep look at its place and purpose in the Seventh-day Adventist community. As a result, faculty, staff and students stand proud as members of this academic institution with a renewed strength and conviction in providing a place of diverse thought and investigation where people from all backgrounds can explore Christian faith, held strong by the foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist church.”

Finally, consider the following comment from a La Sierra University Board of Trustee member at the February informational meeting in Westlake Village:

“I would ask one thing of you. Please let La Sierra speak for itself. Please do not let voices who send random e-mails or get on blogs speak for your school.  Please don’t…

“When all of this swirls around us and the mean spiritedness comes in, remember that all of us bring something to the table, we all have our own wisdom and experience, and that all of us are trying to do the best for our God and for our church under the best circumstances that we can.

“And if we remember that, I think we will come with bylaws and new policies that will make us stronger and better to move into the next century and be even a larger power in this world than we are today. I am a trustee of La Sierra because it’s a place that God lives.”

“When all of this swirls around us and the mean spiritedness comes in, remember that all of us bring something to the table, we all have our own wisdom and experience, and that all of us are trying to do the best for our God and for our church under the best circumstances that we can.

“And if we remember that, I think we will come with bylaws and new policies that will make us stronger and better to move into the next century and be even a larger power in this world than we are today. I am a trustee of La Sierra because it’s a place that God lives.”

NEXT: La Sierra University Accreditation: A Brief History

Previous Releases:

Vote on La Sierra University Bylaws changes postponed; Constituency Delegates share feedback on proposals (March 5, 3013)

  • Last update on  April 05, 2013