by Andrew Hanson
Where in the world is Fred Kinsey? On the official web site of the Voice of Prophecy (VOP) media ministry he is still the fourth generation director/speaker in the heritage of the legendary H. M. S. Richards. Four sources that do not want to be identified have told Adventist Today that he is leaving or may have already packed his office and moved out. His speaking appointments have been canceled. Sources say there was a lack of confidence in his leadership expressed by the VOP executive committee.
Since he took over from Lonnie Melashenko in the fall of 2008, Kinsey has initiated a number of changes in a ministry launched in 1929. He involved a team of four primary presenters and two of these are women: Connie Vandeman Jeffery, youngest daughter of George Vandeman who founded the It Is Written television ministry, and Elizabeth Viera Talbot, a pastor and Bible scholar with a Ph.D. from the University of Gloucestershire (U.K.).
Talbot “was not fired by the VOP executive committee,” Eldyn Karr, communication director for the ministry, told Adventist Today. “She and her ministry, Jesus 101, will be transitioning out of Voice of Prophecy. Jesus 101 wasn’t being underwritten by VOP funding, but by donations earmarked for that ministry. She … is not on broadcasts being produced this year.”
She will still be heard on the VOP for some time because much of the programming is reused several times. And there continues to be a page for the Jesus 101 Biblical Institute on the VOP web site.
“Her appointments at camp meetings, including this weekend in Florida, were not set up by VOP,” Karr said. “Host locations contacted her directly, as do churches and others who want a Jesus 101 Biblical Institute weekend. So far as we know, all her appointments are continuing as scheduled.” She also hosts a regular television program on the Loma Linda Broadcasting Network.
The Jesus 101 Biblical Institute ministry uses a style that is closer to a college classroom than public evangelism. Digital videos of Talbot’s teaching presentations can be seen in the Jesus 101 section of the VOP web site. She also takes a more evangelical approach.
There is an unconfirmed rumor that some members of the VOP executive committee would like Lonnie Melashenko to return to his old job in the wake of his recent retirement at Kettering Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio, where he was vice president for mission. If this is true, is it a signal that they are unhappy with the new approach under Kinsey’s leadership? Or, is it simply an interim measure?
Last year at the denomination’s “media summit” in Ontario, California, North American Division President Dan Jackson cited “sobering facts of how unknown the church is” despite significant amounts of money spent on media ministries. Last week the Adventist Media Center board voted to ask each of the ministries to write a new business plan by June 3 and gave each the freedom to move out of the center.
The decline in both listening audiences and donors for all the ministries has been a concern for some time. Kinsey was seeking to deal with concerns that have been on the table as far back as 1987 when the media center had a major outside media consulting firm do an assessment of the VOP and the other media ministries. Frank N. Magid Associates conducted research among Seventh-day Adventist Church members and the general public. Its report pointed out that it was very unlikely that the media ministries could survive the passing of their founding figures unless they were prepared to completely re-invent themselves.
As is the case with any developing story, readers are cautioned to watch for further developments. The Adventist Today news team will continue to follow this story and would appreciate any leads that readers become aware of.