New ADRA President Has Spent His First Year Getting the Organization Back to Basics
by Monte Sahlin
By Adventist Today News Team, January 15, 2014
"Basic management principles of giving [employees] a clear vision [and] a clear understanding of how their skills … contribute toward achieving that vision, also affirming them and being grateful to them for the contribution that they make" were "lost sight of" at the Adventist Relief and Development Agency (ADRA), Jonathan Duffy told Adventist Today in an interview being published as part of the Viewpoints series. He said this as part of his response to a question about the situation that he found when he moved a year ago from ADRA Australia to ADRA's international headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.
A serious conflict had developed between the previous ADRA president, Rudi Maier, and some members, although Adventist Today has been told by current and former ADRA staff that firings of key workers and others leaving ADRA in despair continued after the crisis and even after Duffy took charge. "Because staff and board roles had been blurred, it probably took him some time to get a handle on a clear position of leadership," one former ADRA official told Adventist Today on condition of anonymity. (Adventist Today has previously published reports on the crisis at ADRA in both its magazine and the news section of the Web edition.)
Duffy acknowledged that "we've lost … some experienced people who understood the development sector very well." He stated in the interview that his perspective is that "the success of ADRA doesn't rest with me. The success of ADRA really rests with the individual employees of ADRA." His goal is "making ADRA very much a desirable place to work. If I can accomplish that, then I think that will bring out the best in people, and ADRA will succeed."
Asked about the impact of the crisis at ADRA on its ability to get funding and collaborative partners for projects, Duffy said, "Our relationships and our reputation I don't think have been tarnished too much. Things happen internally and sometimes we globalize them [when] in reality they are … internal issues." More of his assessment of the current view of ADRA among government officials and other nonprofits is included in the interview, as well as an analysis of the sources of ADRA's funding and his ideas about how the work of ADRA can become part of what local churches could do to meet needs in communities in North America.
Duffy underlined the importance of ADRA to the mission of the Adventist Church, while at the same time cautioning against mixing the recruitment of members with ministries of compassion. "In the Bible there are 2,103 texts that call us to social responsibility, to reach out to our neighbors, to speak out against issues of injustice. … It's a central theme" of Bible teachings even if it is unknown to some Adventists as well as other Christians. He pointed out that The Ministry of Healing by Ellen G. White, one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, expands in detail on this theme, applying it to every aspect of human life and community dynamics.
The interview with Duffy was published in two parts in the Features section of this Web edition of Adventist Today–Part 1 and Part 2.