Opinion – La Sierra Debacle
by Elwin Dunn
The recent events surrounding the La Sierra University debacle make me appalled and ashamed to be associated with some in the Church who call themselves Christians.
In recent years, a group of religious zealots, in both leadership and membership roles, have sought to lay claim to purity and understanding of the early chapters of Genesis – so much so, that anyone with a differing understanding of these very same scriptures has been told to renounce his or her membership in, and get out of, the church our forefathers founded.
One of the Church’s Universities, La Sierra University, has been particularly taken to task because some members of its faculty have been guilty of doing exactly what a university is supposed to do, namely, teaching students to learn how to think.
Based on both their website, “Educate Truth”, and their comments in numerous blogs, those associated with this perspective see themselves as the only owners of knowledge and truth in our church. Inasmuch as they, along with others, have a Biblical belief system which is enunciated as “the Bible says it, I believe it, the matter is closed” view, totally removing the question of differing understandings of the same material by others.
Their view of church membership is akin to the wearing of a school uniform. Doing so is a declarative statement of belonging to a specific group and belief system. If you don’t wear the uniform in the prescribed manner, you can no longer be part of that group.
I have had the opportunity to serve in numerous capacities over the past 40 years which include the Executive Committees of both the Southeastern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, as well as the on the Executive Committee of the North American Division of SDA. Over the years, I have served under leaders who were varied from strongly authoritative to will-of-the wisp, to consensus builders.
I have no inside knowledge of specific events, save as have been made public, on what is, or what has happened at La Sierra University. However, I am appalled at the manner in which the issues surrounding La Sierra’s stated shortcomings have been dealt with.
University Administration has allowed itself to be manipulated by a small group of individuals to the extent that finally the University President and Board of Trustees Chair issue a statement which satisfies no one and uses data which clearly is valueless as a basis for their decisions.
Just days ago, with great publicity, but totally without explanation and a week before the end of the current school year, resignations are demanded from four University administrators. Based on unsubstantiated information leakage, this was done based on information found on a privately recorded tape being used without due process.
Leadership has a duty to all its constituents: In this case, the church and its supporting membership, academia and all it represents, and even more so, to the specific individuals involved. The decisions made and taken may have been the only ones thought to be viable by Administration/the Board of Trustees. Only with full transparency and passing of time will one be able to judge this.
What clearly has not been part of the process is transparency.
Elwin Dunn is a retired surgeon. He has served multiple terms on the Southeastern California Conference of SDA Executive Committee and one term on the North American Division of SDA Executive Committee. He has also served as Chair of Adventist Today Foundation.