Educate Truth shares the following article excerpts from La Sierra University’s student paper The Criterion as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Educate Truth.
Apostate or Apostles
By Natalie Romero
On May 25th, 2010, the Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists removed La Sierra University from its employee subsidy list. The charge: apostasy.
Some are outraged. Many see it as, since it happened last year. Others have no idea what is going on. The case, I believe, deserves some attention, howeverâ€”especially after recent visitations from both WASC and AAA accreditation bodies. For those who are not up to date on their religious vernacular, apostasy means a complete desertion and departure from oneâ€™s religion, cause, or principles. La Sierra University has been accused of this desertion due to the inclusion of the theory of evolution in some biology courses.
There has been talk of other conferences taking the same action, which could prove disastrous for many students who are counting on that financial aid in order to attend La Sierra.
Defining just how we learn and how we teach, especially in the field of science at this institution is important. ‘Different people mean different things when they use the term evolution,’ said Dr. Gary Bradley, a professor of biology and genetics at La Sierra. He explained that for most conservative Christians, the word ‘evolution’ carries the usual anti-God connotation. However, for a scientist, the word represents the process by which all kinds of alterations and modifications happen in our world. Dr. Bradley believes that the Creator God designed the world with the ability for evolution to occur, and urges everyone to learn as much as they can about our Lordâ€™s created universe. ‘There is abundant evidence that living things change. Thus evolution is well documented and well supported in the scientific world. It is unconscionable for a science student to remain ignorant of this fundamental aspect of life.’
This past summer, WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) reaffirmed La Sierraâ€™s accreditation for eight more years; and hopes are high that the Accrediting Association of Seventh-day Adventist Schools (AAA) will follow suit and also renew LSUâ€™s accreditation when they convene on March 31st. Accreditation is vital, because it means that the university in question has been deemed to be operating at the level of quality consistent with its mission statement, as well as with the expectations of a school of higher education. As President Wisbey put it, ‘Accreditation is one of the most important marks a university can earn. It is a measure of excellence in education.’
Despite the renewal of accreditation, the WASC evaluation team noted the issues pertaining to LSUâ€™s Biology Department. While they understand that itâ€™s mainly a denominational issue, it directly touches on several WASC standards, including the roles of the faculty and academic freedom. As a result, WASC plans to send a team back to our campus later on this spring for a reevaluation. And hopes are high
But despite the concern by some, others are confident that this will all subside in time. ‘Iâ€™ve seen this kind of thing happen in other times and places. Eventually, it has blown over and the focus has shifted elsewhere,’ said Jocelyn Fay of the Southeastern California Conference.
In the opinion of Dr. Kendra Haloviak of the School of Religion, we are a ‘passionately Adventist institution,’ far from apostasy. The Twenty-Eight Fundamental Beliefs are some of the most important aspects that define us as a church. And despite what others may say, the Twenty-Eight Beliefs are actually taught in a variety of ways at La Sierra. ‘When I heard about the decision by the Michigan Conference I wondered if anyone there had contacted our campus before their action,’ Haloviak said. ‘If those with concerns had been able to have a conversation with the members of our community, they would encourage their employeesâ€™ college-aged children to further their Adventist education at La Sierra University.’ And with the highest enrollment in recent memory, with 2,098 students registering for Fall quarter, Haloviakâ€™s confidence in LSUâ€™s standard of education seems to be substantiated.