Global Adventist Leadership Commits to Strengthening Theological Education

General Conference

Global Adventist Leadership Commits to Strengthening Theological Education

The General Conference Executive Committee votes on plans to support doctrinal integrity.

Business Meetings | United States | Sam Neves

On April 10, 2024, the General Conference (GC) Executive Committee of the Seventh-day Adventist Church voted on comprehensive recommendations to strengthen member’s understanding of core biblical beliefs during the annual Spring Meetings held in Silver Spring, MD, United States.

The plans, put forth by senior leadership at the GC and its divisions, result from longitudinal studies and large research among lay members, pastors, and institutional workers around the world over the last 30 years. The data reveals a small but growing percentage of Adventists who struggle to understand our core biblical beliefs. These include belief in the investigative judgment, the Trinity, a literal six-day creation, the writings of Ellen G. White, and the Adventist Church's role as the last-day remnant. Moreover, there has been a marked increase in beliefs that directly contradict Adventist teachings, such as the idea that the dead are in heaven and the acceptance of consulting witch doctors.

"If we are happy with the trends, we don't have to do anything," said Ted Wilson, GC president. "However, if we want to see changes made, we have to be proactive to accomplish those changes under the guidance of the Holy Spirit."

Detailed Recommendations

The recommendations include support for educational institutions, ministerial associations, and lay member training initiatives to maintain the doctrinal integrity and spiritual health of the Adventist Church globally. The approved plans were outlined in a three-part plan.

Global Bible and Mission Conferences

The first component of the proposal is a comprehensive initiative designed to reinforce the understanding and application of the Adventist Church's core biblical beliefs. Artur Stele, general vice president of the GC, emphasized the collaborative nature of this endeavor, stating, "The Global Bible and Mission Conferences will be conducted not only by BRI but in collaboration with GRI, the White Estate, Ministerial Association, GC Institutions responsible for Ministerial training."

These conferences, to be held both in-person and virtually, will bring together a diverse group of participants, including church leaders, pastors, elders, educators, and theologians. The conferences will focus on presenting the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the Adventist Church, with an emphasis on those teachings that are distinctive to Adventism or often misunderstood. This will provide attendees with the training needed to teach others, supporting the primary goal of ensuring that every Adventist Church member, including youth and children, clearly understands the denomination's foundational teachings.

“To foster ongoing dialogue and address any questions or concerns that may arise, the proposal includes plans for an interactive website to foster dialogue, feedback, and ongoing Q&A," Stele added. This platform will serve as a hub for discussion, allowing members to engage with church leaders and theologians as they seek to deepen their understanding of Adventist beliefs.

“Ultimately, this component aims to promote a deeper understanding of and commitment to the mission of the Adventist Church,” added Stele. “By grounding members in the timeless truths of Scripture and the unique insights of the Adventist message, the Global Bible and Mission Conferences seek to inspire a new generation of believers, passionate about sharing the gospel and preparing the world for the return of Christ.”

Global Content and Media Proclamation

The second part of the proposal calls for creating and distributing a wide range of educational resources. The plan uses digital platforms and multimedia formats to make these essential teachings accessible to a global audience. Guillermo Biaggi, general vice president of the GC, shared that this multifaceted approach includes creating new books by the Biblical Research Institute (BRI) in 2024-2025, which will provide a solid foundation for understanding Adventist beliefs. Additionally, there will be a strong focus on producing numerous short and long-form videos designed to be shared across various media channels.

Emphasizing the need to provide a firm foundation for church members and wide distribution, Biaggi stated, "There is a need for synergy and partnerships, with all Church ministries, departments, and organizations, especially in the three areas prioritized through the Mission Refocus plan.”

The Adventist Review will showcase this content to Adventist audiences, while Hope Channel will share it with non-Adventist viewers. To ensure the effective implementation of this plan, the GC communication department will manage the platforms and content distribution. “The resources will also be distributed to members.” Biaggi shared. “We intend to flood media through the involvement of 22+ million Church members.”

Biaggi further highlighted the importance of multilingual availability, with content being translated into 50 languages using AI technology. This will allow people to hear the Bible truths in their native language.

Furthermore, PDF and written content from the BRI will be available for follow-up, along with online Bible studies to be found on, the Hope Channel platform.

Biaggi expressed confidence to ANN that the first and second parts of the proposal were well-received by the executive committee members, particularly because the GC treasury already has the necessary resources for these expenses.

Strengthening Formal Theological Education, Pastoral Continuing Education, and Member Religious Education

The third and most discussed aspect of the proposal deals with governance and the relationship between the church and its theological and educational institutions. The voted plans clarify that "The GC and division leaders want to support and partner with all entities of the church, so together we can fulfill our responsibility to our members, the Bible, and the Spirit of Prophecy."

The recommendation proposes appointing an individual in each division of the world church, designated as a theological resource, and reporting to the division president. This individual will coordinate efforts to strengthen both theological and religious education, working in cooperation with educational institutions to review curricula and content. They will also advise on continuing education for pastors and the hiring of religion and theology faculty in seminaries and schools of religion.

Another voted proposal is selecting a Biblical Research Institute (BRI) representative as an ex-officio member to support the boards of GC educational institutions. Considering the unique cultural and contextual challenges and opportunities of institutions outside the purview of the GC, the proposal recommends the inclusion of a representative from the division's Board of Ministerial and Theological Education on the boards of other educational institutions involved in theological and ministerial training.

The proposal also places a strong emphasis on investing in the human resources that are critical to the success of Adventist education. This includes a commitment to developing future faculty through targeted training and mentorship programs and supporting current faculty wages and working conditions.

“While these changes may require moving beyond the comfort zone of current practices,” shared Audrey Anderson, general vice president of the GC, “they are put forth in a spirit of openness, trust, and a desire to enhance the Adventist identity and mission. The goal is to strengthen the partnership between constituency-elected leadership, who represent the owners of the institutions, and the educational entities themselves. We hope they remain vibrant centers of Adventist thought and mission.”

The plans also outline the creation of a General Conference Theological Educational Review and Consultation Committee. This body will be tasked with developing criteria and guidelines for the new division roles and providing oversight and support for implementing the other recommendations in this section.

Taken together, these recommendations represent a comprehensive and forward-looking approach to strengthening the partnership between the church and its educational institutions. By fostering greater collaboration, establishing a strong framework for governance, and investing in the development and support of faculty, the church will continue its ongoing work of preparing young people for lives of faithful witness and service.

Executive Committee Discussion

The recommendations were largely perceived as crucial for the future of the denomination’s ability to fulfill its mission as presenters and committee members shared their support, suggestions, and concerns. Before its approval, the two-minute time lime was removed, allowing for members of the Executive Committee to speak freely. All speakers spoke favorably to the motion’s intent, with a few having suggestions for editorial changes, clarifications, and broader consultation as the plan is implemented.

Lay members of the executive committee were very vocal in support of the proposal. Steve Dickman, spoke to the second plan in the proposal, stating, "The reality is that I think we can use some of these systems, like social media, to have a more immediate impact if we approach it from a very positive standpoint," Dickman said.

Andy Huntzinger passionately emphasized the importance of reclaiming the Adventist identity and mission, stating, "I think unless we remember our history, we lose our identity. And if we don't have our identity which defines our mission, defines our purpose, defines our reason for being, we as a church will continue to make the same errors."

Strongly endorsing the proposal, Blasious Ruguri, president of the East-Central Africa Division, emphasized its urgency and importance. "ECD is very happy to say that we support this document. Its spirit is overdue," Ruguri stated. He highlighted the challenges faced by the church in his region, where new groups with unconventional teachings have emerged, causing confusion and disruption among members.

While affirming the overall goals, Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, director of Education at the GC, recommended that the proposal "strengthen existing processes and procedures." Beardsley-Hardy noted that many of the issues raised are already addressed in current policies and guidelines, emphasizing the importance of increasing awareness and training around these policies.

Ginger Ketting-Weller, president of AIIAS, expressed reservations regarding the third section, suggesting that it be sent back to the committee for further refinement with educator input. "I can't say I support the remedy on section three," she stated. "The messaging that will go out if we vote that section […] will be a message that doesn't bring us to collaboration and instead divides."

Tom Lemon, GC general vice president, cautioned against assigning blame to educators or pastors. "My concern is that we have sometimes in our discussions assigned a level of blame for the slippage, either to our teachers or to our pastors, which I think would be an unfortunate message to go out," Lemon noted. He shared that despite his own efforts as a pastor, some of his former members have since drifted from the church, emphasizing the value of the proposal being focused on uplifting the stakeholders.

Retired GC vice president, Ella Simmons, praised the committee's work and expressed confidence that any difficulties would be resolved positively. "I do believe that all of those difficulties are going to be worked out in a positive way. I have that faith, and I've seen so much that I know it will happen," Simmons affirmed.

Sharing his perspective on the proposal's significance in maintaining the Adventist Church's commitment to being a Bible-based movement, Mark Finley, assistant to the president of the GC, stated, "I believe that this initiative, with some refinements and discussion can help us focus on the reason why we're here. To proclaim a unique message, to prepare people for the coming of Jesus."

Executive Committee Approves Recommendations

The proposal passed with a vote of 125-29, signaling strong support. Wilson affirmed the recommendation’s final wording will reflect a “collaborative, redemptive approach.” These recommendations represent a significant investment in the future of Adventist theological education and a renewed commitment to grounding the church's mission and message in the solid foundation of Scripture. While the specifics of implementation will be worked out in the coming months, GC leadership expressed confidence that these steps will help to address the concerning trends revealed by the research and ensure that the church remains faithful to its divine calling in an increasingly complex world.