Griggs University, the distance-learning institution of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, could move its operations from the church's headquarters in Maryland to Andrews University in Michigan following an action by denomination's Executive Committee.
The committee voted yesterday to transfer its oversight of Griggs to Andrews. The Griggs board had voted to pursue such a proposal last week. Further action on a proposed move and merger now hinges on approval from the Andrews board, which is scheduled to meet October 24 to 26.
A merger would increase the synergy of resources for both institutions, church education leaders said.
The action came during a meeting of the world church's Executive Committee, gathering this week for its Annual Council business meetings.
While Griggs has expanded into developing markets during the past five years, it has struggled financially and has had difficulty keeping up with evolving distance education technology and practices, leaders said.
"Long term, this [merger] would allow the church to do distance education more successfully," said Lisa Beardsley, the Adventist Church's Education director. "It requires a critical mass of resources to do this well and compete in the distance education marketplace."
Beardsley said moving the organization back to an academic setting -- with a large faculty base -- would increase the resources for curriculum development, from kindergarten on up through doctoral programs. Griggs' prior location at the church's previous headquarters in Takoma Park was near Columbia Union College, which is now Washington Adventist University. It has operated at the church's current headquarters in Silver Spring since the building opened in 1989.
A merger could offer a centralized distance education center that could serve the world church and partner with it's other educational institutions, said Ella Simmons, Griggs board chair and a general vice president of the Adventist Church.
Both Griggs and Andrews are institutions directly affiliated with the church's world headquarters.
"Its seems like this [merger] could be a blessing for many people," Andrews President Niels-Erik Andreasen told delegates yesterday following a presentation on future opportunities, including the finances and logistics of a possible merge.
Andrews representatives have studied the possible transition following their board's request in May. That move came after the church's Executive Committee last year created a commission to study distance education in the denomination.
Yesterday's Executive Committee voted proposal includes $250,000 in appropriations for four years for major curriculum development and a total transfer cost of $2 million to $2.5 million.
Adventist Church Treasurer Robert Lemon said the church would recover its appropriations over time.
"Griggs University and International Academy under Andrews would be able to serve the church in an even better way than they have been able to, and they have a great legacy of service to the church," Lemon said.
Griggs University launched in 1909 as a correspondence school for children of missionaries living oversees. It soon took the name Home Study International. The institution has evolved to serve college and graduate students, entering areas of the world where the Adventist Church hasn't.