A new academic program sponsored by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is expected to boost knowledge and expertise in the life and work of Ellen G. White, a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Ellen G. White and Adventist Studies post-graduate certificate is a joint effort between the Ellen G. White Estate and Andrews University, a Seventh-day Adventist school in Berrien Springs, Michigan United States.
“I have been praying for years for God to open a way so that we could offer this option,” said Andrews University church history professor and Center for Adventist Research director Merlin Burt. “We wanted a program for those who teach Ellen G. White to better understand the issues and present them in a positive way.”
Leaders behind the project explained that the academic initiative will be offered at post-master’s level, and will include intensive sessions over three years in four locations around the world. About half of the credit may be transferable to a doctoral program.
They also explained that tuition will be free, but space is limited to 30 students in each location. World church administrative regions, or divisions, will recommend their students and cover travel and related expenses, they said.
Goals of the Program
One of the main goals of the program is to train and equip Adventist Studies teachers, Ellen G. White Studies teachers, and Ellen G. White center directors, Burt said. “We would like this program to inform pastors, professors, and leaders around the world.”
Burt also explained that the new degree “will also help us to conduct effective research in Ellen White studies and in Adventist theology and history.”
Adventists believe that Ellen G. White exercised the biblical gift of prophecy during more than 70 years of public ministry. It is the reason why an end goal of the program, Burt explained, is that students will be able to “articulate a biblical and theologically sound understanding of the prophetic gift as manifested through Ellen G. White.”
Mission and Identity
The program will receive input from the Adventist Church Department of Education, the Biblical Research Institute, and the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, leaders reported.
Adventist Church education department director Lisa Beardsley-Hardy emphasized that the new program is not just about academics. “It is also about mission,” she said. It is a way of strengthening a Seventh-day Adventist identity.
“An identity is developed and formed through stories, by remembering the way God has worked in our history and in various parts of the world,” Beardsley-Hardy added.
Feedback on the initiative has been positive.
“We are strong supporters of this program and are very excited about it,” said Adventist University of Africa (AUA) vice-chancellor Delbert Baker. AUA is one of the four international locations chosen to host a program cohort. The other three are the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in the Philippines, Peruvian Union University (UPeU) in Peru, and the Polish Senior College of Theology and Humanities in Poland. Classes will be offered in English in three of the locations, and in Spanish at UPeU.
The first cohort is expected to begin attending classes at AIIAS in February 2020, leaders said.