February 26, 2024

New Endowment to Contribute to Black Adventist Research

Andrews University recently celebrated the launch of an alumnus-driven initiative.

Andrews Francis, The Student Movement, Andrews University
The Rose James Endowment is a donation by Stanley James (pictured), a Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary alumnus. [Photo: Jeff Boyd]

The Center for Adventist Research (CAR) of Andrews University hosted its annual Friends Event on February 8, 2024, celebrating its latest sizable contribution: the Rose James Endowment. The endowment is a donation by Stanley James, a Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary alumnus.

James named the endowment after his mother, who provided “unwavering support” for him through his journey through Adventist higher education. According to CAR director and associate professor Kevin Burton, James and his family are contributing “tens of thousands of dollars to further the work of CAR.” 

The money will be used to digitize scholarly lecture series by Seventh-day Adventist civil rights advocate and evangelist E. E. Cleveland and evangelist C. D. Brooks. These lecture series are entitled “The E. E. Cleveland Lecture” and “C. D. Brooks Research Fellowship,” and their digitization will make their content more accessible. The Rose James Endowment’s funds are also meant to enhance the efforts of the Adventist Church’s work on acknowledging Black Adventist history, racial issues, and social justice work globally. 

Burton also shared that it is designed to “strengthen [CAR’s] relationship with Oakwood University and chart paths forward to racial justice and reconciliation.” A purpose statement for the endowment that Burton provided confidently states that “this initiative upholds the principles of Scripture and the prophetic writings of Ellen G. White.” In accordance with Adventist values and beliefs, “the Rose James Endowment endeavors to be a catalyst for impactful change, championing Adventist values in action.”

The Profound Influence of a Mother

Living in Bermuda, Rose James faced the responsibility of being a single mother to five children. According to Rose, Stanley, her third child, desired to be a doctor from the age of three. Rose affirmed to her son that he was more than capable of accomplishing these goals and more, despite his own self-doubt. James credits much of his success to his mother.

“My mom always said, ‘You are intelligent.’ Our context of five kids, single parent — I don’t know how she did it. But she maintained her dignity, her self-respect, her poise, and her principles…. She is the most important thing in my life, next to God.”

James also credits a lot of his success to being introduced to the Seventh-day Adventist faith. Starting at the Bermuda Institute of Seventh-day Adventists, a pre-K through 12th-grade institution in his home country, James has experienced a complete Adventist education journey. He earned his undergraduate degree at Oakwood University and later graduated from the Loma Linda University School of Medicine. In 2016, he graduated with his Master of Divinity degree from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. 

As the CEO of The Premier Health and Wellness Center in Bermuda, James still practices medicine. He is also an assistant pastor and is working to get his PhD. Once he finishes that degree, he shared that he may move to the United States, enter teaching, and raise a family. In the endowment’s purpose statement, James has been credited for his “leadership and his doctoral research on healthcare disparities [embodying] the principles of faith.”

Being such a fervent believer in Christian education and the necessity of using resources and platforms to provide religious perspective on the issues of racial history and social justice, James was passionate about starting this endowment. “As a Black Seventh-day Adventist, I have something to say, and my mother gave me that right to do that…. I want to put money in her name, so her name lives forever, at an institution that respects scholarship, and young Blacks or whites or whoever can do scholarship in an area that helps solve this problem [of racial inequity in education],” he said.

James and his family have started the endowment with a US$20,000 donation, which they will renew annually. He has provided an additional US$5,000 for digitizing more than 40 boxes of E. E. Cleveland papers, which has already begun. Additional donations are being solicited from church officials, medical doctors, and other supporters to help grow the endowment and its impact. 

Although the potential benefits of such an endowment cannot be denied, its racial focus could become a point of criticism and contention from those who find such focuses on social justice and history unnecessary, Burton and James acknowledged. But despite the fact that such a possibility is real, both said they remain committed to the plans before them. Burton urged potential dissenters to “consider thoughtfully history. Listen to voices that you may not typically listen to. We are trying to make a statement with this endowment that we are wanting race reconciliation and bridge a divide that brings healing and hope to everybody.”

James shared that he would want to understand and hear out the people who may disagree with his position before attacking anything they had to say. He believes that he and other members of the church, especially Black Adventists, are not called to destroy “the Babylonian empire,” which he defines as the contemporary parallel to a societal system that perpetuates white supremacy and social injustice. He instead wants people to learn and practice how not to “let the empire destroy us.” For James, strengthening one’s spirituality and relationship with Christ will always take precedence over getting into arguments and protests over mistreatment.

Three additional programs are going to be a product of the fund. According to the Rose James Endowed Fund Agreement, the E. E. Cleveland series will become an annual event presented “by a nationally or internationally renowned speaker” at either the Center for Adventist Research or the Bradford Cleveland Brooks Leadership Center at Oakwood University. The Brooks Research Fellowship will be a scholarly award for research on “Ellen G. White’s writings regarding racism, the characteristics of the Black Adventist church, or social justice from a Biblical perspective.” Finally, the Rose James Endowed Scholarship will be an academic student award that is an essay-based scholarship and will be available to any enrolled student of Andrews and Oakwood University.

The original version of this story was posted on Andrews University’s The Student Movement.