Constituents easily approved the transfer of Oakwood
University from the Adventist Church’s General Conference to its North American
Division in a move that won’t affect the amount of church money that it gets
every year but will lead to a downgrade of its Ellen G. White Estate Branch
Constituents supported the switch in a 129-1 vote on
Wednesday, the last day of the Annual Council, a major church business meeting
at the General Conference’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. A
subsequent vote to amend the university’s bylaws passed 114-0. Neither vote had
The transfer earlier was endorsed by the board of trustees
at the Huntsville, Alabama-based university and by the General Conference,
which oversees the Adventist world church. Wednesday’s decision clears the way
for a final vote by the North American Division in a few weeks.
“Welcome home to your home division,” Daniel R. Jackson,
president of the North American Division, told the meeting on Wednesday.
Administrators at Oakwood, a traditionally black school for
North Americans, initiated the conversation to transfer to the North American
Division after deciding that it made sense to align more closely with the division
where its target students live.
The General Conference has sponsored the school since
Adventist Church pioneer Ellen G. White co-founded it in 1896. Without the
General Conference, the school likely wouldn’t have survived the troubled racial
history of the U.S. South.
University president Leslie N. Pollard praised White’s
influence on Oakwood.
“If there is anyone close to being a saint in the
African-American community, it is Ellen White,” he said at the constituency
Ella Simmons, a General Conference vice president who has
actively worked with Oakwood on the transfer, said ahead of the vote that she
believed White would have approved of the plan. She said she had a passage from
White’s book Adventist Home that
applied to the situation.
Reading a list of questions on what an engaged couple should
ask before marriage, she said: “Let the questions be raised, ‘Will this union
help me heavenward? Will it increase my love for God? And will it enlarge my
sphere of usefulness in this life?’ If these reflections present no drawback,
then in the fear of God move forward” Healing
The transfer will lead to the downgrade of the university’s Ellen
G. White Estate Branch Office, a depository of White documents and other
historical materials from the main office at the General Conference
headquarters. Only General Conference-sponsored schools are allowed to have the
higher status, and the Oakwood facility will be renamed a White Estate research
Jackson said the only impact of the change would be on the
sign outside the center’s door.
“Nothing is going to change — just the name, “ he said in an
interview after the vote.
Jackson also said that the size of the university’s subsidy
would stay the same but come from the North American Division rather than the
The General Conference has earmarked $1.28 million for the
university in 2015, a 2 percent increase from 2014, according to General
Conference financial statements released at the Annual Council. The North
American Division will deduct that amount from the money that it sends to the
General Conference and give it to the university, Jackson said.
Oakwood is in good financial health, said Pollard, who last
month opened a university-owned franchise, Edible Arrangements, in a bid to cut
student tuition. Oakwood is the first Adventist school to own a franchise.
Pollard said 10 percent of the university’s $50 million
annual budget comes from North American Division institutions.
General Conference treasurer Robert E. Lemon concurred with
Pollard’s financial assessment.
“Oakwood University is in a very, very good financial
position,” he said.
Contact news editor Andrew McChesney at [email protected]. Twitter: @ARMcChesney
Adventist Review, Sept. 26, 2014: "Oakwood Seeks to Become NAD Institution"
Adventist Review, Oct. 6, 2014: "In a First, Oakwood Opens a Fruit Franchise"
Adventist Review, July 3, 2014: "Making History, Ellen G. White Estate Branch Office Opens in Philippines"