September 27, 2014

Oakwood Seeks to Become NAD Institution

Oakwood University hopes
to shift from being a General Conference-sponsored institution to a university
under the auspices of the North American Division in a repositioning that would
allow Oakwood and the division to cooperate more closely on a common mission of
reaching people in North America.

The board of trustees at Oakwood
University, based in Huntsville, Alabama, endorsed the transition last month
and recommended that the university’s constituents give approval at a meeting
on Oct. 15 at the General Conference’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“This decision is grounded
in the idea of missional congruence,” Oakwood
president Leslie N. Pollard said by telephone. “And by missional congruence,
here’s what I mean: When an organization is positioned as a global entity but
clearly its mission catchment area, as in our case, is regional, we have
missional incongruence.”

Pollard said the shift
would put Oakwood in the best
organizational position to succeed, and he described the arrangement as win-win. He
said Oakwood, for example, could offer its expertise by taking on research and
other projects for the North American Division.

“The North American Division
has not had this,” he said.

In return, he added, “the
North American Division would bring an attentiveness and a commitment to the
university’s expansion and its role in a growing and diverse division.”

<strong>OAKWOOD LEADERS:</strong> Oakwood University administrators meeting General Conference President Ted N.C. Wilson on Sept. 23 during a visit to GC headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, to share an annual report on the university. University president Leslie N. Pollard is standing fourth from left. Credit: Oakwood University

If approved by
constituents in October and finalized by a North American Division vote in
November, the agreement would add a second institution to the division’s
portfolio. The division, which was only separated from the General Conference
in 1990, received its first institution — the Pacific Press Publishing
Association in Nampa, Idaho — from the General Conference in June.

The General Conference,
which is responsible for overseeing the world church, sponsors several other
U.S. universities, including Loma Linda University and Andrews University, and
has universities in the Philippines and Kenya. Other U.S. universities and
colleges are under church unions.

General Conference vice
president Ella Simmons said Friday that church administrators have reviewed the role and
function of General Conference-sponsored institutions for some time. But, she
said, it was Oakwood University that proposed moving to the North American
Division in light of the changes to church structure since the university was
established in 1896 with a goal of educating recently freed African-Americans
in the South.

“While Oakwood University is
currently open to all students, it still maintains a core mission to a North
American population,” said Simmons, who chaired an Oakwood University
transition task force that spent six months studying the proposed move. “Church
leadership recognizes and honors that distinction in support of Oakwood’s move
to the North American Division, its true home.”

The task force included representation
from the General Conference and North American Division.

Before 1990, the functions
of the North American Division and the General Conference were tightly integrated.
When the two separated, the institutions of the General Conference located in
North America continued as General Conference institutions because of their
historical connections, said Robert E. Lemon, General Conference treasurer and
a member of the task force.

“Some of the institutions
such as Oakwood University that primarily serve North America should probably
have been transferred to the North American Division at that time,” Lemon said.
“Even though it may seem a little late in the process it is very appropriate
for this transition to take place now.”

He said that by adjusting
the formula for the sharing of resources between the North American Division
and the General Conference, the transition would have minimal financial impact on
the organizations involved.

Daniel R. Jackson, president
of the North American Division, said the General Conference deserved praise for developing higher
education for African-American members and noted that it had acted on the
advice of Ellen G. White, a co-founder of both the Adventist Church and Oakwood.

during the past decade the relationship and the affinity between Oakwood and
the NAD has grown,” Jackson said. “The alignment of mission and direction
has become very clear.

believe that the time has come for Oakwood University to take its rightful
place within the North American Division family of institutions,” he said. “We
say, ‘Welcome home!’”

Contact Adventist Review news editor Andrew McChesney at [email protected].
Twitter: @ARMcChesney