Andrews University’s mission statement and particularly its summary, “Seek Knowledge, Affirm Faith, Change the World,” is very much about what I am saying. Let’s make sure we do as God says and reason together, even wrestle with the complexity of different challenges and different perspectives together. Let’s do it in a way that is prayerful and faithful.
But that excitement is also because there is a lot in the last year that will remain and make us stronger, and that includes the critical need to know what is important — to know what our priorities are and to focus on them.
This excitement is in contrast to what I have found increasingly disappointing over the last year of shutdowns, maybe emphasized because of the longer times we have spent online and with social media. That disappointment is over the culture of minimizing the views of others along with rhetoric that assumes the speaker’s reality is right, irrespective of evidence. And most disappointing is this challenge does not just seem to impact the wider society; it moves into the church also.
There is no better way for the church to be disrupted from its mission than for us to spend time arguing over issues which are not related to our salvation and/or, worse yet, disparaging the actions of others because we might not agree with something they do. So sometimes the “us” and “them” start breaking into smaller and smaller groups until “them” can be anyone who isn’t in alignment with our social and theological perspectives, even if their perspective is in full alignment with the church’s fundamental beliefs. I am not sure any one ideological group is innocent in this disruption of mission. I wonder if Jesus’ response to His disciples’ concern over those who were not part of them is appropriate for us: for whoever is not against us is for us (Mark 9:40). How much more energy we would have if we spent focusing on what mission we could achieve together rather than worrying about what someone else might be doing wrong.
I am sure that some readers are already disagreeing with or making exceptions to what I am saying. And I agree, it is a generalized statement — but I stand by the general concern I raise. Put into practical terms: let’s not believe what is negative without listening and seeking to understand. Let’s not damage the reputation of another by repeating gossip. Believe the best of others, not the worst. We need each other's support and prayers. Our response to this unfortunate tendency to fight amongst ourselves and denigrate each other as “not Adventist enough” or “too rigid” should be to become increasingly more articulate and engaged with our mission and to do so in a reasoned, prayerful and faithful manner.
Andrews University’s mission statement and particularly its summary, “Seek Knowledge, Affirm Faith, Change the World,” is very much about what I am saying. Let’s make sure we do as God says and reason together, even wrestle with the complexity of different challenges and different perspectives together. Let’s do it in a way that is prayerful and faithful. Once we have done that, with the power of biblical-driven knowledge and understanding, let’s bring positive change to the world. That is what it is saying.
So I go back to my first paragraph. I am excited for fall 2021 and beyond. But that excitement is also because I think there is a lot in the last year that will remain and make us stronger, and that includes the critical need to know what is important — to know what our priorities are and to focus on them.
I want to share just a few examples of what I mean.
First of all, nothing is more important than our students. It has been encouraging this year to be reminded of the quality of those students, for they have shown amazing resilience and commitment during this difficult time. It has not stopped them from leading, serving and ministering to each other and beyond. And our employees have gone way past the second mile in providing the extra support that has been needed to keep everyone safe and emotionally well during this year. The value and dignity of each individual in our community to God and to us will continue to drive our priorities.
Second, what is important is learning and connecting in a community of faith. Our team of chaplains has done an outstanding job this last year of reaching out to our students through the Center for Faith Engagement to connect in a myriad of creative and traditional ways. We have had a series of podcasts on Made to Thrive, talking about all aspects of wellness with experts in their fields: physical wellness, spiritual wellness, emotional wellness, and so on. Our faculty have consistently found new ways of using their knowledge and skills to help students understand the connection between their disciplines and an active life of faith. Our responsibility to continuously seek creative and relevant ways to talk about mission to the current generation will continue to drive our priorities.
Third, what is important is remembering that nothing should get in the way of our mission to reach out and serve others. Throughout the pandemic that commitment to serve has never been stronger. Our International Center for Trauma Education & Care, run out of the School of Social Work, has offered its service nationally and internationally. We have continued, through the Center for Faith Engagement, to engage students in a range of local service projects at a time such service was sorely needed. We have offered leadership seminars remotely throughout the world in areas critical to leadership development in the church and beyond. We will continue to be driven by the priority that we are all called to make a positive difference to the Kingdom of God on this earth as well as drawing others toward the heavenly Kingdom of God in the future.
I hope that as you see and read about a few of the ways the Andrews University community has tried to focus on what is important this year that you will feel encouraged.
We plan to continue to engage together in a unified mission to share with each other the love of God and the unparalleled message of the salvation story within the framework of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. That gets me excited! We have found new tools to use in the last year, and we have the passion to make a difference. Please join us.
Andrea Luxton, president, Andrews University