An announcement was published yesterday in the electronic newsletter of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America that the Atlantic Union Conference executive committee has voted to use the campus of the college that it operated up until last year to start a “non-accredited … evangelistic and gospel medical missionary training school.” Since the 1930s, the denomination has sought accreditation for its high education programs due to the specific instructions of co-founder Ellen G. White.
Atlantic Union College (AUC) closed in July, 2011, after losing its accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. A plan was announced last year under which Washington Adventist University (WAU) would operate a branch campus in Massachusetts and then that agreement evidently broke down.
“Since then, college officials have submitted an application to the state Department of Higher Education,” reported the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, “to re-establish degree granting programs.” The paper stated that Dr. Gina Brown, former dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at WAU, has been “hired as an administrative consultant to lead the application process, which includes a financial audit of the 2010-2011 school year.”
“The college filed articles of amendment on Dec. 27 to offer bachelor’s degrees in theology/religion and health sciences/biology. The application is under review, according to a spokesman from the state,” said the story, which was also distributed nationally by the Associated Press.
The unaccredited training center, to be called New England Training School (NETS), will offer “intensives for pastors” and a six or nine-month program to train lay volunteers to conduct nutrition education and “very basic” health classes, as well as assist with evangelism campaigns. “It will not be medical training for doctors, nurses or other health professionals,” the local paper quoted Don King, president of the Atlantic Union Conference and chairman of the board for AUC.
There are no indications that the accrediting body had any negative view of the quality of academic programs offered at AUC. The concerns that led to the suspension of its accreditation had to do with the financial viability of the institution. The cost of the new training center “should be minimal,” the newspaper quoted King. “Most instructors will be teachers under contract from Adventist schools or current church employees.” A business plan is yet to be developed.
The announcement from the Atlantic Union Conference executive committee emphasized the potential for “a world-class international city evangelistic training school” to be developed “in cooperation with” the North American Division and the General Conference of the denomination. It quoted Ellen White, “The work in the cities is the essential work for this time. … Every member … should take hold of medical missionary work.”
When the General Conference decided to obtain accreditation for Adventist colleges in the 1930s it was, in part, due to White’s insistence, two decades earlier, that the denomination’s medical school prepare licensed physicians. In order to maintain this standard, it became necessary for the students accepted into the medical school to have degrees from accredited colleges. Today the denomination has its own accrediting body which has not applied for recognition by the United States Department of Education and it continues to obtain outside accreditation as well for its higher education institutions.
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