Charles Scriven, president of Kettering College and chair of the Adventist Forum board, recently accused the Michigan Conference of shunning a La Sierra University choir. Tensions between the university and conference began in 2009 when a website published evidence the university was allowing the theory of evolution to be taught to the exclusion of creationism. A year later the Michigan Conference Executive Committee voted to remove LSU from its list of colleges and universities that qualify for employee subsidy.
A letter dated Aug. 29, 2011, was sent to La Sierra University President Randal Wisbey from the Michigan Conference Board of Education, requesting LSU no longer recruit on Michigan Conference campuses until LSU resolved its problem.
La Sierra's request to sing was initially accepted by the academy principal, and according to La Sierra adjunct professor of music David Kendall, planned months in advance; however, it wasn’t until the principal contacted the office of education in March 2012 that the conference was aware the La Sierra Chamber Singers were coming, according to a phone call with Jay Gallimore.* While university choir tours are recognized as an important element in recruiting, Kendall said the trip was not intended as a recruiting tour. The Michigan Conference though considered the Chamber Singers' performance as recruitment, and the principal declined their request to sing weeks before their performance. It is unknown why the principal waited weeks before the performance to notify the office of education.
President of Michigan Conference Jay Gallimore issued a statement Thursday to conference pastors and teachers, regarding Schriven’s allegations:
We have been getting questions recently concerning the Michigan Conference refusal to allow La Sierra, which teaches theistic evolution, to be allowed to recruit on our academy campuses. A letter dated August 29, 2011, was sent to Dr. Randy Wisbey, president of La Sierra University stating; “Our Board of Education has voted to ask that La Sierra not be present in recruiting on our campuses until the issues of creation and evolution have been resolved.” We recently declined their offer to have their choir sing at one of our academies in light of the above action, because we see that as part of recruitment.
The principal of one of our academies called our office of Education around the first of March 2012 and said that his school had been asked by a La Sierra Choir to sing on their campus. He at first said yes, as he would normally for any of our colleges. But he had second thoughts in light of the above action. Normally our office would not be asked about one of our colleges coming. But the principal’s discernment was right to see a link to the recruitment issue. Educational administrators know that music groups are important to any school’s recruitment.
In light of the vote by our Board of Education, we responded by saying we see it as part of their recruitment and we would not want them performing on our campuses. The Office of Education’s understanding of the matter was straight forward. La Sierra offered to come and we, through the principal, declined their offer to come.
The published premise by an independent magazine that that we are somehow “punishing” their students because we declined their offer speaks for itself. How did they, the promoters of faith destroying evolution suddenly become a “victim” of those who are trying to protect the faith of their children? Is a mother bird to be condemned for flapping her wings in the face of a threat to her nest? We do not want our youth being recruited in any way by any institution that continues to defy the nearly unanimous vote in 2010 of nearly 2300 delegates in General Conference Session. That vote directed that all Seventh-day Adventist schools of higher learning to teach and support Creation as given in Genesis. The action was very clear. La Sierra’s continued action of teaching and supporting theistic evolution is also very clear. We offer no apologies for endeavoring to protect the faith of our youth.
*Comments from David Kendall and Jay Gallimore added.