Eleven years ago the denomination began a serious study of requirements for the training of the future ministry of the Advent Church. This was a natural outgrowth of our theological seminary, which had been operating so successfully during the previous two decades. In 1953 it was felt that we should take a definite step forward and add an extra year to the curriculum. This we did. And since then most of our young ministers in North America have been working on that program.
For many years our ministerial trainees received all their academic and practical training in our colleges, graduating with a B.A. in Religion or its equivalent. Leaving college they spent two years of internship under experienced ministers. This was recognized as additional ministerial development.
The internship idea is somewhat unique as compared with other Christian groups. Most theological students complete their college work in a liberal arts college, then proceed to a seminary for a three-year graduate course, leading to a Bachelor of Divinity degree. Often men are ordained at the completion of their B.D. Seventh-day Adventists, however, have proved the value of a ministerial internship. This corresponds somewhat with a medical internship and provides opportunity for a young man to demonstrate his calling to the ministry before being given larger responsibilities.
Sensing the need for still more training, the General Conference set up a special Ministerial Training Advisory Committee to study the many aspects of ministerial development. This is a large and continuing committee consisting of between thirty-five and forty persons including representatives from the General Conference, Andrews University, the union conference presidents of North America, several deans of theology from our colleges as well as college administrators.
This committee has met from time to time, and at this last Biennial Council, when all the local conference presidents were in attendance, the committee's report was presented. Here it is except for a minor change or two!
As the church of God enters the troubled conditions of the last days, it is vital that her ministers be men of deep faith in God and of maximum efficiency in preaching and interpreting the Word of God. The minister needs to preach so that the hearers will feel the authority of the Word of God and of the basic doctrines of the church. To be a faithful steward, the minister must stand foursquare on the Scriptures, preaching the whole range of the Word, and not be confined to a few doctrines or favorite themes. Bible-centered preaching is the antidote to uncertainty and doubt about the Word of God and the teachings of the church. The minister's success and authority depend on his adherence to and correct interpretation of the text of the Bible, on the accuracy of his understanding of it, and the certainty with which he preaches it.
Our brethren in many places are being subverted by men of unsound judgment who claim to speak with authority on the Word and on doctrine. In the light of most serious attacks upon the church from without and within there is urgent need for ministers of firm fidelity to the Bible and of sufficient ministerial education to enable them to preach the Word soundly and systematically, never wresting any portion to sustain a biased opinion, but setting forth a reasoned, well-balanced exposition of God's Word. Only faithful exposition of the Word of God will protect the ministry and the laity from fanaticism and false doctrine. To enable our people to avoid being tossed to and fro, "carried about by every wind of doctrine," we must have ministers who are competent expositors and preachers of the Word.
Because the present fifth-year plan of Seminary training is so short, many subjects are crowded into it, and the student is overloaded. Many important areas of Biblical interpretation and professional ministerial training cannot be covered at all. The young ministerial student does not have long enough to master the essential skills of the minister nor to become proficient in the exposition of the Bible.
Therefore the Theological Seminary is preparing a new B.D. curriculum, tailored specifically for the parish minister and evangelist, with provision not only for the study of the Bible, but also for its effective proclamation. An expanded time schedule, as envisioned in the new B.D. program will allow more time to bring about an integration of exegesis and preaching that will forestall a fragmented knowledge of the Bible and help the young minister to understand and preach the Scripture as a whole.
In view of this be it resolved,
- That young men looking forward to the Seventh-day Adventist ministry take the full B.D. curriculum, which shall consist of four semesters and two summers, with the courses arranged by the faculty on a progressive basis, so that each course in a given department is built upon the preceding course; and with the understanding that the proportion of the applied theology requirement not be reduced. (Approximately 25 per cent.) During one of the summers the student will spend some thae in the Seminary-sponsored field school of evangelism.
- That following the receiving of the B.D. from the Seminary, the graduate be assigned by the employing conference and the General Conference to an internship year in the field under the guidance of an experienced and sympathetic minister who will help the graduate get a good beginning in the actual work of the ministry; the new graduate very much needs wise and sympathetic counsel in the period in which he adjusts from formal schooling to the activities and problems of the local church and to field evangelism.
- That the internship support during the third year of field experience be on the present basis.
- That in order to ease the financial burden on the conference during the two-year period of sponsored study at the Seminary, the General Conference be requested to share the cost with the conferences on a fifty-fifty basis.
A few additional suggestions on integrating the program in North America were added.
The future plan for ministerial training is thus definitely a B.D. program. We are happy to present this report, which we know will be of vital interest to our ministers everywhere. The fact that we are now set to give a full B.D. course plus an additional year of internship means that not only are our graduates as well trained as are ministers in the largest Protestant denominations but they have in addition another year of field training. Provision was made for occasional exceptions where it may be deemed wise by responsible committees.
This can prove a tremendous blessing to our future ministry. And we believe it will. But we must never forget that academic attainments are not the only essentials to a full ministry. It requires Spirit enduement to make men dynamic. This is the secret of success in the greatest work ever committed to men.