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The following additional information is provided in response to the “Spiritual Formation” video posted recently on YouTube: Part One is a specific response from the faculty member on record along with a copy of the Course Syllabus. Part Two is a specific response from the Chair of the Religion Department at that time, and Part Three contains a broader administrative response. The narrative ends with references from the Spirit of Prophecy about handling controversial topics, constructive criticism and faultfinding in the SDA Church.

Part One – A specific response to the allegations in question from Dr. Ifeoma Kwesi, Assistant Professor of Religion

In response to a YouTube video posted by former Oakwood student Deontay Jefferson, the administration of Oakwood University has received the following response from the faculty member who teaches the course:

“It is with great sadness and disappointment that it has become necessary for me to address the matter of a ‘YouTube’ video in which Deontay Jefferson, a former student and an Oakwood University alumnus, has been used to malign, distort and misrepresent a foundational course in the curriculum of the Religion and Theology Department at Oakwood University, RP131: Spiritual Formation for Ministry. The syllabus for this course is included.

“Rather than addressing the many issues of credibility attached to this video, I prefer to define, explain and illustrate the content of the course in question. Spiritual formation is defined for the purposes of the course as “the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.” This process is acknowledged as having two component parts: God’s and ours. Human beings are totally dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit for spiritual transformation that is needed since sin has deformed what God originally formed us to be – holy and blameless, according to Ephesians 1:4. But human beings participate in the process when we avail ourselves of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power by practicing the spiritual disciplines of meditation, prayer, Bible study, fasting and others because it is by beholding that we are changed into His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18).

“Unfortunately, it is to be anticipated that whenever the cause of Christ is advanced and the lives of people are brought into conformity with God’s will so that many more will be saved at His appearing that attacks, insults, ridicule and slander will follow. I praise God for the Scriptures that provide consistent evidence of this in the lives of the prophets and of Jesus Himself. I am also grateful for the many students who have called, texted and emailed to assure me that they were, and continue to be, blessed by the course and to offer me encouragement in light of this assault. Perhaps Deontay, too, would have been benefited if he had not made up his mind prior to having the facts. Perhaps then he would not have been such an easy target to be used as a pawn by those with agendas beyond his imagination.”

Ifeoma Kwesi
Syllabus for RP131: Spiritual Formation for Ministry

Part Two – Response from Chair of the Religion Department, Dr. Agniel Samson, Professor of Religion

“I was in Israel when I fell upon the YouTube link that features Deontay Jefferson’s interview. My reaction can be summarized in one short phrase, total dismay. Throughout the past seven years as Chair of the Religion Department, I never received any complaint about the Spiritual Formation class. One student told me more than once that he did not feel comfortable in the class. Apparently he questioned both its validity and orthodoxy because, in his mind and according to his convictions, Spiritual formation borders with mystical techniques advocated by Eastern Religions. At least, that is my assessment of the conversations I have had with him. That student was not the young man who appeared on the interview. Other than that, I have never heard of any negative comments regarding the course or the instructor. As a matter of fact, all the students who, throughout those past seven years, have voiced their opinions on the class were unanimous on the effectiveness of the teacher and the benefits of the course. I must add that I have sat in the class and my wife and I had attended one of the retreats. We found nothing objectionable about them.

“Total dismay, because never during his stay at Oakwood has Deontay Jefferson approached me to share his discomfort with any of the three instructors he has accused so blatantly. It is true that he was not a Theology major per se, but I would like to believe that he must have heard several times about the steps indicated by Jesus in Matthew 18, regarding offenses. Did he follow them? Did he ever discuss the issues that bothered him with any of the professors to whom he referred, without naming them specifically? I hope he did. If so, he seemed not to have been satisfied with the conversations he had with them. One thing I know for sure, he never approached me and were it not for the YouTube interview, I would have never suspected his situation.

“It is my prayer that Mr. Jefferson will progress in his Christian growth, which is the ultimate purpose of the Spiritual Formation class that emphasizes the role and importance of prayer, Christian meditation, Scripture searching, and Christian service, among other biblically and Spirit of Prophecy-based exercises to strengthen one’s faith and virtues, both for this life and the hereafter.

“As far as an official response from the University is concerned, it seems to me that one is necessary. However, we need to keep in mind that, whatever the content, the nature, and the tone of our response, the people behind these accusations will find a way to magnify the issue and paint Oakwood under the most negative colors that you can imagine. For them, it is a vital issue. They seem to be in the camp of those who believe that Spiritual Formation should never been taught in our schools because it is based on Spiritualism and Eastern Religions mysticism. But, I trust the Administration wisdom on this delicate matter and pray that the Lord will calm this storm.”

Here to serve,

Agniel Samson

Part Three – A Broader Administrative Response

Additionally, rather than simply close our institutional response by addressing the allegations contained in the YouTube video, we wish to address this method of garnering attention by special interest groups and persons such as Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Campbell, who appear in the video clip.

Recently, we have witnessed an escalation in these types of unbiblical approaches to addressing real or perceived grievances against the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its institutions. We find it confounding that a former student, who apparently knows a professor personally since he took her class, can fail to follow Matthew 18:15-18, which calls for a graduated approach to resolving differences by beginning with the person considered guilty. Rather, this former student took his allegations to potentially millions of viewers represented by the Internet, presumably in the name of love for God’s Church. This tactic is exactly the opposite of the method of Jesus Christ. Jesus, in Matthew 18:15-18, instructs every humble follower of Christ to observe the following:

“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”

The method required by Jesus Christ was disregarded by Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Campbell. To claim love for God and His Church, and yet disregard His instruction calls into question, both the claim to obey God and the profession of love for His Church. How can one claim to love the Body of Christ while defaming it before millions of potential viewers with one-sided allegations? How can such self-styled “reformers” find time to tape a 27 minute YouTube segment for international distribution via the Internet, publicly defame institutions and a dedicated clergy leader, but did not in the name of that same zeal, request a simple meeting with the professor and the others they disparage across a number of Seventh-day Adventist institutions?

Further, in the absence of the redemptive conversation called for by Christ in Matthew 18, such self-appointed reformers simply assume that their perspectives and opinions are truth. They then proceed to broadcast their declamations, however uninformed or inaccurate, to the widest possible audience. The result of their work is to discourage, delude, and deceive innocent souls. Even if such accusers believe that they are right, note what Ellen White says of such persons and tactics:

“Those visiting our institutions and seeing where work is not done to the best advantage, should, if they have had larger experience, and know of a more successful way to manage, counsel with those who are in trust and seek to help them to see the right way of action. Those who fail to do this neglect their duty, and are unfaithful to their God-given responsibility. Such an one, if he goes from that institution without saying anything to the proper persons and states to parties not connected with it that he saw failures in the management there, that he saw places where expense was incurred without benefiting the institution, has failed to manifest a Christian spirit and has been unfaithful to his brethren and to God. The Lord would have him diffuse light, if he has it to give; and if he has not a well-regulated plan to suggest, he does wrong to tell others of the mistakes which he has seen. If he fails to give the workers the benefit of his supposed superior wisdom, if he only finds fault without telling, in a right spirit, how to improve, he not only injures the reputation of the institution, but of the workers, who may be acting according to the very best light they have. These things need to be carefully considered. Let every man and woman inquire, ‘On whose side am I? Am I working to build up or to tear down one of God’s instrumentalities?'” Counsels on Health, 296.

On another occasion she wrote,
“Envy, evil surmising, backbiting, and faultfinding,—let these not be named among Christ’s disciples. These things are the cause of the present feebleness of the church.” RH May 10, 1906

And still, in a similar fashion, she wrote:
“‘A new commandment I give unto you,’ Christ said, ‘That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.’ John 13:34. What a wonderful statement; but, oh, how poorly practiced! In the church of God today brotherly love is sadly lacking. Many who profess to love the Saviour do not love one another. Unbelievers are watching to see if the faith of professed Christians is exerting a sanctifying influence upon their lives; and they are quick to discern the defects in character, the inconsistencies in action. Let Christians not make it possible for the enemy to point to them and say, Behold how these people, standing under the banner of Christ, hate one another. Christians are all members of one family, all children of the same heavenly Father, with the same blessed hope of immortality. Very close and tender should be the tie that binds them together.” Acts of the Apostles, 550

Finally, however sincere (and sincerity is no justification), videos, like the one featuring Mr. Jefferson making false accusations against Oakwood University, are the work of Satan. Therefore, we believe that the following three actions are appropriate:

a. We unapologetically call on responsible leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist church to categorically denounce these increasingly divisive and unbiblical tactics which result in injury to God’s cause and God’s servants. To do no less is to silently consent to the sabotage of God’s work, not its revival and reformation.

b. We further invite Mr. Jefferson to remove the false video from Youtube, and

c. We invite Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Campbell to visit Oakwood University for the conversation that Matthew 18:15-18 calls every humble follower of Christ to observe.

Signed
Oakwood University Administration
Leslie Pollard, President
Timothy McDonald, Provost
Garland Dulan, Vice-President for Academic Administration
Sabrina Cotton, Vice-President for Finance
David Knight, Vice-President for Student Services
Howard Weems, Special Assistant to the President for Spiritual Life
Kisha Norris, Executive Director for Advancement and Development

Oakwood University
7000 Adventist Blvd. NW | Huntsville, Alabama | USA
Phone: 1-256-726-7335

Additional Reference Material from EGW

“Men who have been appointed to different positions of trust are to be respected. We do not expect to find men who are perfect in every respect. They may be seeking for perfection of character, but they are finite and liable to err. Those who are engaged in our institutions should feel it their duty jealously to guard both the work and the workers from unjust criticism. They should not readily accept or speak words of censure against any who are connected with the work of God, for in thus doing God Himself may be reproached and the work that He is doing through instrumentalities may be greatly hindered. The wheels of progress may be blocked when God says ‘Go forward.’ ” – {CH 297.1}

“It is a great evil, and one which exists among our people to a great extent, to give loose rein to the thoughts, to question and criticize everything another does, making mountains out of molehills, and thinking their own ways are right, whereas, if they were in the same place as their brother, they might not do half as well as he does. It is just as natural for some to find fault with what another does as it is for them to breathe. They have formed the habit of criticizing others, when they themselves are the ones who should be brought severely to task and their wicked speeches and hard feelings be burned out of their souls by the purifying fire of God’s love….” – {CH 297.2}

Criticism and Faultfinding
Health, Philanthropic, and Medical Missionary Work, 23-26 (1885).]
“Those visiting our institutions and seeing where work is not done to the best advantage, should, if they have had larger experience, and know of a more successful way to manage, counsel with those who are in trust and seek to help them to see the right way of action. Those who fail to do this neglect their duty, and are unfaithful to their God-given responsibility. Such an one, if he goes from that institution without saying anything to the proper persons and states to parties not connected with it that he saw failures in the management there, that he saw places where expense was incurred without benefiting the institution, has failed to manifest a Christian spirit and has been unfaithful to his brethren and to God. The Lord would have him diffuse light, if he has it to give; and if he has not a well-regulated plan to suggest, he does wrong to tell others of the mistakes which he has seen. If he fails to give the workers the benefit of his supposed superior wisdom, if he only finds fault without telling, in a right spirit, how to improve, he not only injures the reputation of the institution, but of the workers, who may be acting according to the very best light they have. – {CH 296.1}

“These things need to be carefully considered. Let every man and woman inquire, ‘On whose side am I? Am I working to build up or to tear down one of God’s instrumentalities?'” – {CH 296.2}

“One thing makes me feel very sad, and that is that there is not always harmony among the workers in our institutions. I have thought, Is it possible that there is anyone who will find fault with those connected with them in the work? Is there anyone who will suggest to patients or to visitors or fellow workers that there are many things which ought to be done that are not done, and many other things which are not done right? If they do this, they are not doing the work of Christians. – {CH 296.3-297}

“A person who will allow any degree of suspicion or censure to rest upon his fellow workers, while he neither rebukes the complainers nor faithfully presents the matter before the one condemned, is doing the work of the enemy. He is watering the seeds of discord and of strife, the fruit of which he will have to meet in the day of God…. – {CH 297.3}

“This disrespect for others, this disregard for right and justice, is not a rare thing. It is found to a greater or less extent in all our institutions. If one makes a mistake, there are some who make it their business to talk about it until it grows to large proportions. Instead of this, there should be in all engaged in our institutions a sacred principle to guard the interest and reputation of everyone with whom they are associated, even as they would wish their own reputation guarded. – {CH 298.1}

“This has not always been fully understood. Satan has often brought in a spirit that has made it impossible for church members to discern opportunities for service. Believers have not infrequently allowed the enemy to work through them at the very time when they should have been wholly consecrated to God and to the advancement of His work. Unconsciously they have wandered far from the way of righteousness. Cherishing a spirit of criticism and faultfinding, of pharisaical piety and pride, they have grieved away the Spirit of God and have greatly retarded the work of God’s messengers.” – {9T 125.2}

“I saw jets of light shining from cities and villages, and from the high places and the low places of the earth. God’s word was obeyed, and as a result there were memorials for Him in every city and village. His truth was proclaimed throughout the world. – {3TT 296.4}

“Then this map was removed and another put in its place. On it light was shining from a few places only. The rest of the world was in darkness, with only a glimmer of light here and there. Our Instructor said: “This darkness is the result of men’s following their own course. They have cherished hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil. They have made questioning and faultfinding and accusing the chief business of their lives. Their hearts are not right with God. They have hidden their light under a bushel.” – {3TT 297.1}

God does not want us to place ourselves upon the judgment-seat, and judge one another, but how frequently this is done! O, how careful we should be lest we judge our brother! We are assured that as we judge, so we shall be judged; that as we mete to others, so it shall be measured to us again. Christ has said: “I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” In view of this, let your words be of such a character that they will meet the approval of God. When we see errors in others, let us remember that we have faults graver, perhaps, in the sight of God, than the fault we condemn in our brother. Instead of publishing his defects, ask God to bless him, and to help him to overcome his error. Christ will approve of this spirit and action, and will open the way for you to speak a word of wisdom that will impart strength and help to him who is weak in the faith. – {RH July 27, 1911 Par. 8}

“Men who have been appointed to different positions of trust are to be respected. We do not expect to find men who are perfect in every respect. They may be seeking for perfection of character, but they are finite and liable to err. Those who are engaged in our institutions should feel it their duty jealously to guard both the work and the workers from unjust criticism. They should not readily accept or speak words of censure against any who are connected with the work of God, for in thus doing God Himself may be reproached and the work that He is doing through instrumentalities may be greatly hindered. The wheels of progress may be blocked when God says “Go forward.” – {CH 297.1}

“It is a great evil, and one which exists among our people to a great extent, to give loose rein to the thoughts, to question and criticize everything another does, making mountains out of molehills, and thinking their own ways are right, whereas, if they were in the same place as their brother, they might not do half as well as he does. It is just as natural for some to find fault with what another does as it is for them to breathe. They have formed the habit of criticizing others, when they themselves are the ones who should be brought severely to task and their wicked speeches and hard feelings be burned out of their souls by the purifying fire of God’s love…. – {CH 297.2}

A Critic of Ellen White’s Dress
“You say that you have read [Testimony] No. 6 and you refer to the last two paragraphs, that when people have asked you how Sister White was dressed you had to tell them you were disappointed to find that my dress was not in accordance with what I had written in regard to dress. I would say, I consider my dress to be in strict accordance with what I have written in regard to dress. If I write one thing and act another, I am a hypocrite. I hope none will conclude from my writings that I consider it a virtue to be loose and untidy in dress. I hope no soul will follow your example, for I have been shown that you dishonor the cause of truth and disgust others by your neglect in the matter of dress. – {19MR 31.1}

“You have reported that I was dressed very richly at Knoxville. I had on an old velvet bonnet that I was wearing the second season. I washed the strings and placed them again on the bonnet. I had on a merino [Merino is a soft fabric made from the wool of a hardy breed of sheep originally from Spain.] dress that was three years old, and the only other dress I wore on the journey beside my overdress was a dress [which cost] three shillings per yard when new. I had worn it out once, but before I left home for that journey [I] took it to pieces, turned it, and put it together again to finish on that journey. Why I took this trouble to turn it was that I might save the trouble of buying another dress, and yet look decent and orderly. My overdress was made out of an old debeige dress. By putting in front a breadth of another kind, I made it answer on that journey. – {19MR 31.2}

“My apron was made out of an old silk dress which once belonged to Anna White, and I had worn it two years. I had on a merino cape which cost 60 cents per yard, with a bit of velvet around the edge. This is the only unnecessary article about my dress. A sister made the cape and put on the velvet to keep the lining from sagging. This constituted my “rich dress” at Knoxville. I generally purchase good clothing and then take good care of it, and it lasts me some time. – {19MR 31.3}

“I will not countenance this faultfinding spirit. I will drive it [out] wherever I find it. You would lower the standard of Christianity into the very dust. Read again the vision I sent you. You must have forgotten the contents. In order for you to live according to the light given in vision, you must reform or be weighed in the balance and found wanting. It is only the faithful overcomer who wins eternal life. I cannot acknowledge you as a Christian until you bring forth fruit meet for repentance. “By their fruits ye shall know them” [Matthew 7:20]. – {19MR 32.1}

 

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