Berrien Springs Campus
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The PhD in religion program is pleased to announce the oral doctoral dissertation defense of Jolive Chaves titled "A Study of the Nones in Brazil and USA in Light of Secularization Theory, With Missiological Implications."
The defense will be held on Monday, March 15, 2021, at 2 p.m. via Zoom by personal invitation only.
Quickly scanning my gallery view, I noticed that there were seminary professors and fellow seminarians in attendance. It was in that moment I could not help but notice out of the 30 plus individuals in attendance there were only a handful of my white counterparts. Nevertheless, Dr. Teresa Reeve and Dr. Sedlacek provided context and went over the agenda for the forum. We were at a tipping point because the past few months had been filled with uncertainty and anxiety. Everyone was facing individual and collective battles in protecting themselves and their loved ones from the COVID-19 virus. However, there was one incident in the news stories about an injustice in our society that overshadowed it all, the murder of George Floyd. As the conversation began to take shape I slipped further away as I reflected on the murder of George Floyd and questions filled my mind. I started to feel the palpitations of my heart grow stronger and felt shortness of breath while sweat tried to ease its way down my clenched fist. I began to drift even further away as more questions invaded my mind: how does one accurately define suffering when language misses the mark?
I was quickly snapped back into reality as I heard a familiar voice share similar feelings. I resonated deeply with feeling trapped by all the social unrest in the news but also in my own life. Although, words failed to express the extent of my pain, listening to fellow seminarians share somehow gave me the courage to speak. As I was given a chance to speak, I chose to avoid cheap cliches and eloquent speech and spoke from the heart. I shared with the group that I was still processing and have not been able to fully reflect. I listed the names of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Eric Gardner, Kenneth Chamberlain, John Crawford, Philando Castile, Brianna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. It was in that moment that I realized the question that was staring me in my face every morning: how do I protect my unborn child from the world he would soon enter?
The first forum ended with participants emotionally spent from sharing and listening to one another’s expression of grief, pain, and hope. Due to the obvious need, a second forum was held virtually on July 14, 2020 at 12pm. There is a particular segment from this second forum on race that is important to highlight. If people in our Andrews University Seminary community hear nothing else, this is what I want them to hear. To hear someone that expresses your worldview and looks like me but is a professor share the wrongs and ills that they experienced in the seminary just broke our hearts. I watched as another professor showed compassion in the most altruistic form and just begin to cry as his heart was breaking for his friend. It was then that I came to realize that tears do not discriminate based on color, ethnicity, gender, doctrine, creed, or belief but seeks, rather, to reach the heart. Just for a moment we held space where we were seen, heard, and valued. Although some had to relive traumatizing experiences to help some of our colleagues in understanding the pathos of the black experience, the cognitive shift was beginning which one could observe from the head nods followed by the phrase “Thank you for sharing!”.
It has been difficult, to be honest, but I have not lost--and will not lose--my hope. Yes, I am tired of having courageous conversations BUT what holds me up is this simple truth found Lamentations 3:24, “The Lord is my portion, says my soul." The issue is a strained one; nevertheless, we need to move forward. I believe there is going to be a continued resistance; however, I am more hopeful for future change in the world because it is happening in our Seminary.
For too long, church members have believed that the call to ministry is primarily for pastors and evangelists. However, the Great Commission—given by Jesus, who was in the business of carpentry, to His disciples, who were in the business of fishing—is not limited to those who minister in churches and from pulpits. It is for all who are part of the “priesthood of all believers.” Seminary-trained entrepreneur Jeff Tatarchuk, founder and owner of Life Rx Fitness, has discovered that for him, the marketplace is his ministry and his business is his pulpit.
Tatarchuk has been entrepreneurial since childhood. “I always wanted to create things,” he said. “I would mix my mom’s spices into new blends and sell them, and in middle school, I started a t-shirt business.”
However, his potential was almost cut tragically short. Locked in a dark cloud of prescription drugs and depression, Tatarchuk attempted suicide in junior high after declaring himself an atheist.
It wasn’t until he was in a group home in Tennessee that he experienced the power of Jesus. When a friend challenged him to read the Bible, the stories he read came to life for the first time. The image of Jesus choosing nails for him was a self-described turning point, and he surrendered to Jesus.
“I experienced the relief of knowing that Jesus took all my junk on the cross,” he said. “I knew there were a lot more people out there who needed to experience this, and I wanted to share that hope.”
After graduating from college with a theology degree, Tatarchuk became a full-time evangelist. However, before moving to Michigan to study at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, Tatarchuk connected with a church that was running a community thrift store. He was fascinated by the opportunity that the store gave pastors and volunteers to converse with unbelievers about the gospel.
“They’d found something that elevated the community and transcended the four walls of the church,” he said. “That’s what I wanted.”
Ever the entrepreneurial evangelist, Tatarchuk opened a similar thrift store in Berrien Springs, Michigan, before the Seminary school year began. The endeavor was profitable and allowed him to reach community members. However, one year after opening the store, his business partner had a brain aneurysm and the business seemed doomed.
“I felt like I had failed,” Tatarchuk said. “I had also gained a lot of weight and needed to do something to get healthy. That’s when a friend introduced me to the burpee.”
The burpee, a full-body aerobic move, launched Tatarchuk into what would become his most successful business venture to date. Needing to finish out his lease, Tatarchuk turned the thrift store into a Crossfit gym, hoping to break even financially. He broke even on opening day. Since its start in 2013, the gym has expanded from a Crossfit facility to an all-inclusive fitness center, Life Rx Fitness.
“We’ve used the space to do community breakfasts, health expos and vespers,” he said. “The gym has created a neutral environment for people to be open and share at any time.”
Tatarchuk also uses the language of the gym to introduce faith to those who would never attend a traditional evangelistic meeting.
“We package our vespers in the gym’s language. In Crossfit, the goal is to progress and get to the level of the prescribed workout. When you successfully complete it, you get ‘Rx’ next to your name. So we started FaithRx, a vespers program, to teach people how to live life as it’s meant to be.”
In addition, the Seminary has partnered with Tatarchuk to host creative evangelistic meetings. Over fifty people attended the meetings in the gym and 16 were baptized, all of which are still active in church.
One of the most important pieces of advice Tatarchuk can give to business people who are passionate about God is to connect with other believing businesspeople.
“Be a part of a network,” he challenges other entrepreneurs. “Find somebody that you enjoy and hold each other accountable to do something for God through your business.”
Secondly, he implores business people to be grounded in scripture.
“Having a theological foundation is important,” he said. “There are so many complex ideas out there that it’s hard to navigate a conversation with people who think differently than you. However you can get it, whether through Bible college, Seminary or another avenue, do it if you can. Because nobody out there should hear the gospel twice until everyone has heard it once.”
The Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary’s new MA Religion Interdisciplinary Studies Online degree can help any layperson develop a stronger theological foundation through a cohort-based, online experience. Visit andrews.edu/sem/findyourcalling to start equipping yourself for a deeper ministry today.
Dr. Dwight K. Nelson is a legend in the Seventh-day Adventist church. As lead pastor of the iconic Pioneer Memorial Church of Andrews University, Nelson has shepherded the diverse Andrews community for over 30 years through his preaching, leadership and life’s example. A pastor, author, adjunct professor of the Seminary and world-renown communicator, Nelson lives by one credo, Jesus’ words found in Hebrews 2:13: “I will put my trust in Him.”
The son of missionaries, Nelson was raised in Japan and received his high school education at Singapore’s Far Eastern Academy. His childhood dream was to study medicine and become a surgeon. In fact, his interest was so great that he would conduct his own scientific experiments and examine the minutiae of life though his personal microscope. However, in his junior year of high school, a visitor from the General Conference asked all the young men at Far Eastern Academy who were planning on entering pastoral ministry to stand. Nelson was shocked as he looked around and realized that very few were standing. Suddenly, he heard God’s voice speak within him, asking, “Why aren’t you standing?” He traces his realization of God’s call to that moment. “I believe that, at times, God’s call is very quiet, and it happens differently with everybody. But mine was rather dramatic,” he remembers. “Which is not to suggest that once you get called, you don’t second-guess the call.”
As a sophomore theology major at Southern Missionary College (now Southern Adventist University), Nelson did second-guess his call to ministry. He nearly switched to a pre-law degree, only to receive confirmation from God during prayer that he was to remain in the theology program. He later learned that at the exact time he was struggling over which path to pursue, his mother, then a missionary in Guam, had been praying for him halfway around the world. "How many times when I was in college was she pouring her heart out in intercessory pleadings for me," he marveled, "at the very time the battle for my own heart was raging."
Since then, in his 33 years of ministry at Pioneer Memorial Church, Nelson has endured other seasons of discouragement, enabling him to authentically encourage other pastors. “There will come days in ministry that you say to yourself, ‘There must be something else I can do,’ or ‘I can still be a minister in another profession,’” Nelson said. “But that doesn’t represent God pulling his call away.” He regularly reminds young ministers of the words in Romans 11:29, which he has held close in his decades of ministry: “Both the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
“We need the best and the brightest in the denomination going out for the gospel ministry,” Nelson declared. “That’s what I stand for. If you heard the call of God, and you knew a day that call was clear, my counsel to you is to stay with it.”
After Nelson finished his undergraduate degree at Southern Missionary College, he and his new bride, Karen, received a call to pastor in the Oregon Conference. After one year of ministry, he came to the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary to earn his Masters of Divinity degree. “For me, the Seminary was a powerful, formative experience professionally and spiritually,” he said. “I met Jesus when I was here.”
As a fifth-generation Adventist and fourth-generation pastor, Nelson had grown up a believer. However, when a Seminary professor challenged the students to ask God to show them their true sinfulness, one evening, Nelson gave the prayer a try.
“I crawled into bed and forgot all about it. A few days later, as Karen and I were driving across the Kentucky-Indiana border on the way home for Christmas break, a dark, heavy cloud came over me, and I could not figure out what was going on. I began to dream at night about little sins I had laughed off as I was growing up; reading reports I turned in in college saying I’d read the whole book when I hadn’t. Scenes from my life started to come back, walking before me, and I would wake up in a sweat. I now know that God was answering my prayer.”
Distraught, Nelson sought out his Seminary professor, who encouraged him to read the book Steps to Christ by Ellen G. White, though he had read it as a child. “This time, the title became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I found the steps to Jesus! And I found Jesus in a personal way. I had loved Jesus as a child, but I didn’t get it. I needed that second go-round.”
Now, as the University pastor and adjunct Seminary homiletics professor, Nelson is passionate about the ministry of the Seminary. “It is the vehicle through which God gave me life, and brought me to saving knowledge of Him. I’ll never be the same again.”
When he later received a call to pastor at Pioneer Memorial Church after nearly a decade serving in the Oregon Conference, he and Karen accepted. “We knew that what happened to me here could happen to other young men and women, and maybe God could use me to coach them along.”
He also knows that the Seminary has a unique gift to offer the Adventist church: “The exposure to the global church can really only be offered right here at the Seminary at Andrews University. In the mix of the Theological Seminary, you are brought shoulder to shoulder, mind to mind, with some of the brightest in the Adventist church,” he said. “If you come with an open mind and an open heart and a spirit willing to be convicted by the Holy Spirit, you’re going to leave here with a treasure trove of gifts.”
As a pastor with an almost-unheard-of three decades in the same church, he has two secrets to longevity in ministry. “The first is the certainty of the call. The second is the certainty of the communion. You have to have the certainty of communion with God every day. The hunter of our souls isn’t looking to get you out of ministry; he’s looking to get you out of heaven,” he reminds pastors. “You’ll get aimed at, you’ll get hit, but the certainty of being in communion with God today, and having recognized your calling long ago, will keep you going. A long-term pastorate is based on a long-term relationship with God.”
Today, Nelson continues to serve with the certainty of the call and the certainty of the communion. His life and ministry at Pioneer Memorial Church and Andrews University remain testaments of his commitment to "a long obedience in the same direction."
Serving God in Ireland was always her destiny. “I can see how every circumstance led me to where I am today,” said Maureen Hamblin, president of the Women's Clergy Network, full-time Seminary student, wife, mother and future pastor. “I was born in Kenya with an Irish name, ended up in Ireland as an 11 year old girl, and many years later God gave me an Irish man because He knew that He had called me to preach the everlasting gospel to the people of Ireland. I am humbled to be a part of their discovering and knowing Him.”
Born to a beautiful, soft-spoken single mom in Nakuru, Kenya, Maureen was named after the kind Irish nun that helped her mom deliver. She spent her early childhood with her Catholic grandparents in Muranga while her mom lived in Nairobi, working to make a living for them.
“My grandparents almost disowned my mom and aunt when they became Adventist,” she remembers. “But one Friday night, God told my grandmother in a dream that the Adventist church was the right church, and showed her where one was. She had never seen that church before, and it was not close to her home. But the next day, she took her family and went to the place she’d been shown in the dream, and it was there!” Maureen exclaimed. “Everyone on the homestead became an Adventist because my auntie would not give up.”
At the age of 11, on the way to that same Adventist church, Maureen’s life changed forever. By this time, her mother had moved to Ireland with her new husband to pursue a better life, while Maureen, who had no desire to ever leave Kenya, stayed behind with her grandparents to finish primary school. During church that morning, Maureen responded to the altar call and publicly surrendered her life to Jesus, not knowing that her mother’s former employer was witnessing the moment.
“A few months later, my mom’s former employer came to my grandparents’ house,” Maureen said. “She told my grandmother, ‘I got a passport and visa for Maureen to go to Ireland. When I saw her that Sabbath walking to church, I knew I had to do something. I don’t want her to be without her mom. I want her to have a better life.’” In the summer of 2000, Maureen flew first-class to Ireland with her mother’s former employer and their family, to be reunited with her mom.
However, despite Maureen’s excellent marks in school, all was not well in Ireland. As part of a very small black minority group, her family faced severe prejudice. “People would break the windows of our home, urinate in our garden, and sit on our wall, staring at us menacingly to try to intimidate us into leaving,” Maureen remembers. The worst happened when her then-12-year-old sister was attacked by a group of males outside their house. “I hated Tallaght and I couldn’t wait to get out of there.”
She left at her soonest convenience, graduating from Dublin Institute of Technology with a degree in clinical measurement science and a lucrative job offer, but found herself dissatisfied less than four years later.
“I was feeling empty. So I decided to pursue my childhood dream. I did my medical school entry exams and missed the pass mark by five points,” she remembers. “I went to bed and wept, because this was the second time that I had missed this opportunity. But I prayed and asked God to guide me and take control of my life. Four months after my great disappointment, I woke up with this great knowing that I had to go into ministry. I was excited but also not excited because it meant that I would never be a rich doctor,” she said. “But I surrendered to Him.”
When she finishes her Masters of Divinity degree at the Seminary, Maureen’s hope is to return to the one place she once resented so much: Tallaght, Dublin 24, Ireland. “I feel called to plant a church in Tallaght,” she said. “A lot of them are broken people. I hated them for so long, but now I think they need Jesus. The Adventist Church in Ireland is so small with only about 1000 members in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. People are searching for God and I am praying that God can use me to help them find Him.”
When I was 17, I shared my call to ministry with my youth pastor, and since then I've known that Andrews was in my future. But, I came here reluctantly. I did not want to move to Michigan. I have always lived and studied in Maryland. I was connected to my family, my friends and my church there. I was supposed to start at Andrews in Fall 2015, but I decided not to go. I didn't feel prepared to move; I didn't feel that it was the right move.
So, I enrolled in a seminary in Washington, D.C. While it is an excellent seminary, it was an extremely difficult semester. Unnecessarily difficult. Difficult in the way that I knew it wasn’t the right place for me. A good place, but not a God place. Well, not God’s place for me. After a semester of study there, I enrolled in a non-profit management program. Once again, a good thing, but not a God-thing for me. Most of 2015 was a lesson in my discerning between what is “good” and what is “God” in my life. Lots of prayer, talking with my mentors, serving in church and most of all listening to God, I made the decision to move. I knew this move to Andrews was God. It was difficult, but there was peace. So, that’s how I ended up here. It was all God.
How have you seen God's confirmation that you are in the right place, now that you're at the Seminary?
I wake up with peace. Everyday. It's been a tough transition for me moving out here by myself, but even though some days are harder than others, I have peace. This move is a God-thing because more than what I've been learning in school, I've been learning so much about myself. Being out here has given me a chance to listen to God intentionally, and I've learned things about my personality, my relationship with God and the nature of my vocational calling that I never took the time before to explore. This experience is more than a degree; it's God's way of shaping me so that I will be more committed to Him who calls me than to my calling.
What are you working on now?
Currently, I am working on my MDiv with a chaplaincy concentration.
What are some challenges you experienced in your decision to minister in the Seventh-day Adventist Church?
One of the biggest challenges for me has been navigating Seventh-day Adventism alone. I am the only Seventh-day Adventist in my family. While they are supportive because I am dedicating my life to ministry, there is a large part of the journey I can’t share with my family—and that is difficult for me. Ministry, no matter who you are, is a lonely journey, but it is even harder when you don’t have family to journey it with you.
What helped you overcome those challenges?
God has placed wonderful mentors and “sisters” in my life that have helped keep me encouraged throughout this journey. Older friends in ministry have made the challenges of walking this journey a little less challenging.
What has your experience been like as a woman in the Seminary?
Overall it has been a good experience. My colleagues have been respectful and generally pleasant. There are times where I feel like I am infiltrating the “boys club,” but that is no different than studying theology in undergrad.
What do you plan to do after you finish your MDiv degree?
Once I finish with my masters here, I plan to enroll in a PhD program. I have about eight or nine programs I am currently looking at. I would eventually like to teach theology and serve as a hospital chaplain.
“I know what I heard, and I heard what He said,” shared Maureen Hamblin, second-year Masters of Divinity candidate and Women’s Clergy Network President. “God said, ‘Who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here I am, send me. And if I was a man, I would have said the same thing.”
Each month, more than 20 female seminarians gather at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary for the Women’s Clergy Network (WCN) “Chat and Chew” meeting. The event, held during the Seminary’s afternoon break, provides female seminarians with the opportunity to develop a system of support and encouragement over a light lunch. Hamblin began the meeting by sharing the journey that brought her to the Seminary and God’s providence through it all. A wife and mother, Hamblin and her family left Ireland and a lucrative medical career in response to God’s call to ministry.
Women representing countries such as Romania, Great Britain, France, the Bahamas and the U.S. nodded their heads in agreement as Hamblin testified how God overcame even the greatest roadblocks to coming to the Seminary. Many had been teachers, nurse practitioners and students holding acceptance letters to other graduate schools when they received God’s call to ministry.
“It was encouraging to hear the stories behind their call,” said first-year seminarian Lizeth Momanga. “It was not easy for any of them. No woman would go would through that struggle unless it was a call from God.”
WCN provides valuable opportunities such as the “Chat and Chew” lunch for women to realize that they are not alone in their ministry journeys. “I believe the work of WCN is to celebrate and affirm all these women who have chosen to respond to the call of God in their lives,” said Hamblin. “Seminary is the only time that most of us will be among so many other women in ministry.”
Junie Saint Clair, who chose God’s call to ministry over an acceptance letter to medical school, shared that interacting with other female seminarians has been a valuable part of her experience. “All the women I’ve met here have helped me to see that there are no cookie-cutter pastors; they come in all colors, shapes and sizes,” she said. “God calls people from all backgrounds.”
Before coming to the Seminary, many of the women wondered how they would be treated by professors and colleagues. However, they each expressed that all of their professors, and the overwhelming majority of students, had treated them with respect. “I have never encountered a professor who has treated me as less [than my male colleagues] or demeaned me,” shared Saint Clair. “The teachers are vocally supportive and inclusive. It comes from our dean.”
Indeed, many women shared that Dean Jiří Moskala’s leadership was a key reason for the Seminary’s welcoming environment. Dorhel Davis, a third-year MDiv student, even pulled up a video of Moskala at a General Conference session vocalizing his support for the women at the Seminary. “The person with the most important position celebrates the fact that there are so many of us here,” stated Momanga. “It helps me feel like I belong.”
Even those who had encountered resistance from male colleagues shared that it had not discouraged them. “I am grateful for all the people that don’t support me and other women in ministry,” declared Hamblin. “They are helping me develop a thick skin and learn not to take things personally. It is not us in particular they are against but rather the change that would come by allowing women to be in ministry.” Regardless of how treatment, each of the women expressed that obeying God was the most important value in their lives.
When asked what they would say to any woman in the Seventh-day Adventist church considering coming to the Seminary, all echoed Davis’s statement: “Come. Regardless of a GC session vote. Regardless of what you feel others may think of you. Because you have been called by God, not by man.”
“I probably have more male relatives that have gone to prison than to higher education,” said Warren Gillin, a second-year Masters of Divinity student. “If it weren’t for my home church, I wouldn’t be here at the Seminary now.”
Warren, who speaks with a polite British accent courtesy of his upbringing in England, is the first international, post-graduate student in his family. As the fourth of five children raised by a single mother in urban London, he recalls seeing two paths laid before him: a street life ending in an early death or incarceration, and an un-forged path answering God’s call to ministry.
“From a young age, I’ve had a desire to change my family’s trajectory,” said Warren. “I didn’t want to remain on the path before me.” Raised in a community where many young men land in a life of crime, prison or the mortuary, Warren wanted something different: “I saw what my environment had to offer, and I wasn’t satisfied with that," he said. "Coming to church and seeing functional families and healthy male role models showed me an alternative to my life. The church fellowship was what made a difference.”
At the age of twelve, a church leader at Stratford Seventh-day Adventist church recognized Warren’s preaching potential and invited him to deliver his first sermon. The church affirmed his gift of preaching and began to mentor him.
He received frequent invitations to preach both at his home church and all over London. These invitations, plus his work with the conference youth department, London Youth Federation and leadership in local evangelistic efforts solidified Warren’s desire to go into ministry.
After high school, Warren made a plan to study banking and business management at London Metropolitan University and then get his Masters of Divinity at the Seventh-Day Adventist Theological Seminary. “I want to be a well-rounded pastor,” said Warren, “and I know that my business degree will be useful in a church setting.”
The Seminary’s Masters of Divinity Track 2 option targets students like Warren who have an undergraduate degree in something other than theology or religious studies. It offers additional courses to provide a strong theological foundation for aspiring pastors. “I came to the Seminary because I wanted to go to the best possible school," he said. “The biggest collection of Adventist scholars is in this building and I wanted to be exposed to it."
Since arriving at the Seminary in 2015, Warren has found not just a stimulating academic environment, but also an outlet for his passion to preach. Twice a month, he preaches in a two-church district in Chicago and has been invited all over the U.S. to share God’s story. “A lot of people reject Christianity and religion because they have not tasted the true fruits of it,” he said. “They’ve been shown a God that is not the true version of God.” Warren prays to expand that image of God through biblical teaching and preaching.
His ministry also extends to young adults on campus. As the religious vice president for the Black Student Christian Forum of Andrews University, he leads IMPACT, the club’s weekly Friday night worship service. Warren describes it as a place where people can “worship freely, be as loud or as quiet as they want, and receive no judgment.”
Though Warren leads one of the most popular worship services on campus, shoulders a full-time academic workload and has a ministry internship, he has his eyes focused on what truly matters: following God. In his Januay sermon at IMPACT, he reminded the students: “Don’t judge yourself from the success you’ve had in worldly standards, but by whether or not you are in the will of God.”
Warren has followed God’s leading from the U.K. to the U.S. He hopes one day to minister to God’s people in London, that they may experience, as he did, a life changed by tasting and seeing that God is good.