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.
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.”
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.”
“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.”