Jan Paulsen Receives Order of Merit
06 June 2012 Røyse, Norway [Tor Tjeransen] All eyes were on the former world leader of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as Ambassador Knut Vollebaek fastened the navy blue silk ribbon with the cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit around the neck of Pastor Jan Paulsen at a ceremony in Norway on June 2.
“I have been overwhelmed. It is such a big thing.” said pastor Paulsen afterwards.
It was a once in a lifetime event for all present at the ceremony which took place at the Adventist owned and operated Tyrifjord Junior College (Tyrifjord videregående skole) in Norway. The Royal Norwegian Order of Merit is one of the highest forms of royal honor given to civilians.
For Paulsen it was of special significance that the insignia of the Order of Merit were presented to him by ambassador Vollebaek. They have known each other from the time Mr. Vollebaek was appointed Norwegian ambassador to the United States in 2001, a position he held until 2007.
Ambassador Vollebaek, the High Commisioner for National Minorities in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), expressed gratitude for the opportunity to present Jan Paulsen with the insignia of the Order. Vollebaek was the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs when Jan Paulsen was elected President of the Adventist World Church. “I was very proud that a Norwegian national was elected to this position,” said Vollebaek.
The bishop of Oslo for the Lutheran Church of Norway, the reverend Ole Christian Kvarme, was one of the persons behind the nomination for the Order. Bishop Kvarme came to know pastor Paulsen during the bilateral dialogue between the Lutheran World Foundation and the Seventh-day Adventist Church which took place between 1994 and 1998 where both reverend Kvarme and pastor Paulsen were part of their respective delegations. During the four sessions three issues were discussed: 1. Justification by Faith, 2. Scripture and Authority in the Church, and 3. Eschatology. The background papers from the consultations were published in 2000 in the book Lutherans and Adventists in Conversation.
“These consultations brought us together and formed our friendship”, said Bishop Kvarme at the ceremony where the insignia of the Order of Merit were given to Dr Paulsen.
Bishop Kvarme noted that pastor Paulsen has been a courageous international leader and mentioned how Dr Paulsen has been a catalyst in developing educational institutions in West Africa. Dr Paulsen’s contribution in developing Adventist owned Babcock University in Nigeria to become a well-respected university not only in Nigeria, but the whole region is well known. The bishop also mentioned Dr Paulsen’s initiative in establishing the church’s response to the HIV/Aids epidemic through the foundation of the Adventist AIDS International Ministry with an office in South-Africa as well as the cooperation with the World Health Organization in an effort to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals.
“You have performed your leadership as a committed Adventist, a devoted evangelical Christian and a distinguished international citizen of Norway”, said Bishop Kvarme.
Paulsen found it difficult to find words to express his feelings. He told the audience that the short reason given by the Royal Palace for appointing him a Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit meant a lot to him: “Service for the good of humanity.”
“What matters is what we have done for our fellow men,” pastor Paulsen said in his address. He paraphrased Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: “I was in prison, you did not visit me. I was struggling with HIV/Aids, why did you shun me?” Paulsen then stated what may well be termed the philosophy of his ministry: “Serving our Lord is not about what we have said; it is about how we treat other people.”
Pastor Mark Finley, former Vice President of the General Conference, represented the World Church at the ceremony. He read a letter from the current Adventist World Church President, Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson, thanking Pastor Paulsen for his outstanding leadership. “Your commitment has inspired the church in its mission to reveal the loving character of Christ to all peoples” the letter from Pastor Wilson said.
The Order of Merit was founded by King Olav V in 1985 and is conferred on foreign and Norwegian nationals as a reward for their outstanding service in the interest of Norway or in service for humanity. The Norwegian Constitution of 1814 abolished all hereditary titles, but gives the King the right to “bestow orders upon whomever he pleases, as a reward for distinguished services”. No royal decoration will exempt the recipient from the common duties of the citizens of Norway.
Pastor Paulsen was the world leader of the Seventh-day Adventist Church from 1999 to 2010. He holds a Doctor of Theology degree from the University of Tübingen in Germany. Dr Paulsen began his ministerial service in 1953 in Norway and has served as teacher in Ghana and as teacher and college president in Nigeria. From 1976-1980 he was the Principal of church-run Newbold College in England which houses the main theological faculty of the church in the Trans-European region. For twelve years he served as the President of the Trans-European Division with headquarters in St. Albans, England.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has 17 million members worldwide and 4.700 members in Norway. Jan Paulsen lives in the Washington D.C. area, he is married to Kari (nee Trykkerud) and has three adult children. [tedNEWS]
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