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Adventist Educator V. Bailey Gillespie, Passes to His Rest

Gillespie, tireless in his efforts to help the Adventist Church reach young people for Christ, spearheaded the Valuegenesis research project.

V. Bailey Gillespie


It is with great sadness that La Sierra University shares the news that Dr. V. Bailey Gillespie, 75, passed to his rest early on Monday, May 7, at City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, California. Gillespie had been battling liver cancer since early 2017. He is survived by his wife Judy; son Tim and daughter-in-law Sara; daughter Shannon and son-in-law Kenneth; and five grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on May 19 at 4 p.m. in the La Sierra University Church in Riverside, California.

“Our hearts are heavy, and we grieve with the Gillespie family at this time,” says Randal Wisbey, president of La Sierra University, who notes that Bailey developed a process for spiritual masterplanning on Adventist campuses, including La Sierra. “We thank God for the ways in which Dr. Gillespie blessed so many lives. His strong personal faith and commitment to grace-filled ministry leave a lasting legacy to La Sierra and the Church.”

Gillespie’s career in Adventist education and ministry began shortly after he received his master of divinity degree from Andrews University in 1966. He served as a church pastor, as an academy religion and music teacher, and as assistant dean for admissions and student affairs in the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry before moving to higher education in Loma Linda’s Division of Religion in 1976. He earned his Ph.D. in Christian Personality and Faith Development from Claremont Graduate University in 1973.

In 1981, Gillespie returned to his undergraduate alma mater, La Sierra University (then known as the La Sierra Campus of Loma Linda University), as professor of theology and Christian personality and chair of the church and ministry department. He remained a vital part of La Sierra’s religion faculty until his retirement in June 2017. He served as associate dean of La Sierra’s H.M.S. Richards Divinity School from 2015-17 and as acting dean from 2014-2015. 

Gillespie was tireless in his efforts to help the Seventh-day Adventist Church reach young people for Christ and support their faith development. He spearheaded the Valuegenesis research project, a landmark longitudinal study of students in grades 6-12 enrolled in Adventist schools. Its goal was to discover what makes Adventist young people accept or reject the faith of their parents and what the Church can do about it. Begun in North America in 1990, Valuegenesis inspired spin-offs in Mexico, South America, Europe, and Australia. 

Shortly after the release of the first Valuegenesis research findings, Gillespie founded the John Hancock Center for Youth and Family Ministry at La Sierra University. Its mission, in part, was to create resources for churches and schools so that they could turn research findings into practical applications. The Adventist Church contracted with the Hancock Center to create a curriculum to be used by children’s Sabbath School classes worldwide. Called the “Gracelink Curriculum,” it presented “the four aspects of a growing Christian experience—grace, worship, community, and service.” 

Gillespie wrote or edited more than 30 books and hundreds of articles. In addition to teaching, research, and writing, he also led archaeological expeditions to Caesarea Maritima in Israel from 1976-82. From 1983 through 2015, he directed and led the Middle East Study Tour, helping hundreds of people experience the lands of the Bible.

In June 2016, a cohort of 25 pastors, Bible teachers, and chaplains began working toward their master of theological studies degree from La Sierra University, with classes held in the Central California Conference office. Gillespie was delighted to be instrumental in setting up this program, which brought a La Sierra education to church employees in their local conference. 

"Bailey Gillespie maintained a hopeful optimism and church loyalty personally and professionally," said Steve Case, president of Involve Youth, a parachurch organization that energizes young people for service, and coordinator for the Youth and Young Adult Ministry concentration in the Andrews University Seminary's Doctor of Ministry program. "A prolific writer and entertaining presenter, students of multiple generations consistently labeled him their favorite teacher.  As a youth ministry professor at a sister institution, I had the privilege of serving with Bailey on a number of committees, including the first version of the Valuegenesis study.  In spite of a heavy travel schedule, Gillespie highly valued his wife and children.  His influence will continue for years."

— Additional reporting by the North American Division Office of Communication.